Here we are, back again in the Grishaverse where our Grisha favorites and their demon King are on the verge of all out war. “Rule of Wolves” picks up pretty much right where we left off in “King of Scars”, but Bardugo really understands that there are readers (like me) who take obscenely long to finish a series so she sprinkles subtle reminders of the big events throughout the first 30% of the book, so even though it’s been a while, very quickly I was immersed in the world again and head down in the story. Seriously, for this book being so intimidatingly long, it was a smooth and easy read; Bardugo is master of knowing when to switch POV’s so that I constantly want to keep reading to progress each individual character’s story lines! Plus, the way she handles the conflict between Ravka and Frejda and the horrors of escalating war with bigger and bigger weapons was perfectly done, and that’s on top of the smooth way the author is able to include a diverse cast and the prejudices those characters deal with. I was thoroughly impressed with both the story and the characters in this second book to say the least! In fact, there were only a few things that bothered me, which were made all the more frustrating because they were things I used to love in this universe.
It’s taken me longer than anticipated to finish this series mainly because I didn’t really love the second book in Shades of Magic as much as I did the first. Certain main characters in the second book just really got on my nerves, and we’ll leave it at that. So “A Conjuring of Light” sat on my shelves, waiting ever so patiently, for me to stop being petty and just finish the series. The third book picks up immediately after the second book, so if you’re like me and waited a while to return you’re going to need a bit of a refresher and recap before diving in, because the story doesn’t really allow for that right off the bat. But our main characters know from the start (or close to it) just what they face, and what will happen if they don’t deal with this threat, and atone for their own mistakes. Cue redemption arcs for everyone! Sure, some characters are redeemed more than others but I always love a good redemption. I love watching characters face the consequences of previous actions, and I love having those characters grow from the experience and strengthen their own relationships in the process. So, in a nutshell: I thoroughly enjoyed this book, especially compared to “A Gathering of Shadows”.
“Wild Beauty” is a magical realism tale steeped in family, race, class, and beauty. We follow our main characters, Estrella and Fel, as they navigate defining themselves, or redefining in Estrella’s case and what space they occupy in the gorgeous gardens of La Pradera, a garden that has cursed the women of Estrella’s family to lose all their lovers, and if they themselves try to leave, it will kill them too. I loved the undercurrent of malevolence always present in the gorgeous botanical garden, and the slight mystery that, that posed, especially when it came to how Fel arrived in the garden in the first place. But that mystery was very, very slow to unravel, which is typical for magical realism I’m finding, but makes me think that this genre and I are just never going to get along.
I have never read a YA fantasy novelette quite like “Spellraiser” and I mean that in the best way possible. It’s a familiar storyline: a rich prep school where those of lesser means are constantly bullied and looked down upon, except that there is a magical mystery underfoot. In the world of “Spellraiser” magic is an accepted thing, so there’s no real need for the characters to explain what’s happening to one another, which helps given the novelette’s unique styling—100 chapters of only one hundred words. In this world, spells are basically spirits that give the wielder—or the person being possessed—a wish-like attribute, be it beauty, strength, invincibility, or even the ability to read minds. The catch is, you have to release the spell every day or risk being completely consumed, and you can’t have more than 5 in you at a time or you will literally burn up. That’s not our main characters problem though. Her problem is that students keep dying mysteriously and she, as an outcast, keeps getting blamed for their deaths.
“Evangeline’s Heaven” is a unique reimagining of the fall of Lucifer, and what that fall looked like from the eyes of his daughter. Raised almost completely by her Lucifer, Evangeline is completely devoted to her father and is his loyal little soldier. When a decree comes that states that all Commoner angels—like Lucifer and Evangeline—are being banished to Earth to tend to God’s new fledgling creation, the humans, Lucifer and the other Commoner’s push back against the regal class of angels, the Dominion. The Dominion have always treated Evangeline’s people with extreme prejudice, especially Evangeline, who is half of both thanks to her mother. But while Evangeline’s cause may be good, her father’s true intentions are clouded in secrecy—a shroud that Evangeline does not want lifted until she has no choice but to see Lucifer for who he truly is, and then she will have to deal with the consequences.
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