Tag: Young Adult Fantasy Romance

Fourth Wing (The Empyrean #1) by Rebecca Yarros

Well, I finally caved in and read the dragon book everyone has been raving about for the past year. I fought picking it up because I find a large portion of what is pitched as “romantasy” just awful to read. This book was so hyped by my reader friends who fawn over Sarah J. Maas’ stuff, so it was definitely near the top of my “just not going to ever get there” list.

Then I started hearing from some other reader friends of mine that it was a book that I would definitely enjoy, and very much of the ilk of some of my other favorite authors. Cue the torment.

Soooo, I broke down and gave it a go.

Let’s be real about Fourth Wing. By and large it has an overarching plot that telescopes itself like crazy from the first few chapters. It hits the standard YA-ish tropes of rivals to lovers and “bad boy with a heart of gold” pretty damn hard, but it’s a really really really fun read. Ms. Yarros really knows how to flesh out very likable, and very hateable characters with ease, and she’s really not afraid of throwing weakness out there and exploiting it.

Violet’s journey at Basgiath War College to become a rider is definitely a rollercoaster with more than a smattering of death and destruction. I started getting some Pierce Brown PTSD because of the ease at which Ms. Yarros kills of characters: some expected, some unexpected.

In addition to the harrowing journey that Violet is taking to become a rider, there is a larger political storm that is brewing in this book. There are subtle hints that facts are being hidden or redacted, and that there is a bigger issue getting ready to rear its head. That’s the depth of writing that keeps me absolutely sucked in.

So yes, I’m now a Fourth Wing fan, and I jumped right in to Iron Flame, so expect my thoughts on that one soon. If anything, I just want to learn why Ms. Yarros loves using “subluxated” so damn much.

Among the Beasts & Briars by Ashley Poston

I feel like I was well into my adult years before truly appreciating the warmth and familiarity of fables, fairy tales and folklore. I find this funny because in my life and studies as a young man, I was very much entrenched in several very rich cultural traditions of story telling and lore.

Regardless, the genres now hold a very dear place in my heart and Ms. Poston really scratches that itch with Among the Beasts & Briars.

This is the tale of the Kingdom of Aloriya: a place of perfect wonder with no drought or disease, and a happy population looked over by a magical royal bloodline to prevent the horrors of the woods from overtaking them.

Our protagonist, Cerys, is the daughter of the Royal Gardener and best friends with the soon to be queen: Princess Arwen. Cerys also hides a very special gift that should only be able to be wielded by the royal family: she can do magic.

As Arwen stands ready to be coronated Queen, things get really interesting as the monsters and magicks of the woods attack. Escaping with barely her wits and the magical crown of Aloriya, Cerys runs into the woods to attempt to find the hidden city of Voryn and possible help from the magical Lady of the Wilds.

This story has some incredibly tense moments. There are some major themes of trust and bravery, along with what I read into a xenophobia. With a storyline that relies heavily on the impending doom of Cerys — and her traveling companions — being overtaken by the horrors in the woods, the story gets a little stress-y, but in that “I’m just going to keep flipping pages” way.

The thing that makes Among the Beasts & Briars so great to me is the consistency with which the story and settings develop and unfold. I love a good book with a map in the front because that tells me that the author has thought about the bigger aspects of their created world, and possibly considered what the ramifications of their storytelling might wreak on the bigger picture.

Most importantly, and it really takes a good portion of the novel to get there, Among the Beasts & Briars is a story about redemption and trust. Yes, there is some predictability in how the story unfolds, but that, for me, is a comforting aspect in a fairy tale. The dawn after the harrowing night is the reward.

I really do hope Ms. Poston has some more stories hidden in the depths of Vaiyl. I feel there is so much more potential.

Rule of Wolves (King of Scars #2) by Leigh Bardugo

I guess the best way to describe this book is “attack of the Grishaverse all-stars!” Ms. Bardugo really went all out with this effort and really delivered on the setup she prepared with King of Scars two years ago (how has it been two years?!?!?!).

Basically stated, Ravka is in a pickle and Fjerda is getting ready to drop the hammer on young Nikolai Lantsov and his merry armies.

At the same time, deep in the heart of Fjerda, Nina Zenik remains very deep undercover in the home of her greatest enemy: Jarl Brum. Nina spends a lot of this tale battling between enacting revenge, providing valuable information for the salvation of Ravka, and tending to Jarl’s daughter, and Grisha in hiding, Hanne Brum.

Absolutely everyone from the Grishaverse makes an appearance, and Rule of Wolves was just a pure delight and awesome mix of amazing storylines and fan service.

This book really hits on the themes of obligation, responsibilities, and accepting or denying one’s personal emotions in the face of great adversity. There are so many twists and shock moments that really compels the reader to just hold on and motor through as quickly as possible.

The one thing I really love about this novel is the way it really pulls together the previous six efforts in the greater Grishaverse saga, yet also leaves the door open for an incredible expansion with future efforts. Ms. Bardugo really is a master of her craft, and, with the Grishaverse gaining greater exposure thanks to the Shadow and Bone television series, there are almost endless possibilities on where to go next.