May 22, 2017

The Midnight Queen: A Rambling Review (Adult)

The Midnight Queen by Sylvia Izzo Hunter

20821047This book was enjoyable enough, but not amazing. I liked the Regency-plus-magic setting (as I pretty much always do!), but I would have appreciated more knowledge of how this alternate version of Britain came to be (and a little more political/geographical explanation would also have been good). The main characters of Gray and Sophie were cute together, but I didn't feel a whole lot of chemistry between them; their relationship was an it's-so-obvious-it's-staring-everyone-in-the-face-so-why-can't-you-see-it kind of romance. Basically, you could see it a mile away and know it was inevitably going to happen at some point. The plot consisted of a LOT of conversations, and in my opinion, not enough action/suspense. There was some intrigue, of course, but it wasn't really the sort the reader can try to figure out, because we weren't given enough information. Things do get more eventful right towards the end, but even then, I thought the climactic scenes were a little confusing and didn't provide the pay-off I wanted considering the less-than-eventful lead-up to them.

In terms of characterization, Gray and Sophie were both a little too good, in a way, for my taste. They are both intelligent, loyal, well-liked, and (generally) well-meaning individuals; perhaps it was just that they weren't given enough weaknesses to make them feel more authentic. The third-person tense may also have made it a little more difficult to really get inside their heads and understand them as people.

I also think the villains could have been more villainous (they didn't seem that sinister, except perhaps by sheer number of them) and their characters expanded upon. I had difficulty keeping them straight, there were so many!

That said, it was a pleasant, comfortable, familiar kind of read. The language used evoked an older era, and yet was usually not particularly dense or archaic, making for fairly easy reading.

May 13, 2017

Cruel Beauty: A Rambling Review

15839984Cruel Beauty by Rosamund Hodge

I found this one super easy to just fall into and keep reading. I'm a sucker for Beauty and the Beast retellings and this one was no exception. The world-building was really interesting and different from previous BatB retellings I've read; I liked how it involved Greco-Roman mythology. I'm not usually big on traditional demons so this version of demons – no horns or tails involved, no smoldering sulphur pits or whatever – more or less worked for me. I do wish some of the plot points, particularly the climactic scene, were a little clearer, as I am still confused about what happened (spoilers, highlight to read: what was the Kindly Ones' riddle, and why was 'a handful of happiness' the answer? Was Ignifex or Shade the prince's anger?). Also, I distrusted Ignifex through a large part of the story because we really aren't given much insight into his thoughts or feelings; this compromised the romance aspect somewhat for me because I was wary of Ignifex and if we could believe him.

Nyx I found to be a somewhat melodramatic heroine, who was a little too keen on mental self-flagellation ('I'm such a bad person, there's such hate in my heart') without that much evidence to back up that she actually deserved all this criticism. I mean, she wasn't too fond of her family, but who can blame her? Her dad and aunt treated her terribly, and don't get me started on her sister... It also irritated me that Nyx kept changing her mind about things based on how she was feeling in a given moment (this is a common pet peeve of mine for YA novels, and while I can understand it to some extent given the premise, it became repetitive as the novel wore on).

Nevertheless, I enjoyed the fairytale feel to the narrative, and the descriptions of setting (so many different rooms in that castle!) added to the magical flavour. I also liked all the allusions to the original fairytale, which worked while still having the story be entirely its own.

Also, the plot point that happens towards the end that changes everything (being super vague here so as not to spoil, here are more specifics, highlight to read: when the prince opens the box and time unravels all the way back to before the original bargain was made) was quite bold, and made the ending a little less traditional.

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