Review: Rhythm of War by Brandon Sanderson

Title: Rhythm of War
Author: Brandon Sanderson
Publisher: TOR
Genres: Fantasy
Length: 1232 pages
My Rating: ★★★★★
5/5 stars

Summary

“After forming a coalition of human resistance against the enemy invasion, Dalinar Kholin and his Knights Radiant have spent a year fighting a protracted, brutal war. Neither side has gained an advantage, and the threat of a betrayal by Dalinar’s crafty ally Taravangian looms over every strategic move.

Now, as new technological discoveries by Navani Kholin’s scholars begin to change the face of the war, the enemy prepares a bold and dangerous operation. The arms race that follows will challenge the very core of the Radiant ideals, and potentially reveal the secrets of the ancient tower that was once the heart of their strength.

At the same time that Kaladin Stormblessed must come to grips with his changing role within the Knights Radiant, his Windrunners face their own problem: As more and more deadly enemy Fused awaken to wage war, no more honorspren are willing to bond with humans to increase the number of Radiants. Adolin and Shallan must lead the coalition’s envoy to the honorspren stronghold of Lasting Integrity and either convince the spren to join the cause against the evil god Odium, or personally face the storm of failure.”

Review

If you have not read the first three stormlight archive books, don’t you dare keep reading. Everyone deserves the magic of reading the Stormlight Archive for the first time spoiler-free and spinning with crackpot theories about where Brandon Sanderson is leading you. But if you have, then please: read on.

First of all, the book itself is gorgeous. I got a signed copy from Barnes and Noble. The dust jacket has a beautiful full-color map of Roshar, and the end sheets have full-color art of the heralds! I wish I could frame all of it. It’s amazing. 

As for the book itself, it pulls no punches in a myriad of ways. I’m going to break it down by  highlighting characters or arcs that especially shone in this book: 

  1. Navani
    1. Right from the very first viewpoint with Navani, it tore at my heart. Rhythm of War felt like the first books that highlighted her thoughts and emotions. In doing so, it completely changed my mind about her. I used to think she was kind of one dimensional. Rhythm of War completely changes that. I adored watching Navani come into her own! I will not speak a lot on her arc because there are many spoilers; however, I will say she continually blew me away. I cannot wait to see the impact she has on future books. Navani Kholin is a certified badass. 
  2. Adolin
    1. Adolin Has firmly cemented himself as a steady glue for all of the other characters around him. He is a source of positivity; I love watching him interact with both Shallan and Kaladin. He was in the shadesmar storyline, and I like that because Shallan was stressing me out this book. He provided a breath of fresh air and a distinct viewpoint on the crazy things around them. He is opening up to an exciting storyline because of the unique bond he shares with Maya the deadeyes.
  3. Kaladin
    1. Kaladin chapters were challenging for me to read. They were a great representation of the impacts of PTSD and depression. Some of the steps Kaladin takes to help others and do what he does best were 10 out of 10; I absolutely loved it. However, it does hurt to see a character I care about so much going through so much internal pain and not seeing their own value. His growth in this book looked quite different from previous Kaladin viewpoints but led to some great pay off watching him grow and learn to accept all the different sides of himself.
  4. Shallan
    1. Shallan’s chapters had me biting my nails. She is going through a lot. If you remember from the previous book, she was starting to fear a formless thing in her mind. Her existing triad of personalities are intriguing and scary at the same time – there’s a push and pull to their coexistence that keeps me on edge. I can’t personally speak to how accurate the representation of Dissassociative Identity Disorder is. However, I felt like she was an accessible character that I could understand even though I couldn’t relate. I’ve heard many great things from people who do suffer from DID about how Brandon handled Shallan’s experiences. 

Review: Burn This City by Brenda Poppy

Title: Burn This City
Author: Brenda Poppy
Publisher: Glass Fish Publishing
Genres: Science Fiction
Length: 303 pages
My Rating: ★★★.5
3.5/5 stars

Summary

Kasis is an uninhabitable planet, yet there they were – inhabiting. It’s no wonder that prolonged colonization produced…side effects. Or gifts. But with a militarized government that persecutes people for being different, using such a gift could mean certain death.

Auburn Alendra is one of the gifted. Her power allows her to hear into the deepest corners of the polluted city, gathering secrets and using them to her advantage. When one of those secrets threatens her very existence – along with thousands of others throughout the city – Auburn must do everything it takes to fight back.

Along with a resistance force known as the Lunaria, “Burn” races against the clock to infiltrate the government’s Peace Force in search of answers and discover a way to avoid all-out warfare. Join Burn on a thrilling adventure as she navigates the perils of a scarred dystopian landscape and discovers the true cost of survival.

Review

Burn This City did not go the trajectory I had anticipated, and it was all the better for it. All too often in dystopian or science fiction reads there’s an imbalance between an intricately designed setting and some rushed together characters or plot but that was not the case here. In fact, by the end, most of the questions I had revolved around the world itself! I felt like I understood the characters, their motives, and their relationships quite well in the ending. The concept of powers in the world was really interesting, and I like the balance it provided through the idea that more exposure to pollution equates to more individuals with powers, effectively balancing the privileges that those in less polluted areas have. This book was also excellent with foreshadowing – there were things laid out so clearly in the very beginning that I hadn’t even realized tied together until the end reveals. This is a good light read and I’m intrigued to see where book two goes! 

What I especially liked was how unique the gifts in this book were, so I’m going to highlight three of those

  • Burn (Auburn)
    • Auburn has enhanced hearing, to the point that she can hear people several city blocks away. Despite living most of her life with this gift there’s still room for her to explore it. We get to see that growth during that book and the payoff from the growth is great to see. 
  • Scar (Scarlett)
    • Scarlett is kind of a cyborg, in a way? She was born partly metal, which I try not to think of the science behind too deeply because in practice it is freaking cool. She’s like a mechanical savant, fixing and inventing anything she can. 
  • Coal 
    • Can impersonate anyone, but they’re not a shapeshifter. It vaguely reminds me of how Lightweaving from the Stormlight Archive novels works. 

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Thank you so much to the author, Brenda Poppy, for a copy of Burn This City! It’s out today if you’d like to grab a copy.

Review: The Midnight Bargain by C.L. Polk

Title: The Once and Future Witches
Author: C.L. Polk
Publisher: Redhook Books
Genres: Fantasy, Historical Fiction
Length: 528 pages
My Rating: ★★★★★
5/5 stars

SUMMARY

“Beatrice Clayborn is a sorceress who practices magic in secret, terrified of the day she will be locked into a marital collar that will cut off her powers to protect her unborn children. She dreams of becoming a full-fledged Magus and pursuing magic as her calling as men do, but her family has staked everything to equip her for Bargaining Season, when young men and women of means descend upon the city to negotiate the best marriages. The Clayborns are in severe debt, and only she can save them, by securing an advantageous match before their creditors come calling.

In a stroke of luck, Beatrice finds a grimoire that contains the key to becoming a Magus, but before she can purchase it, a rival sorceress swindles the book right out of her hands. Beatrice summons a spirit to help her get it back, but her new ally exacts a price: Beatrice’s first kiss . . . with her adversary’s brother, the handsome, compassionate, and fabulously wealthy Ianthe Lavan.

The more Beatrice is entangled with the Lavan siblings, the harder her decision becomes: If she casts the spell to become a Magus, she will devastate her family and lose the only man to ever see her for who she is; but if she marries—even for love—she will sacrifice her magic, her identity, and her dreams. But how can she choose just one, knowing she will forever regret the path not taken?”

REVIEW

As mentioned in my review of The Once and Future Witches, I am absolutely loving the way authors this season have tied together magic and women’s empowerment in new ways. The Midnight Bargain takes a more individualized, romantic approach to a similar theme. I absolutely adored it! It’s a rare occasion in which I can pinpoint the exact scene where a book becomes a five star read for me – but in The Midnight Bargain, I already knew from the ballroom scene that I was enamored. This doesn’t mean it’ll be a five-star read for everyone, though. I have read some valid criticisms of the pacing in this book. As a fast reader, I tend to charge through those sections anyway but if you’re a slow reader it may impact your opinion. This spellbinding read did an excellent job portraying that feminism in any world is not black and white – progress has gray areas, and though those gray areas are better than the alternative we can still fight for more. Ianthe was a delightful love interest, and their struggles as a couple felt so real despite being of magical origin. Beatrice and ysbeta were the perfect example of the idea that strong women don’t all have to want exactly the same thing. I highly recommend this book to anyone looking for magic and empowerment wrapped up in a world of social politics. Spoiler ahead, but I’m going to highlight the three ‘solutions’ people have to the issue with women and magic in the world of The Midnight Bargain

  1. Permanent Collars

For many women in this world, they are collared as soon as they’re wed.  Typically, these women aren’t even fully grown when they marry: they’re still just teenage girls. Beatrice describes the collar as a light going out. The world becomes gray and drab, and it feels like her soul was sucked out of her body. With this alternative, women have to spend their lives from their teens to past childbearing age (so, somewhere between 30 and 40 years) in this state. Their husbands control their lives and they go through the world as a shell of themselves. 

  1. Pregnancy Collars

In the world’s existing “radical” option, some societies only collar women when they’re likely to be pregnant. Though this is slightly better, the way magic develops in The Midnight Bargain means that a woman could still never become a fully achieved Magus. The collar cuts off their access to the magic, leaving them unable to ever fully bond a greater spirit. 

SPOILER

SPOILER 

SPOILER

  1. Collar-Free

At the end, Beatrice and Ianthe learn that all of these methods existed to erase the actual, existing safe method used in the past. In ancient societies where women were equal, a sorcerer father and sorceress mother would both send their greater spirits to defend the fetus while it grows. In this way, neither spirit would be able to possess it and turn the child into a dangerous creature. By hiding this method and erasing it from common knowledge, men were able to subjugate women and prevent them from ever reaching full equality. By bringing it back into the world, Beatrice gives the choice back to women. I really appreciated this ending, instead of Beatrice coming to terms with sometimes being collared. It did a wonderful job of representing an actual, real-life problem. Just because a society is slightly better to oppressed groups of people doesn’t mean they can’t still improve. 

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Be sure to check out my instagram for some moore bookish posts and photos @paiges_next_pages ! I’ll be doing a giveaway on there quite soon.

Review: The Once and Future Witches by Alix Harrow

Title: The Once and Future Witches
Author: Alix Harrow
Publisher: Redhook Books
Genres: Fantasy, Historical Fiction
Length: 528 pages
My Rating: ★★★★★
5/5 stars

SUMMARY

“In 1893, there’s no such thing as witches. There used to be, in the wild, dark days before the burnings began, but now witching is nothing but tidy charms and nursery rhymes. If the modern woman wants any measure of power, she must find it at the ballot box.

But when the Eastwood sisters–James Juniper, Agnes Amaranth, and Beatrice Belladonna–join the suffragists of New Salem, they begin to pursue the forgotten words and ways that might turn the women’s movement into the witch’s movement. Stalked by shadows and sickness, hunted by forces who will not suffer a witch to vote-and perhaps not even to live-the sisters will need to delve into the oldest magics, draw new alliances, and heal the bond between them if they want to survive.

There’s no such thing as witches. But there will be.”

REVIEW

Between this book and The Midnight Bargain (review coming soon!), I think my new favorite oddly-specific subgenre of books is “ultra-feminist witches fighting the patriarchy with books”. 

More specifically in The Once and Future Witches, three sisters caught up in the suffragist movement in their alternate United States reawaken magic that had long been erased. This book felt so real that, on several occasions, I had to stop and ask myself if some of these characters were real historical figures. They weren’t, but I’ll be damned if they didn’t feel like they absolutely could have been. Even the most fleeting of side characters had a personality that felt lifelike and multifaceted. Coming from a family of three sisters myself, I loved the focus on the sibling relationship and the power that can come from it. This book was beautifully written, smartly plotted out, and carries a message like every good fairy-tale should. Instead of analyzing three aspects of the book, I’m just going to highlight some of my favorite quotes that I earmarked throughout my read!

“Witching and women’s rights. Suffrage and spells. They’re both…” She gesture in midair again. “They’re both a kind of power, aren’t they? The kind we aren’t allowed to have.”

pg 47

Except she doesn’t get to choose for herself anymore. She smooths her blouse over her belly. “I can’t start any trouble. For her sake.”

Juniper looks down at her hand. “Oh, I think you’ve got to. For her sake.” She meets Agnes’ eyes, challenging. “Don’t you want to give her a better story than this one?”

pg 126

“I wonder sometimes where the first witch came from. If perhaps Adam deserved Eve’s curse.” His smile twists. “If behind every witch is a woman wronged”

pg 222

In short, I really loved this book. I’m fully ready to go take up witchcraft and smash an oppressive patriarchy. On that note, I will also leave you with one of my favorite tumblr text posts of all time and a reminder to my American friends: GO VOTE.

Review: The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue by VE Schwab

Title: The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue
Author: VE Schwab
Publisher: TOR
Genres: Fantasy, Historical Fiction, Romance
Length: 448 pages
My Rating: ★★★★★
5/5 stars

Summary

France, 1714: in a moment of desperation, a young woman makes a Faustian bargain to live forever and is cursed to be forgotten by everyone she meets.

Thus begins the extraordinary life of Addie LaRue, and a dazzling adventure that will play out across centuries and continents, across history and art, as a young woman learns how far she will go to leave her mark on the world.

But everything changes when, after nearly 300 years, Addie stumbles across a young man in a hidden bookstore and he remembers her name

Review

This was arguably my most anticipated book of the year. I was enamored with the cover and the description also had me intrigued. You would not believe how badly I’d hoped my NetGalley request would be approved. I only became more excited to read this after reading the article VE Schwab shared with The Oprah Magazine earlier this week. Her story was poignant, touching, and relatable for anyone who has struggled with an aspect of their identity. Schwab mentioned that as she’s grown, her characters have grown with her. She said, “They take up space in the world, space they deserve”. Taking up space she deserves in the world is something Addie LaRue excels at, even while being forgotten by everyone she meets. She’s a delightful character and her craving for the world, for new experiences, is something I think everyone can relate to. She’s a modern-day princess Belle, seeking out the great wide somewhere. Though this story is framed by her romance with Henry, a modern-day man that inexplicably can remember her, the true focal point of the story is following Addie’s romp through the last 300 years as she discovers how an anonymous, essentially voiceless woman can still make her mark on the world at large. Even the ending was exquisitely handled in a story where there weren’t quite perfect heroes. As I mentioned in last week’s Fun Friday post… I may or may not have Kim Kardashian cried for several chapters straight. Each character was real, flawed, and simply trying to make the best of the path they wander. Addie drinks in life like it’s a glass of champagne – delightful, a little bitter, but ultimately exhilarating. I adore the way VE Schwab presented this and really let her language change as Addie grew older (only mentally – who wouldn’t kill to forever look like you’re in your mid twenties?) and saw the world through an immortal lens. 

1.  On leaving her village for the first time – “And by the time they return home to Villon, she will already be a different version of herself. A room with the windows thrown wide open, eager to let in the fresh air, the sunlight, the spring.

Addie starts out idealistic and in love with the world. This would normally set me on edge because I feel like so many authors take this as a chance to make their main characters grow into cynical, dark people. Addie is delicate and excitable and headstrong and I was sincerely hoping she’d hold on to that over the years. 

2. On learning to read – “It will be a grueling journey, full of starts and stops and myriad frustrations… it will take time, but time is one thing Addie has plenty of. So she opens her eyes, and starts again.” 

A century or so later, and Addie is still discovering new and beautiful things. She is learning and filled with an incomparable craving for everything the world has to offer. I am, to put it lightly, obsessed with this character. 

3. On endings – “But Addie cannot bear the thought of giving up, of giving in, of going down without a fight” 

If Addie wasn’t still so in love with the world, she wouldn’t have hit the point of feeling like this. I appreciate that her time has made her even more headstrong and willing to stick to her guns. Her love of life isn’t a weakness, it’s her best trait and it pushes her to fight for people that might forget her in the next instant.

Overall, I think this book was amazing. VE Schwab never disappoints and this might be her best story yet! 5/5 stars, and if you’ve read it already – what did you think of that ending?!