A Conjuring of Light by V.E. Schwab

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Title: A Conjuring of Light
Author: V.E. Schwab
Publisher: Tor Books
Genre: YA Fantasy

What an amazing end to the this trilogy!! I finished A Conjuring of Light a few days ago and I have been gushing ever since. How to review the final book in a series that has become one of my favorite fantasy series?

A Conjuring of Light picks up right at the end of A Gathering of Shadows. Unlike the previous two books, ACOL includes a lot of back story on Holland, via flashbacks scattered throughout the story. Looking back at the first two books, my only criticisms were that a few of the characters were not fully flushed out: Rhy, Holland, the king and queen of Red London. I spoke too soon, and all of those complaints have disappeared upon finishing the trilogy!

One of the great things about the Darker Shades of Magic trilogy is the humor in the midst of chaos:

“You drugged her?”

“It was Tieren’s order,” said Hastra, chastised. “He said she was mad and stubborn and no use to us dead.” Hastra lowered his voice when he said this, mimicking Tieren’s tone with startling accuracy.

“And what do you plan to do when she wakes back up?”

Hastra shrank back. “Apologize?”

Kell made an exasperated sound as Lila nuzzled– actually nuzzled– his shoulder.

“I suggest,” he snapped at the young man, “you think of something better. Like an escape route.”

“I told you to keep him safe, not cuddle.”

Alucard spread his hands behind him on the sheets. “I’m more than capable of multitasking.”

“What are we drinking to?”

“The living,” said Rhy.

“The dead,” said Alucard and Lila at the same time.

“We’re being thorough,” added Rhy.”

There are many things that have drawn me into this trilogy: the writing, the world-building, but most especially, the characters. And there are many moments in ACOL that gives me all the feels:

  • The brotherly love between Kell and Rhy. They will do anything for each other.
  • Rhy’s character growth. This was one of the small complaints I had in the first book, and I swallow my words. More than any of the other characters, this trilogy is truly his “coming of age” story.
  • A greater depth to many of the supporting characters, including Queen Emira, King Maxim, and Holland. While I am still left with a few unanswered questions about the king and the queen, their roles as mother and father really shined at the end.
  • Holland. Do I dare say I feel sympathy for Holland. Yes, yes I do. In fact, I want to give him a big hug and tuck him into bed with a nice cup of tea.
  • The Antari’s together. I can’t say anything more without giving away some spoilers, but WOW!!!

The next quote is partially a BIG FAT SPOILER for the earlier books, so don’t continue reading if you don’t want to be spoiled. It is my favorite moment in the entire trilogy.

LAST WARNING: Spoiler ahead, if you have not read the first two books in the series!

Three silver rings caught the dying light–Lila’s and Kell’s the narrower echoes of Holland’s band–all of them singing with shared power as the door swung open, and the three Antari stepped through into the dark.

I get the shivers every time I read that paragraph, don’t you?

Warning: Comments section may also contain spoilers.

Rating: 5/5 stars.

If you have read ACOL, how did you feel after finishing it? Do you think it was a satisfactory end to the trilogy?

Book Review – Of Fire and Stars by Audrey Coulthurst

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Title: Of Fire and Stars
Author: Audrey Coulthurst
Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Genre: YA Fantasy, LGBTQIA+ Romance

I have been procrastinating on writing this review, because I do not enjoy writing negative reviews. Sadly, I was not a fan of this book. I desperately wanted to be, but it all felt like a bucket of lost potential.

In Of Fire and Stars,  Princess Denna of Havemont has been betrothed to marry the Prince of Mynaria, Thandi, since she was a young child. Her marriage will seal an alliance between the two kingdoms, but she is harboring a secret – she possesses a Fire Affinity – a dangerous gift in the land of Mynaria, where magic is forbidden. Along the way, she meet’s the Prince’s sister, Mare, and they decide to join forces to search for the culprit of a mysterious assassination.

I was incredibly excited when the LGBTQIA+ novel, Of Fire and Stars, showed up in my OwlCrate box in December. There are so few f/f fantasy novels out there, and this one definitely has an interesting premise. An arranged marriage, with Denna falling for her betrothed sister instead? My curiosity was piqued.

And then, everything fell flat. And by flat, I mean FLAT. The world-building, the character development, even the dialogue, was all….meh. There was also way too much dialogue and pages dedicated to horses…and I love horses! By the end of the book, I was groaning and skimming every time another section came up focused on horses.

Where, oh where, art thou character development?

All of the main characters were incredibly one-dimensional. Mare, Prince Thandi’s sister, (yes, the character who has loved horses her whole life is seriously nicknamed Mare) is the token “bad girl”, complete with temper tantrums and extreme sulking. Denna, newly arrived in the land, is the “good one”, apparently full of sugar and spice and everything nice. Mare is rebellious and Denna is good. Denna breaks her mold towards the end, but even there it just fell flat. Don’t get me started on her magic and the stars falling scene – one of the most awkward things I have ever read. It made no sense the way it was written.

As for the rest of the cast, wow, I know nothing. Seriously, nothing. Poor Prince Thandi, with no personality, felt like a shell. The Directorate – the people who make the policy decisions in Mynaria – are clueless and incompetent. I mean, truly and incredibly dense.

Can someone explain the Northern Kingdoms?

Despite finishing the novel, I still don’t understand what this world is about. Why did Mynaria hate magic so much? A legitimate reason was never given for this intense hatred of magic users. Nor was there much of an explanation for the sudden existence of the Recusants vs the fundamentalists. Who were the fundamentalists, even? This lack of depth was incredibly frustrating for me. We’re plunged into a world with four kingdoms that together seem to make up the “Northern Kingdoms”, but we find out nothing about the history or political situations underlying these lands. Such as, why has Prince Thandi never left the castle’s home in Lyrra? Why can’t he explore his own lands?

The idea of having an Affinity (Magic) connected to one of the six gods was intriguing and new, if it would have been further developed. Yet once again, the reader is left with no real understanding of the magic and religion of these lands.

Refreshingly, heterosexuality is not assumed as the default sexual orientation – but then why on earth was there so much sexism in the novel? From the time Denna arrived in Mynaria, she is held back by what appears to be strict gender roles; as future queen, she is expected to be the castle’s numero uno party planner and tour guide. One of the only conversations that Denna has with the king is this:

“No need to be too formal among family,” he said cheerfully. “I’ll be relying on you to keep this son of mine in line. It has been too long since we’ve had a woman’s touch about the place.”

I can list at least ten ways in which this exchange makes absolutely no sense. But you get the idea. A few of the people on the Directorate are women, but they barely have a voice. That may be due more to poor character development, but it is still frustratingly annoying.

I was really excited about reading this novel, but ultimately, it was a tremendous let down.

This now makes two books in a row that I have rated two stars, something that does not happen very often. Thankfully, I’m now reading The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead which is FANTASTIC. So, hopefully, this 2-star streak ends here.

Rating: 2 out of 5 stars.