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Not As Strong As I Hoped: The Shadow Throne by Jennifer A. Nielsen

Hi there!

This weekend the Husband and I are spending a little mini break in Savannah for a few days! Yay for cool historic towns that are close by! After that we’ll be headed to Florida to visit family and friends for a week. It’s going to be so hot, but fun!

Today let’s talk about conclusions to trilogies…one trilogy in particular, the Ascendance Trilogy by Jennifer A. Nielsen. Recently I finished The Shadow Throne, which is the third and final book in this middle grades fantasy series.

One war. Too many deadly battles. Can a king save his kingdom, when his own survival seemsThe Shadow Throne by Jennifer A. Nielsen unlikely?

War has come to Carthya. It knocks at every door and window in the land. And when Jaron learns that King Vargan of Avenia has kidnapped Imogen in a plot to bring Carthya to its knees, Jaron knows it is up to him to embark on a daring rescue mission. But everything that can go wrong does. His friends are flung far and wide across Carthya and its neighbouring lands. In a last-ditch effort to stave off what looks to be a devastating loss for the kingdom, Jaron undertakes what may be his last journey to save everything and everyone he loves. But even with his lightning-quick wit, Jaron cannot forestall the terrible danger that descends on him and his country. Along the way, will he lose what matters most? And in the end, who will sit on Carthya’s throne?

If you’ve read my reviews for the first two books (The False Prince and The Runaway King) you’ll know that I was a huge fan of the first book, but was disappointed in the second. Well, good news! I liked The Shadow Throne more than book two, but not as much as the first. The only thing that really kept me from loving this third book is the repetitive nature of the storyline. Jaron, the stubborn one, completely ignores everyone’s advice and get’s himself stuck in an impossible situation only to do something over the top to escape. Don’t get me wrong, I love Jaron and I love these characters, but after a while this plot line makes me roll my eyes a little.

Now, there is a major plot point that occurs right at the beginning of the book that had me reeling! I can’t say what it is only that I literally (yes I’m using this word correctly) had to go back and reread those pages more than one time to see if I had read it correctly! Oh! It’s a good twist that will trip you up!

Regarding the characters, Jaron has matured a lot since book one (despite his ever-persisting stubbornness) and we see this primarily in the way he has learned to accept help from his friends…for the most part. Also, we see growth in the supporting characters like Tobias standing up for his gifts and passions, while at the same time Roden realizes that he has strong leadership capabilities and figures out how to harness them for good.

Although The Shadow Throne was not as strong as I had hoped it would be, it was a fine conclusion and fans of the first two books will enjoy finding out what becomes of Carthya and these characters.

Author: Jennifer A. Nielsen

Publisher: Scholastic Press (February 25, 2014)

Format: Hardcover

Length: 317 pages

Series: Third book in the Ascendance Trilogy

YA/MG: MG

Buy the Book:

 

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Waiting on Wednesday: Mortal Heart

Welcome back BookTasty friends!

I hope you’re all having a stress-free week so far! For today’s Waiting on Wednesday (hosted by Breaking the Spine) post I chose to focus on Robin Mortal Heart by Robin LaFeversLaFever’s third book in the His Fair Assassin series, Mortal Heart.

Annith has watched her gifted sisters at the convent come and go, carrying out their dark dealings in the name of St. Mortain, patiently awaiting her own turn to serve Death. But her worst fears are realized when she discovers she is being groomed by the abbess as a Seeress, to be forever sequestered in the rock and stone womb of the convent. Feeling sorely betrayed, Annith decides to strike out on her own. She has spent her whole life training to be an assassin. Just because the convent has changed its mind doesn’t mean she has.

The first two books in this series are both really, really well written books that will hook you from the beginning. I adore the idea of medieval assassin nuns and LaFevers’ characters are just so captivating! I have enjoyed getting little tidbits about Annith in both Gave Mercy and Dark Triumph, so I’m excited to learn more about her story. I am wondering how she’ll fair as she attempts to be an assassin because she just seems so innocent and sweet compared to Ismae and Sybella!

I’ll have to ask for Mortal Heart for my birthday because it is scheduled to release in early November 2014, and my birthday is November 13. *hint hint nudge nudge*

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The Much Dreaded Curse: The Runaway King by Jennifer A. Nielsen

Hola!

Books about kingdoms and royalty are kinda up my ally. Duh. I love them! So, it’s no surprise that I’m a fan of Jennifer A. Nielsen’s Ascendance trilogy!  Today we’re focusing book two, The Runaway King.

Just weeks after Jaron has taken the throne, an assassination attempt forces him into a deadly Runaway King by Jennifer A. Neilsensituation. Rumors of a coming war are winding their way between the castle walls, and Jaron feels the pressure quietly mounting within Carthya. Soon, it becomes clear that deserting the kingdom may be his only hope of saving it. But the further Jaron is forced to run from his identity, the more he wonders if it is possible to go too far. Will he ever be able to return home again? Or will he have to sacrifice his own life in order to save his kingdom?

The Runaway King is the second book in the Ascendance Trilogy and although still a fun read, it’s pretty clear that this installment has fallen slightly into the much dreaded “second book curse”. Did it live up to the first book? No. Was it still fun? Yes!

I think a huge part of the weakness of this book is in Jaron’s character himself and the lack of world building. Jaron/Sage is so awesomely awesome in book one – he is this snarky, secretive, competitive, stubborn and loyal boy who’s daring sarcasm kept me entertained the whole time.  In The Runaway King, it seems a little like Jaron is a bit overshadowed by the plot. There is so much going on that it’s like Jaron has forgotten to be his witty self…or, rather, Nielsen forgot to write him that way. It is almost like she wrote him so well in The False Prince, that she felt like she could take a break. Jaron is there, but he’s kind of like a much dimmer, more muted version of himself.

Since most of this story takes place out in Jaron’s kingdom of Carthya and the surrounding areas, I was really hoping to explore the region in more detail. I wanted more information about the culture of his people and how the kingdom looked. Expect for a few tiny details, there really wasn’t much to sink your teeth into. Nothing to truly make you care about Carthya. Honestly, Carthya could be any random fictional kingdom – it just doesn’t seem to have a personality of its own.

Okay, so I did say the story was still fun and it really was. All of my favorite characters were back. Yes, Imogen, Mott, Amarinda, Tobias are all back by Jaron’s side and we even see those I dislike…such as Conner for example.  It’s interesting that while Jaron’s personality seems to fade into the background a little, his supporting characters all glow a little brighter in this book, especially Imogen and Amarinda. Plus, we’re introduced to pirates! Pirates are always cool!  Also we have a lot of buildup to a cliffhanger ending, which of course always makes you crave the next book no matter what!

So, while I was slightly disappointed in The Runaway King, I did still enjoy it in the end and you might too.

Author: Jennifer Nielsen

Publisher: Scholastic Press (March 1, 2013)

Format: Hardcover

Length: 331 pages

Series: Second in The Ascendance trilogy

YA/MG: MG/YA

Buy the Book: The Runaway King: Book 2 of the Ascendance Trilogy

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Won’t Let You Down: The False Prince by Jennifer A Nielsen

Welcome back friends!

Sometimes I read a book, love it, and go on with my life only later realizing that I never reviewed it! What?! How can this be?! Especially when it’s a book I truly enjoyed. I have to admit that The False Prince by Jennifer A. Nielsen accidentally fell between the cracks of my review schedule. OOPS!

The False Prince by Jennifer A NielsenIn a discontent kingdom, civil war is brewing. To unify the divided people, Conner, a nobleman of the court, devises a cunning plan to find an impersonator of the king’s long-lost son and install him as a puppet prince. Four orphans are recruited to compete for the role, including a defiant boy named Sage. Sage knows that Conner’s motives are more than questionable, yet his life balances on a sword’s point — he must be chosen to play the prince or he will certainly be killed. But Sage’s rivals have their own agendas as well.

As Sage moves from a rundown orphanage to Conner’s sumptuous palace, layer upon layer of treachery and deceit unfold, until finally, a truth is revealed that, in the end, may very well prove more dangerous than all of the lies taken together.

There is nothing about this book I didn’t like. It has everything readers are looking for in a quality read. A snarky main character, a kingdom on the bring of civil war, deception, political intrigue, romance and a plot twist that is so awesome it makes you freak out!

ExcitedLet’s start with that snarky main character. Sage is hilarious and just fall for his defiant, witty, street urchin persona right off the bat! Sage is definitely not a romantic hero, in my opinion anyway. Instead he’s kind of like the little brother who keeps on doing annoying things but you just have to love him anyway. You want him to stick around because he just keeps things interesting.

When we meet Sage, we discover, as he does, that the kingdom of Carthya is on the brink of civil war. Multiple kingdoms are threatening to take over and it seems that there isn’t anyone who truly wants what is best for the people of Carthya. But that’s just it, with the royal family poisoned, who will take over the throne?  Political intrigue and deception abound! Nielsen just writes this so well that you never really seem to know who to trust.

Plus there is romance brewing between a quiet, pretty housemaid and our beloved street urchin. The friendship and romance that comes here is just so innocent and sweet. It is definitely not a super steamy romance with Sage as the teen heartthrob because…guys…remember this is a middle grades novel! This romance is so perfectly endearing and full of friendship that it just makes you smile warmly on the inside.

Okay, so I mentioned the awesome plot twist. And that’s all I’m going to mention. Because we no like spoilers! But just know if you’re looking for a fun middle grades read that will appeal to both boy and girl readers than The False Prince is a strong pick that will not let you down!

Author: Jennifer A. Nielsen

Publisher: Scholastic Press (April 1, 2012)

Format: Hardcover

Length: 342 pages

Series: First book in the Ascendance Trilogy

YA/MG: MG

Buy the Book: The False Prince: Book 1 of the Ascendance Trilogy

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Plain and Simple: Dark Triumph by Robin LaFevers

PorchWell hi there!

The weather is beautiful today in South Carolina! So, I’m writing this review from my front porch basking in the late afternoon light. Le sigh…Fridays are great!

Okay, so today’s review is all about Dark Triumph (His Fair Assassin #2) by Robin LaFevers, which is anything but “plain and simple”.

When Sybella arrived at the doorstep of St Mortain half mad with grief and despair the convent were only too happy to offer her refuge – but at a price. The sisters of this convent serve Death, and with Sybella naturally skilled in both the arts of death and seduction, she could become one of their most dangerous weapons.

But her assassin’s skills are little comfort when the convent returns her to the life that nearly drove her mad. Her father’s rage and brutality are terrifying, and her brother’s love is equally monstrous. But when Sybella discovers an unexpected ally she discovers that a daughter of Death may find something other than vengeance to live for.

This whole historical fantasy thing that LaFevers has going on is right up my alley. Sybella lives in Dark Triumph by Robin LaFeversmedieval Brittany in the middle of a resistance to French rule and is loyal to the twelve year old Duchess Anne who has recently been forced into rule due to the death of her father. Mixed in with this historical narrative, LaFevers mixes in a bit of the supernatural focused mostly on the convent on St.  Mortain, the god of death, and his method of communicating with his assassins. I have always been a bit of a history buff and adore the fantasy genre, so swirling the two together makes me happy!

Sybella isn’t as likable or sympathetic a character as Ismae is in book one, Grave Mercy and I wavered over whether I liked her story or not because of this part of her character. As you spend more and more time with her however, you begin to see the pieces of humanity within Sybella that she herself has shut away and is blind to. She has this strength to her that one can only get from tangling with harsh realities. I grew to like her more and more.

As you might expect in a story about “assassin nuns” Dark Triumph is full of action, suspense, and intrigue. Life inside Sybella’s father’s court is full of your usual gossip and social climbing but amidst those things there are much darker forces at play and Sybella is an incredibly experienced spy, assassin, and courtier who knows how to play the game to survive. Because Sybella will do whatever it takes to survive you know that she has little trouble using poisons, garrotes, or knives to complete a necessary task and you never know who will show up next on Sybella’s “hit list”.  Basically, Sybella is a bad@$$! Plain and simple.

And let’s not forget the romance. If I had the ability to add emojis into my blog posts (is this possible?!) I totally would be giving the little “thumbs up” one right now. Yes. The romance is good.

If you’re searching for your next read and you want to be completely riveted to the story you need to check out the His Fair Assassin series by Robin LaFevers. Don’t read Dark Triumph (because it’s book 2, silly!) until after you’ve read Grave Mercy, but you should totally read them both! I actually listened to them on audio, so if you’re into audiobooks or want to get started these books are quality introductions!

Author: Robin LaFevers

Publisher: Recorded Books (April 19, 2013)

Format: Audiobook

Length: 13 hours and 36 minutes

Narrator(s): Angela Goethals

Series: Second in the “His Fair Assassin” series

YA/MG: YA

Buy the Book:

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Fulfilling Fantasy: The Crown of Embers and The Bitter Kingdom by Rae Carson

Hi there!

Have I told you how much I am loving my winter break? Because I totally am loving it! This morning we went to the local SodaCity Market. It was cold (yay!) but fun as usual!

In addition to fun outings my winter break has been full of blogging! I’m finally getting back on track after about two months of letting the blog lag a little. Normally, when I read a trilogy I either review the books as a whole, or each title individually. Well, I already reviewed the first book in Rae Carson’s trilogy, The Girl of Fire and Thorns, but to make things a little easier on me, I’m going to combine the last two books, The Crown of Embers and The Bitter Kingdom together into one review.

Elisa is the hero of her country. She led her people to victory against a terrifying enemy, and now she is their queen. But she is only seventeen years old.The Crown of Embers by Rae Carson Her rivals may have simply retreated, choosing stealth over battle. And no one within her court trusts her-except Hector, the commander of the royal guard, and her companions. As the country begins to crumble beneath her and her enemies emerge from the shadows, Elisa will take another journey. With a one-eyed warrior, a loyal friend, an enemy defector, and the man she is falling in love with, Elisa crosses the ocean in search of the perilous, uncharted, and mythical source of the Godstone’s power. That is not all she finds.

I have to start by saying this fantasy trilogy is wonderful. I adored the first book, and the last two didn’t let me down. Elisa’s world of Joya d’Arena is so full of magic and mystery, I don’t think I could ever get enough of stories set in this world! One of my favorite thing about both The Crown of Embers and The Bitter Kingdom is that both books are centered around journeys (both physical and emotional). Because of these journeys we get to see so much more of Joya d’Arena and the surrounding nations. In general, I prefer when stories open up and the author gives us a glimpse of the world our characters live in. Also, journeys, like Elisa’s allow for more adventure and excitement to enter the plot…which of course, is awesome.

Elisa’s, like before, is an inventive character. She has already gone through so much maturation and BitterKingdomgrowth in the first book, that I was afraid Elisa would fall a little flat in the sequels. Elisa, however continues to be as interesting as before: she is strong, vulnerable, afraid of her older sister, wise, frustratingly stubborn, and massively in love with a man who doesn’t always seem to reciprocate her affections. Elisa has a lot going on! And at the start of The Crown of Embers Elisa is forced to stretch herself even further as she now has the weight of a nation on the brink of war on her shoulders.

Also, I have to add that my favorite character by far is Storm, the enemy defector. He is completely sassy, suspect, grumbly, and all around hilarious. His presence adds just the right amount of sarcasm and intrigue to the already strong story.

And we cannot forget that there is some major, major swoon-worthy romantic tension going on in these second and third books! The back and forth between Elisa and her man (you’ll have to read to find out who…although it’s pretty obvious from the get-go) due to some heavy power and gender issues. But all this pent-up passion makes for amazing romance scenes! I think I swooned a thousand times. Yes. It is true.

So, in the end The Crown of Embers and The Bitter Kingdom are a fulfilling final two books to Rae Carson’s trilogy. If you’re a lover of fantasy, whether you’re in high school or older, this trilogy is completely recommended to you! You will not be sorry!

Author: Rae Carson

Publisher: Harper Collins, Recorded Books (September 18, 2012 & August 27, 2013)

Format: audiobook

Length: The Crown of Embers (11 hours and 41 minutes), The Bitter Kingdom (12 hours and 58 minutes)

Narrator(s): Jennifer Ikeda, Luis Moreno (The Bitter Kingdom)

Series: Fire and Thorns trilogy, books 2 and 3

YA/MG: YA

Buy the Book:  The Crown of Embers (Girl of Fire and Thorns) The Bitter Kingdom (Girl of Fire and Thorns)

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Waiting on Wednesday: The One

Hi there fellow book lovers!

Have you noticed that there are a ton of fabulous books being released in 2014? I guess that’s a silly question because really, there are always a ton of fabulous books being released!

Well, this week for Waiting on Wednesday (hosted by Breaking the Spine) I am excited because we’re one month closer to the release of The One by Kiera Cass!

The One by Kiera CassThe Selection changed the lives of thirty-five girls forever. And now, the time has come for one winner to be chosen. America never dreamed she would find herself anywhere close to the crown—or to Prince Maxon’s heart. But as the competition approaches its end and the threats outside the palace walls grow more vicious, America realizes just how much she stands to lose—and how hard she’ll have to fight for the future she wants.

From the very first page of The Selection, this #1 New York Times bestselling series has captured readers’ hearts and swept them away on a captivating journey… Now, in The One, Kiera Cass delivers a satisfying and unforgettable conclusion that will keep readers sighing over this electrifying fairy-tale long after the final page is turned.

GUYS! This cover! I can’t even handle how absolutely gorgeous that ivory gown is! It’s just so…frothy!

This series is just so fun to follow along with that I can’t wait to see what happens in this third book! But alas, May 6 just feels SO FAR AWAY!