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: 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?!

Review: Fable by Adrienne Young

The book Fable sits on a plush blanket. The cover features half of a woman's face, with the shape of a pirate ship reflected in her eye. Next to the book, minerals and gemstones spill out of a cup. On the other side, a green vine hangs down and obscures part of the book cover.

Book Review & Summary

Title: Fable
Author: Adrienne Young
Publisher: Wednesday Books
Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy, Romance
Length: 368 pages
My Rating: ★★★★★
5/5 stars

“As the daughter of the most powerful trader in the Narrows, the sea is the only home seventeen-year-old Fable has ever known. It’s been four years since the night she watched her mother drown during an unforgiving storm. The next day her father abandoned her on a legendary island filled with thieves and little food. To survive she must keep to herself, learn to trust no one and rely on the unique skills her mother taught her. The only thing that keeps her going is the goal of getting off the island, finding her father and demanding her rightful place beside him and his crew. To do so Fable enlists the help of a young trader named West to get her off the island and across the Narrows to her father.

But her father’s rivalries and the dangers of his trading enterprise have only multiplied since she last saw him and Fable soon finds that West isn’t who he seems. Together, they will have to survive more than the treacherous storms that haunt the Narrows if they’re going to stay alive.

Welcome to a world made dangerous by the sea and by those who wish to profit from it. Where a young girl must find her place and her family while trying to survive in a world built for men.

REVIEW

Adrienne Young has a special talent – she doesn’t just build a world, she throws you right into it and makes you breathe it in. From the first line Fable proves herself to be a smart, confident heroine. After losing her mother and being abandoned by her father, she has to spend the next four years clawing her way for survival on a legendary island of thieves and cutthroats. She is fierce, she is wise, and somehow she is still quite relatable. Don’t be fooled, though. This book is not a light adventure with swashbuckling heroes. Young manages to entwine an admirable heroine and an endearing ship’s crew with a grim story that pulls no punches. The realities of life among seafarers is readily presented throughout the book, but only to a point that’s necessary for building the world. I appreciated the well done balance between warmer moments and harsh realities. Fable follows five rules that her father ingrained in her before abandoning her:

  • Keep your knife where you can reach it.
  • Never, ever owe anyone anything.
  • Nothing is free.
  • Always construct a lie from a truth.
  • Never, under any circumstances, reveal what or who matters to you.

This list serves almost as a compass guiding the book itself. Fable and her newfound companions weren’t a perfect, mary-sue kind of team. They made mistakes, they kept secrets, and they paid dearly for it at every turn.

CHARACTER RELATIONSHIPS (be warned – light spoilers lay ahead)

  • Fable & West
    • really the main event in terms of character relationships. Fable may keep her cards close to her chest, but West had her beat in terms of being a closed book at the start. They had a great rapport and fit together in scenes quite naturally. Seeing their interactions build and grow helped develop the characters as well, showing me more about their ultimate goals and what drives them to act. I absolutely loved this pair and am SO excited for more in book two! When he kissed her at the shipwreck, I think I literally felt my heart jump out of my chest.
  • West & Willa
    • ooh, ooh, ooh. At first I was fully expecting (re: dreading) some sort of love triangle. The actual state of this situation was SO much better, in my opinion. It really drove home the idea of rule 5: “Never, under any circumstances, reveal what or who matters to you”. Willa let Fable into this secret aspect of their life out of pure desperation, and once I understood the connection between West and Willa everything else clicked into place. They are integral to the Marigold, and now I can’t imagine one without the other; although I presume we’ll have to see that at some point.
  • Fable & Saint
    • Wow. If you read the dedication, Adrienne said this book was a goodbye to her father. Because of that, I was expecting a tender reunion when they met. Actually, I was expecting lovely father daughter relationship where everyone apologizes for their mistakes and comes out the other side with a deeper understanding of what family means… but this was so. much. better. Fable and her father, Saint, are a complicated pair. It’s clear that there’s a lot of love there in it’s own little effed up way, but it really is in an effed up way. From their very first meeting this dynamic had me absolutely enraptured. They are such a beautiful, frustrating mess. I’m intrigued to see what happens now they they’re going their own ways and will, inevitably, end up at odds with each other in book two.

Overall, I’d say the strong points of this book were the stunning world building, the complicated character relationships, and that absolute sucker punch of an ending. I would highly recommend picking up Fable as soon as you can get your hands on it! Have you read Fable? What did you think?