Book Review

Crown of Redemption

Crown of Midnight (Throne of Glass, #2)Crown of Midnight by Sarah J. Maas

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Last year, I gave Throne of Glass one star. I irrevocably loathed Celaena, and I vowed to never continue the series. However, as my anger gradually faded and peer pressure started to kick in, I decided to make a bookish compromise by listening to a free Audible version of Crown of Midnight. And lo and behold, I found myself enjoying it!

In contrast to its predecessor, Crown of Midnight had a plot that kept me on my toes and outstanding character arcs. In this novel, Celaena finally proved her worth to me and thereby became less unrelatable and annoying. Furthermore, I no longer found any problematic tropes; I actually failed to predict all of the mind-blowing plot twists.

When I come to think of it, the character that really made me enjoy this book was Chaol. I know that many people think that he and Celaena don’t have any chemistry (or significant history), but I instantly became happy whenever he entered a scene. He just had this unique way of making Celaena more realistic and likable. In fact, I only got angry with Celaena whenever she hurt Chaol’s feelings (and body). As an independent character, Chaol was also admirable because of his loyalty, compassion, and wit.

Of course, I also enjoyed Dorian’s character arc. He became much more interesting because of his awakening. I also applauded his willingness to let go of Celaena. I myself would do the same thing if ever my best and I liked the same girl. Finally, I liked Dorian because Chaol would probably be dead without him. 😉

The last thing I liked about this audiobook was the narrator. I loved Elizabeth Evan’s voice, which had a brusque and arrogant tone that was perfect for Celaena’s and Chaol’s chapters. I only felt mildly detached whenever she narrated Dorian’s POV because I always imagined him to have a very sweet and calming cadence.

Overall, I would like to thank the people who encouraged me to give the Throne of Glass series a second chance. This audiobook would have warranted five stars if Celaena did not treat Chaol so badly. I promise to read (or listen to) Heir of Fire when my TBR pile becomes more manageable.

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Book Review

Throne of Salt

Throne of Glass (Throne of Glass, #1)Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas

My rating: 1 of 5 stars

Warning: this is going to be a ranty/salty review. Hooray for unpopular book opinions!

I really did not like this book. In the first place, I only read it because of all the hype it had been receiving all over the YA book community. Well, to be honest, I also read it because it happened to be one of my former crush’s favorite books. Har-har. Lookin’ at you, Sasha Alsberg (abookutopia). ^^

At first, there was actually nothing problematic about the overall story line of this book. After all, it was my first encounter with a female-assassin protagonist. However, when the Hunger Games trope was integrated into the plot, I could not help but feel bored and jaded. I was utterly sick of the idea of a bunch of people killing each other in a competition rigged by the upper class. Furthermore, it was very obvious who was behind all those “mysterious” murders. I found it so hard to understand how Celaena failed to see it from the start, given all her supposed arsenal of assassin skills. Aren’t assassins supposed to be exceptionally cunning or perceptive? Seriously, I bet Cinder of The Lunar Chronicles would be a better assassin than her.

Now that I’ve mentioned Celaena, I shall now cut to the chase. Celaena was the primary source behind my frustration for TOG. When I read a book, it’s important for me to be able to connect with the characters, regardless of their sex. With that in mind, I absolutely could not connect with Celaena. Her personality and behavior never failed to rub me the wrong way. She was so arrogant and audacious that I could barely stand it. It would have been fine if her attitude was warranted, but sadly it was not. She FAILED to assassinate the king, for crying out loud. And yet she had the nerve to act so high-and-mighty? The heck. Looking at the bright side, I must admit that I appreciated Celaena’s occasional vulnerability which made her seem more…human. Nevertheless, any fond feelings I managed to have for her were eclipsed by her flaws. It’s one thing to make a character empowered, but it’s another thing to make him/her conceited.

For me, the only rays of light were Dorian and Chaol. I kinda wished either of them to replace Celaena as the main protagonist. Without these two men, my dislike for Celaena would probably evolve into full-blown loathing or hatred. They were the ones who evoked the remnants of warmth and “femininity” in Celaena, so I was very thankful every time the story was told in their POVs. Ha, if only the entire novel were narrated by them alternately.

My ranting has come to its end. Finally. I am sorry to have not liked TOG. I sincerely am. I read ACOTAR first, and I loved it, so I guess I held expectations that were unfortunately too high. In its totality, this book is simply overhyped. If I were to be persuaded to read the rest of the series, I would only do so to know more about Dorian and Chaol, whom I inevitably found more relatable. Whew. I feel so relieved now that I’ve expressed my negative feelings.

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

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Book Review

The Perks of Being a Fake Royal

The False Prince (The Ascendance Trilogy, #1)The False Prince by Jennifer A. Nielsen

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I don’t want power or wealth, Conner. I want to stay alive. —Sage

Surprise, surprise! It’s been a while since I’ve read a middle grade book. Heck, it is a truth universally acknowledged that YA books have dominated my TBR for the past decade. With that in mind, I am very pleased to critique this unique, wonderful, and gripping novel.

The False Prince is the story of a 14-year-old orphan named Sage, who lives in Carthya, a kingdom on the brink of civil war. Unlike most of the kids his age, Sage has a very independent and strong-willed personality. He does whatever he can to survive, and he really doesn’t care if he has to break the law to get what he needs. Sage’s life becomes more dangerous when he is recruited by Conner, a nobleman of the court. Sage and three other orphans are trained to impersonate Jaron, the king’s long-lost son. Only one of them will be installed as the false prince, and Sage is determined to win and stay alive.

I genuinely enjoyed this book because it was reminiscent of The Kiss of Deception, one of my favorite books. Like the latter, The False Prince could be described as very misleading, in that Sage hid a lot of information from the reader. Consequently, the plot twists became more surprising and delightful. Sage did leave some clues every now and then, but I was rendered too excited/restless by the plot to stop and take note of them. Seriously, don’t be shocked if you find your mouth ajar while reading this book.

I also loved the narrator, Charlie McWade. Although his “female” voice logically sounded weird sometimes, he was generally an excellent narrator. His smooth, boyish cadence was the perfect accompaniment to Sage’s narrative. I highly recommend checking out The False Prince on Audible.

Sage was undoubtedly my favorite character. He was always the star of the show, and I loved how he managed to outwit even the smartest of his foes. In light of his supreme intellect and knack for strategy, Sage was practically the male version of Kestrel from The Winner’s Curse. As a bonus, Sage’s skill with the sword was also a force to be reckoned with. I honestly found it hard to be believe he was merely 14.

Conner and the other villains were likable in their own way. Like Sage, they were naturally secretive, forever plotting to do something unexpected. In this epic battle of minds, Conner was definitely a worthy opponent. If the author published a novella about him, I would read it in a heartbeat.

For me, romance was the only weakness of this book. I wasn’t a fan or shipper of Sage and this particular girl. Nothing physical happened between them since both of them were still young, but I couldn’t bear to imagine them as a couple in the future. The heavily political plot of this series is already great, so I would still be happy if the next books didn’t have any OTP or love triangle.

In totality, this middle grade book was way better than a number of YA fantasy novels I’ve read. Sage was so cunning, mature, and admirable, and I couldn’t get enough of his fast-paced story. The False Prince is a welcome addition to my shelf of favorite books. Please don’t hesitate to pick it up! ❤

P.S. Movie rights were already sold back in 2012, so what happened? Huhu

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

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Book Review

Beyond the Gorgeous Cover

The Book JumperThe Book Jumper by Mechthild Gläser

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

It’s the same everywhere in the book world: Readers are not allowed to intervene. Under no circumstances. You must always stay in the margins, between the lines. —Shere Khan

Raise your hand if you also bought this book because of its absolutely gorgeous cover! I love everything about it: the old-fashioned font, the smooth texture of the jacket, and the whimsical illustration. If I were to judge this book by its cover alone, I would happily give it five stars! ❤

In regards to its content, The Book Jumper is practically fan service for bookworms. How so?
Amy Lennox, the main protagonist, has the wonderful gift of literally jumping into books. I’m sure all of us here wish that we could visit or live in the books we enjoy and love. What we wouldn’t give to be able to interact with our favorite characters, who are as real to us as people outside the book world. Raise your hand again if you are also jealous of Amy. Hahaha.

Unfortunately for Amy, the book world is gradually entering a state of chaos. Someone is stealing the ideas of the stories she visits, causing major plot holes and even killing a number of characters. With the help of a Scottish lad named Will and her new fictional friends, Amy hunts for the villain before literature becomes messed up for good. The plot does seem juvenile or middle-grade, but the content as a whole is more appropriate for us young adults. 🙂

Since The Book Jumper was originally written in German, I cannot evaluate the author’s writing style. However, I can say that the translator did a fantastic job. Romy Fursland’s written voice was very descriptive but easy to comprehend. In fact, it was one of the reasons why I finished the book relatively quickly. I can’t speak German, but I want to believe that Romy Fursland was able to retain the essence of Mechthild Gläser’s work.

Even though I was inevitably jealous of Amy, I genuinely enjoyed this book because it was so relatable. I loved that Amy and the rest of the characters lived and breathed literature. I loved that they wanted to protect literature at all costs (as silly as it sounds). If I had their gift, I would jump into this book and make them my best friends. I’m sure that I’m not the only bookworm who has no bookish friends outside the Internet. Ugh. I hate the geographical distance that separates us. xD

I also enjoyed this book because it was predominantly unpredictable. It definitely kept me on my toes. Actually, I lost patience when I couldn’t find out the identity of the villain; I became restless enough to read the last chapter and spoil myself. And lo and behold, all of my guesses were wrong! Harharhar.

I would have given this book five stars if the ending weren’t unsatisfying and quite convenient. Something unfortunate happened, but I immediately had a hunch that it was only a false alarm. Hence, it didn’t affect me that much. Furthermore, some of my questions about Amy and her mother’s history remained unanswered. I was a little sad that I didn’t get to know more about their supposedly problematic life in Germany.

Nevertheless, I recommend The Book Jumper to every bookworm out there because it’s the perfect expression of our deepest, bookish wishes. This book really made me happy and wistful, and I hope that it will do the same thing to you.

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Author Interview

Q & A with Chelsea Bobulski

Hi, booknerds! I am so thankful to God for the opportunity to feature another special author. Chelsea Bobulski is the author of the upcoming YA fantasy novel, The Wood. I really enjoyed this book for many reasons (I gave it 4 out of 5 stars), so if you want to know what they are, check out my review. I hope that reading this interview will encourage you to pick up The Wood when it comes out on August 1, 2017. I personally loved her heartfelt answers. Have a great, bookish day! ^^

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  1. Who or what inspired you to write The Wood? Is it a metaphor for something in your life?

“My writing process for The Wood was unlike any other book I’ve ever written. At the time, I had been pursuing traditional publication for four years. I was on my fourth manuscript, which I had been working on for almost two years, and while it kept getting *really* close to being the one, it kept coming up short. After what must have been my tenth massive revision on the book (it’s hard to say for sure as I lost count of how many revisions I actually did on it), I was really starting to lose confidence in my abilities and, even worse, I was starting to lose my love for writing. Knowing I had to rediscover why I loved writing in the first place, I sat down at my keyboard, put on some instrumental music, and started free-writing whatever came to mind.

“What came out, over the course of several weeks, was the first fifty pages of The Wood (pages which, aside from the inclusion of a couple new scenes, have not changed much from that first draft). Winter’s voice came to me out of nowhere and just started talking to me about this magical wood and the time-traveling portals inside of it that she protected. It was as if she’d been waiting there all along in the recesses of my mind for me to tell her story. Once I got fifty pages in, I realized I should probably stop free-writing and start plotting before I lost all of the threads Winter and Henry kept hurtling my way, since this thing was clearly going to be A Book.

“I didn’t realize it when I was writing it, but The Wood really did become a metaphor for what I was going through at the time. I had received so many rejections over the years and kept getting closer and closer to publication, only to get the door slammed in my face over and over again, that I was really starting to doubt whether this was something I was actually meant to do with my life, or if I’d just been wasting the past four years. It took me to a really dark place for a while, where I felt like I should’ve done something more sensible with my life, like go to law school, even though telling stories was something that had been embedded in my very soul. I couldn’t imagine not writing, but at the same time, I kept wondering if the fact that I kept getting rejections was a sign that I was going down the wrong path and really messing up whatever plan God actually had for me. So the twisting, turning paths in Winter’s wood and the monsters that come out at night really did start to represent my journey to publication and the doubt monsters that would creep in whenever I felt like my writing wasn’t good enough. Writing THE WOOD ended up being a form of therapy for me, as I dealt with a lot of things from my past, both professionally and personally, and I am so thankful to have come out the other side feeling extremely happy and extremely blessed, finally living the dream that has been in my heart since I was a little girl.”

  1. What life lessons can readers glean from your book?

“I think a lot of the life lessons that Winter personally deals with center around learning how to handle the various (and often overwhelming) responsibilities in her life, both the ones she chose for herself and the ones that chose her. Life throws a lot of curveballs at all of us, and I think for the most part Winter is able to handle her responsibilities with grace, but she is human, so she does mess up from time to time like we all do.Winter also has to come to terms with the fact that you can’t ever really know everything that makes up a person—everyone has so many layers, so many factors accumulated from every experience, big and small, of their lives—even the people you’re closest to. No one really sees things the same way either, which means people will let you down, but that doesn’t necessarily make them purely evil, and people will love and take care of you, but that doesn’t necessarily make them purely good. It’s the gray space that people inhabit that makes them truly fascinating, and also extremely unpredictable. This can be a hard thing to learn when you think you know someone only to find out they aren’t who you thought they were, and Winter has to deal with the ramifications of that.”

  1. If you were given the chance to spend a day with Winter and Henry, what would you do?

“I would love to walk through the wood with Winter and see all of the magic and the mystery unfolding around me. As for Henry, I would love to take him to the mall, or maybe a football game, just to see how he would react (I can guarantee it would be hilarious!).”

  1. If you were a character in The Wood, who would you be, and how would you affect the plot?

“I would love to be Meredith, Winter’s best friend, and I would really love to bust in on Winter’s wood and finally figure out what the heck she’s been hiding. I just think Meredith would have such a funny reaction to it and such a different take on the whole thing that it would be very interesting to see.

Perhaps some fodder for a possible sequel…? ;)”

  1. If you could use the Wood for personal reasons, what would you do? (i.e. Would you go to the past and relive a happy memory?)

“I would *definitely* time travel (even though it’s against the rules). I wouldn’t want to go back and change anything, or affect the past in any way, but I would just love to witness it, everything from when dinosaurs roamed the earth all the way up through modern day. I would love to walk through ancient Egyptian palaces and the alleyways of medieval Venice. I would love to witness the signing of the Declaration of Independence, or attend an Edwardian dinner party at a fine country estate. I would just love to see the history I’ve been obsessed with ever since I was a child come to life in front of me, especially the quiet, everyday moments of all of these people who lived and breathed and loved long before we were ever here.

“On a personal level, I would also love to visit my grandpa. To go back and sit with him in his favorite recliner and watch the Masters while passing lemon drops back and forth to each other. To tell him how much I love him and how much he means to me one more time. He passed away when I was in seventh grade, so I was too young in the moments we spent together to realize they wouldn’t last forever. That there would come a day when I couldn’t hug him anymore, or hear his voice. I’d love to go back and tell him just how much he impacted my life, and how grateful I am that he was mine.

  1. Reading your acknowledgements made me see The Wood in a brand new way. How did your faith affect your writing process?

“As I mentioned before, I was going through a really rough time while writing The Wood, both professionally and personally. Professionally, I was plagued with doubt and anxiety and wondering if I’d made a huge mistake. Personally, my husband and I were dealing with a very shocking family tragedy, while also trying to get pregnant with our first child for over a year, to no avail. Feeling like I was losing hold of my two biggest dreams—becominga published writer, and becoming a mom—while simultaneously dealing with this other life-shattering thing put me in a very dark, very depressed, and very anxiety-driven place.

“I would not have been able to claw my way out of that dark place if it weren’t for Christ being right there beside me. I was raised a Christian and believed in God all my life; I prayed about everything, but I didn’t really understand what it truly meant to trust God and give everything up to him completely until I was going through this difficult time. My parents divorced when I was very young, and out of that experience I developed this frantic need to stay in control of everything, because I knew what it was like to have your entire world turn to dust, there one day and gone the next. So that’s what I tried to do as everything seemed to be falling apart around me—desperately stay in control. But the more I tried to control what was happening, the worse things got.

“Through it all, I felt God compelling me to give everything up to Him. To trust that He had a perfect plan for my life, and to be okay with the fact that I may never be published, and that I may never be a mom, because if those things weren’t meant for me, He would lead me to the life that I was meant to live. I just had to trust. It wasn’t easy, and I fought it quite a bit for a while, but when I finally gave in, things began to happen. I got the book deal I’d been dreaming about for five years. And, after nearly two years of trying, my husband and I became pregnant with our beautiful baby girl (who will be one year old this August!). God answered all of my prayers—He just wanted me to trust Him first, and learn to give Him control over everything. Once I did that, I not only received blessings in those areas of my life, but I learned how to recognize and appreciate the million other blessings that make up my life, and all of that combined is what got me out of that dark place and into the happiest, most peaceful placeI could ever imagine.

“Now, I don’t write a single word without asking God for guidance and inspiration first. My entire writing process has changed due to my ever-deepening faith, and I couldn’t be more grateful for it. Suffice it to say, I walked through a very deep, very dark wilderness while writing THE WOOD, and my faith is what got me through to the other side.”

  1. Can we expect a sequel or companion novel to The Wood? I’m still not over that ending. xD

“There’s nothing in the works yet on the sequel or companion novel front, but I am definitely rooting for one! There is so much more I want to explore, both in Winter’s life and in the wood itself, which let me tell you has a whole host of secrets left to uncover! There’s always hope that if The Wood does well enough and its fans are vocal with their desire for a sequel, that my publisher may ask for one, so the best thing anyone can do to try to make this happen is recommend the book to friends and family and generally everyone they meet (I would be eternally grateful for this!) and to also ask their local libraries to order it. Posting reviews on Goodreads and Amazon, and sharing the book on social media, are also great ways of getting the word out there. But regardless of if there is a sequel, I am just so thankful for the opportunity to get to share this story with everyone, and I pray it does for others what great books have always done for me—transport them to another world and give them a fun escape from whatever they may be going through at the time. The best books, after all, take you on an adventure and make you feel like you’ve lived a whole other life inside your own. My biggest dream is that The Wood will make someone out there feel this way, as this is why I fell in love with books—reading and writing them—in the first place, that beautiful, transporting magic that is uniquely theirs.”


 

About the author:

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Chelsea Bobulski was born in Columbus, Ohio, and raised on Disney movies, Broadway musicals, and Buckeye pride. She graduated from The Ohio State University with a degree in history, and promptly married her high school sweetheart. As a writer, she has a soft spot for characters with broken pasts, strange talents, and obstacles they must overcome for a brighter future. She now lives in Northwest Ohio with her husband, her daughter, and one very emotive German Shepherd/Lab mix. Her debut young adult novel, THE WOOD, will be published by Feiwel & Friends/Macmillan on August 1, 2017.

She is represented by Andrea Somberg of Harvey Klinger, Inc.

Visit Chelsea’s website

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Book Review

Out of the Narnia-like Woods

The WoodThe Wood by Chelsea Bobulski

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Thank you, Macmillan, for sending me an ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Do not travel from the paths. Do not linger after dark. Do not ignore the calling.

Despite its lackluster title, The Wood is one of the most unique books I’ve read this year. I really didn’t expect that it would be a mystery set in a simultaneously fantastical and contemporary setting where time travel is possible. Winter Parish, the heroine, is a guardian of the Wood, a whimsical place that contains thresholds or gates to different time periods. Ordinary people often wander into the Wood, so Winter and the other guardians are tasked to prevent these travelers from messing up the space-time continuum. The plot might sound complex at first, but I assure you that everything will click if you have a little patience.

I myself was mildly confused, but comprehension immediately came when I remembered C.S. Lewis’s The Magician’s Nephew, which features a forest called the Wood between the Worlds. Instead of thresholds, this place has ponds that function as portals to different dimensions. If I hadn’t read The Chronicles of Narnia, I probably wouldn’t have understood the mechanics of time travel in The Wood so easily. I’m not sure if the similarity was intended by the author. Still, I appreciate it because Narnia is one of my all-time favorite series.

Winter was a very likable character. As an only child who was very close to her parents, she was mature beyond her years. After her father mysteriously disappeared, Winter shouldered the hard and lonely job of protecting the Wood. Furthermore, since she was in and out of school, her only constant companion was her beloved mother. It was touching to read about Winter’s love for her family. Her childlike faith was also inspiring. She was brave enough to hope that her father was still alive even though her elders said otherwise. I only disliked Winter whenever she lied to her loved ones in order to protect them and herself. I didn’t condemn or judge her for doing so, but I thought that she could’ve done better. After all, the end doesn’t justify the means.

Henry, aka Brightonshire, made me so nostalgic. He was like a combination of Pride and Prejudice‘s Mr. Darcy and Outlander‘s Jamie Fraser. (Please note that this comparison is very subjective. Hahaha.) Henry came from 18th century England, so he had this charming and formal way of speaking. It was so fun to read about his reactions to modern technology. In fact, he was surprisingly good at solving the Rubik’s Cube. Finally, like the men of his own time, Henry had this quiet confidence and chivalry.

Despite their different timelines, Winter and Henry were united in their devotion to their family. They made a good team because they made up for each other’s weaknesses. For example, Winter was the flame to Henry’s dying candle of hope. On the other hand, Henry was the water to Winter’s fiery emotions. When sparks started to fly between them, I couldn’t stop myself from smiling. After everything that happened to them, I believed that they deserved to have a chance at a happily ever after.

The last reason why I decided to give The Wood four stars is that the ending was realistic. Nothing was forced nor contrived. The resolution was written in such a way that I didn’t have to suspend my disbelief. If you want to know exactly what I mean, please read the book ASAP. 😀

Overall, this book filled me with nostalgia, happiness, and longing. I hope that everyone  will enjoy it, too. I sincerely congratulate the debut author for a job well done. 🙂

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Book Review

Fiery Redemption

Fireblood (Frostblood Saga, #2)Fireblood by Elly Blake

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Thank you, Hachette Book Group, for sending me an ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Fear of my fire had ruled me when I’d had no control over it. Darkness, like fire, was a gift I could master. —Ruby

When I read Frostblood last November, I didn’t enjoy it that much. I only gave it three stars mainly because it didn’t bring something new to the table. Still, the ending was such a cliffhanger that I became invested enough to continue the series. With that in mind, I am happy to say that my optimism paid off; Fireblood is one of the best sequels I’ve ever read.

Looking at the preemptive “reviews” of this book, it’s clear that many readers are worried about the state of Ruby and Arcus’s relationship. After all, the summary insinuates that a new boy named Kai will come in between our two lovebirds. Hahaha. I myself was so excited to read this book because I shipped Ruby and Arcus so hard. I don’t want to spoil anyone, so all I can say is that by the end of the book, Ruby is…not confused. 🙂

Although romance is a significant aspect of Fireblood, it is predominantly about Ruby finding a way to destroy the Minax, which has been wrecking havoc in Tempesia. Surprisingly, the answer to her prayers can be found in Sudesia, her mother’s homeland. Essentially, the plot of this sequel is undeniably rich and fast-paced, and it will most likely make you fly through the pages.

For me, reading this book was like eating a stack of Pringles. I couldn’t get enough of it because my interest in the protagonists never wavered. I loved Ruby’s inspiring fortitude, Arcus’s charming “coldness,” and even Kai’s flirtatious audacity. The interactions between these characters were evocative and well-written. I was also very entertained by the expansion of the world’s mythology, which we didn’t get in the first book.

I obviously enjoyed this book a lot, but I couldn’t give it five stars because like its predecessor, it featured a number of YA fantasy tropes that made me feel a little jaded. To give you some hints, one trope has something to do with a certain character’s true identity. The other one has something to do with matrimony. :3

Nevertheless, Fireblood is leagues away from Frostblood. If you also disliked the latter, I encourage you to give the series a second chance. I certainly don’t regret my decision, so I hope that you will feel the same way. I can’t wait to read the third (and possibly last) book, Nightblood.

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