Book Review: The Winner’s Curse by Marie Rutkoski

29414614Title: The Winner’s Curse
Author: Marie Rutkoski
Publisher: Square Fish
Pub Date: March 3, 2015
Format: Paperback
Pages: 361
Source: Purchased
Genre(s): YA, Fantasy, Romance
Rating: ★★★½
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Book Review: The Assassin’s Blade by Sarah J. Maas

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Synopsis from Goodreads:

Celaena Sardothien is Adarlan’s most feared assassin. As part of the Assassin’s Guild, her allegiance is to her master, Arobynn Hamel, yet Celaena listens to no one and trusts only her fellow killer-for-hire, Sam. In these action-packed novellas (together in one edition for the first time) Celaena embarks on five daring missions. They take her from remote islands to hostile deserts, where she fights to liberate slaves and seeks to avenge the tyrannous. But she is acting against Arobynn’s orders and could suffer an unimaginable punishment for such treachery. Will Celaena ever be truly free? Explore the dark underworld of this kick-ass heroine to find out.

My review:

“She would tuck Sam into her heart, a bright light for her to take out whenever things were darkest.”

Where do I begin? This book (a compilation of five novellas) takes us back to a time long before Celaena is brought into the glass castle to fight for her “freedom”. It was quite nice getting to see how Adarlan’s Assassin came to be who she is today. Some novellas were slower than others (“The Assassin and the Underworld” was my favourite) and frankly, much longer than they needed to be, but I was still grateful that there was more of this world to read about. I needed somethinganythingto hold me over until the release of Empire of Storms. Unfortunately, I was hoping for a little more about her childhood in Terrasen.

In the other books, Celaena is painted to be quite merciless when it comes to her occupation. These novellas paint a completely different picture. Each novella is a portrait of her humanity. They show her compassion, wit, dignity, strength, and vulnerabilities. After reading these, I’m not quite sure why we’re forced to believe that she’s always been ruthless. If anything, I feel like she’s forever been a hero with a rebel heart. She’s always tried to do good, no matter the circumstance. I liked seeing this side of her.

More importantly, we finally get to read about how Celaena and Sam fell in love. These two alone make the book a must-read. I highly recommend this book to anyone who likes Throne of Glass. It’s so nice finally getting to read about the little adventures that are hinted at throughout the TOG series. It’s like the final pieces of the puzzle coming together.

★★★★ (4 stars) because of my dear, dear Sam. My heart hurts for you.

 

Book Review: Crown of Midnight by Sarah J. Maas

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Synopsis from Goodreads:

From the throne of glass rules a king with a fist of iron and a soul as black as pitch. Assassin Celaena Sardothien won a brutal contest to become his Champion. Yet Celaena is far from loyal to the crown. She hides her secret vigilantly; she knows that the man she serves is bent on evil.

Keeping up the deadly charade becomes increasingly difficult when Celaena realizes she is not the only one seeking justice. As she tries to untangle the mysteries buried deep within the glass castle, her closest relationships suffer. It seems no one is above questioning her allegiances—not the Crown Prince Dorian; not Chaol, the Captain of the Guard; not even her best friend, Nehemia, a foreign princess with a rebel heart.

Then one terrible night, the secrets they have all been keeping lead to an unspeakable tragedy. As Celaena’s world shatters, she will be forced to give up the very thing most precious to her and decide once and for all where her true loyalties lie… and whom she is ultimately willing to fight for.

My review:

“But he had no idea what sort of darkness lurked inside her, or what sort of monster she was willing to become in order to make things right.”

This was good. Quite good. I feel like abandoning all of my predetermined reading choices so I can pick up Heir of Fire instead.

Celaena’s arrogance is no longer as off-putting as it was in Throne of Glass, and we finally get a real glimpse of the general badass-ery that everyone boasts about. This was a good example of “show, don’t tell”. I feel like the issues I had with Throne of Glass were corrected or masked in this sequel. It was more exciting, less predictable, and kept me wanting to read one more chapter, after chapter, after chapter, until I finished the whole damn thing. We also learn more about the history of some characters, which is nice. Everyone loves a backstory.

Also (surprisingly), I was worried that the book would be 99% romance and 1% fantasy, but the balance was perfect. The relationships were complementary to the plot and not the other way around.

★★★★ (4 stars) for cozy towers, cavernous libraries, and Chaol.

Book Review: Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas

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Synopsis from Goodreads:

In a land without magic, where the king rules with an iron hand, an assassin is summoned to the castle. She comes not to kill the king, but to win her freedom. If she defeats twenty-three killers, thieves, and warriors in a competition, she is 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. But something evil dwells in the castle of glass—and it’s there to kill. When her 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.

My review:

“Libraries were full of ideas–perhaps the most dangerous and powerful of all weapons.”

This could have been great. Like, really great. I’m not saying that I didn’t enjoy reading this book. I did enjoy it. It just could have been so much better.

Yes, Celaena’s arrogance is annoying, but this behaviour wouldn’t have put me off so much if the assassin was a guy. In fact, it might have made him one of those cute, arrogant jerks. This is why I tried not to let it bother me. I do not want to support a double standard. Although irksome, it was also refreshing to have a YA heroine who is actually sure of herself. That being said, this could have been done without her constantly seeking validation from everyone around her. She knew she was good, but she wanted other people to acknowledge how good she was. Always. And narcissism is an unattractive trait no matter what gender you are. In any case, I got over it.

The basic premise of this book has been done many times over, but that did not deter me from reading it. I just wanted to bear witness to this epic love triangle that everyone flips out about. And I have to say, this triangle can hardly be called a shape. There was no substance. I know that instalove and several males vying for your attention is a commonly used plot device, but usually they are still fun to read. This was so boring. Where was the romance? It just seemed so tame. I’d probably be 10x more satisfied if Chaol and Dorian just ran off together. That would have been less predictable.

I know this may seem like I am writing a negative review, but that’s only because there was nothing very special happening. It was just a good book that didn’t excite me. Another book crushed by hype, perhaps?

In any case, I will be continuing with the series. I’m still not sure if I support the sailing of any of these “ships” though.

★★★ (3.5 stars) because #Chaorian #Doriol.

Book Review: An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir

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Synopsis from Goodreads:

Laia is a slave. Elias is a soldier. Neither is free.

Under the Martial Empire, defiance is met with death. Those who do not vow their blood and bodies to the Emperor risk the execution of their loved ones and the destruction of all they hold dear.

It is in this brutal world, inspired by ancient Rome, that Laia lives with her grandparents and older brother. The family ekes out an existence in the Empire’s impoverished backstreets. They do not challenge the Empire. They’ve seen what happens to those who do.

But when Laia’s brother is arrested for treason, Laia is forced to make a decision. In exchange for help from rebels who promise to rescue her brother, she will risk her life to spy for them from within the Empire’s greatest military academy.

There, Laia meets Elias, the school’s finest soldier—and secretly, its most unwilling. Elias wants only to be free of the tyranny he’s being trained to enforce. He and Laia will soon realize that their destinies are intertwined—and that their choices will change the fate of the Empire itself.

My review:

“You are full, Laia. Full of life and dark and strength and spirit.”

This book has turned me into a person of few words, and I mean this in the best way possible.

This world was so easy to slip into. I felt like a speck in the masses of Blackcliff. Inconspicuous and insignificant. We are all life and dark and strength and spirit. Each of us is a soldier in battle. Some of us know what we are fighting for, some of us are simply fighting to find out what for. Others have no will to fight. Most days, the struggle is deciding who we are fighting with, and who we are against. Sometimes, but more often than not, we are against ourselves.

I’m not sure where I’m going with this.

I am a skeptic when it comes to fate and prophecies and claims like “everything happens for a reason”, but I was meant to read this book. That’s all I know.

★★★★★ (5 stars) for the everyday soldier, fighting for a better life.