Book Review

Legitimate Tears

Royal BastardsRoyal Bastards by Andrew Shvarts

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I buddy read this book with the charming bookish king, Solomon, and the empowered fangirls, Cait and Ambs.

LO AND BEHOLD, THE VERY FIRST BOOK THAT MADE ME CRY.

Exactly 18 hours ago, my heart broke. Please send help because I haven’t gotten over that painful yet beautiful plot twist. I really did not expect to be emotionally invested in this book. I’ll do my best to convey my thoughts without sulking, bursting into man tears, or giving any spoilers. :p

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Royal Bastards follows five teenagers who are caught in the middle of a civil war. Tilla, Jax, Miles, and Zell are bastards (illegitimate offspring), while Lyriana is the daughter of the ruling King. Falsely accused for the murder of the King’s brother, the group goes on a breathtaking journey full of action, adventure, and even romance. This book is marketed as a mashup of Game of Thrones and Six of Crows. I haven’t read both series, but you might want to check out Royal Bastards in light of that blurb alone.

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I loved this book because I found it to be simultaneously plot-driven and character-driven. It featured an intriguing and relatable cast of protagonists who were shoved into such thrilling situations. I lost count of the times they nearly lost their lives! The perfect pacing of the plot more than compensated for the inadequate world building.

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Among the protagonists, Tilla and Jax were my absolute favorites. They were half siblings who belonged to different walks of life, but they were as close as heck. I was particularly fond of this aspect of the story since I myself am close to my siblings. In fact, I liked it even more than the romantic relationship between two certain characters. 😉 Literary romance is quite overrated for me at this point, so I would rather be entertained by brotherly or platonic love.

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Lyriana was my other favorite. She seemed to be a typical dim-witted princess at the beginning of the book, and I was very pleased when she proved me wrong. I specifically admired her insightful thoughts on chastity, which is a rare character trait in YA. I should’ve remembered that readers should never judge characters by their socio-economic status. xD

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The antagonists (I refuse to disclose their names) were fascinating in their own twisted way. Their reasons for anarchy were actually legitimate. Honestly, I sympathized with their desire to free their province from the clutches of the Kingdom. However, the things they did to achieve their goal were unquestionably unethical.

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Many fantasy novels nowadays have been criticized for their lack of diversity. If you’re one of those haters of such “politically incorrect” literature, you’ll probably find Royal Bastards as a breath of fresh air. Zell and Princess Lyriana are people of color, and one of the male side characters is said to “prefer the company of men”.

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I cannot finish my review without shining a light on the book’s unforgettable plot twists. One of them made me cry, as you already know. I’ve read many emotional books that made me teary-eyed, but Royal Bastards was the first one that actually made the tears flow. My throat was so heavy last night when I tried to bottle up my emotions in front of my brother, who understandably laughed at me. Looking back, I had a hunch that something bad would happen. Still, I didn’t assume that it would be that evocative. GAH! I AM SO TEMPTED TO SPOIL EVERYONE JUST SO I CAN SHARE THE PAIN!

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In the end, it must be clear that I genuinely enjoyed Royal Bastards. I’m not sure when I’ll finally get over it. Probably not for a week or two. The beauty of this book nearly gave me a reading slump, so please tread carefully. To the author, Andrew Shvarts, thank you for creating such an outstanding debut novel. 😀

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P.S. I managed to schedule a written interview with Andrew, so stay tuned! 🙂

*The featured image was taken from Andrew’s website

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Book Review

Princess Problems 103

The Beauty of Darkness (The Remnant Chronicles, #3)The Beauty of Darkness by Mary E. Pearson

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Warning: Major Spoilers Ahead

I am yours, and you are mine, and no kingdom will ever come between us.

This is undeniably one of the best books I have ever read. It made me feel a myriad of emotions, ranging from uncontrollable joy to heartbreaking grief.

After Lia barely escapes Venda, Rafe brings her to Dalbreck, where he plans to make her his queen. Unfortunately, Lia’s happily ever after is obstructed by a mind-blowing plot twist: the despicable Komizar is still alive. Guided by her Gift of knowing, Lia is determined to expose the wicked in her own kingdom and thereby convince everyone to prepare for war.

It took me around three weeks to finish this book, but it was not because it was boring or dragging. I really just wanted to savor each chapter because I did not want to say goodbye to my favorite characters, my fictional BFFs. With that in mind, I was so thankful that I had 679 pages to get through. It was definitely a slow yet unforgettable journey.

Lia was already amazing in The Heart of Betrayal, so I was surprised that she still had further development in this book. She became more attuned to her Gift, and she learned how to convict every man who underestimated her, including her beloved Rafe. Throughout the novel, Lia exhibited a lot of virtues, such as bravery, fortitude, and wisdom. All in all, she was utterly and positively different from the Lia we met in The Kiss of Deception.

I am sad to say that Rafe somewhat became annoying in this book, especially in the first half. His desire to protect or shelter Lia was often too much; it was the cause of many heartbreaking arguments, aka Yelling Sessions. I did not know what to do with myself when they parted ways. Thankfully, Rafe was able to redeem himself by helping Lia in Morrighan. Lia was indeed a formidable female, but she would probably be dead without Rafe. (To be fair, Lia first saved his life in Venda.) In totality, I admired Rafe because of his integrity, as well as his unconditional love for Lia.

Given my history with Kaden, I was surprised by the realization that he could actually be likable. In this book, he wasn’t such an insufferable THIRD WHEEL. He was always by Lia’s side, but he finally stopped trying to win her over. I never shipped him with Lia from the start, so I was so happy that he ended up with Pauline (who was adorable, btw). If anything, I guess I loved that he was so loyal to Lia despite his connection to the Komizar.

Overall, The Beauty of Darkness is a beautiful ending to an unforgettable series. I loved literally everything about it. The evocative writing. The gripping plot. The rich, mythical world. And most of all, the precious, well-developed characters. Prepare to be enthralled.

I also gave 5 stars to the previous books, so I can confidently say that The Remnant Chronicles is one of the greatest series YA has to offer. I will definitely read it again someday just to relive all the feels.

P.S. I must give an honorable mention to Jeb. May he rest in peace. 😦

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Author Interview

Q & A with Rosalyn Eves

Last month, I had the pleasure of reading Blood Rose Rebellion by Rosalyn Eves. It turned out to be one of the most refreshing and enlightening novels I have read this year. If you want to know more about this debut novel, feel free to check out my review. BRB has been on sale since March 28, and I hope that this interview will encourage you to read it. It’s never too late to join this book’s growing fan base! ❤

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1. What do roses signify in your book? Are you particularly attached to them?

“I’ve always loved roses–I blame the fact that my favorite fairy tales as a kid all featured roses prominently (the rose hedge that grew up around Sleeping Beauty’s castle, the roses in Robin McKinley’s Beauty). In my head, roses are connected with folklore and magic. In the book itself, roses serve minor roles–Anna’s older sister Catherine has chosen a rose as her soul sign (an illusion she casts to signify her magic), and roses play a small role in a pivotal scene at the climax of the book. The roses on the cover are a little more significant. Not only do they nod to the title, but my designer choose them as a symbol of feminine strength–the fact that Anna is a strong character while also being a fairly typical Victorian teenager.”

2. What was your inspiration for the intricate magic system in Blood Rose Rebellion

“I’m not sure that I had a specific inspiration, but I really love the magic system in Leigh Bardugo’s Grishaverse (and also knew I didn’t want to duplicate that!). I spent a lot of time brainstorming possible divisions of magic with my husband and we came up with four and then spent a couple hours with an English-Latin dictionary looking for possible names (magic that manipulates living things–Animanti; magic that manipulates thoughts and dreams–Coremancer; magic that controls elements–Elementalist, formerly Alchemist; and magic that influences forces–Lucifera).”

3. If you were a character in Blood Rose Rebellion, what kind of Luminate would you be (and why)?

“I’d probably be Elementalist simply because that is the most common type–but I’d secretly want to be Lucifera, as they are often the most powerful. If readers are interested in finding out what order they’d belong to, I have a quick quiz on my website: http://www.rosalyneves.com/extras/.”

4. YA Dystopian novels have been relatively low-key nowadays. With that in mind, what made you decide to write one, and what did you do to make your novel stand out?

“This is an interesting question, as I haven’t really thought of my story as dystopian (in my mind, they’re usually present day or futuristic), but I can see how the controlling government in Anna’s world could be seen that way. I’m always interested in the ways that people navigate oppressive governments, how they decide to speak and when to stay silent, and a lot of those themes were playing through my mind as I wrote. As far as standing out, I think the setting in Eastern Europe (specifically, Hungary) with the links to Hungarian folklore is something readers haven’t seen very often.”

5. Blood Rose Rebellion explores the struggle between the upper and lower classes. How do you think can we solve this problem in real life?

“Wow, that’s the million dollar question, isn’t it? I think we see lots of friction around class and socioeconomic divides in today’s world–and I think if the solution was easy someone would have figured it out already. Personally, I think it’s important for there to be social programs in place to help people who are most vulnerable, but I also think that we have to work as individuals to expand our own empathy. Outside of interacting with people who belong to different classes and social groups, I think reading is one of the best ways to do this.”

6. Blood Rose Rebellion is also a very educational novel in light of its historical content. Gleaning upon this, what do you think is the modern significance or relevance of the Austrian-Hungarian War?

“Another great question! One of the parallels that seems striking in light of recent world events is the rise of nationalism in 19th century Europe. While the nationalistic fervor brought on lots of useful reforms (in Hungary, for instance, Latin, not Hungarian, was the language of government until well into the 19th century, and the rise in nationalism encouraged a flowering of Hungarian literature), it also created a lot of tension that (temporarily) fractured the Austria-Hungarian empire and revolutions in lots of surrounding countries. I find it incredibly ironic that even as Hungarian patriots fought for recognition and independence from Austria, they didn’t recognize similar claims within their own borders from Croatians and Romanians living there. I think a certain degree of patriotism is natural, but when it veers into nationalism it can be dangerous as it leads us to ignore voices outside that particular nationality.”

7. If you were given the chance to live in a book, which book would you choose (and why)?
“This is probably not the most original answer, but I would love to live in JK Rowling’s world–I want to go to school at Hogwarts and try all kinds of sweets at Hogsmeade–and while this world was dangerous under Voldemort’s tenure, it seems less likely to kill me than some of my other favorite fictional worlds! (Like the Grishaverse or Middle Earth).”

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About the author:

Rosalyn Eves grew up in the Rocky Mountains, dividing her time between reading books and bossing her siblings into performing her dramatic scripts. As an adult, the telling and reading of stories is still one of her favorite things to do. When she’s not reading or writing, she enjoys spending time with her chemistry professor husband and three children, watching British period pieces, or hiking through the splendid landscape of southern Utah, where she lives. She dislikes housework on principle.

She has a PhD in English from Penn State, which means she also endeavors to inspire college students with a love for the English language. Sometimes it even works.

Visit Rosalyn’s website

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Book Review

Princess Problems 102

The Heart of Betrayal (The Remnant Chronicles, #2)The Heart of Betrayal by Mary E. Pearson

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Warning: If you haven’t read The Kiss of Deception, please do not read this review.

With my last dying breath, I would make him regret the day he ever laid eyes on me. —Lia

Ouch. That ending was utterly painful. The last time I felt this way was when I read The Winner’s Crime. There were so many evocative scenes crammed into the last hundred pages. My brother recently asked what’s wrong with me because I couldn’t help but verbally express my shock and indignation at everything that happened to Lia and her comrades. I’m sure as heck going to start The Beauty of Darkness ASAP. However, for now I am obliged to stay sane and somehow justify my love for this book (series).

I wasn’t particularly fond of Lia in The Kiss of Deception, but I was amazed by her character development in this book. All of the pain she went through changed her in all the best ways possible. The harshness of her environment in Venda also contributed to the growth of her inner strength. Lia was like Kestrel of The Winner’s Curse in that she significantly relied on the sharpness of her intelligence (and tongue). However, unlike Kestrel, Lia was also adept at physically defending herself. Adding up all of these factors, Lia was a brilliant example of an empowered female protagonist. She definitely wasn’t someone you could easily trifle with.

This might come as a surprise, but I actually enjoyed Kaden’s characterization. Even though he bugged me to no end, it was intrigued to know the reasons behind his unswerving loyalty to Venda and the Komizar. His backstory was mysterious enough, but I must say that it failed to lessen my hate for him, if not for his title as the Assassin. Every time he was deceived into thinking Lia had romantic feelings for him, I experienced equal degrees of pity and grim satisfaction. I’m not sure if I’ll ever see him as worthy of Lia’s affection. If anything, I liked him only because he made the story more entertaining.

Unsurprisingly, I had no problem with Prince Rafe. From the very first chapter, I fervently wished that his relationship with Lia would push through in spite of their mutual deception in the past. It was clear that Rafe loved Lia not for her title, but for who she really was. I especially admired his self-control because I myself would crack in the presence of despicable men like the Komizar. Rafe prioritized Lia’s safety over his own emotions, and I applauded him for doing so.

The last thing I liked about this book was its infamous villain, the Komizar. As you have probably discerned from the paragraphs above, I absolutely hated him. To be more precise, I loved hating him because he was one of the most horrible villains I’ve encountered in literature. I will never forget how he almost made me cry when he did something to one of Lia’s close companions. There were so many shades to the Komizar’s depravity, and it reflected the author’s talent for creating such complex and meaningful characters.

With all that said, The Heart of Betrayal is an outstanding sequel to The Kiss of Deception. I honestly can’t say anything negative about it because I enjoyed it immensely. I am both afraid and excited to see how Lia’s journey will end.

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Book Review

Roses, Revolutions, and Royal Problems

Blood Rose Rebellion (Blood Rose Rebellion, #1)Blood Rose Rebellion by Rosalyn Eves

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Thank you, Penguin Random House, for sending me an ARC of this book (all the way from New York) in exchange for an honest review.

I was different. I could choose to see it as a gift. I could embrace my own power. I could change the world. —Anna

I’ve noticed that some readers have been marking this book as DNF, so it’s the perfect time for me to voice my thoughts and opinions on this fantastic start to a trilogy. I hope that my review will persuade you not to expect the worst from this book. Nevertheless, I promise to be objective as I possibly can.

Essentially, Blood Rose Rebellion is about Anna Arden, who is a pariah among the Luminates (the magical elite). Labeled as a Barren in light of her incapability to perform even the simplest of spells, she is hated more for her unique ability to shatter or dispel all kinds of magic. Anna sees her ability as a curse, especially when it results in her exile to Hungary, a country dominated by the Austrian Luminates. There, as Anna desperately searches for a way to overcome her curse, she is thrust into a world teetering on the edge of a revolution.

From a bird’s eye view, Blood Rose Rebellion is similar to most dystopian novels in that it features a society plagued by the struggle between the upper and lower classes. As expected, the rich possess supernatural/magical abilities which they use to subtly oppress the poor. However, this book is refreshing because the story is entirely told from the perspective of someone belonging to the upper class.

With that in mind, I enjoyed this book mainly because it gave me the rare opportunity to see the upper class in a different light. Although the antagonists in the novel were still from the upper class, I was glad to encounter a dystopian work that did not typically portray the bourgeoisie as necessarily evil. Kudos to benevolent royals! xD

I also found this book delightful because of the beautiful complexity of its magic system. In Blood Rose Rebellion, there are four orders of Luminates or spell casters, and each of them has an intriguing set of abilities, such as animal persuasion, truth spells, weather magic, and temporal (time) manipulation. Furthermore, each order’s magic is given and governed by a mysterious and ethereal entity known as the Binding. As an avid fan of RPG games like Final Fantasy, I thankfully had no trouble comprehending (and thereby appreciating) the mechanics of this world.

The last thing I liked about this book was its historical content. As stated in the Author’s Note, Blood Rose Rebellion is actually a loose retelling of the Austrian-Hungarian War, which lasted from 1477 to 1478. Before I read this novel, I did not know anything about Austria. As for Hungary, all I knew was its capital, Budapest. Hahaha. Considering my pitiful ignorance, reading this book was definitely a very enlightening experience. It reminded me of the time I read The Bear and the Nightingale, which became my very own literary primer on Russian culture.

Ultimately, the only problem I had with this book was Anna. I sympathized with her desire for familial and social acceptance, but I particularly disliked her rebellious streak. I honestly cannot remember a time when she willingly obeyed her authorities. Her impulsiveness was also irksome because it often put her loved ones in danger. I am generally not fond of selfish characters, so I couldn’t help but feel detached towards Anna.

To sum up my thoughts and feels, Blood Rose Rebellion is worth your time. I strongly encourage you to give it a shot, especially if you are fond of history, fantasy, and political intrigue. I really enjoyed its refreshing, stimulating, and educational content, so I am more than happy to give it 4 stars.

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Book Review

Death Begets Death

Rebel Spring (Falling Kingdoms, #2)Rebel Spring by Morgan Rhodes

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Blood is essential in all of this. It must continue to spill. Many will die; many must die for us to succeed. —Melenia

FIVE DEATHS. I’ve never encountered characters with incredibly short life spans. I’m amazed by Morgan Rhodes’s audacity; she is really good at catching her readers off guard. However, I am quite bothered by this utter lack of mercy. Huhu.

It was very easy to read Rebel Spring because of its fast-paced plot and intriguing characters. The world of Mytica was enriched with more political intrigue, magic, and…human blood. Seriously, if I were given the chance to be a fictional character, I would avoid The Falling Kingdoms series like the plague! I value my life too much. xD Speaking of spilled blood, only heaven knows how much I loathed King Gaius. His bloodlust was insatiable! My hatred for him was so strong that it negatively affected my feelings for his children, Magnus and Lucia. Ugh. The Damora family was clearly in dire need of counseling.

Given the abundance of characters, it was only natural that romance would be finally highlighted in this novel. Man, there were so many potential OTPs! Among them, I liked Cleo and Magnus the most. However, I was pleasantly surprised by the budding relationship between Nic and…a particular character. Hush, hush. I do not want to spoil anyone. 😉

To sum up my thoughts and feels, Rebel Spring was such a shocking, delightful, and captivating read. I only wish that the author would tone down the urge to eliminate her dear characters. LOL.

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Book Review

Snow White 2.0

The Shadow Queen (Ravenspire, #1)The Shadow Queen by C.J. Redwine

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

It took me 16 days to finish this novel, and I’m so happy it took that long. Seriously, I wouldn’t have enjoyed it otherwise; each chapter was worthy to be savored like an ice cream cone in a hot summer day. I’ve been on a fantasy binge since April, and this novel was a great way to satiate my literary hunger.

I became quite attached to the protagonists, who were basically the epitomes of selflessness. Throughout the story, both Lorelai and Kol never hesitated to sacrifice their happiness and well-being for the sake of their respective kingdoms which were on the verge of destruction. I also enjoyed the sweet and innocent romance between them, although I thought it was practically a minor addition to the plot. I really admired how Lorelai and Kol did not allow their physical desires to cloud their judgement or jumble their priorities.

As for the antagonist, Queen Irina, she was naturally so infuriating. I absolutely relished hating her for all the physical and emotional suffering she bestowed on everyone for the sake of placating her overwhelming sense of self-entitlement. There was not a time that I expected her to attain a happy ending. When true love knocked on the doors of her stone-cold heart, she proudly ignored it and instead hearkened the call of power and corruption. Overall, Queen Irina was very similar to Queen Levana of The Lunar Chronicles, so I could not help but look forward to her inevitable destruction.

Now in regards to the entirety of the plot, I found it to be very gripping, refreshing and well-paced. The only part of the book I wanted to be rewritten was the scene wherein Lorelai was stupidly unable to stop a peasant woman from killing herself and her children. Really, Loreali should have been bright enough to snatch the knife from the said lunatic.

All things considered, I absolutely enjoyed this stand-alone novel. It gave me what every bookworm deserves: a wonderful and worthwhile reading experience. I can hardly wait to read its sequel, which is still in the making. Cheers to epic fairy tale retellings!

*The featured image was contributed by Dessa Mae Jacobe (@dessatopia)

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