BOOK REVIEW: This Savage Song – by V.E. Schwab

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Title: This Savage Song
(Monsters Of Verity #1)
Author: Victoria (V.E.) Schwab

Genre: YA, Fantasy, Dystopia
First published: June 7th 2016
Publisher: Greenwillow Books
Finished reading: December 5th 2016
Pages: 464
Rating 5qqq

“I mean, most people want to escape. Get out of their heads. Out of their lives. Stories are the easiest way to do that.”

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I think I have mentioned my love for Victoria (V.E.) Schwab‘s books once or twice already this year, and I still don’t know what took me so long to finally pick up this copy of her newest novel and first book of a new series This Savage Song. People kept telling me I should just read this one and that I would love it as much as the other books I had already read, and they were totally right. A Darker Shade Of Magic is still my absolute Schwab favorite, but this one came in a close second! Brilliant, just brilliant. The prose is just excellent and I love LOVE the worldbuilding. Like in Shades Of Magic, the worldbuilding isn’t all that complicated, but this simplicity just WORKS. The idea of Verity with its three types of monsters is intriguing, and I LOVED the main characters August and Kate. Both the dynamics between the characters and their development is very well done and I can’t wait to read the sequel next year. It’s going to be a long wait for sure… V.E. Schwab has definitely proven to be worthy to be in my TOP 10 of all time favorite authors!

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The world has become a dangerous place and the the violence in the city of Verity has begun to breed actual monsters. Kate Harker and August Flynn are the heirs to this divided city… And they are both in danger. All Kate wants is to be as ruthless as her father, who has made a deal with the monsters and makes the humans pay for his protection. And all August wants is to be human and play a bigger role in protecting the innocent, but he is actually one of the monsters. The two finally meet as August is giving the task to keep an eye on Kate, who has just been kicked out of her sixth boarding school and returned to the city. Nobody can know about his secret, but it’s a hard one to keep…

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I have to admit I’m having a hard time writing something coherent about this book. I feel like a fangirl blabbering all over the place, but This Savage Song is just THAT good. The worldbuilding is quite simply, but excellently done and it makes it really easy to just dive into this story and relate to the main characters. Both Kate and August are well developed and I loved their characters, although August is my absolute favorite. I love the idea of the different monsters and the plot is excellent as well… The story doesn’t end with that big of a cliffhanger either, but I will definitely be waiting impatiently for the second book. It looks like it will be a duology, so I will be rereading this little masterpiece before the sequel next year. And in case you haven’t guessed it yet, I can more than recommend this book!

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BOOK REVIEW: Daughter Of Smoke & Bone – by Laini Taylor

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Title: Daughter Of Smoke & Bone
(Daughter Of Smoke & Bone #1)
Author: Laini Taylor
Genre: YA, Fantasy, Romance
First published: September 27th 2011
Finished reading: May 8th 2016
Pages: 418
Rating 2qqq

“Hope can be a powerful force. Maybe there’s no actual magic in it, but when you know what you hope for most and hold it like a light within you, you can make things happen, almost like magic.”

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Warning: unpopular opinion ahead. I think I have lost count of the times this series has been recommended to me ever since I first started my blog. I’ve had a copy of Daughter Of Smoke & Bone on my TBR pile for a long time, and the main reason I finally decided to pick it up was that it came out as the winner of the which series should I read next? poll. One of the things of starting such a popular series is that it can both ways; and I kind of have an ‘unpopular opinion’ reputation when it comes to hyped books in the first place. And guess what? Daughter Of Smoke & Bone turned out to be one of them. And trust me, I feel I have been nice with the rating, because I had a STRONG dislike for the second half of this book and even thought about just DNFing it. Why? First of all, let me make it clear that I loved the first part of the story. The worldbuilding is great and I simply loved Laini Taylor‘s prose and descriptions of both the different cities and the magical elements. Karou starts out like such an interesting character as well; it’s so easy to connect to her and really made the first part into something special. But then Akiva showed up… And just as I already was afraid of, he turned out to be one of those typical pretty boy male love interests. Insta-love, forbidden love similar to Romeo & Juliet, sappy romance scenes and dialogue, a strong female character falling in love with the pretty boy and completely loses her original charm… What a way to ruin a story with so much potential! I already have a copy of the sequel, but I’m really worried about actually reading it now… Because (the second part of) Daughter Of Smoke & Bone definitely wasn’t for me.

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Karou seems to be just another young art student living in Prague, but there is more to her than what meets the eye. People believe the monsters in her sketchbooks are a figment of her imagination, but is that really true? And what about the fact that she is able to speak multiple languages perfectly, disappears often on mysterous errands and her bright blue hair actually grows out of her head that way? Karou has seen things most humans haven’t, growing up in a hidden shop where the chimaera Brimstone collects teeth of all sizes he uses for who knows what afterwards. He never seems to want to answer questions about her past, but it seems like she won’t be waiting much longer before she finds out the truth… Mysterious winged strangers mark the different doorways to Brimstone’s world with black hand prints; marking the beginning of the end… And Karou soon has to fight to stay alife. She crosses paths with the beautiful haunted Akiva, who seems to be just as curious to find out what Karou really is. He should and could have killed her, but something makes him decide otherwise… What will happen to them?

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Like I said, I loved the first part of Daughter Of Smoke & Bone and the story was well on its way to being added to my list of all time favorites. Then Akiva appeared and the story was turned into a Romeo and Juliet spin off… And I lost my interest completely. I know it’s almost impossible to avoid romance in a YA fantasy series nowadays, but after such a promising start I was really REALLY disappointed with the road this story took. I was browsing my kindle quotes for this review, and the sheer amount of sappy love quotes made me want to vomit… I know just about everybody seems to love this series and I’m glad, but unfortunately I’m not one of them.

BOOK REVIEW: A Gathering Of Shadows – by V.E. Schwab

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Title: A Gathering Of Shadows
(Shades Of Magic #2)
Author: V.E. Schwab
Genre: YA, Fantasy, Dystopia
First published: February 23rd 2016
Finished reading: April 27th 2016
Pages: 512
Rating 4,5qqq

“The world is neither fair nor right, but it has a way of balancing itself. Magic teaches us that much.”

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You know a book is good when you’ve been trying to write a review for the past two weeks and still can’t get anything constructive on paper that doesn’t sound like you’re just fangirling over the place. So don’t say I didn’t warn you… Because this is exactly what has been happening with the first two books in the Shades Of Magic series. Both A Darker Shade Of Magic and A Gathering Of Shadows are without doubt brilliant books and I still can’t believe it took me this long to discover V.E. Schwab‘s writing. This woman literally turns into gold anything she touches and I can’t wait to read more of her work… See, I told you this review was going to be a complete mess! Let’s see if I can finally say anything coherent about A Gathering Of Shadows…First of all, the prose and worldbuilding are just as excellent as the first book and it makes me wonder if she is able to write anything bad. If I have to pick a favorite, I think I liked the plot of the first book slightly better, but the tournament is still really entertaining to read about. And those plot twists! I won’t go into details to avoid spoilers, but there will be quite a few surprises waiting for you as you read this story. The ending is in one word painful; while the first book had a clearly marked ending of their adventure, A Gathering Of Shadows ends with an infamous cliffhanger. And with the expected publish date for the third book A Conjuring Of Light recently set in February 2017, it sure will be a long wait to find out what happens to my new favorite characters. The only thing I wasn’t so sure about and made me cut off half a star of the final rating was the appearance of a few romance scenes. I was kind of already expecting (read: dreading) it, but this series is no longer completely romance-free. I knew it was too good to be true… Still, this series is a must read for any fantasy fan.

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WARNING: Possible spoilers! Please don’t read this summary if you haven’t read the first book yet. I’ll keep the summary super short but it’s impossible to keep it completely spoiler-free…

It has been four months since Kell met Delilah Bard, had their adventures, saved the day and last saw each other. Kell had to give up his smuggling habit and his travels are limited to Grey London since White London is still too dangerous to visit. He feels like he is trapped inside a cage… Lila on the other had has been following her dream of freedom and owning her own ship one day and disappeared from the docks those four months ago. What Kell doesn’t know she has been on board of a certain pirate ship all along, and soon they will most likely meet again… Because Red London is preparing to host the Element Games; an international competition of magic both to entertain the masses and strenghten the ties between the neighboring countries. It seems like the competition will have two ‘unknown’ participants fighting as well, but will they be able to keep their true identity a secret? And what about the fates Black and White London?

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Those who follow my blog will already know how much I loved A Darker Shade Of Magic, and this sequel is just as good. The only reason I haven’t given A Gathering Of Shadows the full five stars as well is because I was slightly disappointed by the fact that the story was no longer romance free (even though I kind of wanted them to be together) and I liked the plot of the first book slightly better. The character development in A Gathering Of Shadows is a bit more complex though and the prose is just as brilliant as the first book. In short, if you enjoyed A Darker Shade Of Magic, you will love this book as well. And if you haven’t read this series yet, I strongly suggest you do!

BOOK REVIEW: A Darker Shade Of Magic – by V.E. Schwab

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Title: A Darker Shade Of Magic
(Shades Of Magic #1)
Author: V.E. Schwab
Genre: YA, Fantasy, Dystopia
First published: February 24th 2015
Finished reading: April 15th 2016
Pages: 400
Rating 5qqq

“I’d rather die on an adventure than live standing still.”

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I know, I know, I should have listened to the numerous recommendations and raving reviews and picked up this series a lot sooner, because A Darker Shade Of Magic went straight to my list of all time favorites. This book is amazing! I have to say it has been hard to write a coherent review without fangirling all over the place… Because the first book of the Shades Of Magic without doubt deserves every last bit of the hype around it. Why? A Darker Shade Of Magic has an excellent worldbuilding, a simple but intriguing plot, a fast pace, well written prose, interesting characters I almost immediately connected to, no love triangle, almost no romance… In one word: BRILLIANT, or at least everything I want in a fantasy series. I loved the dynamics between the two seemingly so different characters Kell and Lila, especially since there is NO love interest whatsover between the two. The worldbuilding is really well done and together with the prose it immediately set the right atmosphere for this kind of dark and intriguing story. And even though A Darker Shade Of Magic doesn’t end with a cliffhanger, I still needed to read the sequel straight away. An excellent sign for a great story, right? I will stop fangirling now and leave you with these last two last facts: first of all, V.E. Schwab is without doubt one of my new favorite authors and secondly, if you haven’t read this series yet and like the genre, make sure to move it to the top of your TBR pile!

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Ever since disaster happened in Black London, the three remaining Londons have been separated and isolated in their parallel worlds. Grey London – dirty, boring and lacking magic, ruled by mad King George -, Red London – where life and magic managed to flourish with the Maresh Dynasty at the top – and White London – where people fight to control magic and whoever has murdered their way to the throne rules. Kell is one of the last Antari left with the rare powers to be able to travel between the worlds, and officially he is the personal ambassador and adopted Prince of Red London. It is his task to carry the monthly letters between the royals of each London, but that is not the only thing Kell takes with him on his travels between the parallel worlds.  His dangerous hobby of smuggling bits of a world they’ll never see to those willing to pay for it finally caught up with him and he is set up for treason… And while he flees into Grey London, someone seems to tag along even though Kell still believes he doesn’t need help.

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As you might have guessed from my rambles above, I really loved reading A Darker Shade Of Magic. This first book in the Shades Of Magic series has basically everything I want in a YA fantasy series all mashed together into one brilliant story, and this book made it straight to my list of all time favorites. I know it sounds a lot like fangirling and I admit I still find it hard to write a proper review even days after finishing it… But what I can say is that A Darker Shade Of Magic is one of those books that is truly worth the hype. Make sure to read it if you haven’t already; you won’t regret it!

BOOK REVIEW: Neverwhere – by Neil Gaiman

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Title: Neverwhere
Author: Neil Gaiman
Genre: Realistic Fiction, Urban Fantasy, Horror
First published: September 16th 1996
Finished reading: January 4th 2016
Pages: 336
Rating 5qqq

“I mean, maybe I am crazy. I mean, maybe. But if this is all there is, then I don’t want to be sane.”

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I finished this read over a week ago, and I’m still trying to get my thoughts together. What I do know is that while I’ve read and enjoyed other Neil Gaiman novels in the past, Neverwhere is without doubt my new favorite by this author. This novel starts out as a fiction story with a dash of magical realism, but soon turns into a dazzling urban fantasy story where surreal descriptions are combined with both scary and funny moments. I simply loved the prose and its underlying messages… The characters really started to grow on me as well; especially the Marquis, Richard and Door. Neverwhere is Neil Gaiman‘s first novel, and for me it’s without doubt the best I’ve read so far. What’s it about? This quote says it all:

“Dear Diary, he began. On Friday I had a job, a fiancée, a home, and a life that made sense. (Well, as much as any life makes sense). Then I found an injured girl bleeding on the pavement, and I tried to be a Good Samaritan. Now I’ve got no fiancée, no home, no job, and I’m walking around a couple of hundred feet under the streets of London with the projected life expectancy of a suicidal fruitfly.”

The part in London Above maybe isn’t that interesting, but I LOVED the descriptions and plot set in London Below. Definitely recommended if you like a good (urban) fantasy story with a healthy dose of horror and humor!

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Richard Mayhew is a young London businessman who seems to have a perfectly ordinary life with a good job, a home and a beautiful fiancée. But everything changes as he sees an injured girl bleeding on the street and decides to help her. His demanding fiancée dumps him for not making it to an important dinner, but Richard wants to help the girl anyway. At home he realizes the girl isn’t just any ordinary girl, and soon his life changes forever… The next day he seems invisible and it’s almost as if he had plunged through the cracks of reality into a world of shadows and darkness in London Below. Against all odds he is able to survive his first moments there, and soon realizes he will have to find and help the girl if he ever wants to return to London Above.

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Neil Gaiman never fails to surprise you with his books; each book has a completely original feel. What I think made Neverwhere into my new favorite Gaiman is the unique mix of realistic fiction, magical realism, urban fantasy and horror. I really liked both the main characters and the prose, and once Richard started having his adventures in London Below it was really hard to stop reading. As you might have guessed from the rating, I absolutely loved this read and I would recommend Neverwhere with my eyes closed to anyone who enjoys the genre.