Review: The Girl of Fire and Thorns by Rae Carson

The Girl of Fire and ThornsSource: Purchased
Publisher: Greenwillow
Series: Fire and Thorns #1
Edition: Hardcover, 423 Pages
Genre: Young Adult Fantasy
Purchase:AmazonBarnes & Noble / Book Depository *
*I receive a small monetary kickback from Amazon purchases

Once a century, one person is chosen for greatness.
Elisa is the chosen one.

But she is also the younger of two princesses, the one who has never done anything remarkable. She can’t see how she ever will.

Now, on her sixteenth birthday, she has become the secret wife of a handsome and worldly king—a king whose country is in turmoil. A king who needs the chosen one, not a failure of a princess.

And he’s not the only one who seeks her. Savage enemies seething with dark magic are hunting her. A daring, determined revolutionary thinks she could be his people’s savior. And he looks at her in a way that no man has ever looked at her before. Soon it is not just her life, but her very heart that is at stake.

Elisa could be everything to those who need her most. If the prophecy is fulfilled. If she finds the power deep within herself. If she doesn’t die young.

Most of the chosen do.

The Girl of Fire and Thorns was one of my more anticipated YA fantasy novels. The hype for this series is massive and almost every review I’ve seen has been almost glowingly positive, unfortunately I don’t think mine will be. In short I enjoyed the overall fantasy and political intrigue, but lagged through much of the books.

The world-building for The Girl of Fire and Thorns is one of the things I really enjoyed. The landscapes and language is different than other fantasy novels and I loved that the land was rich with it’s own history, religion, and people. However I came to tire of religious aspect as it became a very big part of the story. I’m not big on religious feeling books but most of the time fictional religions, even those reverent in nature, don’t bother me. However it felt like I was being preached at, which I’m not fond of in general, but when it’s a religion that only exists between the covers of the book I get really irritated. The religion does lend some rather interesting new ideas, like the Godstone, and I did like seeing Elisa’s journey in becoming the one chosen by her god to change the world. The way Elisa plotted and planned for war and intrigue was fascinating and as the conflict built up I progressively became more interested. Unfortunately most of that occurs in the last third of the book.

Elisa has a lot of pros and cons as a main character. I was initially very excited to see a main character who isn’t the typical thin or athletic girl. She likes to eat and she doesn’t really like doing physical activities, so she’s clearly a girl after my own heart. BUT, she is incredibly negative…and it went beyond low self esteem. It honestly felt like negativity for the sake of negativity. She’s very down on herself about her weight and she feels shame when she eats large portions, but at no point does she attempt to stop doing the thing that causes her such shame…in fact there are moments where she does it in spite of the looks and giggles aimed at her. You can’t be ashamed of an activity only to wear it as a shield two seconds later. So I was somewhat relieved and disappointed when she loses some weight and becomes a bit more fit. I understand the necessity of her loosing weight and I even understand the bolster in confidence, but I was disappointed that no one (not even Elisa herself) bothered to make her feel like a normal person. And if they did have a high opinion of her most of them kept it to themselves until after her change in appearance.

I did like her friendship and budding relationship with Humberto, who was by far the sweetest person in the book. He was incredibly kind to her from the moment her met her onward, and to me he was probably one of the best side characters. Cosme was a great addition with her multifaceted skills and seemingly cold exterior.

I’m glad I stuck with the book instead of giving up like I wanted to around the 30% as it did get better and the overall conclusion was very satisfying. I see that Elisa has grown more confident in herself so I’m not worried about that aspect moving into the second book, I’m hoping that book two improves on some of the things that bothered me.

3.5 stars

Review: The Astounding Adventure of the Ancient Dragon by Jose Prendes

The Astounding Adventure of the Ancient DragonSource: Curiosity Quills – I received this in exchange for an honest review.
Publisher: Curiosity Quills
Series: Elementary, My Dear Watson #1
Edition: eARC, 174 Pages
Genre: Middle Grade Mystery/Adventure
Purchase:  Amazon Barnes & Noble *
*I receive a small monetary kickback from Amazon purchases
Rating: 4.5/5

When 12-year-old John Watson is sent to Candlewood boarding school, he makes quick friends with a boy named Sherlock Holmes, a universally disliked know-it-all and amateur sleuth. Before long, Sherlock embroils his new friend in a covert investigation of the mysterious disappearances blamed on a vengeful ghost. Dodging the meaty fists of the bully Moriarty, and aided by bumbling patrolman Lestrade, they uncover a deadly secret hidden deep underneath Candlewood. But does the duo have the brains–and the brawn–to crack this dangerous case?

The Astounding Adventure of the Ancient Dragon combined many of the things I enjoy about Middle grade fiction with some elements usually reserved for older mysteries. The resulting tale is full of adventure, action, snark, and fun.

As you can tell this is a sort of re-telling of Sherlock Holmes, but instead of an adult we are given a 12 year old version who attends a prestigous boarding school called Candlewood. Imagine if you will Hogwarts, minus the magic but replace Ron and Harry with Sherlock and Watson; now you have this book. In fact even without the fantasy element I think it would really safe to assume fans of HP would actually enjoy this as many of the elements are similar without feeling recycled.

Sherlock has an insatiable curiosity and doesn’t sense when something is over his head, so of course he lands them smack in the middle of a much more dangerous mystery than either of the boys bargained for.I personally love how unlikely Sherlock and Watson’s friendship seems to be, and how it’s because of that odd connection they have a great bond. They balance each other out. I will admit I did end up picturing a tiny Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman (or Robert Downey Jr. and Jude Law) running through the dark halls of Candlewood, but I think it would be impossible not to. I loved seeing how the other bigger roles in the Sherlock tales were handled as well. Lestrade being the police chief, and Sherlock feigning reverence. Moriarty with his cockney accent and utter zeal at getting revenge on Sherlock, who always manages to make him look like a fool.

The story itself is fairly fast paced and easy to get through in a few sittings. Once Sherlock hones in on something suspicious he follows after it with unyielding attention giving us a slow build to an action packed second half of the book. I adored the setting of course, since having a boarding school filled with kids is always a good way to get some action started while having a really amazing atmosphere. The action scenes were also pretty incredible and I’m actually fairly glad that Sherlock maintains his fighting ability and quick eye for troubling situations, even though it did shock me to see just how much fighting he had to do. Of course it’s not all action scenes and sleuthing, there is also a great amount of heart involved. Watson home life is in shambles and the distraction that Sherlock brings is welcome, and through it all they become very close. I also loved seeing how other kids around them who were standoff-ish in the beginning (thanks to Sherlock’s lack of social skills) slowly began to warm up to him.

Overall I found The Astounding Adventure of the Ancient Dragon to be a very solid start to a series. It helped remind me why Middle Grade is so much fun to read, even for someone who is almost twenty four.This is certainly one of my favorite reads of the yer and I can’t wait to read the second book when it is released.

4.5 Stars