Review: Cruel Crown by Victoria Aveyard (Red Queen, #0.1 & #0.2)

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four-and-a-half-stars

Rating: 4.5 Stars

Two women on either side of the Silver-Red divide tell the stories no one else knows.

Discover the truth of Norta’s bloody past in these two revealing prequels to #1 New York Times bestseller Red Queen.

Queen Song
Queen Coriane, first wife of King Tiberias, keeps a secret diary—how else can she ensure that no one at the palace will use her thoughts against her? Coriane recounts her heady courtship with the crown prince, the birth of a new prince, Cal, and the potentially deadly challenges that lay ahead for her in royal life.

Steel Scars
Diana Farley was raised to be strong, but being tasked with planting the seeds of rebellion in Norta is a tougher job than expected. As she travels the land recruiting black market traders, smugglers, and extremists for her first attempt at an attack on the capital, she stumbles upon a connection that may prove to be the key to the entire operation—Mare Barrow.

I’ll say it now: Cruel Crown was the explosive bomb of beauty that I wanted Red Queen to be. I knew that Aveyard had the gift, but hey, debut novels tend to be shaky.

Although it’s technically just a pair of novellas, Cruel Crown’s well-written contents have propelled it near the top of my favorites list. Reading Cruel Crown, I got everything I’ve ever wanted from a book: real emotions, developed characters, intricate worldbuilding, and the literary knife into my heart that means the author’s actually managed to make me dedicated to her characters.

I went into Cruel Crown like this:

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And came out of it like this…

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I’m not a beach reader, not one who reads books for fun. I read them to see if they make me feel something. Cruel Crown did the job.

My emotions were stabbed, repeatedly, leaving numerous bloody holes behind that still need healing. And that’s exactly what I want from my books; as a reader, I search and search to the ends of the universe for the worlds that will hurt me most.

Cruel Crown consists of two novellas: Queen Song and Steel Scars. I’ll dedicate a piece of the review to each.

Queen Song

My favorite of the two. Queen Song tells the story of Coriane Jacos, Julian’s younger sister who fell in love with the young Prince Tiberias, married him and bore his sweet summer child: Cal. Admittedly, I’ve wanted to know more about Queen Coriane ever since Julian first told Mare about her.

This novella follows Coriane from her days at the languishing family estate to her bloody, untimely end. She and Julian are the last children of the singer line; with that comes great responsibility, so Coriane and Julian move to court with Coriane’s best friend–skin healer Sara Skonos. Coriane is just 15 years old at the time.

At court, Coriane meets the cunning Elara Merandus along with dozens of other High House children (and their equally treacherous parents) who are vying for closeness to the crown.

I’m not going to give anything else away, but let me just say this.

The first few pages made me care about Coriane; the last made me want to rip my heart out, it hurt so much. Queen Song is a dark little story that captivated me due to its harsh sincerity and fascinating protagonist.

Also, before I move on: Everyone is entitled to his or her own opinion…but several of the reviews for Queen Song are just irritating. It’s fine to not like a book, but I’ve seen so many complaints that Coriane was a ‘weak’ character, that she deserved what she got, that she was whiny, that Elara was so much stronger than her, etc. There are many things very, very wrong with that mindset.

Coriane is just 15 when she meets Tiberias, and she’s 16 upon marrying him. She was told her entire life that nothing she did was ever good enough. She was depressed to begin with. Her true passions were not encouraged and her family was relentlessly mocked and lied to. Coriane’s grown up with no mother, a disappointing father, and a critical old cousin. Most importantly: she’s still a child. 15, for crying out loud. Those who are calling a vulnerable child weak: Do you know how silly that makes you look?

Do you think fracking Elara Merandus just burst out of the womb with her confidence and strength? She was groomed since the day she could talk. Her house was in HIGH ESTEEM and extremely wealthy, the opposite of Coriane’s situation. She was told that she could do anything from the moment she first practiced her power.

The reality is that a lot of young teenagers struggle with depression. Thousands of them are just like Coriane (minus the supernatural power).

We need to do away with the notion that a female can only be strong if she lets nothing hurt her, if she’s constantly on the offensive, if she works her ass off every day, if she always tries to be the best. No. That’s not how it works. Coriane is strong in her own way, which might not be obvious when she’s compared to fully realized heroines who’ve had supportive mentors and time to hone their abilities.

Calling a young girl weak because she struggles from depression–and eventual madness that was not her fault, but the doing of another–is stupid even if that girl is a fictional character. Every woman is strong. Some just don’t see it yet; they haven’t realized their worth. And I feel like it’s really counterproductive to dismiss a character as weak because she wasn’t bold enough for you.

Newsflash: the strongest people have had to go through a shitload of terrible experiences, wherein they were depressed and hopeless and not as cool, to get to where they are now.

The fact that Coriane never got a chance to do that, because she was MURDERED for night’s sake, makes her story all the more tragic.

So, yeah, call Cal’s mother weak if you want. But I’ll fight you on it till my dying breath.

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Steel Scars

Steel Scars follows Farley and her operations in the Scarlet Guard before she met Mare Barrow. Those who’ve read Red Queen might remember Farley as the badass blonde chick with a fierce determination (and even fiercer scars). Yep, that’s the one.

I’ve taken off half a star because Steel Scars wasn’t a 5-star work. Nothing wrong with the storyline or characters, but I just wasn’t quite as invested in this one.

It was interesting to read about the Scarlet Guard–turns out, this group goes deeper than I ever thought, with locations in different countries and cities plus an admirable secret-keeping system. Oh, and I was delighted to find out that Farley isn’t the Scarlet Guard’s supreme leader after all.

Farley’s character development is more firmly fleshed out. This chick’s not just a bloodthirsty revolutionary; she’s got a past (duh), feelings, and a hunger to prove herself. Farley’s a witty young girl underneath all the bravado.

Steel Scars takes you from Harbor Bay to the Stilts; oh, and you may meet a few recognizable characters along the way.

The Verdict:

I think I’ve made my opinions pretty clear. I do recommend Cruel Crown to fans and/or casual readers of Red Queen.

(If you haven’t read Red Queen, you should peruse that book first–otherwise this novella probably won’t make sense. These are prequels to add more information to a previously explained story, so don’t expect any introductions. Cruel Crown dives right in. It’s really not fair to say that “you had no idea what was going on,” blaming it on the book when you never read its predecessor.)

Try Cruel Crown if you enjoy any of the following literary flavors:

  • sci-fi/fantasy fiction
  • magical powers
  • political upheaval
  • female protagonists

Review: Vicious by V.E. Schwab

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2.5Stars

RATING: 2.5 Stars

Victor and Eli started out as college roommates—brilliant, arrogant, lonely boys who recognized the same sharpness and ambition in each other. In their senior year, a shared research interest in adrenaline, near-death experiences, and seemingly supernatural events reveals an intriguing possibility: that under the right conditions, someone could develop extraordinary abilities. But when their thesis moves from the academic to the experimental, things go horribly wrong. Ten years later, Victor breaks out of prison, determined to catch up to his old friend (now foe), aided by a young girl whose reserved nature obscures a stunning ability. Meanwhile, Eli is on a mission to eradicate every other super-powered person that he can find—aside from his sidekick, an enigmatic woman with an unbreakable will. Armed with terrible power on both sides, driven by the memory of betrayal and loss, the archnemeses have set a course for revenge—but who will be left alive at the end?

WELL. WELL. I still don’t know exactly what to think about this book.

Superpowers are in the spotlight this year with my favorite alcoholic feminist, Jessica Jones. In fact, she’s sitting at the forefront with super strength and her own unbreakable will. (Catch her show on Netflix!) I tend to be pretty picky about superhero stories. Alas, when one is done right, it’s a beautiful sight to behold. Jessica Jones won Best TV Show of the Year for me.

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So, when my hapless librarian mother recommended that I read Vicious, I decided to try it. I am, after all, a fantasy and sci-fi aficionado. X-Men mixed with a mentally incisive anti-hero theme? WOAH! I was so game.

…upon closing the book, I was left with feelings of deep disgust and the opinion that V.E. Schwab has crapped all over potentially good characters.

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Review: A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas

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Rating-Christgau-three-star-honorable-mention

Rating: 3 Stars

A thrilling, seductive new series from New York Times bestselling author Sarah J. Maas, blending Beauty and the Beast with faerie lore.

When nineteen-year-old huntress Feyre kills a wolf in the woods, a beast-like creature arrives to demand retribution for it. Dragged to a treacherous magical land she only knows about from legends, Feyre discovers that her captor is not an animal, but Tamlin—one of the lethal, immortal faeries who once ruled their world.

As she dwells on his estate, her feelings for Tamlin transform from icy hostility into a fiery passion that burns through every lie and warning she’s been told about the beautiful, dangerous world of the Fae. But an ancient, wicked shadow grows over the faerie lands, and Feyre must find a way to stop it… or doom Tamlin—and his world—forever.

I’M BACK, BITCHES–I mean…bloggers. Where have I been, you ask? Working on computer science and eating pounds of fudge while crying, of course. But no need to worry. Since my last post, I have achieved a solid A in all of my courses–all higher than 95 percent. Including my computer science class. *cheers myself on*

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And, in celebration of school ending soon, I’ve decided to slowly get back into the swing of actually reviewing the books that I read.

SO. What better way to kick that off than to review yet another hot book?

A Court of Thorns and Roses. Here we go.


I had high expectations for this book. I’m a rabid fan of Sarah’s other works, and A Court of Thorns and Roses has FAERIES and WICKED SHADOWS and a STUBBORN FEMALE CHARACTER. When mixed together and cooked at exactly the right temperature (with appropriate adjectives and action-packed scenes sprinkled on top), these characteristics almost always equal deliciousness.

But wait, what’s that I taste? Forced romance? Cardboard characterizations? Boring and flowery scenes piled onto more boring and flowery scenes? I never would have thought that Sarah was capable of such mediocrity.

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Review: Queen of Shadows by Sarah J. Maas (Throne of Glass, #4)

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Rating: 3 1/2 Stars

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To my forest Fae fans, frosty Dorian dames, spunky Chaol warriors, and Celaena fangirls of all shapes, species and sizes:

Stand At Attention, maties! Every ship must go down with the pirate captain!

There are SPOILERS for the first three books in the summary below! Proceed at your own discretion. For those who wish to continue, I welcome you into the beautiful, bloodthirsty and fiery world that I have come to love so much.

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Review: Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas (Throne of Glass, #1)

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4stars

Rating: 4 Stars

In a world without magic, an assassin is summoned to the castle. She comes not to kill the vicious king who rules from his throne of glass but to win her freedom. If she defeats twenty-three killers, thieves, and warriors in a competition, she will be released from prison to serve as the King’s Champion. Her name is Celaena Sardothien.

The Crown Prince will provoke her. The Captain of the Guard will protect her. And a princess from a faraway land will befriend her. But something evil dwells in the castle—and it’s there to kill. When the competitors start dying one by one, Celaena’s fight for freedom becomes a fight for survival—and a desperate quest to root out the evil before it destroys her world.


[This Book in One Sentence: An infamous young assassin leaves certain death in a prison camp for a fight to become the King’s Champion, but dark forces inside the kingdom might smother Celaena’s life before she has her chance to win.]

Hey guys! I feel like it’s been forever since I posted a new review. Well, not really…  I did discuss Silver in the Blood less than a week ago. I try to maintain a regular posting balance that isn’t annoyingly frequent. In actuality, I read a new book every two days; in fact, I’ve read three books (about 1300 pages) this week. But I must take time to collect my thoughts, and to ensure that I can deliver a post containing a healthy mixture of book-fueled emotions and objectivity.

Unfortunately, the practice of blogging can be quite angering/depressing/UGHHH. Book blogging involves yours truly pounding angrily on the keyboard to get her point across about HOW MUCH SHE HATED THIS and WHICH CHARACTER SHE WANTS TO MARRY.

Throne of Glass… how can I describe Throne of Glass?

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Review: Siege and Storm by Leigh Bardugo (Grisha Trilogy, #2)

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four-and-a-half-stars

RATING: 4 1/2 STARS

Warning, warning! Danger, danger! SPOILERS for SHADOW AND BONE ahead! Avast, there be spoilers! If ye have not read Shadow and Bone and wish to do so, TURN BACK, me hearties!

Darkness never dies.

Hunted across the True Sea, haunted by the lives she took on the Fold, Alina must try to make a life with Mal in an unfamiliar land. She finds starting new is not easy while keeping her identity as the Sun Summoner a secret. She can’t outrun her past or her destiny for long.

The Darkling has emerged from the Shadow Fold with a terrifying new power and a dangerous plan that will test the very boundaries of the natural world. With the help of a notorious privateer, Alina returns to the country she abandoned, determined to fight the forces gathering against Ravka. But as her power grows, Alina slips deeper into the Darkling’s game of forbidden magic, and farther away from Mal. Somehow, she will have to choose between her country, her power, and the love she always thought would guide her–or risk losing everything to the oncoming storm.

[This Book in One Sentence: Alina Starkov returns in Shadow and Bone’s thrilling, heart-wrenching sequel; war is brewing, and no one is safe.]

Siege and Storm is the sequel to Shadow and Bone and the second installment in the Grisha Trilogy. Of course, I requested this book from the library as soon as I finished the first one. Upon completing Siege and Storm, I immediately bought it on Amazon after a near-lethal injection of fangirl into my veins. Thanks, Darkling. Thanks for being such a magnificently crafted character. You’re gonna kill me one day. 👿

“I’ve seen what you truly are,” said the Darkling, “and I’ve never turned away. I never will. Can he say the same?”

Siege and Storm picks up where the previous installment left off. Alina and Mal are attempting to build a new life together–away from Ravka and the Darkling’s influence. As Shadow and Bone sadly revealed, the Darkling has much bigger plans for Alina than anyone could have guessed. With Mal’s help, she manages to escape, but not before being traumatized by events that were gory, sorrowful, and could have been stopped.

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Review: Shadow and Bone (Grisha Trilogy, #1) by Leigh Bardugo

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four-and-a-half-stars

RATING: 4 1/2 STARS

Surrounded by enemies, the once-great nation of Ravka has been torn in two by the Shadow Fold, a swath of near impenetrable darkness crawling with monsters who feast on human flesh. Now its fate may rest on the shoulders of one lonely refugee.

Alina Starkov has never been good at anything. But when her regiment is attacked on the Fold and her best friend is brutally injured, Alina reveals a dormant power that saves his life—a power that could be the key to setting her war-ravaged country free. Wrenched from everything she knows, Alina is whisked away to the royal court to be trained as a member of the Grisha, the magical elite led by the mysterious Darkling.

Yet nothing in this lavish world is what it seems. With darkness looming and an entire kingdom depending on her untamed power, Alina will have to confront the secrets of the Grisha . . . and the secrets of her heart.

[THIS BOOK IN ONE SUPERLONG SENTENCE: An orphaned peasant girl in a Russia-inspired fantasy world works as a mapmaker and longs for her handsome best friend, but her world speeds into darkness when the element-twisting Grisha elites discover that she possesses legendary power.]

I requested Shadow and Bone from my local library after seeing a huge buzz about it all over the online bookisphere. After the first 10 pages, I was surprised— ohmygodholyshitmylifeischangedFOREVER shocked, actually. I became instantly addicted to Alina Starkov’s story.

Her world is dark, bloody, and surprisingly romantic. As I type this, I’m eagerly waiting to pick up the sequel, Siege and Storm, from the library. Anyway, let’s start digging into this non-wonderland that no one should ever want to live in, but we read about it anyway just to get sad, angry, and way too attached to fictional characters in the process.

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Review: Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard

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threehalf

RATING: 3 1/2 Stars

“In school, we learned about the world before ours, about the angels and gods that lived in the sky, ruling the earth with kind and loving hands. Some say those are just stories, but I don’t believe that. The gods rule us still. They have come down from the stars. And they are no longer kind.”

[THIS BOOK IN ONE SENTENCE:  A pick-pocketing teenage girl lives as a second-class citizen without the superhuman powers possessed by the ruling Silver nobles, but when she finds her way into the King’s Court, her own unbelievable magic is discovered.]

Let’s explore one of the most hyped-up young adult books of 2015.

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