Book Review – Vicious (Villains #1) by V.E. Schwab

This book has been in my TBR since it came out, I think. It’s been on my radar for far too long, and yet again I’m upset with myself for putting it off for so long.

Goodreads Rating: 5/5 Stars

Vicious

Vicious is a tale of revenge, first and foremost. It does absolutely nothing to hide that fact. Victor Vale is a brilliant college student that has lived an extremely privileged yet neglected life. His parents are famous psychologists who write an obnoxious series of self-help books that Victor gleefully vandalizes in the name of art while they travel the world. His best friend and roommate is Eliot Cardale (aka Eli), and their penchant for science makes them hyper-competitive with one another.

When Eli comes up with an insane thesis about Extra Ordinaries (EOs for short) Victor is fascinated. EOs are just a rumor, a modern myth about people who have unnatural abilities. But Eli is convinced that they’re real, and he thinks he knows how to make himself one. But there’s a catch: You have to die and somehow be brought back to life. It’s madness, but Victor and Eli are used to playing intellectual chicken with one another, so when Victor suggests they try it out Eli can’t say no.

It’s a decision that changes their lives forever and destroys their friendship, leaving Victor with nothing more to live for than his need to destroy Eli at any cost.

What I loved:

  • The characters. Despite Schwab’s insistence that there are no good guys in this story, I couldn’t help but root for Victor, Mitch, and Sydney. I love them. I love how seemingly cold and calculating Victor is. How damaged. Every piece of him is sharp, and yet he isn’t inhuman no matter how much he argues and believes otherwise. In his own way he cares for Sydney and even Mitch, even as he uses them. I love that complexity.
  • The narrative. Schwab tells the story in leaps and bounds. One scene is from ten years in the past, then the very next is only two days ago. Then the present. Then the past again. I often enjoy non-linear storylines if they’re clear that’s what they’re doing. Schwab handled it beautifully. vicious 2
  • The plot! This book has an insane premise that is at once fantastical and utterly believable. Two young men, too thrilled with the concept of what they can do they never once doubt whether or not they should, get caught up in a decade long feud and a plot for revenge. Love. It.

What I didn’t:

  • Uhhhh. Well, this is awkward. I’m not sure there was anything I didn’t like about this book. I didn’t like Eli. Which I constantly wondered about. Why didn’t I like him? He’s no worse than Victor. Hell, in some ways he’s better!  He has a moral code, even if it is real freaking dubious. He wasn’t wrong in the earlier years of the story, but over time you see how he’s spiraling out of control. Meanwhile Victor, who was most definitely wrong in the earliest timeline has spent the last decade sharpening his ability, honing himself for one ultimate task. It’s just really interesting because the two characters aren’t really all that different, and yet they are utterly polarizing for me. I loved Victor and actively disliked Eli.

Vicious is the first book in a (currently) two book series. Vengeful is the next title, and though I have it on loan from the library I won’t be reading it right away. I have the Book Club book to read this weekend (it’s a struggle) and I just got Dark Age back so I’m sinking into that. I also have Kameron Hurley’s new short story collection and a couple novellas I want to read.

Basically, I’m swimming in books and running out of time to reach my Goodreads Challenge goal of 70 titles. I might not make it this year y’all.

I’m at a library conference today and tomorrow, so you won’t hear from me again until Monday when I take a look at the week and talk about goals.

Until then Bloggos!

 

BZ

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Book Review – Our Dark Duet (Monsters of Verity #2) by Victoria Schwab

It took me a really long time to read this book. It had nothing to do with the story, and everything to do with my tumultuous summer, which I should have planned for. I always have a tumultuous summer. There’s no escaping them, apparently.

But, once I finally focused and spent some time in these pages, I remembered why I refused to return the book to the library despite my lack of reading. If you haven’t read my review for This Savage Song, now would be a good time.

Goodreads Rating: 5/5 Stars

our dark duet cover

After This Savage Song, Kate Harker fled her hometown of Verity, and left more than just her demons behind. She thought she left monsters, bad and good, but it turns out monster-hunting is a profession just about anywhere these days. She’s made some friends, computer nerds mostly, and together they are the Wardens, unofficial protectors of the city.

Meanwhile, back in Verity, August had very big, soulless shoes to fill. Leo may be gone, but he haunts August’s every step as the Sunai tries to be the leader, and monster, he was meant to be. It’s destroying him, but it’s the cost of success for the FTF. He’s determined to pay it.

But when a new kind of monster, one that feeds on violence and fear, climbs into Kate’s head and learns about the brutality of every day life in Verity, there’s only one course of action to take. Kate abandons her new life, risking the trip back into the city she left behind in order to warn August and help save Verity, even as it tries to kill them both.

What I loved:

  • The characters. I loved Kate and August in the first book and though there is a lot of tension between them in this book (which hurt to read) they were still utterly fantastic. I will love that violin wielding boy, forever and ever, amen.our dark duet cover 2.jpg
  • The stakes. The plot was a little slow to start, but once August and Kate got on the same page again it was nonstop. Lives are at stake, the city is at stake, and their relationship is at stake. It’s all so freaking good and pulls on every heartstring. Muah!
  • The writing. Victoria Schwab (aka V.E. Schwab) is a FANTASTIC writer. I adored her Shade of Magic Series, which led me to this duology and I couldn’t be happier. She really flexed her writing muscle with these books and I was torn between speed reading to find out what happened next and pausing to appreciate the music that echoed off the page.

What I didn’t:

  • Um… That there’s only two of them? I don’t know. The ending was perfect and inevitable. It was a tiny bit predictable, but I think knowing how it HAD to end actually upped the emotional stakes. It was sad and beautiful and perfect. But it was still sad. So I guess I didn’t(?) like that.

I feel sort of rusty at these book reviews right now. I’m out of practice in so many aspects of my reading and writing life right now. But, it’s like riding a a bike, right? Writing a bike?

Something like that.

I have a ton of reading lined up for the rest of the fall, so expect to see some more regular book reviews from here on out.

See you then, Bloggarts!

 

BZ

Book Review – This Savage Song (Monsters of Verity #1) by Victoria Schwab

Blogland,

This book was not on my radar until I finished reading the Shades of Magic series. V.E. Schwab pretty much blew my mind with those books, and left me with a desperate need to read more of her work. I looked at a couple of reviews and decided that the Monsters of Verity series would be the right series to start with in my quest to read her entire bibliography.

Goodreads Rating: 4/5 Stars

this savage song

Verity is a city cut in half. South City, where people band together to fight back the monsters, and North City where the people pay for protection from Callum Harker who brought the monsters to heel. Civil war split the city down what’s called The Seam, where violence overflowed the world. Violent acts lead to the birth of literal monsters. There’s even a little song to help you remember them!

Corsai, Corsai, tooth and claw,
Shadow and bone will eat you raw. 
Malchai, Malchai, sharp and sly,
Smile and bite and drink you dry.
Sunai, Sunai, eyes like coal,
Sing you a song and steal your soul.

So, a breakdown for you, because I found the monsters fascinating. The Corsai are… scary. They’re made of shadow, teeth and claws, as the song would lead you to believe. They hate UV light and will literally tear you to shreds. The Malchai are like vampires on crack. They have a mouth full of super sharp needlelike teeth and bright red eyes, and though they are weaker in the daylight, they can move around in it. Then there’s the Sunai, the rarest of them all.

August Flynn, one half of the two-perspective narration, is the youngest of the only three Sunai in Verity.  The eldest Sunai believes they are akin to avenging angels, sent to reap the souls of sinners and cleanse the city. But August doesn’t want to be an angel, all he’s ever wanted is to be human. And when word reaches South City that Kate Harker, daughter of North City’s mob boss-esque leader, is back in town, he finally gets his chance.

What could be more human than going to high school?

Kate Harker, the other half of this duo, is a quintessential problem child. She’s burned (in one case, literally) through boarding school after boarding school until her father finally lets her come home. Now is her chance to prove that she isn’t weak, that she deserves to be in Verity, and that she is the rightful heir of Callum Harker.

But she didn’t plan on making friends with the quiet boy with a violin and one hell of a secret. Just like August didn’t intend to actually like Kate, he was just supposed to spy on her.

Hot damn, what a premise!

What I loved:

  • The monsters!!! They are just familiar enough that I’m not confused by them or get them confused with one another, but they’re new too. They are scary in new ways, and I just found them really interesting.
  • August! I love his complexity, his inner-turmoil and how much he struggles with the concept of what he is versus who he is. I also love that, though music is the Sunai method of feeding on souls, he also seems to just legitimately love music. His attachment to his violin goes beyond the fact that he needs it to feed. He cares about it. It’s an extension of himself.
  • Kate. She reminded me a lot of Lila Bard from Shades of Magic, which is never a bad thing. She’s angry, she has a chip on her shoulder and something to prove. But, despite her tough act and her gritty resolve, she isn’t cold. She wants to be, but she isn’t there yet. It’s that humanity in the face of monsters that makes her likable.
  • The music. Music is super important to this series, and I think Schwab’s writing reflects that. She’s a wonderful writer, I learned that with Shades of Magic, but I do feel like she upped her prose game with this book. There were a couple lines that made me pause and reread them, and there’s a lyrical quality that echoes throughout most of the book. I came away from each reading session feeling impressed.

What I didn’t love:

  • The beginning was a little slow. I get that there’s world building to be done and character development has to happen somewhere. But I wished we’d got to August and Kate in school sooner. I don’t really know if that’s a reasonable complaint, but there it is.
  • It felt a little… YA-y. Okay, this complaint ISN’T reasonable. It is a YA book after all. But, especially in those first 100 pages, everything felt too familiar. Almost cliché. I haven’t read much YA in the last five years or so, so maybe I’m just out of touch with the market, but it felt a little trope-y. Then the book shifts once Kate and August meet, and from there things really find their stride and I became immersed in the story.

So there you have it. A little slow to start, but ultimately a really great book with high stakes, amazing characters, and a super imaginative world and premise. Once I got through the first 100 pages, I was hooked. Thanks to Schwab’s previously fantastic works, I trusted her to give me an experience I would enjoy. I’m glad I did.

I’m on to the sequel already and am enjoying it so far. I’ll be back soon to talk about the state of the blog in the first half of the year.

Until then, Bloggarts.

 

BZ

Book Review – A Conjuring of Light (Shades of Magic #3) by V.E. Schwab

Bloggarts,

This book. This whole series. My goodness. If you haven’t had the chance to read my reviews for the first two books, now would be a good time to do that.

Goodreads Rating: 5/5 Stars

acol hardback

This book picks up directly after the end of A Gathering of Shadows, and lemme tell ya, shit has hit the fan. Each POV gets an “intro” chapter of sorts and each of them ends in a cliffhanger that made me bite my nails and yell at the book. In this book all the major players get POV chapters; Kell, Lila, Rhy, Alucard, Holland, and Osaron. The first thirty pages of the book is at a breakneck speed where stakes are high and my heart pounded in my chest with fear for all my favorite characters.

So, yeah. Nearly killing all of your characters is one way to start the last book in a series. I’ve been taught over the years that the first chapter sets the tone for your book, that whatever happens in chapter one is what your readers will expect from the rest of the book. As a reader I’m not sure I agree with that, since I’ve read plenty of books that were fast-paced and gripping for the first ten pages or so and then slows down and sets the stage afterward.

But Schwab doesn’t do that here. The stakes are high through this whole book, which is no small feat when you consider that it’s 624 pages long. Red London is under attack by Osaron, the entity Holland brought back from Black London, and it will take sacrifices from everyone to defeat him.

What I loved:

  • The characters. This should be a big “duh” after the reviews I wrote for the series so far. I love them all. Even the side characters that don’t seem all that important. Tieren, Lenos, Hastra, Maxim and Emira. I love them all even as they break my heart over and over again. But of course, it comes back to the main players time and again. I adore Kell and Lila, Rhy and Alucard, and even Holland by the end of the book.
  • The relationships, because that’s what this book is really about. Kell’s relationships a conjuring of light alternatewith Lila, Rhy, Alucard, and his parents. Rhy’s relationships with his parents, Kell, and Alucard. Alucard’s relationships with Rhy, his family (which we see more of in this book), his crew, and with Lila. Lila’s relationships with Kell, Alucard, the crew, Barron, and Calla. We even see more of Holland’s past and the people in his life before the Danes stole everything from him. I think that’s what makes this series so successful for me. I’m a very character-driven, emotional writer. So is Schwab, so her books resonate with me.
  • The magic remains some of the coolest shit I’ve seen in fiction lately. There are rules but there’s still a sense that even the characters don’t know all of them. That there is more to learn, more to the world and powers and the people that simply hasn’t been discovered. And that’s really freaking cool.
  • I loved that, despite all the heartache (and there’s a lot of it) Schwab still managed to give us a satisfying, happy-ish ending. I cried a bunch through this book, and the ending was no exception. But she was able to wrap it up in a way that was satisfying and right. That’s no easy task with any story, let alone one I cherished as much as this.

After all that, was there anything that I didn’t like?

a-conjuring-of-light

Not really. I didn’t like that I couldn’t get my hands on the audiobook, which is more a matter of me being too cheap to buy the thing on Audible than anything else. The audiobook has a 6+ month hold through my library, which I’ve kept because I’m going to listen to it and enjoy it (read: cry) all over again. I had to read the book, which I thought would slow me down, but it really didn’t. I devoured it all the same.

I didn’t like that it ended. How’s that for criticism? How dare you stop writing about these amazing people? HOW DARE?

But, you want to know some good news? A Shades of Magic television show is currently in production, and V.E. Schwab seems pretty involved with (and excited by) the process so far. I try to keep my expectations low for adaptations of books, because they so rarely hold a candle to the source material, and this one’s gonna be tough for me. I will have very high standards, which means I will probably hate it.

I’m still gonna watch the shit out of it though, because I am desperate for any and all Kell content. Seriously, it is taking all of my discipline not to shelve my TBR and drown myself in Kell/Lila fanfic. I even found a playlist on Spotify that I CANNOT stop listening to. That’s where I’m at with my obsession right now.

I’d say send help, but I don’t even want it. I’m happy right where I am.

I won’t have another review this week, but I’ll be back on Friday to talk about the SFWA Reading Series event in Portland Thursday night. I’ll be hanging out, drinking beer, and listening to Rebecca Roanhorse and Sam J. Miller read and talk about their books. I am so excited that I’m sure I’ll have a bunch to talk about after the fact.

Until then, Blogland.

 

BZ

Book Review – A Gathering of Shadows (Shades of Magic #2) by V.E. Schwab

Blogland.

How do I even start? What can I say about this book that I didn’t already say about the first one? Oh, this is a good opportunity for you to read that review before you go on with this one, by the way. It’ll prepare you for all the squealing ahead.

Goodreads Rating: 5/5 Stars

a gathering of shadows

Kell and Lila are back and getting into all kinds of trouble again. Lila’s settled in nicely to life at sea, but becoming part of a crew comes with emotional ties she’s not sure she wants, or can even handle. The charming captain, Alucard Emery, has become her particular friend, and that’s something she’s really not familiar with. Friends.

Meanwhile, back in Red London, Kell’s dealing with the fallout of his mistakes in the first book. The King and Queen have stopped calling him son, have stopped treating him like family and have more or less grounded him. He cannot go anywhere without a pair of guards watching over him. And Rhy’s suffering a similar fate. After his (near) death at the hands of Astrid Dane he’s also got a pair of guards, but it’s the new connection between himself and Kell that has them both feeling claustrophobic.

They can feel each other’s heartbeats, their emotions, even feel one another’s pain. And with both of the Princes agitated and cooped up, they make some… questionable choices. For instance, the country is hosting the Essen Tasch (Element Games), the Arnes equivalent of Magical Olympics. And Rhy is in charge of planning and hosting the event, so naturally, he goads Kell into donning a disguise and competing. Illegally.

Alucard is also entered in the games, so his ship returns to London, and Lila Bard gets a very bad idea. She picks a competitor not so different in build than her, kidnaps him, and takes his place in the competition. Because, oh yeah, Lila’s been working on her magic, and she ain’t half bad.

Meanwhile, in White London, something dangerous is growing. A new threat, that wants nothing more than to spread between worlds in its desire for more.

What I loved:

  • MORE KELL AND LILA!!!!! I love these dummies. I love all their hangups and their trauma and their smiles. I don’t know what else I can say except I love them very much and would read about them until I die.
  • Rhy gets POV chapters!!!! The prince get a lot more screen time in this book, and he becomes much more developed because of it.Image result for castlevania alucard gif
  • Alucard mother-effin’ Emery. I did not need yet another character to love, but Schwab doesn’t care. She gave me Alucard anyway. He’s a jerk, but a very lovable one. Think the “Lovable Rogue” trope and you’ll picture Alucard. Or, if you’re like me, you’ll picture Adrian “Alucard” Tepes from Castlevania and love him even more. Also, Kell hates him and anytime they’re in scene together I cackle.
  • The pace is slower, which I actually enjoyed. It made the building tension slow but in a teasing sort of way. Just when I’d get comfortable with the shenanigans of the Essen Tasch, the narrative would check in with White London and remind me of all the looming bad news. Plus, the slower pace allowed for a ton of character interactions which led to me screaming and squealing and laughing way too much.
  • The narration! Michael Kramer, who does an awesome job narrating most of Brandon Sanderson’s books, narrates Kell’s chapters, and his wife Kate Reading narrates Lila’s. They do a phenomenal job. I can’t imagine anyone reading for them again.

What I didn’t love:

  • The King and Queen. They’re the real dummies in this book, even if I get where they were coming from. Half of the stuff in this book wouldn’t have happened if they had just loved Kell instead of bear a grudge toward him. But, it was believable that they’d treat him with distrust after everything he did.
  • That there is a SIX MONTH wait for this audiobooks and the next through the library’s digital collection. I absolutely cannot wait that long, so I’m reading the last book instead of listening.

Image result for crying gifI can’t think of anything else I didn’t like. I loved this book, almost as much as the first one. I think, the stakes felt lower in this book, but by the end they definitely were not. I cried. Not that it takes much to make me cry, but man, Kell’s last few chapters of this book are… tough.

I’ve inhaled this series, staying up late to read, finding any excuse to listen to the books, like folding laundry and doing dishes. I haven’t been this utterly enchanted by a series in a very long time, and I’m already lamenting the end. I can tell the book hangover on this series is going to be baaaaaaaad.

I’m off on another hike this weekend and the writing is going very well already this week, so don’t expect to hear from me until Monday. You know the drill.

Until then, Bloggarts.

 

BZ

Book Review – A Darker Shade of Magic (Shades of Magic #1) by V.E. Schwab

Bloggos! Bloggo bloggo bloggos!

I tucked this book away on my TBR what seems like forever ago and I wasted so. much. time! Thank goodness(?) for that migraine*, else I may have never prioritized it, and would have totally missed out on a new favorite.

*Not really. Migraines are the literal worst and I would not wish them on anyone. They are debilitating and awful and if you get them I am with you and we should get help, ASAP. There are no upsides to migraines, no matter how hard I try to tell myself otherwise.

My Goodreads Rating: 5/5 Stars

Image result for a darker shade of magic

This book. You guys. I loved everything about it. I loved the characters, the world(s), the magic(s), the freaking plot! There’s a rivalmance! (For non-fanfic folks, that means rivals become romantic interests over the course of the story).

I listened to the audiobook, narrated by Steven Crossley, while I was down and out with a really bad migraine. This book made me laugh and smile when I was otherwise trying not to cry or even worse, puke. This book made a really painful couple of days manageable, or at the very least helped me get through them.

What I loved:

  • Every single character. There’s Kell, a powerful and rare type of magician called the Antari, who is far more dashing than he realizes and I am madly in love with him. Lila, a starving cut-purse who steals from Kell, and inadvertently stumbles into a really dangerous adventure with him. I love Rhy, the suave Prince and Kell’s brother by all but blood. I even liked Holland, the Antari from an alternate tyrannical London, who spends much of his time as the book’s bad guy, even if it’s against his will. His king and queen, the twins Astrid and Athos, are absolutely terrifying and I LOVED it. They were creepy in all the best ways and presented a very real and original threat.
  • The worlds. The book takes place across three different Londons. Grey London, where Lila is from, where magic has dwindled away to almost nothing; AKA our London, pre-industrial revolution. Then there’s Red London, Kell’s London, where magic is in balance with the world and almost everyone has some sort of talent. And then there’s White London, Holland’s London, where everything is cold and dying, where life is a constant power struggle and nothing comes easy. And of course, the fallen Black London, consumed by a magical plague 300 years ago, and not really in this book.
  • The magic! There’s basic elemental magic that most folks have some ability with at least one. There’s Water, Fire, Air, Earth, Metal, and Bone. Some people can wield two or even three of the Elements, but anything more than that is exceedingly rare. Unless you’re an Antari. They can bend all the Elements to their will, AND use Blood Magic, which actually has verbal commands and requires the Antari activate the command with their blood. White London also has some tricky Runes and Seals, but those are illegal in Red London because they bind people against their will, etc.a darker shade of magic audio cover

So yeah, there’s a lot going on in this book and I enjoyed all of it. Like, literally every second. I already intend to read the books over again once I’m done with the series (and manage to find time to sneak in a reread), because I love them that much.

What I didn’t love:

  • Um… the narration? It definitely wasn’t bad, but it was kind of stuffy. Kell sounded too bored, or too impersonal a lot of the time and his magic commands were super dramatic, to the point I couldn’t really understand what he was saying. I liked Crossley’s interpretations of Lila, however. The bad guys had either German or Eastern European accents which felt a little… cliched.
  • That I couldn’t get the second book on the Libby app right away (the hold list is an estimated SIX MONTHS!) so I had to sign up for Audible, again.
  • That I waited so long to try this series! What was I thinking! Why didn’t someone tell me!

Okay, seriously now, all frothing aside, this book obviously ticked every box for me. I have a theory as to why. It felt like fanfic and I mean that in the best possible way. It was FUN. It hit the beats of fanfic, where there’s banter and intrigue and while Schwab does it so skillfully you don’t even notice, she melds all these cutesy moments into the book and makes them matter. Things were predictable, but in a satisfying way. Characters said and did things I wanted them to, and when they did? It was better than I imagined.a darker shade of magic alternate

Perfect. This book was perfect for me, and probably perfect for me at this point in my life. It was the exact book I needed and wanted. It’s been a long time since I had a new favorite series, and I forgot how intoxicating that feeling is. I am currently over the moon with feelings for this series. So, yeah, this is my fangirly, foaming at the mouth review. Whatever that’s worth to you.

Expect more of the same this month because my queued reading is insane! I’m already halfway through A Gathering of Shadows, I’ve started Trail of Lightning, and behind those is A Conjuring of Light and Kameron Hurley’s The Light Brigade. It’s going to be a book review heavy month here at the blog and it’s about damn time.

Barring any news submissions-wise, you won’t hear from me until Monday, when I’m back with the weekly update. Until then, Blogland.

 

BZ