Posted in Book Review Tuesday, Books

Book Review Tuesday (8/18/20)–The Shadow Wand (The Black Witch Chronicles, #3)

Happy Tuesday, bibliophiles!

As most of you probably know, I’ve been following the Black Witch Chronicles (and loving them) since late May, after a friend’s recommendation. I saw that The Shadow Wand came out this June, and immediately put it on hold at the library after finishing book 2. Luckily, it came a LOT sooner than I expected, and I got to read it recently! But after reading it and letting it stew for about a week and a half…I have some major Thoughts. So this is likely going to be more of a rambling than a review. You have been warned.

Brace Yourself GIFs | Tenor

ALSO! This review may contain spoilers for books 1 and 2, The Black Witch and The Iron Flower, so tread lightly if you haven’t read them and intend to!

Enjoy this week’s review!

Amazon.com: The Shadow Wand (The Black Witch Chronicles ...

The Shadow Wand (The Black Witch Chronicles, #3)–Laurie Forest

My library copy feat. a cool filter and Hobbes, one of my lovely cats

Elloren Gardner harbors a secret that could change her world forever.

She is the Black Witch of prophecy, destined to save her world of Erthia and bring glory to the Gardnerians. But under the tyrannical rule of High Priest Vogel, the truth about her is best kept hidden. Separated from Yvan, she must learn to hone her power before Vogel and his allies discover her identity. Joining forces with Lukas, the Commandor of the Mage forces and the boy she was unwillingly wandfasted to, she must control her powers and gather her allies before it’s too late.

Mixed Feelings GIFs | Tenor

Remember how I said in my review of The Iron Flower that book 2 didn’t fall into the trap of middle-book-slump? I seem to have forgotten then that the series is slated to be a series of five books, making The Shadow Wand the middle book.

And I hate to say it, but there’s some serious disappointing middle book syndrome going on here.

From the start, I feel like at least 100-150 pages could have been cut out (for clarification, The Shadow Wand clocks in at 554 pages). The first portion of the book jumps between the POVs of several, completely new characters; they show up later, and those chapters gave a little bit of backstory for them, but I don’t think entire chapters were needed to explain their backgrounds. We also get to check in on a few favorites from the previous books, including Tierney and Wynter. I liked seeing where Wynter was (because I still have a major soft spot for her, and she deserves so much better), but I…don’t know if it contributed to the story much at all. At least they’re…okay? Maybe? Sort of?

And…Forest is deeeeefinitely toying with our feelings here. The love triangle between Elloren, Lukas, and Yvan is expanded upon, but in…an interesting way. And by “interesting,” I mean “entertaining the notion that one party may or may not be dead.” We don’t see any of Yvan for the entire book, and the romantic aspects are primarily focused on Lukas. While that created an interesting dynamic between Elloren and Lukas, I feel like there could have been a bit of tension if Yvan had shown up once or twice.

For much of the book, it felt like the classic YA middle book where the Chosen One heroine (oh hey, look, another trope that this series fell into! Whoopee!) has to harness her abilities and build her army. There was quite a lot of the book that felt like a training montage, which, while I enjoy a good one every once in a while, was stretched out too long. The Shadow Wand needed a bit more tension and plot for me.

But for all that, that’s not to say that this book wasn’t entertaining. Even though we don’t see much of the wide and varied cast of the first two novels, I still love being back with Elloren and the gang. As always, Forest is a master at lush writing and worldbuilding, which shone through once more in this installment. And plus, who isn’t up for some good ol’ magic and dragons? I mean, COME ON. DRAGONS!

Httyd3 Toothless GIF - Httyd3 Toothless Dance - Discover & Share ...

Aaaaaaaand of course, it built up to one of those “it looks like everybody’s dead, but chances are they’ll all be alive and well by book 4” endings. AND NOW WE HAVE TO WAIT A YEAR TO SEE HOW IT’S RESOLVED. HOW DARE LAURIE FOREST PLAY WITH OUR FEELINGS IN SUCH A WAY…

Overall, The Shadow Wand was definitely a lower point for the series as of now, but it was still a (mostly) fun read. 3.5 stars!

Mixed Feelings GIF | Gfycat

The Shadow Wand is the third book in Forest’s Black Witch Chronicles, preceded by The Black Witch (book 1) and The Iron Flower (book 2) and succeeded by the forthcoming The Demon Tide (2021) and The Battle for Erthia (pub. date TBD). Additionally, there are two novellas set in the same universe, Wandfasted and Light Mage.

Aaaaaaand, now I have to wait a year to find out what happens…[angry screeching]

Today’s song:

That’s it for this week’s Book Review Tuesday! Have a wonderful rest of your day, and take care of yourselves!

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Weekly Update: July 13-19, 2020

Happy Sunday, bibliophiles! I hope this week has treated you and your loved ones well.

You know what one of the strangest feelings (for me) is? Sometimes, I’ll watch a certain movie so many times that I’ll only be able to see a certain actor as the role in said movie, and then I’ll see them in something else, and it’s either impossible to make the connection or it just weirds you out for a bit. Sorry, that was kind of long winded and weirdly-worded, but I’m not sure how to put it into words. But anyway, I watched Alien (1979) on Friday night, and let me tell you, seeing John Hurt after having only seen him in the Hellboy movies (when he was far older than he was in Alien) was weirdly bizarre. I’d just permanently imagined him as Professor Bruttenholm, so…

Also, the John Hurt Professor Bruttenholm will always be the superior Professor. The reboot was way too out of character.

[ahem] Now, back to our scheduled program…

Overall, I’ve had quite a nice week. I’ve gotten a lot of reading done after said library haul, and though there were a few disappointments, I enjoyed everything that I read. Camp NaNoWriMo has been going smoothly as well; I surpassed my goal of 5,000 words for my short story, and updated it to 7,500 so I could get to the end of July. It’s one of those instances where I wish I could just give my past self a little reassurance–the first few days, I panicked a bit that my short story was too short for the word count limit. And now, here we are…

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Other than that, I’ve made lots of progress with my puzzle, watched Alien, listened to a bit too much Josh Cohen, and started watching Cursed. I enjoyed the book, and I’m about three episodes into the show. The trailer looked like it could go either way, and so far, I’d say it’s pretty good. Once I finish it, I’ll try and put together a review. We’ll see.

WHAT I READ THIS WEEK:

The Iron Flower (The Black Witch Chronicles, #2)–Laurie Forest (⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️.25)

Amazon.com: The Iron Flower (The Black Witch Chronicles Book 2 ...

Surviving the City (Surviving the City, #1)–Tasha Spillett and Natasha Donovan (⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️)

Surviving the City (Surviving the City (1)) (Volume 1 ... - Amazon.com

All the Wandering Light (Even the Darkest Stars, #2)–Heather Fawcett (⭐️⭐️⭐️.5)

Amazon.com: All the Wandering Light (Even the Darkest Stars Book 2 ...

When We Were Magic–Sarah Gailey (⭐️⭐️⭐️)

Amazon.com: When We Were Magic (9781534432871): Gailey, Sarah: Books

POSTS AND SUCH:

SONGS:

CURRENTLY READING/TO READ NEXT WEEK:

The Burning Page (The Invisible Library, #3)–Genevieve Cogman

Amazon.com: The Burning Page (The Invisible Library Novel Book 3 ...

Serpent and Dove–Shelby Mahurin

Amazon.com: Serpent & Dove eBook: Mahurin, Shelby: Kindle Store

FORESHADOW: Stories to Celebrate the Magic of Reading and Writing YA (anthology)–Emily X.R. Pan et. al. (eARC)

Foreshadow: Stories to Celebrate the Magic of Reading and Writing ...

Dustborn–Erin Bowman (eARC)

Dustborn by Erin Bowman

Today’s song:

That’s it for this week in blogging! Have a wonderful rest of your day, and take care of yourselves!

Posted in Book Review Tuesday, Books

Book Review Tuesday (7/14/20)–The Iron Flower (The Black Witch Chronicles, #2)

Happy Tuesday, bibliophiles!

Ever since I read The Black Witch back in May, I’ve been ITCHING to read the sequel. Of course, it wasn’t available on the Kindle library (*sniffle*), but now that my local library has started curbside appointments, I was able to get back into the library haul routine–and pick up a few sequels and anticipated books, including this one! And I must say, The Iron Flower did not disappoint in the least!

Enjoy this week’s review!

WARNING: This review may contain spoilers for book 1, The Black Witch, so proceed with caution! If you’d like to read my review of book 1, click here!

The Iron Flower ARC – Laurie Forest | The YA Drama Llama

The Iron Flower (The Black Witch Chronicles, #2)–Laurie Forest

Sort of a photoshoot ft. my library copy and a very nice cup of tea

The veneer has been lifted from Elloren’s cushioned life, and now, she is neck-deep in the Resistance, hoping to restore peace and equality to the magical races of Erthia. High Priest Vogel has won the election, and now he rules with an iron fist, stealing massive swaths of land and bringing racial tensions to a fever pitch. Elloren and her friends are caught in a grand search for peace, trying to find solace for the ones that the Gardnerian government targets most, and rescue others from a fate worse than death. And Lukas Grey, the new commander of the Gardnerian army and the boy who her aunt wishes to Wandfast her to, has grown closer still, but Elloren is pulled away by Yvan, an enemy-turned-ally and a staunch member of the resistance. Both seem to awaken something in her–something that hints that she may not be as powerless as she has been led to believe.

Can Elloren and the Resistance protect themselves–and the world they seek to restore to harmony?

“Mage Council Ruling #271: Smuggling Selkies or spirits across the Gardnerian border shall be grounds for imprisonment.”

[“It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia” theme blaring]

It’s Always Sunny at Verpax University?

[ahem] just thought of that while reading the book, don’t mind me

Rejoice, folks–The Iron Flower doesn’t fall into the trap of disappointing-middle-book-syndrome. On the contrary: it’s a truly worthy successor to book 1, with all of the elements that made The Black Witch so powerful still present and just as lushly beautiful!

Now that Elloren has shed much of her idiotic prejudice, she’s a far more enjoyable protagonist, and a worthy member of the Resistance. Though she still wasn’t my favorite character, her struggles were now far more palpable, and watching her heart turn kinder was character development at its finest. Most of our show-stealing cast was back and better than ever; though some of the characters had a reduced role after The Black Witch (ex. Aislinn, Wynter, etc.), I adored being back with Elloren, Tierney, Diana, and all the rest. At times, there were a few too many characters to keep track of, so some of them lacked attachment for me, but Laurie Forest still managed to create an incredibly strong cast with nearly impeccable chemistry. And I LOVED a few of the newer characters, especially Valasca and Marina. (We technically get introduced to the latter in book 1, but she has a much more prominent role in The Iron Flower.)

Another strong aspect was the political commentary. Book 2 has some even clearer parallels to the political climate today, making it all the more timely, and speaking to themes of racial equality, the senselessness of racism and xenophobia, and fighting back against the system. It’s certainly a very political novel (which I’m 110% happy about, honestly), and it serves to inspire others to make changes in their own communities. WELCOME TO THE RESISTANCE!

GIF Set: Rogue One Trailer #2 Rebellions are built on hope | Rogue ...

The one aspect I wasn’t a huge fan of was the romantic aspects. As much as I loved this novel, it sadly fell prey to what’s probably my least favorite trope in media…

…the dreaded love triangle.

The Path to Oadara — You can see how stern Jon is with her here ...

Even though Yvan grew on me in The Iron Flower, I still wasn’t a fan of the whole dynamic of Elloren bouncing between him and Lukas. There’s some nice forbidden love being set up, which I’m all for, but Lukas’ interference dragged parts of the story down. It’s certainly making the situation more complicated, which I appreciate, but I’m still just…eh.

But overall, I can overlook the love triangle for once. Forest truly gave her all in The Iron Flower, and it shows in the best way possible. From the worldbuilding to the plot twists to the political commentary, this novel is truly a worthy sequel, and a unique and timely fantasy novel. 4.25 stars!

Ras Al Ghul "impressive" Gif. by BM516 - Meme Center

The Iron Flower is the second book in Forest’s Black Witch Chronicles, preceded by The Black Witch (book 1), and succeeded by The Shadow Wand (book 3, 2020), The Demon Tide (book 4, 2021), and The Battle for Erthia (book 5, pub. date TBD). There are also two novellas, Wandfasted (0.5) and Light Mage (1.5). Book 3 just came out this June, so I am SO EXCITED to get my hands on it…

Today’s song:

Finding out that there’s a love triangle in book 2 like

That’s it for this week’s Book Review Tuesday! Have a wonderful rest of your day, and take care of yourselves!

Posted in Book Review Tuesday

Book Review Tuesday (5/26/20)–The Black Witch

Happy Tuesday, bibliophiles!

Let me start off by saying that I regret not buying this book. It’s been on a front display in the YA Sci-fi/Fantasy section of my favorite bookstore, and I’ve almost bought it at least three times, but ultimately decided to pick up something else. One of my closest friends is a massive fan of this one, and so since it was available on the Kindle library, I decided to go ahead and read it, finally. And, as always, my friend has excellent taste in books, which is to say that The Black Witch truly stands out in the midst of the vast genre of YA fantasy with its spectacular worldbuilding and character development.

Enjoy this week’s review!

The Black Witch (The Black Witch Chronicles, #1)

Elloren Gardner is used to a life of secrecy. As the granddaughter of the famed Black Witch, a legendary war hero, she was born with a target on her back, and so lives with her uncle in a secluded cottage in the forest.

But her secrecy could never last for long, and before long, she is swept off, along with her brothers, to the prestigious Verpax University. Forever dwelling in the shadow of her grandmother, Elloren soon learns that there are more than one side to the story–the ideals that her society taught her to covet, and the history she was brought up learning, are far more wrong than she could have ever imagined. But as an evil begins to mount on the horizon, she must grapple with her heritage and where her heart truly lies in order to pave her own destiny.

Lucille Bluth Gene Parmesan GIFs | Tenor

First off, CAN WE TALK ABOUT THIS WORLD-BUILDING? I talked about this a few weeks ago, but I remember when I first started reading The Black Witch, it was so well-written that I swore that I could smell fallen rain on the grass and trees outside Elloren’s cottage. It was such a good feeling. Heavenly. And beyond that, Forest clearly took so much care into creating such a rich, multilayered world. From the history of each magical race to the wars and political intrigue that have shaped it, there was so much attention to detail. Delving into the history–however horrific it was, at some points–was absolutely fascinating.

The Black Witch is certainly a very character-driven book, as opposed to a plot-driven one, which I had no problem with at all. I won’t sugar-coat this–I hated Elloren at first. And honestly, I believe it was the point. Her character development was what truly stood out in this novel. She goes from this overtly naïve, deeply (and I mean deeply) prejudiced in terms of the other magical races, but eventually realizes that all of the xenophobic lies that she’s grown up with are complete nonsense. There are certainly some very uncomfortable moments in the first part, in terms of the xenophobia/racism towards some of the other magical races, but in the end, it served to perpetuate a very timely theme–and that is that racism, xenophobia, homophobia, whatever kind of prejudice is a bundle of twisted lies. And in this time where such -phobias are being grossly perpetuated by political leaders and crazed internet zealots alike, it’s an incredibly timely theme.

Another aspect I enjoyed in The Black Witch was the multitude of show-stealing side characters. They were almost essential when Elloren was in her period of idiocy, and not only were they there to help spur on her character growth, but they were wonderful. Just wonderful. Diana, Ariel, Wynter–especially Wynter, I love her 🥺–were show-stealing in the best sense of the word.

One of the only aspects I wasn’t a fan of was the romance. I get it, I love enemies-to-lovers romance as much as the next person, but Elloren and Yvan felt far too forced and insta-love-y for me.

All in all, The Black Witch stands out in the world of YA fantasy, with detailed world-building, stellar character development, and a timely theme. 4.25 stars!

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The Black Witch is the first in a series of 5 (!!!), continuing with The Iron Flower (2018), The Shadow Wand (coming in June 2020), The Demon Tide (2021), and The Battle for Erthia (TBD). There’s also two prequel novellas, Wandfasted and Light Mage. And, of course, book 2 isn’t available at my library…[single tear slides down cheek]

Today’s song:

My friend sent me this yesterday, and said it had my vibes…THIS IS THE SWEETEST SONG, I LOVE IT

That’s it for this week’s Book Review Tuesday! Have a wonderful rest of your day, and take care of yourselves!