The Queen’s Rising by Rebecca Ross

Genre: YA Fantasy

Rating: 5/5 stars

Passion. Destiny. Politics. War

Who shall be named Queen?

The Queen’s Rising was an unexpected delight with its royal ties, political wars and slow burn romance. The story follows orphaned Brienna, one of the girls at Magnalia House in Valenia studying one of the five passions: wit, knowledge, music, art and acting. She comes to the school as a favour of her grandfather’s and eventually chooses knowledge as her passion with Master Cartier as her teacher. Failing to find a patron on her seventeen summer solstice to take her on, Brienna is horrified at what will come next but all changes when she starts having visions from her ancestors about the infamous Stone of Eventide. The stone vanished centuries ago and with its recovery, the rightful heir to the Maevana (rival kingdom to Valenia) empire will come to power. With all hell breaking loose with its current King, and Valenia ties strained, Brienna has become the source of knowledge the people have been waiting for.

She is accepted from a disgraced patron who has plans to use her visions to locate the stone and after meeting the rightful heir to the throne through him, she is set to work using her visions. But all is not what it seems, as Brienna’s past comes into play and she is torn between following her new family or her old one…

I loved this book. I put it off for awhile as it seemed daunting and I find lots of fantasy books are too similar. This one had me captivated. The characters were likeable, the political warfare between Valenia and Maevana was so interesting, and the slow burn romance between Brienna and Cartier was really great. Everyone had secret identities so the twists just kept on coming.

My favourite points:

– The slow burn romance between Brienna and Cartier was so lovely to read. You didn’t know if they were going to get together as he’s technically her teacher and there’s at least a ten year age gap, but it felt suitable. Not creepy. He was so respectable and sweet to her and when I say it was a slow burn romance, it really was, which made it all the much sweeter.

– The politics were so interesting to read about. It wasn’t too technical and the rivalry between Valenia and Maevana was well explored. The magic element also added an extra layer to the story and I liked how this book set it all up for the sequel.

– The twists weren’t major but there were enough that caught me off guard and surprised me. Everyone had alter egos and I was hooked reading it all unfold. I definitely had moments where I was like, “What!” and I’m looking forward to seeing where the characters go next.

– The pacing of the book was done well. I was interested throughout the novel as there were enough plot points to keep my focus. I just wanted to know what was going to happen next.

Overall, I highly recommend this book. It’s intriguing, passionate and magical and has a strong storyline to keep you interested. The set of characters were likeable and I’m excited for the sequel next year to come out.

Legendary by Stephanie Garber

Genre: YA Fantasy

Rating: 4/5 stars

The stakes higher, the lies more bold, Legendary takes what you thought of Caraval and turns it on its head.

The story primarily focuses on Tella this time round, as she searches for her lost mother. Finding a cursed Deck of Destiny cards when she was younger has meant her fate has been written out and her future out of her hands. Each of the Fates on the cards shows her something different about herself, and she is convinced that she’s the reason her mother disappeared. All comes to a head when one of the Fates, the Jack of Hearts, appears in the flesh and promises her mother’s return if she enters and wins Caraval and brings its leader, Legend, to him to have the power to unlock all the Fates. But she’s also told she could destroy the Fates if she locates the Deck of Destiny again and gives it to Legend to end them. Does Tella win and free her mother while simultaneously unleashing all evilness into the world? Or does she locate the Deck of Destiny and give it to Legend to destroy the Fates but lose her mother? Emotions run high and moral dilemmas come into play as Tella must decide for the first time what her fate must be…

So Legendary was a definitive step up from Caraval for me. I wasn’t a big fan of Caraval, but found I warmed to Tella in this book. I enjoyed the magic element in the book but to be honest, still found something lacking. I’ll try and some it up here.

The good:

– Tella held her own. She still had that playful flirtatious thing going on which heavily bugged me in Caraval, but she had her wits this time round and made better decisions. She’s smarter than she appears.

– Jacks. He’s the villain but gosh I liked him. He’s layered, twisted, has a warped perception on things, but I just loved his scenes. I want more of him to see his character arc.

– The magic element was so enjoyable. I was only 20 pages in but felt myself enraptured in the magic of it. The world felt sprinkled with it and Garber’s writing aided in this. The different Fates were also a great addition to the series.

The bad:

– I still don’t know what it is about Dante, but I don’t like him. He’s untrustworthy and I found I just couldn’t make him a book boyfriend. I look forward to Finale to see where he goes.

– There was a lot of repetition with information being related multiple times. We were told the same facts over and over again just to make sure we understood which I can appreciate, but it was done a bit too heavily. It was sometimes two paragraphs in a row saying the same thing but phrased differently.

– There were too many outcomes for the plot and rules were broken to make new outcomes possible. I thought there were only a couple of options when it came to how Tella could save her mother, but clauses were found and new pathways opened up which made me think: anything could happen. But not in a good way. It felt like the easy option was made possible and to be honest, it’s the cheat way of writing a book to do this.

To sum it all up, I enjoyed Legendary for what it brought to the table, but am still feeling like I’m missing something. I look forward to reading Finale to see what happens and for it to hopefully improve the series like Legendary did. Hopefully it keeps going up.

The Wood by Chelsea Bobulski

Genre: YA Fantasy

Rating: 4.5/5 stars

Why hasn’t this book received more attention?!?!?

The Wood by Chelsea Bobukski completely shattered by expectations of it. I hadn’t seen it around anywhere except for Goodreads, but was so surprised at how enjoyable it was to read.

The story follows Winter, a teenager who lives as the sole guardian of the wood near her house after her father goes missing. The wood is like no other, as there are portals to other times and dimensions in history throughout it. Its in her blood to stay on the distinct paths and guard the wood from outsiders, with her often steering travellers who accidentally fall through a portal into her wood, back to where they came from. All hell breaks loose when an 18th century man called Henry enters her wood looking for his parents, and a link is established between these two teenagers. Relationships and order are tested, and the Council who control the Woods are brought into the whirlwind of questions…

My highlights:

– I reaaaallly appreciated the dynamic of the world created. Realism meets fantasy is sometimes hard to portray, but I felt it meshed really well in this book. I also loved the personification of the wood when things became sinister. It was a living thing. The shadows became monsters and I loved the imagery of a black tar like substance oozing off the leaves.

– Winter was a well balanced character. Her grief for her father was managed well, and her wit lightened the book.

– Henry was a joy to read. Obviously unknowledgable in anything modern, I liked reading about him discovering what a TV is, how electricity works and other tidbits of modern society.

– The relationship wasn’t angsty. YA books can be a bit intense but I found this one handled quite maturely. They developed feelings, but were wise to the situation that they wouldn’t really have a solid chance at being together as they were from different time periods. Yes to mature teenagers!

Overall, I was one happy gal with this book. I appreciated the light and dark within the book, and the character dynamic. Pick this one up!