ARC Review: THE WITCH HUNTER by Virginia Boecker

ARC Review: THE WITCH HUNTER by Virginia Boecker
The Witch Hunter
The Witch Hunter #1

Written by: Virginia Boecker
Published by: Little, Brown
Release date: June 2nd 2015
Genres: Fantasy, Young Adult
Pages: 368
Source: Gifted from a friend
Buy: B&N, Amazon, Book Depository
Add on: Goodreads

Your greatest enemy isn't what you fight, but what you fear.

Elizabeth Grey is one of the king's best witch hunters, devoted to rooting out witchcraft and doling out justice. But when she's accused of being a witch herself, Elizabeth is arrested and sentenced to burn at the stake.

Salvation comes from a man she thought was her enemy. Nicholas Perevil, the most powerful and dangerous wizard in the kingdom, offers her a deal: he will save her from execution if she can break the deadly curse that's been laid upon him.

But Nicholas and his followers know nothing of Elizabeth's witch hunting past—if they find out, the stake will be the least of her worries. And as she's thrust into the magical world of witches, ghosts, pirates, and one all-too-handsome healer, Elizabeth is forced to redefine her ideas of right and wrong, of friends and enemies, and of love and hate.

MyThoughts_v2

I’m going to start off this review by saying something that I did not expect I’d be able to say about The Witch Hunter. This book was… fun.

And I say that while acknowledging that “fun” is usually a good thing! But it was the type of “fun” that I wasn’t expecting out of this book at all — it was a fun adventure, with fun characters, quite a bit of humor, a pretty sweet (and light) romance… Do you see where I’m going with this?

The Witch Hunter is a fast-paced read filled with witches, swords, magic, kickass fight scenes, and danger around every corner. But on the whole, I felt like the book was pretty… light? It was a more lighthearted adventure than what I expected, what with the violence and gravity of the book’s plot.

And I think that feelings stems from the characters — they came across as pretty young, to me. Which was definitely not what I was expecting. I expected it to be dark. I expected the characters to be complex and for there to be FEELS and ANGST — especially with the whole secret-witch-hunter-helping-witches-and-falling-for-a-healer thing. But while The Witch Hunter touched on those things, I feel like it only did so on the surface, and didn’t get quite as intense/dark/complex as I expected it to. It was still very entertaining, but it fell short of my expectations, and of what it could have been, which is always a little disappointing.

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DNF Q&A: SERAPHINA by Rachel Hartman

DNF Q&A: SERAPHINA by Rachel Hartman
Seraphina
Seraphina #1

Written by: Rachel Hartman
Published by: Random House
Release date: July 10th 2012
Genres: Fantasy, Young Adult
Pages: 512
Source: Gifted from a friend
Add on: Goodreads

In her New York Times bestselling and Morris Award-winning debut, Rachel Hartman introduces mathematical dragons in an alternative-medieval world to fantasy and science-fiction readers of all ages. Eragon-author Christopher Paolini calls them, "Some of the most interesting dragons I've read in fantasy."

Four decades of peace have done little to ease the mistrust between humans and dragons in the kingdom of Goredd. Folding themselves into human shape, dragons attend court as ambassadors, and lend their rational, mathematical minds to universities as scholars and teachers. As the treaty's anniversary draws near, however, tensions are high.

Seraphina Dombegh has reason to fear both sides. An unusually gifted musician, she joins the court just as a member of the royal family is murdered—in suspiciously draconian fashion. Seraphina is drawn into the investigation, partnering with the captain of the Queen's Guard, the dangerously perceptive Prince Lucian Kiggs. While they begin to uncover hints of a sinister plot to destroy the peace, Seraphina struggles to protect her own secret, the secret behind her musical gift, one so terrible that its discovery could mean her very life.

DNF Q&A

The DNF Q&A is an infrequent feature here at TWBI — instead of reviewing DNF’d books, I will post answers to a few pertinent questions in order to explain what made me ultimately set the book aside. Feel free to comment and suggest additional questions for future Q&A posts (may they be few and far between!), or just ask some questions specifically about this book!

 

Did you really give Seraphina a chance?

I made it to page 290 of 512. I actually gave this book MUCH more of a chance than I normally would, considering how much I wasn’t enjoying it.

Have you enjoyed other books of the same genre?

Absolutely, yes. I love fantasy books. But the problem was, other than the presence of dragons, this didn’t feel like a fantasy to me. Sure, the countries were made-up, and yeah, dragons!! But it really read like historical fiction, to me. Plus, the plot was definitely almost exclusively along the lines of “murder mystery”, which isn’t always my cup of tea. Yes, the murder had wider implications for the realm or whatever, but it was still basically a whodunnit (at least, as far as I made it, it was). (Yes, this is apparent from the synopsis. Yes, I probably should have gone into this a little more warily.)

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ARC Review: A DARKER SHADE OF MAGIC by V.E. Schwab

ARC Review: A DARKER SHADE OF MAGIC by V.E. Schwab
A Darker Shade of Magic
Shades of Magic #1

Written by: Victoria Schwab
Published by: Tor
Release date: February 24th 2015
Genres: Adult, Fantasy
Pages: 400
Source: Gifted from a friend
Buy: B&N, Amazon, Book Depository
Add on: Goodreads


Kell is one of the last travelers—magicians with a rare, coveted ability to travel between parallel universes connected by one magical city.

There's Grey London, dirty and boring, without any magic, and with one mad king—George III. Red London, where life and magic are revered—and where Kell was raised alongside Rhy Maresh, the roguish heir to a flourishing empire. White London—a place where people fight to control magic and the magic fights back, draining the city to its very bones. And once upon a time, there was Black London. But no one speaks of that now.

Officially, Kell is the Red traveler, ambassador of the Maresh empire, carrying the monthly correspondences between the royals of each London. Unofficially, Kell is a smuggler, servicing people willing to pay for even the smallest glimpses of a world they'll never see. It's a defiant hobby with dangerous consequences, which Kell is now seeing firsthand.

Fleeing into Grey London, Kell runs into Delilah Bard, a cutpurse with lofty aspirations. She first robs him, then saves him from a deadly enemy, and finally forces Kell to spirit her to another world for a proper adventure.

Now perilous magic is afoot, and treachery lurks at every turn. To save all of the worlds, they'll first need to stay alive.

MyThoughts_v2

There’s this feeling I sometimes get after finishing a book — it’s extremely rare, and only happens when the book was a whole other level of intense and amazing. It’s this euphoric, wrung-out, disoriented stupor, and it leaves you speechless and reeling.

Well, I got that feeling after finishing A Darker Shade of Magic. And that’s the highest praise I can give.

Victoria Schwab originally teased A Darker Shade of Magic as “pirates, thieves, and sadist kings.” If you’re any sort of fan of her work, and she throws those words at you, you’re a goner. But then you read the synopsis (Schwab-fan or not), and you sort of side-eye it. How is this possible? This book seems to have way too much going for it, way too many good things in it — How? Why? What’s going on? Is this for real?!

Well, before you get too excited, let me just make it clear how many good things there are in this book, because the synopsis actually doesn’t cover it.

  • (Aspiring) pirate ✓
  • Thieves ✓
  • Sadist kings ✓✓
  • Amazing magic system(s) ✓✓✓
  • Flawless worldbuilding ✓✓✓✓
  • London(s) ✓✓✓✓
  • Fabulous magical coats ✓
  • Incredible characters ✓✓✓✓
  • Amazing friendships/brOTP’s/nemeses ✓✓✓✓✓
  • Ship potential (no insta-anything) ✓!!!
  • Banter ✓!!!!!!!
  • FEELS ✓✓✓✓✓✓!!!!!!!

Yep, your eyes do not deceive you. A Darker Shade of Magic ticks ALL THE BOXES — and revels in it.

A Darker Shade of Magic does with the fantasy genre what Vicious did with superheroes. It takes things we’ve seen before — magic, evil tyrants, world(s)-in-danger, etc — and turns them upside-down. Raises the stakes. Makes them new. This is fantasy at its finest — and Victoria Schwab at her best — and it is not to be missed.

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ARC Review: THE SHADOW CABINET by Maureen Johnson

ARC Review: THE SHADOW CABINET by Maureen Johnson
The Shadow Cabinet
Shades of London #3

Written by: Maureen Johnson
Published by: Putnam Juvenile
Release date: February 10th 2015
Genres: Mystery, Paranormal, Young Adult
Pages: 384
Source: Gifted from a friend
Buy: B&N, Amazon, Book Depository
Add on: Goodreads


* SPOILERS for books 1 & 2 in the synopsis!! *

The thrilling third installment to the Edgar-nominated, bestselling series.

Rory and her friends are reeling from a series of sudden and tragic events. While racked with grief, Rory tries to determine if she acted in time to save a member of the squad. If she did, how do you find a ghost? Also, Rory’s classmate Charlotte has been kidnapped by Jane and her nefarious organization. Evidence is uncovered of a forty-year-old cult, ten missing teenagers, and a likely mass murder. Everything indicates that Charlotte’s in danger, and it seems that something much bigger and much more terrible is coming.

Time is running out as Rory fights to find her friends and the ghost squad struggles to stop Jane from unleashing her spectral nightmare on the entire city. In the process, they'll discover the existence of an organization that underpins London itself—and Rory will learn that someone she trusts has been keeping a tremendous secret.

MyThoughts_v2

[Note: This review is for the 3rd book in a 4-book series, but this review will be spoiler-free, as always! However, this means that I will be talking around a lot of potential spoilers, because the end of book 2 is just… Let’s just say there’s very little I can talk about without spoiling something major. But I will try.]

It really sucks when expectations get in the way of one’s enjoyment of certain books. The fact is, I want to be blown away by every book I read, but in order for that to happen, I want the book to live up to at least one of two things:

  1. What I expect from it (which can be expectations based on prior books in a series, for example), and/or…
  2. What I want out of it (which can just be things based on my own feelings, like “ooh I hope XYZ happens”, or just “more awesomeness from a favorite author”, etc).

This can be problematic, though, because I think good books are sometimes(/often/always?) simply what their author intended them to be, regardless of either the audience’s expectations or desires. And I think that’s where The Shadow Cabinet and I didn’t quite get along. Neither what I expected nor what I wanted quite lined up with what was actually presented.

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Book Review: LADY THIEF by A.C. Gaughen

Book Review: LADY THIEF by A.C. Gaughen
Lady Thief
Scarlet #2

Written by: A.C. Gaughen
Published by: Bloomsbury
Release date: February 11th 2014
Genres: Historical Fiction, Retelling, Romance, Young Adult
Pages: 304
Source: Gifted from a friend
Buy: B&N, Amazon, Book Depository
Add on: Goodreads
Also by this author: Scarlet, Lion Heart


**Spoilers for Scarlet in this blurb, beware!!**

Scarlet’s true identity has been revealed, but her future is uncertain.

Her forced marriage to Lord Gisbourne threatens Robin and Scarlet’s love, and as the royal court descends upon Nottingham for the appointment of a new Sheriff, the people of Nottingham hope that Prince John will appoint their beloved Robin Hood. But Prince John has different plans for Nottingham that revolve around a fateful secret from Scarlet’s past even she isn’t yet aware of.

Forced to participate at court alongside her ruthless husband, Scarlet must bide her time and act the part of a noblewoman—a worthy sacrifice if it means helping Robin’s cause and a chance at a future with the man she loves.

With a fresh line of intrigue and as much passion as ever, the next chapter in Scarlet’s tale will have readers talking once again.

MyThoughts_v2

If you’re new to my flails over this series, welcome!! However, I must ask: if you’re new to my fails and new to the series, please check out my review of book 1, right this way. Unlike the blurb above, which has spoilers for book 1, this review is wonderfully spoiler-free. But it’s probably still a good idea to let me convince you to read book 1 before you read this review for book 2, right? ;) Unless you just want to know if this book suffers from Second Book Syndrome — which I can assure you, it does not.

Alright, now that we’ve gotten that out of the way… I need to face the fact that I’m never getting over this series. Never ever. I love it so much. Scarlet impressed me so much, but Lady Thief just solidified my obsession ummm… I mean… my completely understandable and justified preoccupation… with this series.

How do I love thee? Let me count the ways

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Book Review: SCARLET by A.C. Gaughen

Book Review: SCARLET by A.C. Gaughen
Scarlet
Scarlet #1

Written by: A.C. Gaughen
Published by: Bloomsbury
Release date: February 14th 2012
Genres: Fantasy, Historical Fiction, Retelling, Young Adult
Pages: 292
Source: Gifted from a friend
Buy: B&N, Amazon, Book Depository
Add on: Goodreads
Also by this author: Lady Thief, Lion Heart


Many readers know the tale of Robin Hood, but they will be swept away by this new version full of action, secrets, and romance.

Posing as one of Robin Hood’s thieves to avoid the wrath of the evil Thief Taker Lord Gisbourne, Scarlet has kept her identity secret from all of Nottinghamshire. Only the Hood and his band know the truth: the agile thief posing as a whip of a boy is actually a fearless young woman with a secret past. Helping the people of Nottingham outwit the corrupt Sheriff of Nottingham could cost Scarlet her life as Gisbourne closes in.

It’s only her fierce loyalty to Robin—whose quick smiles and sharp temper have the rare power to unsettle her—that keeps Scarlet going and makes this fight worth dying for.

MyThoughts_v2

First off, I need to thank Angie (Disquietus Reads) for gifting me Scarlet and Lady Thief for my birthday this year (…back in April… shhhhhh). If she hadn’t, I shudder to think what other, lesser book I might have picked up instead of Scarlet. ;)

How does one even begin to talk about a series like this? I binge-read Scarlet and Lady Thief back-to-back (after telling myself, “No, Nikki, you need to read other things after you finish Scarlet” — haha NOPE). And after that marvelous (soul-crushing, feels-filled) experience, these books are just a swirl of awesomeness in my head. So, forgive me if this “review” comes across as more of a random collection of flails. I am attempting coherency, and that should count for something, right? I just have a lot of really good things to say about this series.

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