An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir
(YA Fantasy, 443 pages; expected publication: April 28, 2015 by Razorbill; source: publisher)
LAIA is a Scholar living under the iron-fisted rule of the Martial Empire. When her brother is arrested for treason, Laia goes undercover as a slave at the empire’s greatest military academy in exchange for assistance from rebel Scholars who claim that they will help to save her brother from execution.
ELIAS is the academy’s finest soldier—and secretly, its most unwilling. Elias is considering deserting the military, but before he can, he’s ordered to participate in a ruthless contest to choose the next Martial emperor.
When Laia and Elias’s paths cross at the academy, they find that their destinies are more intertwined than either could have imagined and that their choices will change the future of the empire itself.
This story read like a YA version of Game of Thrones to me, filled with politics and violence, dust and war, all wrapped up in a thoroughly engrossing story. Loved how Laia and Elias’s stories started out so separate, overlapped lightly then merged together as their paths crossed and intertwined. I wasn’t completely sold on the Scholars becoming so unscholarly within such a short period of time, losing their culture and submitting to their greatly reduced circumstances with in a generation or so. There’s A LOT of violence, including violence against women. The warriors and graduates of the academy reminded me of Spartans, though from what I remember, the Spartans had more family connections, more love (even though they did condition and start training their children very young). I’m really looking forward to the next in this series (which won’t come out for a while, considering this one isn’t out quite yet! *le sigh*).
The Girl at Midnight by Melissa Grey
(YA Fantasy, 368 pages; expected publication: April 28, 2015 by Delacorte Press; source: publisher)
Beneath the streets of New York City live the Avicen, an ancient race of people with feathers for hair and magic running through their veins. Age-old enchantments keep them hidden from humans. All but one. Echo is a runaway pickpocket who survives by selling stolen treasures on the black market, and the Avicen are the only family she’s ever known.
Echo is clever and daring, and at times she can be brash, but above all else she’s fiercely loyal. So when a centuries-old war crests on the borders of her home, she decides it’s time to act.
Legend has it that there is a way to end the conflict once and for all: find the Firebird, a mythical entity believed to possess power the likes of which the world has never seen. It will be no easy task, but if life as a thief has taught Echo anything, it’s how to hunt down what she wants . . . and how to take it.
But some jobs aren’t as straightforward as they seem. And this one might just set the world on fire.
I had a really hard time putting this book down and going to sleep (and I have to have some sleep, considering I work with teenagers! No naps under the desk a la George Costanza for me.). Beautifully written, this story immersed me in the world of the Avicen and Drakharin, a world which is both part of our world yet separate. Adopted by an Avicen, Echo’s a human — a thief — in this world who gets caught up in the war. There’s a “twist”, which is pretty obvious but my figuring this out didn’t diminish my enjoyment in the least. And, just a quick question, did anyone else think that Caius was going to turn out to be Echo’s dad (considering he’s an old dude and there are plenty of innuendos as to his romance/love)?
A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas
(YA Fantasy, 416 pages; expected publication: May 5, 2015 by Bloomsbury; source: publisher)
When nineteen-year-old huntress Feyre kills a wolf in the woods, a beast-like creature arrives to demand retribution for it. Dragged to a treacherous magical land she only knows about from legends, Feyre discovers that her captor is not an animal, but Tamlin—one of the lethal, immortal faeries who once ruled their world.
As she dwells on his estate, her feelings for Tamlin transform from icy hostility into a fiery passion that burns through every lie and warning she’s been told about the beautiful, dangerous world of the Fae. But an ancient, wicked shadow grows over the faerie lands, and Feyre must find a way to stop it . . . or doom Tamlin—and his world—forever.
An entertaining story, to be sure, though it didn’t quite live up to the hype for me. I enjoyed the Beauty and the Beast vibe for the first portion of the book, with Feyre forced to travel to the home of a “beast” and try to survive her time there. Tamlin does indeed come across as a beast at first, though, in reality, he’s just a guy (well, Fae) who’s in way over his head and is incredibly grumpy and anti-social about it all. There were some bits that dimmed my enjoyment including a somewhat stereotypical heroine (of *course* she has to take care of her loser family), a hero who plays the alphahole a little too well at times and a somewhat rushed ending.
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