Empire of Storms

Empire of Storms by Sarah J. Maas

The long path to the throne has only just begun for Aelin Galathynius as war looms on the horizon. Loyalties have been broken and bought, friends have been lost and gained, and those who possess magic find themselves at odds with those who don’t.

With her heart sworn to the warrior-prince by her side, and her fealty pledged to the people she is determined to save, Aelin will delve into the depths of her power to protect those she loves. But as monsters emerge from the horrors of the past, and dark forces become poised to claim her world, the only chance for salvation will lie in a desperate quest that may mark the end of everything Aelin holds dear.

In this breathtaking fifth installment of the New York Times bestselling Throne of Glass series, Aelin will have to choose what—and who—to sacrifice if she’s to keep the world of Erilea from breaking apart.

Oh boy. This book broke my heart six ways to Sunday. It took me forever to finish it, but that was because I couldn’t stop reading it when I picked it up. Not ideal for someone who primarily reads before bed. Luckily I was traveling a lot this month and was able to knock out this monster on a couple of plane rides.

I’m glad I waited to read this book until the paperback came out. I’m also glad I haven’t been waiting as long as everyone else for Tower of Dawn.

Empire of Storms is decidedly more grown-up than earlier books in the Throne of Glass series. A lot more sex, a lot more graphic sex in particular, a lot more romance, and even more violence. Though I have to say Empire of Storms has some epic battle sequences. I believe I read somewhere there’s a show in the works for the Throne of Glass series. Though unless HBO is doing it, I can’t help, but feel that it might be a disappointment.

I think every character who’s not Aelin is my favorite. I do find her (as do most of the other characters in the book) more than a little insufferable. But she is balanced by her more redeeming qualities. My favorites are Rowan, Manon, Elide, and Lysandra.

Which makes me impatient to read the conclusion to this series! On Maas’ website, the seventh book is expected out on May 1st, 2018 and Goodreads reports that it will be the final book in the series. I hope so – I don’t think my heart can take any more cliffhangers only to wait months for the next book!

Shadows Cast By Stars

Shadows Cast By Stars by Catherine Knutsson

Two hundred years from now, blood has become the most valuable commodity on the planet— especially the blood of aboriginal peoples, for it contains antibodies that protect them from the Plague ravaging the rest of the world.

Sixteen-year-old Cassandra Mercredi might be immune to Plague, but that doesn’t mean she’s safe— government forces are searching for those of aboriginal heritage to harvest their blood. When a search threatens Cassandra and her family, they flee to the Island: a mysterious and idyllic territory protected by the Band, a group of guerrilla warriors— and by an enigmatic energy barrier that keeps outsiders out and the spirit world in. And though the village healer has taken her under her wing, and the tribal leader’s son into his heart, the creatures of the spirit world are angry, and they have chosen Cassandra to be their voice and instrument…

I loved this book instantly. It was so beautifully written and right away I knew I was going to love it and I was right! It’s rare to see a book featuring the mythology of the native peoples of Canada and Alaska. The last one (and the only one I’ve read) that did was The Gods of Second Chances, which I also loved a lot. Clearly, I stumbled upon a subject I like so if you guys have more fiction recommendations for books that feature this type of mythology, send them my way!

Okay, back to Shadows Cast By Stars. That is a lovely title for a book and the cover of the one I had was equally as lovely (pictured above!). So what else did I like besides the mythology stuff and the writing? The dystopian setting (more on that later). The magic. Cassandra. The world-building. Pretty much everything.

Now I have to note on the dystopian stuff, I guess reading the reviews if people didn’t like this book, it’s because they expected it to have as much action as The Hunger Games. It’s definitely not like The Hunger Games at all. But I did enjoy that because it’s so different from most other entries in this genre, for the dystopian world to be mostly offstage and not front and center to the story.

I do think this is the first book in the series. It has to be, with everything that was set up at the end of the book. Which excites me!

However. This book was published in 2012. As of the summer of 2017, there’s no mention of another book forthcoming. Not on the author’s personal website, not on Goodreads, not on her publisher’s website.There’s no updates or anything I can find on the web in the past five years. Not even a note to be like, “Hey guys, sorry it’s taking forever, but I really am writing another book!” It’s like she dropped off the face of the Earth.  Which makes me really, really, really concerned that maybe something has happened to her and that this fantastic story that was set up has no ending…

Queen of Shadows

Queen of Shadows By Sarah J. Maas

Everyone Celaena Sardothien loves has been taken from her. But she’s at last returned to the empire—for vengeance, to rescue her once-glorious kingdom, and to confront the shadows of her past…

She has embraced her identity as Aelin Galathynius, Queen of Terrasen. But before she can reclaim her throne, she must fight.

She will fight for her cousin, a warrior prepared to die for her. She will fight for her friend, a young man trapped in an unspeakable prison. And she will fight for her people, enslaved to a brutal king and awaiting their lost queen’s triumphant return.

The fourth volume in the New York Times bestselling series continues Celaena’s epic journey and builds to a passionate, agonizing crescendo that might just shatter her world.

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It felt like it took me forever to read this one. Not that it was a bad book. Far from it. Life just got in the way and I kept making excuses not to get sucked in and stay up late reading. Also, I was probably dragging my feet on purpose because I’ve decided I’m waiting until Empire of Storms is out in paperback this fall to read it.

If you’re thinking of reading this series, plow through the first two because you will fall in love with books three and four – where the real story begins! I just love all these new characters so much (Rowan! Manon!) and now Nesryn, Elide, and Lysandra. I’ve very happy with my decision to read The Assassin’s Blade when I did. If you don’t read it in order of publication, reading it before you read Queen of Shadows is another good choice.

Overall, Queen of Shadows feels like a good place to leave the series for awhile. Certain things wrapped up and while there are many more things looming on the horizon, this novel ends in a relative moment of peace and what feels like a penultimate climax to the series.

Now, I have a debate: Empire of Storms is being released in paperback in September. Book 6, Tower of Dawn, is also being released in hardcover in September. But the final novel, Book 7, is not coming until 2018.  Should I read and wait in agony or wait in agony and binge the rest of the series? Decisions, decisions…

An Evening With George R.R. Martin and Kim Stanley Robinson in Review

I have to start out this review by saying Tylar, you’re the real MVP! I can’t believe I was actually able to attend this event. It sold out so fast, but my friend Tylar was able to score tickets for this great event at our alma mater, UCSD.

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Before the event, I was wondering what it was going to be like. George R.R. Martin was clearly the main event and why most people bought their tickets. I wondered how Kim Stanley Robinson felt about that. I imagined that maybe they were going to bring Stan out first and then have George talk.

What they did was actually even better. They had both authors sit down with one of the professors from the UCSD literature department (not a professor I knew from when I was there) and they discussed various topics for about 45 minutes before answering questions from the audience.

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I’m sure you’re reading this to hopefully a) find out when the next Game of Thrones book is coming out or b) find out spoilers for the new season of Game of Thrones. And I’ll get to some of the more specific answers George gave, but first I want to talk a little more about the evening in general.

George definitely dominated the evening. He talked much more than Stan and always had a ready answer for the moderator. But I think that’s a difference in personality. Stan was much more reserved, but seemed like such a nice guy. Like the type of guy you wished was your own grandfather because you just wanted to give him a hug and hang out with him.

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I’ve only read one book by Kim Stanley Robinson, The Years of Rice and Salt, and sad to say, I didn’t like it very much. But after this event, I think I’ll check out the Red Mars trilogy and the Three Californias trilogy, one of which I guess he wrote while he was a student at UCSD. I had also added his new book, New York 2140, to my book wishlist before the event when I saw it on a list of upcoming dystopian novels. I had no idea Stan was a UCSD alum before this event – super cool!

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I will say I surprised by how smart and how well-read George was. I mean, I know I shouldn’t have been surprised. Game of Thrones is fantastically complex and clearly the man behind it is a genius. I guess I didn’t expect that to translate to verbal ability. Color me impressed. George knows the history of literature as well as any professor. He keeps up with the awards and who’s writing this or that. It was really amazing to hear him speak, he is a brilliant man.

In no particular order, here are a few tidbits I got from the evening:

-A big topic of the evening was the discussion of genre fiction and its place in relation to literary fiction. George was obviously representing the fantasy genre and Stan was representing the science-fiction genre. George told an interesting story that I’d not heard before. It concerns Henry James and Robert Louis Stevenson and basically sets the stage for the distinction between genre fiction being seen as not “serious” literature. You can read that Henry James essay here.

-George and Stan talked about movie and tv adaptations of their writing. George said that Peter Jackson and several others had approached him previously to turn Game of Thrones into a movie, but George always wanted Game of Thrones to be a tv show. He’s very happy that HBO picked it up. He wishes he could have gotten 13 hours per season like most HBO shows prior to Game of Thrones, but the sheer cost of the production is what kept all of the previous seasons to just 10 episodes.

-George talked about why it’s taking him so long to write the next Game of Thrones book and just finish the story in general. He said that it’s due in part to his age and also due to the fact that he feels enormous pressure to complete the story in a way that fits with everything that has come before. In short, he’s struggling against his own perfectionism. He does consider Game of Thrones to be his magnum opus and he wants to do right by his millions of fans.

-Also, George is only 68 guys. He looks older, but 68 is positively spry.

-As you can see from my pictures, George wore his George R.R. Martin uniform: cap, suspenders, and jacket despite the fact that it was mid-80’s all day and no cooler in the ballroom.

-George has got jokes guys. He’s a funny, funny man. The audience asked him whose death he most regretted. George: JFK

In short: If you get the opportunity to go see George R.R. Martin talk, take it. If you get the opportunity to take Kim Stanley Robinson out for a cup of coffee, take it. Thank you to UCSD, Clarion Writers’ Workshops, and the Arthur C. Clarke Center for organizing a great event!

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The Assassin’s Blade

The Assassin’s Blade by Sarah J. Maas

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.

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In my review of Heir of Fire, I was debating at what point I should read these novellas. In terms of publication dates, this collection was published after Crown of Midnight and before Heir of Fire. After reading this collection, I think that’s a good point to read these novellas. It doesn’t ruin anything for Heir of Fire, but provides more depth for the events of Crown of Midnight. Though the point I read it at wasn’t bad either.

The publication of novellas seems to be trend among publishers. Feeding readers novellas while they wait for the next one in the series. Sarah J. Maas is not the only one to have gone down this path. Victoria Aveyard published Cruel Crown which contained two Red Queen novellas,  Tahereh Mafi published Destroy Me and Fracture Me, two separate Shatter Me novellas, and Veronica Roth published Four, a collection of Divergent novellas. Lest you think this is limited to YA, George R.R. Martin has written several Game of Thrones novellas contained in the collection A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms. So if you didn’t think world-building and character backstory was important before, now you know that if you publish a best-selling series, most likely you’ll be called upon to turn some of your private notes into a series of novellas for public consumption!

Not that I’m dragging on The Assassin’s Blade. I thought it was great! Five novellas that encompass the pivotal events that led to Celaena’s capture and sentencing to Endovier. A very interesting look at those events and the character’s thought process and how that contributes to her development and our understanding of her. Also, I kind of want more of these. Celaena’s like a cross between James Bond and Assassin’s Creed – I want to see more of her adventures as Adarlan’s Assassin before the events that start with Throne of Glass!

Heir of Fire

Heir of Fire by Sarah J. Maas

Celaena has survived deadly contests and shattering heartbreak―but at an unspeakable cost. Now, she must travel to a new land to confront her darkest truth . . . a truth about her heritage that could change her life―and her future―forever. Meanwhile, brutal and monstrous forces are gathering on the horizon, intent on enslaving her world. Will Celaena find the strength to not only fight her inner demons, but to take on the evil that is about to be unleashed?

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Heir of Fire stepped things up in a big way, introducing a bunch of new characters, settings, creatures, and a lot more about Celaena’s history. It was a lengthier book than the others and a bit slower at the beginning, but was filled with all the familiar twists and turns and unending questions!

I don’t read all that much fantasy and I don’t think I’ve ever read a book that deals with Fae characters. So I can’t really comment on how Maas’ fae characters stack up against other fae stories. On the fantasy aspect, I do think she’s weaving together a bunch of disparate elements into a story that feels fresh. In my opinion, Heir of Fire is the first book in this series that really shows its fantasy heritage and I enjoyed that.

A review I read online talked about how Heir of Fire feels like the true “start” to the story with Throne of Glass and Crown of Midnight functioning like an overlong prologue. I don’t completely agree with that, but I get what they mean. The Harry Potter series is like that. The first two books are very fun and not all that dark. Book three is where the darkness arrives in full force and by the time we get to book four, the story has taken a noticeable turn into serious territory. Much the same for Heir of Fire.

I wasn’t sure about all these new characters being introduced, but I came to really like them, particularly Manon, Abraxos, and Rowan. Especially Rowan. After Crown of Midnight, I wasn’t sure if I liked the direction the romance was going at all, but Heir of Fire calmed my poor heart a little bit.

I debated whether I should read The Assassin’s Blade or Queen of Shadows next. I had thought to maybe read them in publication order, but in order to do that, I would have had had to read The Assassin’s Blade before Heir of Fire. So much for that. Ultimately, I decided to start The Assassin’s Blade. I’m looking forward to learning more about Celaena’s history before going back to Adarlan for Queen of Shadows!

Crown of Midnight

Crown of Midnight by Sarah J. Maas

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.

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I stayed up late two nights in a row reading this book and literally as soon as I finished this one, I ordered Heir of FireQueen of Shadows, and The Assassin’s Blade. I hope I can hold out until fall when Empire of Storms gets released in paperback. I really want that matching set.

I don’t think anything much got answered from the first book in this one. I got a confirmation on my suspicions and A LOT more questions. Hence the midnight book buying spree. God bless Amazon.