She’s back! Tamora Pierce is the Great Mother Goddess of YA, heralded by teens for generations. She gave us Alanna in 1983 and showed girls their inner bravery, to follow their dreams, and show the kingdom who they truly are. These themes are still prevalent in todays YA novels, and Pierce was at the forefront. Now she’s back with a new series for old followers and newbies to sink into.
It feels appropriate that Pierce goes back in time to show us the teenage years of Arram, aka Numair. We know how powerful of a mage he becomes, but everyone was once an awkward teen. Seeing Arram, Varice, and also Ozorne as teens going to school and still learning how to control their magic adds depth to their characters. Tempests and Slaughter moves through four years of schooling in only 455 pages but Pierce has a balance of simple busy school life and the drama of being so powerful you can’t control it, along with being friends with a prince. Pierce has long been an expert with balancing the mundane with the dramatic, and what better setting to do that than a school.
All of Pierce’s stories revolve around the universe of Tortall, and while it is intimidating to jump into an extensive world with 20+ books to back it up, Pierce has always made her books and Tortall accessible. Pick up any book and you’ll easily slip into the world. Pierce continues to be a writer for the young and the old, the new and the familiar. For the new, enjoy! For the familiar, welcome home.
The conclusion of a series is always bitter sweet. Even if the last book isn’t as perfect as the first one, knowing there won’t be another story in this world or with these characters is always sad. City of Miracles wraps up The Divine Cities trilogy and based on the ending, we won’t be visiting the city of Bulikov with Shara and Sigrud again.
Sigrud is always Shara’s side kick but he takes the main stage when he learns of her death. Ever loyal, he returns from exile to avenge her death (I was trying to stay away from that description, but it’s exactly what he does). Shara has never done anything simply so naturally Sigrud runs into a tangle of mysteries that envelope Shara and her daughter, Tatyana, and later Sigrud himself. We meet a plethora of new characters but some old faces join Sigrud’s mission of protecting Tatyana. (He completed his revenge on Shara’s killer within the first few chapters as efficiently as we expected.)
As much as I liked Sigrud’s character in the first two books, it wasn’t the best idea to make him the leading character. Putting Sigrud at the forefront drastically changed the dynamic of everything Bennett had previously set up. Shara’s story was steeped in politics and the war that breaks out was a centralized action scene. With Sigrud leading the way, the story became an action packed thriller. Shara was the brains and Sigrud is the brawn. Sigrud could help Shara piece together the clues and events but she was vastly more educated than him. Nothing against Sigrud, as he’s always been a great character, but it was more fun watching Shara’s brain piece together the puzzle than follow Sigrud fumble through the mysteries of Shara’s work alone.
While Sigrud made for a less than desirable main character, it was still an enjoyable book, with the right ending. This last book action at the front but it never lost its mysteries or investigation work that we all originally fell in love with. It’s nice to see the series wrapped up nicely. I haven’t read Bennett’s older stuff but it’s been added to my TBR pile.
By: Emily Coleman
I received an ARC of City of Miracles from Blogging for Books for an honest review.
The universe is sending me messages about sisters. I didn’t mean to read back to back books containing a strong sister bond but now that I have, my tear ducts are shriveled and dry. The tag line on the front of the ARC of Caraval is “Remember, it’s only a game…” but when it comes to your sister, it’s never just a game. The main characters Scarlett will protect her sister, Tella, from anyone and anything.
Scarlett has to be mother and best friend and older sister while protecting Tella from their manipulative, abusive father. Of course Tella has a wild streak that makes it difficult to protect her but Scarlett does her best making sure their father stays unaware of Tella’s actions. Scarlett doesn’t always succeed and it was startling to find out how their father, the governor of a small isle, punishes his daughters. Caraval is essentially an elaborate circus, with less animals, and a scavenger hunt twist. Legend is the ringmaster with plenty of performers to make the five night event feel like a daring adventure. The players are warned at the start “it’s only a game” but the performers encourage them to indulge during the game.
Each year Legend creates a game of tricks and clues for the prize at the end. This year it’s a wish, but to win you have to find the stolen item. Scarlett and Tella have a lot of things to wish for but Scarlett quickly learns she has more at stake when the stolen item to find is her sister. Scar has never been the daring one but she will risk her father’s wrath and her engagement to find Tella first. She has help from the sailor that got the sisters to Caraval but he seems to know too much about the game and has an awful lot of secrets for Scarlett to completely trust him.
Stephanie Garber wrote a magical tale not only of a sister’s love but of self-discovery and self-worth. I loved the world of Caraval. Magical, inviting, but dangerous and a little faded around the edges. Garber added wonderful details to make the island feel tangible. Some of my issues were with the clues Scarlett was searching for. Sometimes it seemed she forgot she was looking for clues at all, and the second, third, and fourth clues happened all at once. It didn’t feel like Scarlett had to work for them and it was really rushed, but then she still didn’t find her sister for some time. The plot structure in the middle was just a little of but I loved the cliff hanger at the end. The story wrapped up but it’s far from over. Hopefully we get to follow Tella on the next adventure.
Smoke first intrigued me because of the watercolor cover. I’m a sucker for watercolor. The deep blues and purples and reds gave it a romantic feel but the shadowed tower in the background left an ominous and mysterious feeling. The back of the book talked about smoke emitting from people’s bodies in a sinful fashion. Well now I had to read it to find out what all this smoke was about.
Dan Vyleta is an old hand at writing novels and it shows. I haven’t read any of his other work but I imagine it all to be as beautifully written as Smoke is. It did take me a couple of chapters to fully comprehend what the smoke was. But it is a physical manifestation that uses orifices and pores to escape a person’s body. Set during the mid-1800s, religion and aristocracy were held in high standard. Smoke is the physical release of intense emotions and considered “sinful.” Aristocrats didn’t do things as common as “smoke.” But everyone has intense emotions of one kind or another so the aristocrats have poured money into devices that will bind their smoke so it doesn’t manifest on their body.
Vyleta has created a thrilling novel filled with all manner of characters who live in London and its outskirts. There is a love triangle that forms between the three main characters, which I wasn’t crazy about as it formed, but I didn’t hate it by the end either. Vyleta could easily continue this story with Livia, Thomas, and Charlie as they move onward, on the heels of the revolution, but Smoke wrapped up nicely as a standalone novel as well. I was very pleased with my first encounter with Dan Vyleta and will keep a look out for future work.
City of Blades is the second book to City of Stairs and the only work I’ve read by Robert Jackson Bennett. So far, he has me thoroughly engaged. City of Stairs had a slow start because I wasn’t expecting it to be as political heavy as it was but my interest quickly picked up. I was all too happy to jump into City of Blades.
The second book follows General Turyin Mulaghesh as she sets out on a secret mission from Prime Minister Shara Thivani. She’s following up on the disappearance of Sumitra Choudhry and what she might have discovered about the Divine miracles that are no longer supposed to work since the deaths of the Gods decades ago. It was great seeing the point of view from Mulaghesh. She rounded out as a character even further than what we see in the first novel. Mulaghesh is a guilt ridden general who has a lot to make up for from her early days in the military.
Robert Jackson Bennett has created a murder mystery series in an intricately built fantasy world. It never felt like I was reading a murder mystery as I was simply enjoying the characters and this new world. I can’t wait to see what Bennett brings with the third novel and whose point of view it will be in. I have my fingers crossed for Sigrud’s point of view next.
By Emily Coleman