Book Review: Kinslayer by Jay Kristoff

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Young Adult > Fantasy | Steampunk

(The Lotus War #2)

A SHATTERED EMPIRE
The mad Shōgun Yoritomo has been assassinated by the Stormdancer Yukiko, and the threat of civil war looms over the Shima Imperium. The Lotus Guild conspires to renew the nation’s broken dynasty and crush the growing rebellion simultaneously – by endorsing a new Shōgun who desires nothing more than to see Yukiko dead.

A DARK LEGACY
Yukiko and the mighty thunder tiger Buruu have been cast in the role of heroes by the Kagé rebellion. But Yukiko herself is blinded by rage over her father’s death, and her ability to hear the thoughts of beasts is swelling beyond her power to control. Along with Buruu, Yukiko’s anchor is Kin, the rebel Guildsman who helped her escape from Yoritomo’s clutches. But Kin has his own secrets, and is haunted by visions of a future he’d rather die than see realized.

A GATHERING STORM
Kagé assassins lurk within the Shōgun’s palace, plotting to end the new dynasty before it begins. A waif from Kigen’s gutters begins a friendship that could undo the entire empire. A new enemy gathers its strength, readying to push the fracturing Shima imperium into a war it cannot hope to survive. And across raging oceans, amongst islands of black glass, Yukiko and Buruu will face foes no katana or talon can defeat.

The ghosts of a blood-stained past.

Book 1: Stormdancer review

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Out of all the sequels I read in 2013, Kinslayer is one of the most disappointing.

Sure, the opening (bloody) chapter alone was enough to raise my adrenalin sky-high. Yukiko was relentless in pursuing the war against the Shogun empire. As the story progresses in a more complex level, and characters are more competitive in power, revenge, or love, I am hooked. Buruu and Yukiko have a stronger relationship (more humorous, too). New POVs from secondary characters that are important in the rebelllion’s cause that made the plot more dimensional and concrete.

And yet, I found Kinslayer lacking when I am done with it.

I expected a face-off between Yukiko and Hiro. After that gruesome parting in Stormdancer, I waited with bated breath of what will come out from their next meeting, but nothing happened. I know that Yukiko is better than me, turning away like she did, but, but!

I am not that keen about Yukiko’s connection to Hiro in the end. This twist will further lengthen the drama, I think. Can we just get back to her thinking of a hundred ways of ripping Hiro’s head off his body?

I found out who the kinslayer is, found something that does not hold the thunder tiger, Buruu, into the pedestal. Heh. A lot of insinuations on Buruu’s history, but no confirmation on why he’s keeping that from Yukiko, or why a chance encounter with something from his past will color Yukiko’s opinion of him.

Still, once Buruu & Yukiko returned from their journey, the war that is begging to be unleashed.. began. And what a bloodbath it was!

I could not decide whether to root for Kin, or to wish he’s dead. His POV was the most intense, as the emotions jumbled from Yukiko to the rebels to the unexpected visitor from the Guild. As messed up as he was, I think he’s a favorite character.

Overall, Kinslayer will satisfy any Yukiko and Buruu fan. But this one, no. Not that much. But that doesn’t mean I am not excited for the next book. Still am.

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KINSLAYER by Jay Kristoff

Ebook, 448 pages

Published September 17th 2013 by Thomas Dunne Books
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3/5 stars

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Book Review: Through the Zombie Glass by Gena Showalter

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Young Adult > Fantasy > Zombies

After a strange new zombie attack, Alice fears she may be losing her mind as well. A terrible darkness blooms inside her, urging her to do wicked things. The whispers of the dead assault her ears and mirrors seem to come frighteningly to life. She’s never needed her team of zombie slayers more—including her boyfriend, Cole—than she does now. But as Cole strangely withdraws and the zombies gain new strength, Ali knows one false step may doom them all.

Book 1: Alice in Zombieland review

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Thank goodness Cole Holland pulled through. =)

I’m beginning to think that Gena Showalter is my type of author. The entertainment when I read her books is on a totally different level. It is just enjoyable and fun to snuggle up reading Through the Zombie Glass!

The plot developed a little bit, the characters advanced too. Cole is the problem, though. All the jealousies and unwarranted silent treatments towards Ali were irritating. I liked that Ali is more matured than him, more levelheaded in a way that despite her being caged most of her life, shut out from the world, Ali is wiser and less socially inept than Cole. Where’s your head, man? Buried in your *ss?

Finally, when Cole regained his senses, everything fell into place. The story progressed just the way I wanted it. And the swoon is back. Thank heavens Cole Holland was back. Woot!

Through the Zombie Glass is a good sequel. Friendships and relationships are tested, secrets about families are revealed. I will continue watching out for this series. I would not want to miss out on the fun. 😉

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THROUGH THE ZOMBIE GLASS by Gena Showalter

Ebook, 480 pages

Published September 24th 2013 by Harlequin Teen

4/5 stars

Book Review: The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman

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General Fiction > Fantasy

Sussex, England. A middle-aged man returns to his childhood home to attend a funeral. Although the house he lived in is long gone, he is drawn to the farm at the end of the road, where, when he was seven, he encountered a most remarkable girl, Lettie Hempstock, and her mother and grandmother. He hasn’t thought of Lettie in decades, and yet as he sits by the pond (a pond that she’d claimed was an ocean) behind the ramshackle old farmhouse, the unremembered past comes flooding back. And it is a past too strange, too frightening, too dangerous to have happened to anyone, let alone a small boy.

Literary Awards: Goodreads Choice for Fantasy (2013), Specsavers Book of the Year (2013), Paris Review Best of the Best (2013)

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Neil Gaiman reading experience will always, always be surreal.

“Nothing’s ever the same,” she said. “Be it later or a hundred years. It’s always churning and roiling. And people change as much as oceans.”

There’s no turning back once I picked up The Ocean at the End of the Lane, I just got sucked in. The fantasy that might be too much for a boy, might just be relentless reality for a grown-up man looking for something, something to fill up his tired soul.

The last Neil Gaiman I read is The Graveyard Book, so now I remember the melancholic mood when reading his work.

The Hempstocks. The cleaners. Ursula. Lettie. These characters extracted different emotions from me, just because a boy is praying so hard that his life will go back to what it once was. Can it be that simple?

I adore the Hempstocks. Their secrets, obscurity, and selflessness are entertaining to read. But when one selfless act was made to save another, was it worth it? Will the saved be forever be guilt-tripped into living good so the the other will feel compensated?

A short read, but The Ocean at the End of the Lane reaches deep. The truth about families, about father-son relationship, about unreliable memories – it’s here. and much more.

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THE OCEAN AT THE END OF THE LANE by Neil Gaiman

Paperback, 181 pages

Published June 18th 2013 by Harper Collins

5/5 stars

Mini Book Reviews: The Assassin and the Pirate Lord, The Assassin and the Captain

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Young Adult > Fantasy

(Throne of Glass 0.1)

On a remote island in a tropical sea, Celaena Sardothien, feared assassin, has come for retribution. She’s been sent by the Assassin’s Guild to collect on a debt they are owed by the Lord of the Pirates. But when Celaena learns that the agreed payment is not in money, but in slaves, her mission suddenly changes—and she will risk everything to right the wrong she’s been sent to bring about.

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She should’ve killed Rolfe.

Not because I expect her to, given that she is an assassin, but because people like Rolfe does not take betrayals lightly. For sure, the Pirate Lord will come sooner or later to kill Celaena once he gets his chance.

And here’s the famous Sam, who she has talked about when painful memories visit her. I am not particularly impresses with Sam, but his relationship with Celaena is an interesting one.

It made me smile that early on, she’s battling with morality already, given that she does what she is told as an assassin.

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THE ASSASSIN AND THE PIRATE LORD by Sarah J. Maas

Ebook, 70 pages

Published January 13th 2012 by Bloomsbury Children’s

3/5 stars

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Young Adult > Fantasy

(Throne of Glass #1.2)

This is NOT a novella.

The Assassin and the Captain is a short story/scene that takes place in between Throne of Glass and Crown of Midnight.

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It was boring as hell without you.

Chaol. ❤

Reading Throne of Glass doesn’t give much if Chaol Westfall is a contender for Celaena’s heart. But this… wow. what a tease, a soft treat for Team Chaol!

How amusing to see Celaena fishing for comments or hints of feelings from the Captain. Hee. This short of a story is packed with subtle sweetness and swoon. Yay!

Read this before diving into Crown of Midnight. The anticipation of what is to come for Celaena and Chaol’s friendship is on a high. *winks*

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THE ASSASSIN AND THE CAPTAIN by Sarah J. Maas

Ebook, 4 pages

Published August 2013

4/5 stars

Book Review: A Feast for Crows by George R.R. Martin

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General Fiction > Fantasy

(A Song of Ice and Fire #4)

Crows will fight over a dead man’s flesh, and kill each other for his eyes.

Bloodthirsty, treacherous and cunning, the Lannisters are in power on the Iron Throne in the name of the boy-king Tommen. The war in the Seven Kingdoms has burned itself out, but in its bitter aftermath new conflicts spark to life.

The Martells of Dorne and the Starks of Winterfell seek vengeance for their dead. Euron Crow’s Eye, as black a pirate as ever raised a sail, returns from the smoking ruins of Valyria to claim the Iron Isles. From the icy north, where Others threaten the Wall, apprentice Maester Samwell Tarly brings a mysterious babe in arms to the Citadel.

Against a backdrop of incest and fratricide, alchemy and murder, victory will go to the men and women possessed of the coldest steel and the coldest hearts.

Literary Awards: Hugo Award Nominee for Best Novel (2006)

Book 1: A Game of Thrones review       Book 2: A Clash of Kings review       Book 3: A Storm of Swords review

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POVs of Cersei and Brienne are favorites. I want more, George R.R. Martin!

As much as I love Tyrion’s and Dany’s chapters (they are absent here), a Feast for Crows served me enough to fulfill my Westeros appetite. And to know what Cersei’s thinking was a big plus!

This installment was focused on King’s Landing, and the characters based there and/or travelling within the lands that Lannisters have either won or under their siege. No matter the absence of Dany’s dragons, or of the Wall’s magic, I plowed through the pages, with Cersei’s and Brienne’s incredible POVs to entertain me. Woot!

Cersei can intrigue her way to the throne, but she cannot hold the power that she sought for so long. Ha! Here’s to your upcoming suffering, whore. 😀

Jaime‘s finally gaing his wits. His paternal role and feelings are starting to surface. (I am really starting to love Kingslayer.)

Brienne‘s adventures took her to everywhere but the place she wanted to be: where Sansa Stark is, so she can finally redeem herself. Her battle scene against the sellswords was fantastic. But that ending of her last chapter… what irony!

Samwell is way over his head. But his journey (I think) leads to Dany’s story so it’s pretty interesting to read.

Cat of the Canals, you are awesome. I worship you!

Secondary characters are solid and fun to see, it’s as if they have POVs in the series all along. And those Dornish people are dangerous, so better watch out for them.

A Feast of Crows is not a favorite among my GR friends, but given what I just read, it was better than I expected. (Well, except for Littlefingers. You pervert!)

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A FEAST FOR CROWS by George R.R. Martin

Paperback, 854 pages

Published November 6th 2006 by Voyager
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4/5 stars

Book Review: Midwinterblood by Marcus Sedgwick

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Young Adult > Fantasy

Seven stories of passion and love separated by centuries but mysteriously intertwined—this is a tale of horror and beauty, tenderness and sacrifice.

An archaeologist who unearths a mysterious artifact, an airman who finds himself far from home, a painter, a ghost, a vampire, and a Viking: the seven stories in this compelling novel all take place on the remote Scandinavian island of Blessed where a curiously powerful plant that resembles a dragon grows. What binds these stories together? What secrets lurk beneath the surface of this idyllic countryside? And what might be powerful enough to break the cycle of midwinterblood? From award-winning author Marcus Sedgwick comes a book about passion and preservation and ultimately an exploration of the bounds of love.

Literary Award: Carnegie Medal in Literature Nominee (2013)

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Seven stories. Seven lifetimes. How can love, any love, survive through that?

Midwinterblood reminds me of Cloud Atlas (in terms of the connecting stories), When the Sea is Rising Red and The Brides of Rollrock Island (because of the richness in tales of love lost, found, and lost again).

Dark. Creepy. Awesome!

The stories are mesmerizing, marvelous in the way that they can stand alone as a short story. I remember I loved most of them, whether its sad, romantic, gory or tragic. Marcus Sedgwick did not stick to the conventional plots, for his were far out! The imagination involved, the emotions stirred – those elements made Midwinterblood really worked for me.

I think I was on the fourth story when I caught up on the connection. I say, that could not be it, but then, why not? And it was unbelievably unusual that I want to revel in the uniqueness of it. And let me not forget the horror, and gore. Wee!

How come the most saddest people have the most beautiful of histories? What could’ve gone wrong? If there is another chance, will they be strong enough to fight for that same love, over and over again?

Midwinterblood is an acquired taste, for I think not many readers will be inclined to claim it as a favorite. But I hope you do. It will be a shame to be deterred by the tragedy alone. 😉

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MIDWINTERBLOOD by Marcus Sedgwick

Hardcover, 272 pages

Published February 5th 2013 by Roaring Brook Press
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4/5 stars

Book Review: A Storm of Swords by George R.R. Martin

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General Fiction > Fantasy

(A Song of Ice and Fire #3)

The Seven Kingdoms are divided by revolt and blood feud, and winter approaches like an angry beast. Beyond the Northern borders, wildlings leave their villages to gather in the ice and stone wasteland of the Frostfangs. From there, the renegade Brother Mance Rayder will lead them South towards the Wall.

Robb Stark wears his new-forged crown in the Kingdom of the North, but his defences are ranged against attack from the South, the land of House Stark’s enemies the Lannisters. His sisters are trapped there, dead or likely yet to die, at the whim of the Lannister boy-king Joffrey or his depraved mother Cersei, regent of the Iron Throne.

And Daenerys Stormborn will return to the land of her birth to avenge the murder of her father, the last Dragon King on the Iron Throne.

Literary Awards: Hugo Award Nominee for Best Novel (2001), Nebula Award Nominee (2002), Locus Award for Best Fantasy Novel (2001), Geffen Award for Best Translated Fantasy Book (2002), Ignotus (2006)

Book 1: A Game of Thrones review       Book 2: A Clash of Kings review

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I should’ve learned my lesson from A Game of Thrones, that anything and everything will never be what it seems.

A Storm of Swords left me open-mouthed (literally), especially when the Red Wedding took place. There I was, reading leisurely on a Sunday afternoon, when I got the shock of my ASoIaF reading life. So cruel! And yet so grudgingly cunning.

New POVs are introduced: Jaime Lannister and Samwell Tarly. I actually enjoyed Jaime’s, I mean, who wouldn’t want to know what’s join on inside the Kingslayer’s head? Whatever befell Jaime in ASoS made him change his mind on what the Lannisters are all about. He was running blind, taking orders from who and for what, without asking. But now, ah, Jaime’s not as compliant as before, not anymore. Cersei and Tywin were aghast about that.

Jon’s journey is equally absorbing. The war between the kings seems child’s play with what Jon and the brothers of the Night Watch have to face. And those bleak scenes at the Wall, those hopeless actions against the Others and the Wildlings — a terrific treat to my fantasy appetite.

Catelyn‘s POV are heartbreaking. Such defiance, and ominous pride for a Stark! Arya‘s plight is getting worse after every chapter. I cannot believe the strength in this skinny girl. Unbelievably daunting.

Tyrion. Oh, Tyrion! Dare I say you have the biggest balls amongst the players in the game of thrones? The many, many pages of A Storm of Swords were deduced to nothing, nothing(!) because of the spectacular ending you gave me. *fist pump*

Best installment so far. 😀 Vengeance will soon be ours.

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A STORM OF SWORDS by George R.R. Martin

Paperback, Part 1: 623 pages | Part 2: 554 pages

Published April | September 2001 by Voyager
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5/5 stars

Book Review: Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke

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General Fiction > Historical Fiction > Fantasy

Two magicians shall appear in England.
The first shall fear me; the second shall long to behold me…

The year is 1806. England is beleaguered by the long war with Napoleon, and centuries have passed since practical magicians faded into the nation’s past. But scholars of this glorious history discover that one remains: the reclusive Mr Norrell whose displays of magic send a thrill through the country. Proceeding to London, he raises a beautiful woman from the dead and summons an army of ghostly ships to terrify the French. Yet the cautious, fussy Norrell is challenged by the emergence of another magician: the brilliant novice Jonathan Strange. Young, handsome and daring, Strange is the very opposite of Norrell. So begins a dangerous battle between these two great men which overwhelms the one between England and France. And their own obsessions and secret dabblings with the dark arts are going to cause more trouble than they can imagine.

Literary Awards: Hugo Award for Best Novel (2005), Man Booker Prize Nominee for Longlist (2004), Nebula Award Nominee for Best Novel (2006), Locus Award for Best First Novel (2005), Guardian First Book Award Nominee (2004), World Fantasy Award for Best Novel (2005), Mythopoeic Fantasy Award for Adult Literature (2005), Book Sense Book of the Year Award for Adult Fiction (2005), Cena Akademie SFFH for Kniha roku (Book of the Year) (2007)

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My biggest disappointment is the Raven King. All those talks about John Uskglass made him the character to anticipate in the last part. And then… nothing. What is frustration. But Susanna Clarke has other plans (on how Strange & Norell worked their differences), so the ending still went well for my taste.

Am I a Norrellite or Strangite? Neither.

Norrell is flaky for his age, his servant Childermass is more interesting than him. Strange is too ambitious for his own sake. It’s sad that Strange lost the most important thing without him even knowing it, but when he did, it was too late.

It’s funny, that when JS&MN started to bore me, those short (and often long) footnotes snags my attention. The side stories there are riveting and very, very imaginative. These parts are enough to make me go back and resume my reading.

Parts II and III are fun, especially when Strange starts to take interest on the faery roads (my favourite part). Everything faery here is fascinating, the tales so unreal and a bit scary for those beings we considered all cute and dusty with faery sprinkles. The Kingdom of Lost-Hope is enough to make me cringe with nervousness.

I would not have read Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norell if not for the buddy read that I joined. It’s thick, and thicker every time I put it down (it’s so heavy), because I honestly thought I won’t be able to finish it!

Patience, lots of it. It is the key to enjoying and finishing this brick fantasy. But I believe when you get to the part where Strange is using his learned magic to win a war (and later, to win back his life), you will get hooked. That’s what happened to me.

Last piece of advice, then: Good Luck! *grins*

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JONATHAN STRANGE & MR. NORELL by Susanna Clarke

Paperback, 866 pages

Published August 30th 2005 by Bloomsbury

4/5 stars

Book Review: Sapphique by Catherine Fisher

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Young Adult > Fantasy | Dystopia

(Incarceron #2)

Finn has escaped Incarceron only to find that he must defend his right to the throne from another challenger. His life and Claudia’s hang on Finn convincing the Court that he is the lost prince, even though he has his own doubts about being the true heir.

Book 1: Incarceron review

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This is really, really inventive.

You cannot box Incarceron series into one sub-genre alone, for it encompasses dystopian, fantasy, and science fiction. The connections are seamless, as Catherine Fisher weaves this rich story, so intricate that you will be smiling at the ingenuity of it all. Dare I say I understood Sapphique the way I did for Incarceron? In some ways, yes. Because while prequel sets the stage to an astonishing story, Sapphique drew the curtains with a flourish that only fantasy lovers will appreciate.

The complexity of the characters is a strength. Finn is defiant, Claudia is stubborn, Jared is brooding, Keiro is immovable, and Attia is determined. The web of their relationships is askewed at best, but when I think about it, it is best that way. For everyone has a claim, everyone has a motive. Who will triumph in the end? Or could Incarceron herself outplay them all?

It will always be Incarceron who is the star of this series. No matter how deceitful, ruthless, or vindictive she may be, I can identify something in her that is human. Well… why not? a bunch of scientists created her. Incarceron was animated with human antics, and that’s the most enjoyable in this series. =)

The richness in fantasy of Sapphique was mesmerizing. I might favor Incarceron more, but this sequel more than sums up the core of Finn’s story. It was executed astoundingly.

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SAPPHIQUE by Catherine Fisher

Hardcover, 462 pages

Published December 28th 2012 by Dial

4/5 stars

Book Review: Dark Triumph by Robin LaFevers

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Young Adult > Fantasy | Historical fiction

(His Fair Assassin #2)

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…

Book 1: Grave Mercy review

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A triumph indeed. 🙂 R.L. LaFevers? I am now a fan.

This was an emotional read for me. Dark past and even darker memories of Sybella are too raw to comprehend in just one sitting. I remember being emotionally spent after reading Dark Triumph. You just don’t get that kind of heavy story everyday in YA! And Sybella and Beast’s story is so, so good, it left me in a melancholy mood for awhile. A contradictory effect, is it not? I know. I really liked Dark Triumph, but the feels stirred in me was not good for my health. Haha!

(I’m going mad like Sybella. Please, don’t mind me.)

In Grave Mercy, I thought Ismae had it worst. But Sybella takes the cake. Family is important, right? Very important especially in protecting their own. Sybella’s? Man, what crackpots they are. Unbelievable, even. But Sybella used the hurt to become a better person, a worthy assassin. It took her a long time to see past the ugliness of what she calls her life. And with Beast? wow, it was truly beautiful to love despite the torment of her past.

R.L. LaFevers‘s writing was intense and moving. I cannot count how many times I want to get depressed with Sybella, or exact vengeance with her. The experience left me tired, but I think it’s a good one. A hopeful ending for someone as scarred as Sybella.

Dark Triumph is a sequel you don’t want to miss. If I was the one who wrote this, and you ask me what do I think of it? I would say that the book was very, very personal.

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DARK TRIUMPH by Robin LaFevers

Ebook, 400 pages

Published April 2nd 2013 by Houghton Mifflin Books for Children

4/5 stars