Review: Grave Mercy

Grave Mercy (His Fair Assassin, #1)Grave Mercy by Robin LaFevers
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

[Dislcaimer: I received a free copy of the ebook edition from NetGalley.]

I'm very surprised that I enjoyed this book so much. It's a typical angsty teen romance, but there's so much more going on that I managed to overlook that for the most part. According to the author's note, the book is based on actual events from the Middle Ages, but since I'm far from an historian I won't comment on the authenticity. Overall this was well-written, intriguing, and flowed pretty well. I didn't really like how melodramatic Ismae could be when thinking about whether she loved Duval or not, but again, teen angst. I guess I can forgive it because of her horrible life up until she was 14, and for the rest of the book she's only 17 and spent years in a "convent," so it's to be expected.

The plots were so thick I didn't really see who was behind everything until Sybella manages to speak with Ismae for 5 seconds, well into the second half of the book. I thought the ending was a bit rushed, considering all the build-up, but knowing that it's a series makes up for it.

The fantasy aspects of the story were interesting, since it appears that there is much more to the "saint" Mortain than the abbess is willing to share with the girls in the convent. As Ismae figures it out, it gets more and more complicated. It will be interesting to see in book 2 how involved the abbess is in the deception. I also look forward to seeing the role Mortain will play in Ismae's new direction.

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Review: The Thirteenth Tower

The Thirteenth TowerThe Thirteenth Tower by Sara C. Snider
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

[Disclaimer: I received a free copy of the e-book edition from NetGalley.]

The Thirteenth Tower was actually a pleasant surprise. I've read some really awful books that I got from NetGalley lately, and was expecting more of the same, which is probably why I ended up enjoying it as much as I did. Emelyn starts out as a servant girl, but ends up as so much more.

There is a lot good about this book. I mostly enjoyed the writing style, found it easy to read, and the dialogue wasn't as strained as I expected. There were moments where I found it wandering off into flowery territory, but for the most part it was appropriate and well-done. Emelyn isn't the greatest heroine, she's not someone I could see myself being friends with, but she isn't insufferable and her story ends up being quite thought-out.

The concept itself was interesting, and I appreciated the execution of the twists and turns of story. One thing I didn't like: it was absolutely completely predictable. It really was obvious what was going to happen; I think I figured it out about halfway through. And while that's a pretty nice chunk of book in which I was in the dark, it still leaves half the book for me to go "OK, when is [this] going to happen?" or "When is she going to figure out she's [that]?"

I didn't like the ending, there was too much going on in the final major scene and yet not enough. I felt like I was trudging through mud while reading the "battle" scene, and I still can't figure out exactly what happened. Also, I don't see anywhere on GR that this is a planned series, so the strange and abrupt ending has left me a bit confused. And while I appreciate Cobbe as a character, I still can't quite figure out her purpose aside from keeping them fed, and providing a little comic relief.

The one thing that has bothered me throughout the entire book is one of the opening scenes: when Emelyn gets swept away to the festival and finds instead the strange creatures, we see the following:

(view spoiler)

This is the *only* such passage in the entire book. Throughout the rest of it there isn't even the barest mention of sex, the closest thing to describing a body part being Emelyn's attempts to figure out whether the small-folk are men or women. It stuck out in a bad way, because otherwise this book was pretty exclusively PG. I'm not saying it was inappropriate, but it didn't fit at all with the rest of the book or with the narrative style. I would consider removing it in future editions, only because I felt it interrupted the story for no reason whatsoever, distracting me from what was going on.

So there's room for improvement, and if it IS going to be a series that explains the ending. It's not fantastic high fantasy, but it was a pretty good read and I rather enjoyed it.

ETA 10/29/14 - I've been skimming other reviews just to see what others have said about this book.  A lot of people have mentioned the lack of character development.  Upon further reflection, I think I was a bit too generous in mentioning I felt that Emelyn was well-developed.  Presented with passages and examples of her stupidity, I realize I had been thinking this all along.  I think what changed my mind was at the end when she decides to embrace her powers and stop being so stupid.  Maybe that blinded me to her faults (and there were many).  It's probably why I said I didn't really care for her as a person, or wouldn't be friends with her.  Anyway, I agree with other reviewers that most of the characters could have been more well-developed, with their motives a bit more clear, or noted at all.

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Review: Sorcerer's Feud

Sorcerer's FeudSorcerer's Feud by Katharine Kerr
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

[Disclaimer: I read this book twice in beta and was sent a copy by the author when it was finished. My opinions are my own.]

***There are no spoilers in this post, unless you have not read book 1, in which case what are you doing?? Go read it now!!***

In the second installment of the "Runemaster" series, Maya and Tor are dealing with the aftermath of the accidental murder of Tor's uncle Nils. The book picks up almost immediately after the last book ended, with Maya worrying that the police are going to figure out she killed Nils, and come after her. Not to mention her brother is still in the hospital and not progressing with his recovery, she has a final project for her degree to work on, she's finally engaged to Tor, and they make the discovery that Nils had kids, one of whom makes contact with Tor regarding the will.

On top of all of that, there's a frost giant who keeps showing up in the driveway demanding the gold plaque that Tor won't give back, Tor is still a were-bear, and Maya is finally confronting the memories that can unlock her heritage and her powers. And Nazis! *dun dun dun*

Let's get one thing straight: This series is fan-freaking-tastic! I loved reading it all three times, and even in my final read I discovered new things and saw some minor changes that really illuminated the plot. I always have fun reading about Maya and Tor, they are a great couple of characters. And the addition of Joel, Tor's cousin, was a great way to show how Maya is becoming entrenched in the magical world. His disbelief was once hers, but now she's so involved that it's like she was never a "normal" person. Her heritage is even more engrossing, because we finally learn where she's from and how she got her "disease."

Obviously it's not true urban fantasy, and the author says as much in the note at the beginning. It doesn't really fit into any one genre, at least not completely. I consider it simply fantasy set in the modern world (which I normally don't like to read as much, but I find this set wholly entertaining). The writing style is pretty easy to read, because you can end up reading a huge chunk of the book and not realize how much until you check your page count! And it never gets boring. I highly recommend this series (definitely start with book 1, Sorcerer's Luck) to anyone who enjoys a fun but intense story about magic, runes, old gods, and some spicy romance.

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Review: Dance of Thieves by Mary Pearson

Dance of Thieves by Mary E. Pearson My rating: 5 of 5 stars I received a free e-copy of this book from NetGalley for review purposes. ...