REVIEW: Dreadnought

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Book Review: Dreadnought (April Daniels)
 book cover Book title Dreadnought
Series/standalone Nemesis #1
Author April Daniels
Pages 276
Year published 2017
Category | Genre Young Adult | Science-Fiction | Superhero
Rating 4star

Official Summary

Until Dreadnought fell out of the sky and died right in front of her, Danny was trying to keep people from finding out she’s transgender. But before he expired, Dreadnought passed his mantle to her, and those secondhand superpowers transformed Danny’s body into what she’s always thought it should be. Now there’s no hiding that she’s a girl.

It should be the happiest time of her life, but Danny’s first weeks finally living in a body that fits her are more difficult and complicated than she could have imagined. Between her father’s dangerous obsession with “curing” her girlhood, her best friend suddenly acting like he’s entitled to date her, and her fellow superheroes arguing over her place in their ranks, Danny feels like she’s in over her head.

She doesn’t have much time to adjust. Dreadnought’s murderer—a cyborg named Utopia—still haunts the streets of New Port City, threatening destruction. If Danny can’t sort through the confusion of coming out, master her powers, and stop Utopia in time, humanity faces extinction.

Review

In A Nutshell

An action-packed superhero story with a transgender protagonist about saving the world and being true to yourself, whatever the cost.

Highlights

  • First and foremost, a book with transgender lead who refused to be put down by her surrounding. YES, please.
  • The thing I liked the most about Dreadnought is how unapologetic it was. Danny as the protagonist carried the heaviest weight on bridging superhero life (aka caping) with the ‘real world.’ She’s a flawed, realistic character, and so very relatable.
  • If you like science and physics, you’ll probably geeking out with the amount of science Daniels put into her book. The “hypertech” was creative and fun.
  • At its core, Dreadnought is a superhero story. It then came at no surprise that it’s filled with action sequences. The author has a knack on writing action scenes and I enjoyed them a lot.
  • It’s hearbreaking and then some. As a teenager, Danny was forced to face her family and friends at school after her physical transformation, many of them refused to accept that she is and has always been a girl. A lot of cussing, cursing, and words that shouldn’t be said to a girl (or anyone really) were spoken. I found myself disgusted and angry at them, yet at the same time the realization that this is happening in real life today – to people with no superpower to defend themselves – hits me.
  • Consequences and cost. You’re not getting a free pass for being a protagonist. The battle Danny has to go through for coming out and standing up for herself is very tough, never-ending, and costly. It was shown that it’s worth it, though, and I think that’s important.

Things I Wish Were Different

  • The uneven pace. The book starts out slow, then build up halfway through. Afterwards, it became nearly unputdownable.
  • More depth on some of the characters, especially the villain. As much as I do think that some people are jerks, adding a cardboard-cutout villain just doesn’t make sense in a book as heavy-weight as Dreadnought. When I said heavy-weight, what I mean is that it tried to tackle a lot of important issues about living as a transgender. The villain felt too superficial, and a bit insignificant, compared to what Danny has to wake up to everyday

Final Score

4star
4 stars (out of 5 stars)

Verdict

Dreadnought is a powerful superhero story about a transgender girl facing the consequences of coming out and standing up for herself while trying to save the world. The parallel between her struggle to save the world and her struggle to be accepted as a girl is one that blew my mind as April Daniels showed again and again that one is not more simple or easier than the other.

REVIEW: The Weeping Books of Blinney Lane

Book Review: The Weeping Books of Blinney Lane (Drea Damara)
 book cover Book title The Weeping Books of Blinney Lane
Series/standalone Blinney Lane #1
Author Drea Damara
Pages 448
Year published 2015
Category | Genre New Adult | Fantasy | Romance
Rating

Official Summary

Sarah Allister just wants a normal life running her book shop and enjoying the smiles of handsome delivery man, Henry. She almost has one in spite of the three hundred-year-old curse that rules her life and the rest of the shop owners on Blinney Lane, a niche shopping district in historical Salem. Just when Sarah thinks she is content with the unusual phenomenon that occur in her shop everything goes awry when her brother sends his troublesome teenage son Ricky to stay with her for the summer. Now Sarah must work to keep Ricky from discovering the curse of Blinney Lane and worse yet, awakening its full power.

Will Ricky listen to Sarah without question? Will he unknowingly awaken the Weeping Books of Blinney Lane forcing Sarah to lead them on a journey to a land she swore never to return to and to people she has long tried to forget? Hold on as the characters must balance family, love, and duty in a suspenseful tale of two worlds and passionately flawed characters. The Weeping Books of Blinney Lane will make you never look at a book the same way again.

Disclaimer: I received a review copy from the author in exchange for an honest review.

Review

In A Nutshell

A Narnia-esque fantasy for new adults/older spectrum of YA.

Highlights

  • The writing was good. For a debut novel, Damara’s words flow smoothly between pages.
  • The world building was a reminiscent of Narnia, blended with romance and politics.
  • The curse incorporated in the story was a nice touch and it helped in building the background behind the existence of the weeping books.

Things I Wish Were Different

  • There were some scenes that show how a character view other characters that made me feel uncomfortable. One such scene was the way Sarah’s nephew described her in rather sexual way. Of course, Blinney Lane is a new adult/adult novel so romance and steamy scenes are to be expected, still there were scenes that I felt was out of place.
  • I really don’t get the appeal of the Lords and Ladies in the story. They were rather bland, and somewhat infuriating. Maybe that was on purpose, though?
  • This being a fantasy, I wish there was more explanation on how the bodies could survive for days or weeks without liquids and nutrients. Also, aren’t those people worried that something’s going to happen to their bodies when they’re taking those family trips? In short, I think the “magic system” still needs work, but the concept was alright.
  • More diversity please. (You’ll probably hear this a lot from me from now on). Both the real world and the world inside the weeping book would benefit with inclusion of people of colors and other marginalized groups. It should be workable too, since the protagonist’s ancestor basically wrote the weeping book – and wouldn’t they want their family to meet all kinds of people they wouldn’t be able to see in real life because of the curse?
  • Unexplained plot holes. How could one learn the instinct of sword fighting in one day is one example where I found the explanation was not believable enough. Sure, there was magic, but even then how could the character read the opponent’s movement and has the instinct of veteran fencer was beyond me.

Final Score

3star
3 stars (out of 5 stars)

Verdict

The Weeping Books of Blinney Lane was an enjoyable read and quite a solid debut. It still needs work in regards to world building and characters, but overall if you’re looking for a new adult fantasy novel that’ll take you to a magic land, you might want to give it a try.

REVIEW: These Shallow Graves

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Book Review: These Shallow Graves (Jennifer Donnelly)
 book cover Book title These Shallow Graves
Series/standalone Stand-alone
Author Jennifer Donnelly
Pages 488
Year published 2015
Category | Genre Young Adult | Historical | Mystery
Rating 3.5star

Official Summary

Jo Montfort is beautiful and rich, and soon—like all the girls in her class—she’ll graduate from finishing school and be married off to a wealthy bachelor. Which is the last thing she wants. Jo secretly dreams of becoming a writer—a newspaper reporter like the trailblazing Nellie Bly.

Wild aspirations aside, Jo’s life seems perfect until tragedy strikes: her father is found dead. Charles Montfort accidentally shot himself while cleaning his revolver. One of New York City’s wealthiest men, he owned a newspaper and was partner in a massive shipping firm, and Jo knows he was far too smart to clean a loaded gun.

The more Jo uncovers about her father’s death, the more her suspicions grow. There are too many secrets. And they all seem to be buried in plain sight. Then she meets Eddie—a young, brash, infuriatingly handsome reporter at her father’s newspaper—and it becomes all too clear how much she stands to lose if she keeps searching for the truth. Only now it might be too late to stop.

The past never stays buried forever. Life is dirtier than Jo Montfort could ever have imagined, and the truth is the dirtiest part of all.

Review

In A Nutshell

These Shallow Graves is a rare blend of young adult fiction, historical, sleuthing, and romance about an upper class white girl who was trying to solve the mystery of her father’s death.

Highlights

  • The feminism and female empowerment is strong with this one. The main character, Jo Monfort, tried to balance her curiosity about the world outside her upper class upbringing with being a good girl and doing her duty. What I really like about Donnelly’s book is that she managed to do this without getting overly preachy and ridiculing other girls of their choice to adhere to the social norm. There is also a scene of female friendship that might be my favorite scene of the book.
  • The balance between romance and mystery. Yes, there is a romance in this book, but it was not the main point of the story. To add to the point, the protagonist kept her wit about her despite her feelings – which is refreshing too see after reading countless stories where the protagonist simply lost all kind of rational thinkings due to angst or insta-love.
  • This is not a fairy tale. Often, I read books with great premise and characters that eventually fell short because the author cannot resist the temptation to solve all of their characters’ problems and give everyone a happy ever after. On the other side, there are those who go the extreme opposite way. These Shallow Graves fall somewhere in between the two extreme. I liked how Donnelly handled the story conclusion as it felt realistic, albeit rather convenient.

Things I Wish Were Different

  • It is too … white. I get that the main character is a white upper-class girl and all of her friends are too. And it is not to say that the cast is ALL upper-class white socialites. The book actually did quite well in term of socio-economic representation. It’s just that I wish for more diverse cast on a book sets in New York City. I honestly couldn’t recall one single important character that is not white.
  • The mystery part was not very well written. There were things so obvious thrown at our face that made it so clear that X is blablabla, yet the main character did not connect the two things and we have to spend hundreds of pages waiting for her to connect the dots. Then, there were other stuffs that were kept hidden from the readers then revealed as plot twist. To be honest, what kept me reading was not the mystery itself, rather it’s the character arc.

Final Score

3.5star
3.5 stars (out of 5 stars)

Verdict

Three and a half star for great character arc and good take on feminism theme. It could have been more with addition of more diverse cast and with better executed detective sleuthing.

REVIEW: The Hawkweed Prophecy

Book Review: The Hawkweed Prophecy (Irena Brignull)
book cover Book title The Hawkeed Prophecy
Series/standalone The Hawkweed Prophecy #1
Author Irena Brignull
Pages 304
Year published 2016
Category | Genre Young Adult | Urban Fantasy
Rating 15star

Official Summary

The babies were born as the clock struck twelve. A bat fell from the air mid-flight. A silver salmon floated dead to the surface of the river. Snails withered in their shells, moths turned to dust on the night breeze and an owl ate its young. The spell had been cast.

Poppy Hooper has managed to deceive her father into believing that there is nothing mysterious or unnatural about her. He ignores the cats that find her wherever she goes, the spiders that weave beautiful lacy patterns for her, even her eyes – one blue, one green with an extra black dot orbiting the pupil.

Ember Hawkweed is a pitiful excuse for a witch. When the other girls in her coven brew vile potions, Ember makes soap and perfume. Fair and pretty, Ember is more like a chaff than a witch. One of the Hawkweeds will be queen of the witches – but everyone knows it won’t be Ember.

When the two girls meet, Poppy discovers her powers, and finds out the truth. Bound by their unlikely friendship and the boy they both love, the girls try and find their place in the world. But the time of the prophecy draws nearer – and the witches won’t give up the throne without a fight.

Review

Disclaimer: I received an e-galley from the publisher via netgalley.

I wasn’t sure what to expect from this book. A surprise, for once. A fresh take on tropes so common like “switched at birth” and “prophecy”. Whatever it was, it wasn’t this.

The Hawkweed Prophecy opened with two witch sisters. One of them was having a baby and the other one… well, she wasn’t happy with the fact because she envisioned her own daughter to be the one prophesied to bring glory to their people. The prologue, I’m sorry to say, was the most interesting part of the book. Raven and Charlock are at least interesting and had a complicated relationship, they loved each other and Raven couldn’t bear the thought of her sister got hurt, but she didn’t want her niece to become the child of prophecy.
Unfortunately, the story then jumped into years later and switched to Poppy and Ember, now in their teenage years. These two were pretty much two-dimensional characters. Essentially, however, they are still okay and even had a few interesting encounters and scenes together. Just when I thought this book would deliver a nice take on female friendships or well, any kind of relationship really, Hawkweed Prophecy dropped a brick on my hope. Enter Leo, the least interesting, cannot make up his mind, most annoying love interest ever. Oh and everyone seems to fall in love head over heels with this guy. What really annoys me was not the insta-love (there’s plenty of it here), but I’m talking about how this book treated him as the only eligible bachelor in the entire planet and that all the girls are hopeless once they laid their eyes on him. The story tried to explain this with how the ladies are quite isolated and never saw a male before, but to be honest that sort of a weak excuse to explain the insta-love. Curiosity maybe, but not love. Okay, back to the love interest. He was not only unnecessary for the protagonists’ character development, he made them seem childish and unlikeable. The only thing he adds was another conflict to the already bloated storylines.
Another character, or should I say characters, that suffered from two dimensionality were the enemies. They were so cliché and had no layer of complexity on their evilness. I wish for more historical background of the enemies here, perhaps of the century-long conflict between the two clans. Lacking context, the big battle turned into just another part of a formulaic story.
Alright, let’s talk a bit about the writing. There is no doubt that the writing was competent. There was, however, something about it that I couldn’t quite put my fingers on that made the narrative felt jumpy and the dialogue awkward. The multiple narrators were also not very well executed. The author tried to tell the story from different perspective, instead it turn into an overexplanation with no surprise left for the reader.

Final Score

15star
1.5 stars (out of 5 stars)

Verdict

The Hawkweed Prophecy tried to give fresh take on common tropes, but it felt flat due to poor execution, unnecessary love triangle, and the blandness of characters.

Review: White Sand

Graphic Novel Review: White Sand (Sanderson, Hoskin, Gopez)
wht_sand Book title White Sand
Series/standalone White Sand #1
Author Brandon Sanderson, Rik Hoskin, Julius M. Gopez
Pages 160
Year published 2016
Category | Genre Graphic Novel | Fantasy
Rating 3.5 star

Official Summary

A brand new saga of magic and adventure by #1 New York Times best-selling author Brandon Sanderson. On the planet of Taldain, the legendary Sand Masters harness arcane powers to manipulate sand in spectacular ways. But when they are slaughtered in a sinister conspiracy, the weakest of their number, Kenton, believes himself to be the only survivor. With enemies closing in on all sides, Kenton forges an unlikely partnership with Khriss — a mysterious Darksider who hides secrets of her own. White Sand brings to life a crucial, unpublished part of Brandon Sanderson’s sprawling Cosmere universe. The story has been adapted by Rik Hoskin (Mercy Thompson), with art by Julius Gopez and colors by Ross Campbell. Employing powerful imagery and Sanderson’s celebrated approach to magical systems, White Sand is a spectacular new saga for lovers of fantasy and adventure.

Review

Disclaimer: I received a digital copy from the publisher via netgalley.

Any long-time visitor of this blog would know that Brandon Sanderson is one of my favorite authors. Some of the things I admired the most from his writing is his solid worldbuilding and innovative magic system. Naturally, when I heard that one of his older work – part of Cosmere world nonetheless – was going to be adapted into graphic novel, I jumped at the chance to download an e-galley.
It’s always interesting to look back to an author’s earlier work after reading one of their more recent, polished works. Astonishingly, Elantris, Sanderson’s first published novel, is still a good piece of fantasy even when compared to Mistborn or the Stormlight Archive. White Sand was written around the same time as Elantris, and so I held it to the same standard as the latter. So how did it fare?

Continue reading “Review: White Sand”

Review: Front Lines (Michael Grant)

Book Review: Front Lines (Michael Grant)
book cover Book title Front Lines
Series/standalone Soldier Girl #1
Author Michael Grant
Pages 480
Year published 2016
Category | Genre Young Adult | Historical Fiction
Rating 4 star

Official Summary

1942. World War II. The most terrible war in human history. Millions are dead; millions more are still to die. The Nazis rampage across Europe and eye far-off America.

The green, untested American army is going up against the greatest fighting force ever assembled—the armed forces of Nazi Germany.

But something has changed. A court decision makes females subject to the draft and eligible for service. So in this World War II, women and girls fight, too.

As the fate of the world hangs in the balance, three girls sign up to fight. Rio Richlin, Frangie Marr, and Rainy Schulterman are average girls, girls with dreams and aspirations, at the start of their lives, at the start of their loves. Each has her own reasons for volunteering. Not one expects to see actual combat. Not one expects to be on the front lines.

Rio, Frangie, and Rainy will play their parts in the war to defeat evil and save the human race. They will fear and they will rage; they will suffer and they will inflict suffering; they will hate and they will love. They will fight the greatest war the world has ever known.

New York Times bestselling author Michael Grant has created a masterful alternate history of World War II in Front Lines, the first volume in a groundbreaking series.

Review

She is going on a date.
And also, going to war.

I have a complicated history with Michael Grant books. Some I was obsessed with, others I didn’t enjoy as much. This is why I approach Front Lines with dread, hoping that this will be more like Gone than Messenger of Fear. I’m glad to report my expectation came true.

Let me draw you a parallel. If you’ve ever read Gone, either the book, the whole series, or just the synopsis, you might remember the premise. It was about a world without adults. What will happen if all the adults in your world suddenly disappear while you and the other kids are trapped with limited resources. In Front Lines, Grant trying to explore another question. What if we let females to be drafted and to enlist to fight on the front lines during WW2? Through 480 pages, Grant showed us his alternate version of WW2 while otherwise trying to stay true to history. The question he’s trying to explore was not only “will females make a difference in the outcome of WW2 has they were let to fight on front lines?” but also “what will happen to the dynamics and what issues will arise if said things happened?”

Before I begin the review, I have to point out that there are in fact tenth of thousands of females enlisted in US military during WW2. They did not fight on the front lines, but their contribution is certainly not to be dismissed. I just feel I need to say it because when I had just finished the book, I thought there wasn’t any women in the US military during WW2. Perhaps it’s because I am not familiar with US history, but either way I don’t want other readers to jump to the same conclusion as me. I hope they won’t, but I do wish that Grant pointed this out in a prologue or thank you page or something. Erasure could be hurtful, even though it’s accidental or unintentional.

With that, let’s begin the review.

Continue reading “Review: Front Lines (Michael Grant)”

REVIEW: Saint Anything (Sarah Dessen)

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Book Review: Saint Anything (Sarah Dessen)
book cover Book title Saint Anything
Series/standalone Stand-alone
Author Sarah Dessen
Pages 417
Year published 2015
Category | Genre Young Adult | Contemporary
Rating 3.5 star

Official Summary

Peyton, Sydney’s charismatic older brother, has always been the star of the family, receiving the lion’s share of their parents’ attention and—lately—concern. When Peyton’s increasingly reckless behavior culminates in an accident, a drunk driving conviction, and a jail sentence, Sydney is cast adrift, searching for her place in the family and the world. When everyone else is so worried about Peyton, is she the only one concerned about the victim of the accident?

Enter the Chathams, a warm, chaotic family who run a pizza parlor, play bluegrass on weekends, and pitch in to care for their mother, who has multiple sclerosis. Here Sydney experiences unquestioning acceptance. And here she meets Mac, gentle, watchful, and protective, who makes Sydney feel seen, really seen, for the first time.

The uber-popular Sarah Dessen explores her signature themes of family, self-discovery, and change in her twelfth novel, sure to delight her legions of fans.

Saint Anything was one of my pick for ReadThemAllThon. I failed the read-a-thon as expected, but I decided to read the book anyway. I have read most of Dessen books in the past, opted to binge-read them because they were so easy to read. Looking back, however, I regret my binge-reading decision because after 3 books I started to mix them all together. I cannot tell you who is the MC in The Truth About Forever or the plot of What Happened to Goodbye. So when Sarah released The Moon and More and Saint Anything, I didn’t rush to read the books. Now seems a good time to catch up on my Sarah Dessen reading, started with Saint Anything.

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Review: The Wrath & the Dawn (Renee Ahdieh)

Book Review: The Wrath & the Dawn (Renee Ahdieh)
book cover Book title The Wrath & the Dawn
Series/standalone The Wrath & the Dawn #1
Author Renee Ahdieh
Pages 388
Year published 2015
Category | Genre Young Adult | Fantasy, Retelling
Rating 3.5 star

Official Summary

One Life to One Dawn.

In a land ruled by a murderous boy-king, each dawn brings heartache to a new family. Khalid, the eighteen-year-old Caliph of Khorasan, is a monster. Each night he takes a new bride only to have a silk cord wrapped around her throat come morning. When sixteen-year-old Shahrzad’s dearest friend falls victim to Khalid, Shahrzad vows vengeance and volunteers to be his next bride. Shahrzad is determined not only to stay alive, but to end the caliph’s reign of terror once and for all.

Night after night, Shahrzad beguiles Khalid, weaving stories that enchant, ensuring her survival, though she knows each dawn could be her last. But something she never expected begins to happen: Khalid is nothing like what she’d imagined him to be. This monster is a boy with a tormented heart. Incredibly, Shahrzad finds herself falling in love. How is this possible? It’s an unforgivable betrayal. Still, Shahrzad has come to understand all is not as it seems in this palace of marble and stone. She resolves to uncover whatever secrets lurk and, despite her love, be ready to take Khalid’s life as retribution for the many lives he’s stolen. Can their love survive this world of stories and secrets?

Inspired by A Thousand and One Nights, The Wrath and the Dawn is a sumptuous and enthralling read from beginning to end.

Review

First and foremost, we got Shahrzad, a brave and headstrong young girl volunteered to marry a murderer to avenge her best friend. Then there’s Khalid, the murderous boy-king. Shazi is a strong heroine, one that could gain sympathies from readers… once they got over their disbelief of her impulsively rushing to meet her end. There, that’s my biggest gripe with The Wrath & the Dawn, that this brave and smart girl who was supposedly cunning enough that she believed she could kill her husband, the king, would rush wildly toward death without any concrete planning. The only signs Ahdieh shows us of Shazi’s plan to kill her husband were when she showed off her archery skill and that one time she thought to kill him but couldn’t make up her mind.

Then there’s the fact that the Khalid married her without any background check. Like… wouldn’t someone find out that Shazi has a best friend who was murdered right there in the palace. But noo, they all rushed in to get the two to wed.

But I digress. Let’s go back to Khalid. For a murderous boy-king, he is not at all a monster – as one would already find out by reading the synopsis. I like Khalid. He was a tortured soul trying to do what’s best for his people while sacrificing himself a bit at a time. As a matter of fact, I like them both. Khalid and Shahrzad were both characters with their own agenda and for once I actually liked the romance in the book. It was not cheesy, you could totally see they’re both trying to stay true to their course, trying not to fall in love, and I cannot help but rooting for them.

On the other hand, there was the jealous boyfriend, who for me was just unnecessary. Not to mention his relationship with Shazi were not shown on-screen making it hard for me to sympathize with his cause. Similar thing could be said of Shiva’s friendship with Shazi. Of course, the best friend is dead by the time the story started, but if only I was given more than a glimpse of how close the two girls were I could probably understand Shazi’s impulsive behavior.

Okay, enough with the negativity. Let’s get to the good stuff. As I mentioned before, the romance is well-balance and complement the story nicely. Shazi’s anger was balanced by her feelings and compassion for other human beings, and so did Khalid’s despair with his feeling for Shazi. Despina was another character worth mentioning. Her interaction with Shazi showed us another side of the latter, and I adored their friendship.

The writing was another highlight of the book. I’m trying to be objective here, so bear with me. Ahdieh’s writing was beautiful, but at times she’s getting way close to flowery prose. For some people, this might be the book undoing. For me, though, it’s exactly what the book needs. It made the book atmospheric, and Ahdieh’s writing was vivid enough to transport the readers to Khorasan. The magic, one of the thing I expected to find in the book was non-existent for the large portion of the book, but that’s okay as there’ll be time for that in the second book. I hope.

Verdict

The Wrath & the Dawn made me feel conflicted, but it certainly worth reading for the diverse cast, the well-balance romance, the atmospheric setting, and the great writing.

Final Score

35st
3.5 stars (out of 5 stars)


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Review: And I Darken

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Book Review: And I Darken (Kiersten White)
book cover Book title And I Darken
Series/standalone The Conquerors Saga #1
Author Kiersten White
Pages 475
Year published 2016
Category | Genre Young Adult | Historical Fiction
Rating 4.5 star

Official Summary

No one expects a princess to be brutal. And Lada Dragwlya likes it that way. Ever since she and her gentle younger brother, Radu, were wrenched from their homeland of Wallachia and abandoned by their father to be raised in the Ottoman courts, Lada has known that being ruthless is the key to survival. She and Radu are doomed to act as pawns in a vicious game, an unseen sword hovering over their every move. For the lineage that makes them special also makes them targets.

Lada despises the Ottomans and bides her time, planning her vengeance for the day when she can return to Wallachia and claim her birthright. Radu longs only for a place where he feels safe. And when they meet Mehmed, the defiant and lonely son of the sultan, Radu feels that he’s made a true friend—and Lada wonders if she’s finally found someone worthy of her passion.

But Mehmed is heir to the very empire that Lada has sworn to fight against—and that Radu now considers home. Together, Lada, Radu, and Mehmed form a toxic triangle that strains the bonds of love and loyalty to the breaking point.

This was the first book I finished while taking part in ReadThemAllThon. I chose And I Darken to obtain my Thunder Badge because it was one of book that got overwhelmingly positive hype during release weeks. Does it deserve all those hypes? Let’s see.

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Review: The Serpent King by Jeff Zentner

Book Review: The Serpent King (Jeff Zentner)
book cover Book title The Serpent King
Series/standalone stand-alone
Author Jeff Zentner
Pages 384
Year published 2016
Category | Genre Young Adult | Contemporary
Rating 4 star

Official Summary

Dill has had to wrestle with vipers his whole life—at home, as the only son of a Pentecostal minister who urges him to handle poisonous rattlesnakes, and at school, where he faces down bullies who target him for his father’s extreme faith and very public fall from grace.

He and his fellow outcast friends must try to make it through their senior year of high school without letting the small-town culture destroy their creative spirits and sense of self. Graduation will lead to new beginnings for Lydia, whose edgy fashion blog is her ticket out of their rural Tennessee town. And Travis is content where he is thanks to his obsession with an epic book series and the fangirl turning his reality into real-life fantasy.

Their diverging paths could mean the end of their friendship. But not before Dill confronts his dark legacy to attempt to find a way into the light of a future worth living.

I read this book in May. MAY! That is how long it take for me to write this review. In retrospect, I’m glad I took my time off from the book before writing this review because when I finished it I was quite taken emotionally and cannot see some things I’ve now noticed.

Characters

Zentner has a knack of writing characters. We have three narrators in The Serpent King, Dillard (Dill), Lydia, and Travis. Out of the three, I especially connected with Travis, who loved fantasy books and liked to spend his time talking about fictional characters in online forum. However, I also saw myself in Lydia, she’s confident, selfish at times, but she’s also a dreamer. She believes one can do anything if they would just put an effort to it. Dill is arguably the main character of the three, and I couldn’t quite figure him out. I appreciate his voice and I think he added many values to the story, I just didn’t quite connect with him. Having said that, these three together formed a formidable friendship a person would envy to have during their high school days, and to some readers it might bring the nostalgic feeling of “us against the world.” They each told their story albeit in different portions, Dillard got the biggest, Lydia second, and Travis was the smallest, but each rang true and never once you’ll become confused which one was narrating the story. The secondary characters are also as strong as the primary ones. The parents especially play crucial role in the book, which was refreshing because in many YA books they seemed to be in the background or nonexistent.

Plot and narrative

There are many things happened in the 384 pages I read, but they all focused on one thing, finding yourself. There are a lot of talk about religion in this book, but I never felt it was stiring the focus away from the main story. The themes of abuse and bullying also got major focus in the book and I applaud Zentner’s effort. He didn’t sugarcoat it to make it seems better than it was.

The writing was excellent to the point that makes you reading it even when you know you shouldn’t (heads up: do not read The Serpent King in public places or at work). I sympathized with their stories and felt all those feels, anger, sadness, happiness, but there was this one little thing that nagged at me. The eureka moments – for lack of better words. In the book, we encounter many of these things. The character sat down to think when he/she was facing some huge problem then they suddenly have this solution that will make everything okayPerhaps, I’m too jaded or whatever, but these moments of sudden bliss and “everything is alright in the world” made the book felt a bit like fairy tale. I’m not saying that dreams don’t come true, but there were times when I think this cannot be real, this is too easy. I don’t know about this, but when was the last time you’re able to fix a 5-years worth of mess just by having an idea. I am not saying they’re living the dreams either. I know these kids, especially Dill and Travis, were having so much trouble back home. You felt for them, but you don’t make it all go away by having one idea.

Verdict

The Serpent King is a worthy coming-of-age story interwoven with many stuff that teenagers are facing, dealing with child abuse and living with people who have different perspective with you. The bond of friendship between the three main characters is also a major selling point of The Serpent King as does the genuine voice of teenager that emerged from each of the MC.

Final Score

4 star

4 stars (out of 5 stars)


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