Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard

IAveyard_RedQueenf I had never read the Hunger Games trilogy or the Lunar Chronicles or the Mortal Instruments, or watched the Divergent movies or The 100 television series, I would most certainly have been blown out of the water by this dystopian YA novel.

However, this tale—about a teenaged girl living in a downtrodden society ruled by an elite race of [super-]beings with special skills and a fondness for killing for/as sport, who accidentally discovers that she is also special and is then thrown into an adventure that includes self-discovery, empowerment, battle training, a few unnecessary deaths, a violent stand off (or three), a love triangle, and an unexpected (yet totally expected) twist at the end—hits a lot of the same notes that all of the above series hit, which makes Red Queen just another iteration of a novel that I have read many many times.

That said, it is a very good iteration. I appreciate the world, the premise, the characters, and the pacing, AND there were approximately three “twists” that I honest-to-goodness did not see coming.

So, if you’re over this trend of YA dystopian novels in the vein of the Hunger Games and the Lunar Chronicles, you could probably skip this one. But if you can’t get enough of strong female characters in the vein of Tris and Clarke (and even Clary) who face ridiculous challenges and surmount incredible odds to fight for justice and freedom and to protect their family and their fellow downtrodden comrades, then, by all means, jump on the bandwagon and discover the spitfire that is Mare Barrow.

No. 16 on my challenge. The talented Victoria Aveyard was but 25 when this, her debut, was published in 2015. She has since published six subsequent novels in this series / universe and has two more on the way.

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The Mortal Instruments+ by Cassandra Clare

So . . . it’s the end of March, officially spring already, and I’m just now diving into this year’s book challenge (and no—I still haven’t finished 2016). But boy, did I jump in with a vengeance.

Now, you may remember that when we came up with this year’s challenge, Rosie and I decided that we were going to be more mindful of who and what we were reading. We endeavoured to read books by people of colour, books by young women, books to make us smarter, and books that had such an impact that they’d been banned from high schools. And because I wanted to read the second and third books in Ransom Riggs’ Miss Peregrine’s Peculiar Children series, we also included “two books belonging to a series.”

Well, let me tell you right now that I went a little off book and a lot overboard. Not only did I not read either of the books I had planned to read, but I also chose a series that has way more than just two books and requires about 5% of my brain power. That’s right folks. I chose Cassandra Clare’s The Mortal Instruments series (because the deliciously terrible Netflix show based on the series is on hiatus and I needed my fix). And, because the YA series is just as deliciously terrible (and oh so much more so), I got to work and devoured all six books (coming in at 3237 pages). And then I read the Bane Chronicles (ten “novellas”). AND THEN I cringe-read a 165,000-word fan fiction that basically just fills in the story lines of the entire series from another character’s point of view (as if I’m going to tell you which one).

In ten days.

I also slept well, ate decent meals (well, ok. I may have had cereal or popcorn a few times), went to work, went for brunch and tacos, saw Beauty and the Beast in theatres twice, and read two manuscripts. That right there is my BA in English coming in to play.

Now, since I read everything so quickly, and I read them all online, and I read the auxiliary texts interspersed with the novels, and I mixed canon with fan fiction, I can’t really tell you where one book ends and the next one starts. So for these reviews, I’m going back to my roots: short, sweet, and totally superfluous.

City of Bones

A combination of The Hunger Games (murderous teens with little-to-no parental supervision), Twilight (vampires, werewolves), and Divergent (a crew of highly trained badasses who take in and are mostly enamoured by a pretty, young, special girl with inherent and as yet untapped and undeveloped skills)—all of which I enjoyed in one medium or another. Typical start to a YA series . . . except, of course, that whole incest bit.

City of Ashes

Malec and Vampire Simon. That is all.

Oh, and the Seelie Court and the truck boat and of course Clary has the ability to create runes. Obviously.

City of Glass

Hey! You let Simon out of prison.

I don’t like Sebastian, but at least he’s not her . . . Wait. More incest? WAIT. OTHER INCEST?

MALEC!

Of course Clary saves the day. And Jace. And all of Idris. Because of course.

City of Fallen Angels

Hey, not incest! Yay! I also enjoy the effect of Simon’s religion on the weapons used against him, and that there was a consequence for Clary raising the dead (not even the Genie can bring people back from the dead). And in general, throughout the whole series I was pleasantly surprised to recognize themes of Milton’s Paradise Lost in Clare’s world of angels and demons. It reminded me that this fantasy series—as absurd as it is—is rooted in centuries-old literature that is highly respected and practically required reading for any university-level English student. I can tell you from experience that Paradise Lost is called an epic poem for a reason—Clare certainly did not shirk her homework.

Side note: dead babies. Not cool.

City of Lost Souls

Obviously, Clary is going to save the day, so my biggest take away from this entire book is that I want a magical teleporting apartment with a closet full of clothes that fit me perfectly and a training room full of weapons to hunt demons with.

Also, what the hell is with this woman and incest?

City of Heavenly Fire

In all, this was an entertaining and addictive series right to the end. I appreciate Clare’s version of a hell dimension that was essentially a mirror image to Earth that was ravaged by evil and could not be saved by too little too late. Sebastian’s reversion to Jonathan was unexpected, as was Simon’s sacrifice, and I was glad that, after two wars and several battles in six months, the whole thing wasn’t wrapped up in a convenient little bow where everyone lives happily ever after. Except, oh wait . . . it was and they do. Damnit, Clare.

The Bane Chronicles

The whole reason I started reading the Mortal Instruments series is because I religiously watch the sub-par television show, much like a bored housewife watches Days or a crazy person watches the Real Housewives. And in that terrible television show, Magnus is my favourite character by far. But it turns out he’s not that prominent of character in the books—not as compared to Clary and the Lightwoods—and I was unsatisfied with the small parts he has to play in the first and second books. So I read this. A tad long to be classified as short stories, they’re snippets of Magnus life before and during the series. Because Magnus is a bit ridiculous, so too are these novellas, but they stretch out over a few centuries and it’s fun to see how the character I’m familiar with interacted with the trends, beliefs, and taboos of the times.

In the end, I think it’s pretty clear that I enjoyed this series for what it is. There are certainly some YA fantasy series out there that are better written, that don’t hang their primary romantic relationship on incest (or the threat of it), and that don’t include demon babies (or demons of any kind), but there’s a reason this author keeps churning out novels set in the Shadowhunter universe, and why the readership keeps growing. I mean, not even a poorly received movie could deter this fandom. So I say take it for what it is and enjoy!

No. 19 and 20 (+) on my challenge. Now how am I going to fit Hollow City and Library of Souls on here?

The Raven King by Maggie Stiefvater

RavenKing.StiefvaterI’ll say it again: Stiefvater truly is a magician of language. While I admit there were a few instances where it seemed a little like she was grandstanding for the big finale, this was most definitely a fantastic denouement for the Raven cycle. I am happy.

And seriously, I can’t get over how perfect this is:

“Once, when Adam had still lived in the trailer park, he had been pushing the lawn mower around the scraggly side yard when he realized that it was raining a mile away. He could smell it, the earthy scent of rain on dirt, but also the electric, restless smell of ozone. And he could see it: a hazy gray sheet of water blocking his view of the mountains. He could track the line of rain traveling across the vast dry field toward him. It was heavy and dark and he knew he would get drenched if he stayed outside. It was coming from so far away that he had plenty of time to put the mower away and get under cover. Instead, though, he just stood there and watched it approach. Even at the last minute, as he heard the rain pounding the grass flat, he just stood there. He closed his eyes and let the storm soak him.

“That was this kiss.”

Swoon.

The last for no. 2 on my challenge.

The Dream Thieves by Maggie Stiefvater

DreamThieves.StiefvaterThoughts

  • Thank heavens the second book was as good as the first. I would have been mighty disappointed were it not.
  • What a lovely scene between Blue and Noah.
  • I did not expect Adam Parrish to be such an enigma, but I’m looking forward to learning even more about his sacrifice.
  • For a boy who never lies, Ronan Lynch certainly carries around more than a few substantial secrets.
  • Who knew I’d be cheering for a hit man?
  • I almost wish that a fourth book wasn’t forthcoming—I want to know all the secrets right now.

Another for no. 2 on my challenge.

 

 

The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater

TheRavenBoys.MaggieStiefvaterStiefvater is really a fantastic writer. Her striking prose and a compelling plot alone make The Raven Boys a worthy read, but I was most intrigued by the bonds between the four Aglionby boys. They’re a brotherhood—constantly fighting for and against one another, always within the confines of respect, loyalty, trust, and solidarity. They rely and depend on one another almost completely (whether they like it or not), and they know their greatest strength (and conversely their greatest weakness) is each other. It’s the best depiction of male friendship I’ve read in a long time (dynamic, fortifying, honest—the type of platonic relationship frequently written for female best friends). And since it is cleverly hidden in a teen fantasy novel, it snuck up on me. I’m impressed, Stiefvater. Well done.

No. 2 on my challenge. Psychics and ghosts and ley lines, oh my!

Winter by Marissa Meyer

Winter.LunarChronicles.MarissaMeyerTypically, when I have to wait for a long while between books in a series, I lose interest and drop it. But I am glad that I powered through to finish Meyer’s Lunar Chronicals (minus Fairest, which is still on my list). With this last book, it became very clear that Meyer had a solid, entertaining, and engaging story arc for the entire series, right from the first chapter of Cinder, and I really appreciate her efforts to (and successes in) reimagine these classic fairy tale waifs (Cinderella, Red Riding Hood, Rapunzel, and Snow White) as strong, capable, heroic leading women. The entire cast of characters, actually, is very well drawn. Not a two-dimensional character in sight.

As Thorne would say, this series is aces. Loved everything about it (except the cover art).

No. 15 on my challenge—best to get the longest book out of the way first.