Bloodwitch, by Susan Dennard: A Review

Bloodwitch, by Susan Dennard, is my pick for Popsugar’s 2019 Reading Challenge prompt #26. a book published in 2019. I discovered this series with my first reading challenge in 2016, and I’ve read one each year as they’ve been released.

I’ve been thoroughly enjoying this series, and I anticipated this book in particular for quite awhile. The third installment of the Witchlands series, Bloodwitch focuses on the character Aeduan. We first met Aeduan in book one, where to all appearances, he was the enemy. As the action develops, however, we learn there is a lot more to Aeduan.

The Witchlands series opened at a breathtaking pace, and Dennard does not let up. Bloodwitch continues where Windwitch left off. In this book, Aeduan is forced to confront many truths about himself and is faced with a decision with potentially far-reaching consequences.

I’m still loving this series. I’m not sure what’s coming next, but I will await it with eager anticipation. If you enjoy epic fantasy, magic, tons of adventure and just the right amount of romance, I would encourage you to give this series a try.

Six of Crows, by Leigh Bardugo: A Review

I read Six of Crows, by Leigh Bardugo for #4 on the 2018 Reading Challenge list, a book involving a heist. I don’t remember exactly how or when I first heard about this book, but I was intrigued from the outset. When I learned it would fit this category I knew immediately I would read it this year.

This is the story of Kaz Brekker, a thief rising quickly up the ranks of a street gang. He is offered a job which could lead to wealth beyond imagining. If he can pull it off. But for such an impossible task, he will need an impossible crew. Himself included, Kaz pulls together six of the city’s deadliest outcasts.

Bardugo writes from multiple points of view, switching with each chapter. At first, the frequent jumping around between POV characters made it difficult to get a feel for any of the them. And it felt like it made the story a bit disjointed. As the story progressed, however, I came to appreciate this as a great plot device that enhanced the suspense.

The plot of the story was revealed in a surprising way because some characters knew part of the plan, and others knew other parts. These were then revealed by the appropriate character at the appropriate time, thus making sense of a convoluted plot. That, along with a few well-placed flashback or memory scenes, the story really came together in a great way.

While I never came to truly like Kaz, as a character he is very well written and believable. Bardugo has done an outstanding job with all her characters, and the world-building is exceptional. If you enjoy stories with magic, adventure, huge risk and great characters, then I think you would enjoy this book.

Throne of Glass, by Sarah J. Maas: A Review

Throne of Glass, by Sarah J. Maas joined my 2017 Reading Challenge list as a book by an author I’ve never read before. This prompt is about as wide open as it could get. There are any number of great authors I have never read. But this series of books, with their beautiful covers, recently came to my attention, and I decided I must read them.

This book tells the story of Celaena Sardothien, an eighteen year old assassin who has been offered a choice, compete to become the King’s Champion and a chance to earn her freedom, or remain a prisoner in a cruel work camp. So she goes to the palace as the champion sponsored by the Crown Prince Dorian.

The king, bent on conquering all of Erilea, has banned magic. He’s brought together disreputable men, and one woman, to compete against each other for the position of King’s Champion. Contestants are to be eliminated through a series of Tests, until only the final four remain. But along the way, they begin dying. The various champions are being brutally murdered one by one.

It becomes clear that strange and dark forces are at work, and there is more to Celaena than was first revealed. Will she survive long enough to compete in the final duel? Will she attempt to escape first? Or does she have more to keep her here than she ever thought possible?

While the young adult love triangle trope may be a little bit worn out, Maas does it very well. She combines just the right amount of friendship, innocence, distrust, longing and jealousy to make it work beautifully. This book brought together elements from some of my favorites genres – fantasy, murder mystery and romance.

Celaena engages in more simpering and primping than I would have thought for a notorious assassin, and at first, this really annoyed me. And despite the almost ridiculously young age at which the characters had achieved such accomplishments as they have in this book, they are interesting and compelling enough that I could let that go.

Overall, this was a very fun read. If you love YA books, I highly recommend it. I look forward to reading more by Sarah J. Maas.

Protector of the Small quartet, by Tamora Pierce: A Review

I recently veered wildly off track from my 2017 Reading Challenge and took up an entire series of books from the teen fiction section at my local library. I picked up the Protector of the Small quartet by Tamora Pierce and read the entire series. Though not on my list, it still fits within the “Year of the Series” theme, so I’m not entirely off base.

I’ve read some of Tamora Pierce’s books before and enjoyed them very much. Going in, I thought this was the series I’d read before, and that it was the first of Pierce’s Tortall quartets. I was wrong on both counts, but I don’t regret picking this one up.

If you haven’t read anything by Tamora Pierce, you may want to start with the Song of the Lioness quartet. While it isn’t necessary, this series can be enjoyed without it, there is some history in the first set of books that might prove useful.

I try to avoid spoilery commentary when I write reviews, so I apologize if this one reveals too much. Let this be fair warning, I suppose, if you don’t want to read the spoilery bits, you might want to skip to the end of the review.

This series follows the adventures of Keladry, the third daughter of a noble family of Mindelan, a province of the Tortall kingdom. It opens with book one, Keladry, or Kel as she prefers to be called, is trying to become the first girl to enter training to become a knight.

Kel’s story follows the Tortallan history in the Song of the Lioness quartet where girls have traditionally not been permitted to become knights. This previous series follows the rise of Alanna the Lioness as she becomes the realm’s first lady knight after disguising herself as a boy. A subsequent law now allows girls to try, and Kel is the first to take advantage of it.

At the beginning of the first book, First Test, a ten year old Kel learns that in order to enter training, she will be required to go through a probationary period of one year. Believing it unfair to require this of her when none of the boys are required to do this, Kel nearly withdraws before she ever begins.

Instead, Kel endures and goes on to even make a few friends in her first year of page training. There is no shortage of enemies either, and she is faced with hazing, bullying and open hostility by many of the other pages. She passes her probationary year despite the many people who would have preferred to see her drop out, and Kel is allowed to return for the next year of page training.

Book two, Page, chronicles the next three years of Kel’s page training. Here the series bogs down, as it is three years of identical activities. Training, Midwinter festival, more hazing, more bullying, more training. And it goes on. Until the final part of the book when Kel is forced to choose between her commitment to becoming a knight and her obligations as a noble, a decision forced on her by those who want nothing more than to see her fail. Again, overcoming overwhelming odds, Kel makes her choice and is prepared to live with the consequences.

In book three, Squire, Kel moves on in her training, eventually being chosen to serve as squire to a knight who commands an elite group of the king’s own guard. Over the course of the next four years she trains with her knight master, learning combat skills, jousting and how to command, among other things. Still, she has to work just as hard, if not harder to prove herself to a new set of doubters.

Events during this book take the kingdom of Tortall through a summer-long parade around the realm to announce the betrothal of the young prince complete with feasting, celebrations and jousting tournaments. Before the end of the summer, however, this tour is interrupted by rumblings of war from their northern neighbor, and Kel is reassigned along with her companions to help hold the border.

During her final test for knighthood, Kel is presented with a mysterious task that leads right into the events of book four, Lady Knight. As war rages along the northern border, Kel is placed in command of a refugee camp. Feeling frustrated that she has been placed in a “safe” assignment because she’s a girl, Kel nonetheless takes her responsibilities seriously.

Once more, Kel is put into a position where she is forced to choose between her duty to her commanding officer and by extension, the realm, and her responsibility to protect the people under her command. She is finally thrust into the role she’s been training for throughout the entire series, the Protector of the Small.

Overall, the Protector of the Small series is fantastic. It’s the coming of age story of a girl pursing a non-traditional life in a society that doesn’t necessarily appreciate such behavior. Keladry of Mindelan is a strong character who knows what she believes in and isn’t afraid to stand up for it. The series opens with her attempting to save a bag of kittens from being drowned by bullies, demonstrating her willingness to go above and beyond to protect those who are weaker.

The series continues along this same path with Kel demonstrating again and again this need to protect others. She takes on a shy maid, a flock of sparrows, an abused gelding, even an ungrateful griffin baby, all on her journey to her ultimate task.

Though Pierce writes for a younger audience, these books can be enjoyed by adults as well. She writes the story of Kel, never “talking down” to her audience, and never apologizing for what goes on in her stories. Pierce doesn’t shy away from the tough subjects, and it gives her stories a deeper realism, even within the fantasy realm she’s created.

Windwitch, by Susan Dennard: A Review

This book is #23 from my 2017 Reading Challenge, a “book with an appealing cover.” I was first drawn to this series last year when the first book, Truthwitch, joined my reading list. It was the book’s beautiful cover that first captured my attention, and book two is just as lovely.

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Jacket art on both books is by Scott Grimando.

In Windwitch, Susan Dennard continues the story she started with Truthwitch. A deeper threat emerges as the four main characters, Safiya, Iseult, Aeduan and Prince Merik each struggle to survive in a world devolving rapidly into massive war. Where we got only a glimpse of the darker forces at work in book one, more is revealed in this book.

While Windwitch follows the ongoing adventures of Safi, Iseult, and Aeduan, the focus is on Prince Merik, a Windwitch. Throughout this book Merik is presumed dead after the ship he commanded was destroyed. His crew, his family, and his entire nation believes him dead. Disfigured from the fires that destroyed his ship, Merik becomes a creature of the shadows as he tries to uncover who is responsible for the attack.

The story broadens out in this book, as it should as the series progresses. We are introduced to more characters such as Vivia, Merik’s sister. Merik is convinced that Vivia is the one behind the attack, and he sets about trying to prove this is true.

Dennard writes with a breathtaking intensity. Each chapter comes to an end in such a way as to compel the reader forward. This book is very difficult to put down.

And so, while the cover may have initially attracted me to this series, the beautiful characters and the outstanding action and suspense are what keep me coming back for more. I am now eagerly awaiting book three and the rest of the series, which according to Ms Dennard’s website, will ultimately have five books. The next book, Bloodwitch, is due out in the fall of 2018. (Can I do a little fangirling here? Aeduan is my favorite!)