Review: Last Song Before Night by Ilana C Myer

Note from the Blogger: I've been lacking motivation lately, so if you'd like to hear more book reviews sooner, check out the WFTM podcast. Any episode ending with a .1 is all about books and comic books. I'm hoping to get back into the swing of writing more reviews regularly, but until I bust out of this obnoxious depression, it might be scattered at best.

Last Song Before Night
Ilana C Myer

Tor Books
I received a copy from the publisher in return for an honest review.
Published September 29, 2015
416 pages
High Fantasy / Magic

Find it on Goodreads

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository | Indie Bound

Long ago, poets were Seers with access to powerful magic. Following a cataclysmic battle, the enchantments of Eivar were lost–now a song is only words and music, and no more. But when a dark power threatens the land, poets who thought only to gain fame for their songs face a task much greater: to restore the lost enchantments to the world. And the road to the Otherworld, where the enchantments reside, will imperil their lives and test the deepest desires of their hearts.

I have been kind of an epic failure at life lately. Nothing really excites me and I have no attention span or energy to write reviews of the books I have managed to muddle my way through. I fear that this gray lethargy might have colored most of what I’ve read in the last two months. With this knowledge available, please read my review of Ilana C. Myer’s Last Song Before Night with a large “Your Mileage May Vary” warning on top.

Last Song Before Night should have been a bright spot in my otherwise dull interpretation of life right now. It features magicians that weave their magic through song, so much of the writing has more of a lyrical bent to it. The chosen one is a female with untapped potential. It all takes place in some vaguely Edwardian age with the type of giant festivals I believe only take place in fantasy settings. I should have enjoyed Last Song Before Night, but I found that I was dragging myself through the pages, rarely ever captivated by the story it was telling.

Lin ran away from her abusive brother after her mother’s passing, and has been living as traveling Poet for the last year. She traded the life of a noblewoman for freedom and an escape from the cruelty of her family. She arrives with her partner in the capital to compete in a musical competition where the winner is chosen to serve at court. During the lead up to the festivities, she crosses paths with an infamous wizard who has returned from years abroad with a dire warning that also happens to be treasonous. This sets Lin on the path to rediscover the secrets that have kept true magic buried in their land for the last 100 years.

There are a half dozen other characters introduced, including the roguish Darien, who charms away the rich Rianna from her life of comfort with the geeky Ned; Darien’s musical partner, Rayen, who carries around such hatred and jealousy that he doesn’t care whose world he tears apart as long as he gets what he wants; and Marilla, Rayen’s former prostitute girlfriend, who likes toying with the men in her life to get the pleasure she desires from their pain. Meanwhile signs of a blood magic-induced plague are causing everyone to become a little on edge.

This is a high fantasy in the sense that there is an epic journey with all the long bouts of walking one would expect. For the most part, the world building is solid and all the characters have filled in back stories to explain their hurts and motivations. None of these things were where I had a problem.

I had trouble with Gandalf-light, the infamous wizard that swoops into a party, delivers an ominous message via a treasonous song, and then gets Lin wrapped up in an epic quest to return magic to the Poets and stop the Court Poet from destroying the entire country. Mr. Gandalf-light (they called this character by several different names, none of which I can remind at this moment in time) never mentions that the Court Wizard is evil and attempting to bring back an insanely deadly plague. He gives no guidance on how Lin can achieve the goal of her quest. He just says “go do this thing, you have magics and are the chosen one” and she goes off and does this thing. He then pops up on occasion to give reassurances that she can accomplish this task, but stays safely out of the way only to pop up at the end and becomes the reason the thing is accomplished. Not once does he ever explain why Lin has to go on this deadly adventure instead of him, though he’s apparently the most powerful Poet in the land with influence over other versions of magic that don’t exist in Lin’s country. He never clearly explains why her or why now or provides much useful information at all. Instead he would just pop in periodically and I would get frustrated why this character even had to exist at all. He was a useless mentor figure that really needed to serve another purpose.

Or I’m just in the throes of a pretty grey depression and all the walking and intricate mythology couldn’t break through. I had some fairly visceral reactions towards the conclusion of the book, but I had difficulty getting into the atmospheric writing and world building. By the time it felt like anything was ever going to actually happen, I was a bit done with the whole thing mentally. The characters are interesting, though there might be a few too many of them given a main focus (I’m still not sure the purpose of the Riana, Ned, Marialla, Rayen, and Darien trapezoid). I liked that they all had their own pains and scars to drive them (with the exception of Gandalf-light),

The writing itself was fluid and captivating enough to drive me along despite my general disinterest in the plot. Perhaps I would have enjoyed this story more had I been in a better state of mind, but some of the things that dug at my brain a little too much would have probably bothered me still. This is an interesting standalone that seemed to cram to many aspects into a book that never quite came together for me. The writing is lovely, but I wish I could have loved it more.

 

I received a copy of this book from the publisher because I was on the blog tour. All thoughts are my own.

Author Blog Tour: Last Song Before Night by Ilana C Myer

Welcome to the Working for the Mandroid stop on Ilana C Myer's blog tour for her debut novel, Last Song Before Night! We are so happy to be part of this tour hosted by Rockstar Book Tours. I'm about midway through the book and it's a beautiful and captivating world of song and magic along with some creepy mystery and really well formed characters. I'll have a review for you in a few days, but in the meantime learn more about Last Song Before Night and Ilana before entering to win one of three hard cover copies from Tor!

Last Song Before Night
Ilana C Myer

TOR
Releases September 29, 2015
416 pages
High Fantasy | Magic

Find it on Goodreads

AMAZONB&NiBOOKS | THE BOOK DEPOSITORY | INDIEBOUND | MACMILLAN

A high fantasy following a young woman’s defiance of her culture as she undertakes a dangerous quest to restore her world’s lost magic

Her name was Kimbralin Amaristoth: sister to a cruel brother, daughter of a hateful family. But that name she has forsworn, and now she is simply Lin, a musician and lyricist of uncommon ability in a land where women are forbidden to answer such callings—a fugitive who must conceal her identity or risk imprisonment and even death.

On the eve of a great festival, Lin learns that an ancient scourge has returned to the land of Eivar, a pandemic both deadly and unnatural. Its resurgence brings with it the memory of an apocalypse that transformed half a continent. Long ago, magic was everywhere, rising from artistic expression—from song, from verse, from stories. But in Eivar, where poets once wove enchantments from their words and harps, the power was lost. Forbidden experiments in blood divination unleashed the plague that is remembered as the Red Death, killing thousands before it was stopped, and Eivar’s connection to the Otherworld from which all enchantment flowed, broken.

The Red Death’s return can mean only one thing: someone is spilling innocent blood in order to master dark magic. Now poets who thought only to gain fame for their songs face a challenge much greater: galvanized by Valanir Ocune, greatest Seer of the age, Lin and several others set out to reclaim their legacy and reopen the way to the Otherworld—a quest that will test their deepest desires, imperil their lives, and decide the future.

 

About Ilana C. Myer

Ilana C. Myer has written for the Globe and Mail, the Los Angeles Review of Books, Salon, and the Huffington Post. Previously she was a freelance journalist in Jerusalem for the Jerusalem Post, the Jewish Daily Forward, Time Out Israel and other publications. She lives in New York City.

Ilana was born in New York but grew up in Jerusalem, Israel, where she spent her teen years haunting secondhand bookstores in search of books written in English—especially fantasy. It was in one of these shops that she discovered David Eddings and realized that epic fantasy continued after Tolkien, and from there went on to make such marvelous discoveries as Tad Williams, Robin Hobb, and Guy Gavriel Kay.

Since learning to read, Ilana had decided she would write books, but during college in New York City was confronted with the reality of making rent, and worked as a receptionist, administrative assistant, and executive assistant where she on occasion picked up dry cleaning. She afterwards found more fulfillment as a journalist in Jerusalem where she covered social issues, the arts, and innovations in technology, and co-founded the Middle East environment blog, Green Prophet. It was during these years in Jerusalem, on stolen time, that Last Song Before Night took shape.

She writes as Ilana Teitelbaum for various outlets, but decided early on—since the days of haunting bookstores, in fact—that “Teitelbaum” was too long for a book cover. “Myer” is a variation on the maiden name of her grandmother, whose family was exterminated in Germany. It is a family with a long history of writers, so it seems appropriate to give credit—or blame—where it’s due.

WEBSITE | BLOG | TWITTER | GOODREADS

 

Enter to Win a Copy of Last Song Before Night!

3 winners will receive a finished copy of LAST SONG BEFORE NIGHT. US Only.

Tour Schedule

Week One:

9/21/2015- Library of a Book Witch- Interview

9/22/2015- A Book and a LatteGuest Post

9/23/2015- A Trail of Books Left BehindReview

9/24/2015- Working for the MandroidPromotional Post (Future Review)

9/25/2015- Chasm of BooksInterview

 

Week Two:

9/28/2015- GalleywampusReview

9/29/2015- DanaSquare- Guest Post

9/30/2015- Fic GalReview

10/1/2015- The Unofficial Addiction Book Fan ClubInterview

10/2/2015- History from a Woman's PerspectiveReview

Author Guest Post: Worldbuilding Magic University by Cecilia Tan

Working for the Mandroid is happy to welcome Cecilia Tan, author of the sexy fantasy Magic University series. The fourth and final book in the series, Poet and the Prophecy, just came out this past Tuesday. We're happy to welcome Cecilia to the blog to discuss the world building that went into the series as it comes to a conclusion. Take it away, Cecilia!

Back to School: Worldbuilding Magic University

by Cecilia Tan

Worldbuilding is fun, no doubt about it. I love creating magic systems and societies for my novels, and part of me hearkens back to my days as a teenage dungeonmaster, creating places and surprises for old Dungeons & Dragons campaigns. While writing the Magic University books, though, I had some interesting challenges in creating a magical college campus.

For one thing, I had to create the curriculum. What would the courses of study be at Veritas? In the books themselves I end up naming about a dozen departments, including alchemy, ritual arts, conjuration, and metaphysics. "Esoteric arts" is the name given to the study of sex magic because just calling it sex magic was too much for the founders of Harvard.

Yes, Harvard--my magical university is a part of Harvard, existing as a school within a school, with its own deans and degree programs. This meant my worldbuilding got to include a lot of funky facts about Harvard, like the fact that Lowell House rents out their dining hall to other houses (including magical ones) for parties and functions.

In fact I borrowed the Harvard house system to make four magical houses. Yes, that's also a direct nod to J.K .Rowling's Harry Potter series, but I also ended up with four because the "sorting" is done with tarot cards, and which suit you pull determines which house you end up in. Kyle draws the Ace of Swords which lands him in Gladius House. The fact that the sorting is basically random, despite each house having a "character," was also a commentary by me on the flaws of Hogwarts-style sorting based on personality traits. If you want, you can believe that a card draw is "fate," but really, it's just a one-in-four chance, ensuring even distribution over time.

I tried to be as consistent as possible within my magic system, but given that this is a university setting I left room for there to be debate about how certain parts of magic works, the same way scientists or economists or historians sit around and debate their subjects with each other. Also like with non-magical subjects, some classes require lab work, some tests, some term papers, and some subjects are easier than others.

Just like in any university, some of the degree programs have prerequisites or placement tests. To join the Department of Esoteric Arts, scholars have to prove they're bisexual, since ritual sex with partners of any gender might be required. At first Kyle isn't sure he can pass all of the tests to get into Esoteric Arts but it's really not a spoiler to tell you that he has what it takes to pass with flying colors. (In fact, he gets good at flying, too.) It is somewhat inconvenient when he has to practice to do his sex magic homework, though, and his roommate never goes out...

One of the subplots that runs through the books is that the departments of Applied Enchantment and Conjuration are being merged into one, something that happens in real-life universities around here (in the Boston area) all the time, wreaking havoc on the faculty and students. In the end Kyle may be able to save the world, but nothing can save the university administration from budget cuts!

The Poet & The Prophecy (Magic University #4)
Cecilia Tan

Ravenous Romance
Released September 22, 2015
318 pages

Find it on Goodreads

Amazon | Barnes & Noble

Kyle Wadsworth has mastered sex magic, dreamwalking, his bisexuality, and even poetry in his years at Veritas. But in this conclusion to the Magic University series of new adult paranormal fantasy romance, Kyle begins his senior year full of doubt. Will the dire ancient prophecy he has been studying come true if Kyle cannot find true love? The signs of the Burning Days seem to be everywhere—odd storms, earthquakes, and people losing their magic—and though Kyle has many loving friends and eager acquaintances, he has no true love in sight. The only person in Kyle's heart is Frost, and the last time they laid eyes on each other, it didn't end well.

Frost has a troubled past and deep secrets. Kyle begins to hope, though, when it appears he and Frost will be in a class together. A poetry class. Maybe Frost will start to thaw after all, though Kyle has a long way to go from nemesis to lover. If the prophecy speaks true, our hero will need love to keep the world, his friends, and himself from losing magic forever.

About the Author:

Cecilia Tan is "simply one of the most important writers, editors, and innovators in contemporary American erotic literature," according to Susie Bright. RT Magazine awarded her Career Achievement in Erotic Romance in 2015 and their prestigious Pioneer Award. Tan's BDSM romance novel Slow Surrender (Hachette/Forever, 2013) also won the RT Reviewers Choice Award in Erotic Romance and the Maggie Award for Excellence from the Georgia Romance Writers chapter of RWA. She lives in the Boston area with her lifelong partner corwin and three cats. 

Website | Twitter

Review: Familiar Things by Lia Habel

Familiar Things
Lia Habel

Kitten Perfume Publishing
I received an e-copy of this book from the author.
Released October 28, 2014
297 pages
YA / Fanatasy / Magic

Find it on Goodreads

Amazon | Barnes & Nobel

Sixteen-year-old witch Everrose Morgantwill isn’t sure which monster is causing her more trouble—the ten-foot-tall wildcat she’s attracted as her familiar, or her emotionally unstable boyfriend.
Half her spells go nowhere, and people always have trouble remembering her name, but even so—Everrose’s life is idyllic. Born and raised in All Hollows County, a secretive world created by powerful witches and warlocks for the protection of the magically inclined, she’s never had to fear persecution. In All Hollows, magic is used openly. A great spell known as the Nestle Ward isolates and protects it, though there is one odd little side effect.
In our world, it’s 2015. In All Hollows, it’s 1958.
Between sewing the perfect high school wardrobe, experimenting with red lipstick and cake mascara, and dreaming about prom, Everrose has a lot on her mind. When her steady boyfriend returns from a trip to “the Layside” a changed warlock, however—she notices. Handsome Vincent Olwen was affectionate and self-effacing when he left, but he’s come back acting sullen and withdrawn. Everrose is lost for an explanation—and lost for what to do.
Troubled by the changes she sees in Vincent, Everrose tries to distract herself by searching for her first familiar—a rite of passage for sixteen-year-olds in All Hollows. But when she does make the Connexion, it’s with the last animal she would’ve ever expected—a massive, terrifying wildeor called a trothenbeast. Only powerful witches and warlocks attract wildeors as familiars. Yet, when it comes to magic, Everrose is completely inept. It makes no sense. Weirder still, the beast fails to alert Everrose to the presence of magic, and refuses to shadow her. In short, he doesn’t act like a protecting, guiding familiar animal at all.
Faced with all of this, Everrose is just about ready to throw in the towel. Before she can, though, she learns that the trothenbeast has been cursed by an evil witch named Ebonella Rosu—and that Ebonella wants him back.
Everrose must contend with a witch who wants her dead, a familiar who needs her protection, and a boyfriend who’s changing before her eyes. When she finally reaches out for help, she finds it from an unlikely source—her boyfriend’s moody, somewhat mysterious father, the mayor of her little town. What secrets does Roderick Olwen harbor? And what do they have to do with Everrose herself?

If you’ve listened to our most recent episode of the Working for the Mandroid podcast, you’ll know how difficult this review has been for me to write. If you’ve ever loved an author based on their debut series so much that you feared reading any future series by them, you might understand how difficult this review has been for me to write. If you’ve ever received a copy of a book directly from an author with their well wishes and hopes that you’ll love it, you’ll really understand how difficult this review has been for me to write.

I loooooved Lia Habel’s Dearly, Departed series or at least the two books that she’s released. I bought into the world from page 1, fell in love with a zombie boy despite my brain telling me it was a terrible idea, and wanted so desperately to be Nora, the delicate girl that has to learn to be a soldier in a world in conflict. It’s one of those series where the logical side of me sees the flaws and the rest of me tells that logic to shut up, we’re busy enjoying the ride. It’s a series that I nearly always want to be talking about, but can’t seem to find anyone else who has loved it nearly as much as I have.

So I put off reading Familiar Things for a while after receiving a copy directly from Lia. Partly this was from fear, partly from not realizing that I had to email the Kindle file to my Kindle and therefore never being able to find it on my Kindle when I was willing to make that leap to start reading it. I finally decided to change that during our annual trip to Comic Con. Line waiting is very conducive to reading as is airplane time.

I wanted so badly to love it. I dived in reading to join the adventures of a teenage witch stuck in the 1950s. I ignored my trepidation at the twee musical cues that seemed to pop up every few pages and were always way too on the nose. I overcame my nervousness when it looked like the story was headed one way only to completely ignore a potentially interesting plot to go in a different direction. I powered through even when some weird romantic subtext creeped in that made me feel incredibly uncomfortable. And when I was done, I was sad because I didn’t like Familiar Things much at all.

This is the first book self-published by Lia Habel, and it left me with the same feeling as most self-published works. It really needs some help from a professional editor to tighten up plot, to point out potential inconsistencies in world building that could be explained away with a sentence or two in the right place, and to help with pacing. The writing is still solid and it’s obvious that the author loves this setting of a 1950s pocket universe, but all those elements that made it feel authentic to the time period seemed to take the attention away from the more important plotting elements.

Familiar Things is about Everrose, who lives in a pocket universe somewhere in the forests of Pennsylvania. This pocket universe was formed during the witch burnings in the US and has been going on alongside the greater world for 200+ years. Unfortunately time goes a bit slower in All Hollows, so while the rest of the world is in the tech boom of 2015, they’re still using 1950s technology. Every summer, witches and warlocks about to graduate from school go on a sabbatical to experience the real world for a month and then decide whether to return to the magical haven of All Hollows or stay in the modern world. The book opens with Everrose’s boyfriend returning from his jaunt to the modern world acting weird and wanting to import modern technology to All Hollows.

There is a lot of potential in this plot idea, but it’s only used as a way to wedge Everrose and the otherwise flat boyfriend apart so she can have a story about self-discovery and cause some secondary characters to have conflict that has little effect on the main story. A story of self-discovery is fine, but I don’t know why so much of the beginning of the book is focused around the boyfriend’s story was when it didn’t have much to do with anything in the end.

Everrose’s story is really about her not being able to find a familiar as she’s getting closer to the birthday when she’s supposed to find her first familiar. She’s also very bad at magic except on a rare occasion where she seems very powerful. Both these things cause her much internal strife and adolescent angst. The issue I had with the self-discovery arc is that somewhere around a third of the way through the book, there’s a passing reference to how Everrose’s mother doesn’t have a familiar and no explanation for why that’s not weird. I just kept thinking Everrose might have inherited whatever non-familiar witchiness that her mother had. People – including her father – also have a tendency to forget about her when she isn’t around, which provides her with some issues as well.

All these things are explained in a reasonable way for the rules of this world, but rather than have hints or explanations weaved throughout the story, all the answers to these and every other issue, mystery or concern that build up through the entire book are provided during an epic mansplaining exposition dump at the very end. The only thing this male character doesn’t explain is the one thing where someone actually told him, “Make sure to tell her about that one character we keep mentioning, but have never seen and won’t explain.”

And then on top of this, there are a couple of scenes involving a massive tiger-like beast who has been imbued with the intellect of a man or possibly a teenage boy and Everrose, where there is romantic tension and possible innocuous weird flirting. That is when I nearly gave up on this book. Zombie and teenage girl, I’m fine with, but apparently I cross the line at man-trapped-in-tiger-beast and teenage girl. It just hit all my squick buttons.

I see potential in Familiar Things, potential that with the help of possibly beta readers and/or an editor could become a much better book about a teenage witch in a pre-tech boom period discovering herself and how she fits into the greater world around her. I just think that book is several very different drafts away from where it is now.

And with all that said, there are people loving this book on Goodreads, so what do I know? Other than I hate myself for writing this review, I mean.

I received an electronic copy of this book from the author in return for an honest review. These are all my own thoughts, and I hope Lia understands that this one just wasn’t for me. I still adore her, Nora and Bram though.

Review: City of Stairs by Robert Jackson Bennett

City of Stairs
Robert Jackson Bennett

Broadway Books
Released September 9, 2014
452 pages
Fantasy / Magic 

Find it on Goodreads

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository | Indie Bound

A densely atmospheric and intrigue-filled fantasy novel of living spies, dead gods, buried histories, and a mysterious, ever-changing city — from one of America's most acclaimed young SF writers.
Years ago, the city of Bulikov wielded the powers of the Gods to conquer the world. But after its divine protectors were mysteriously killed, the conqueror has become the conquered; the city's proud history has been erased and censored, progress has left it behind, and it is just another colonial outpost of the world's new geopolitical power. Into this musty, backward city steps Shara Divani. Officially, the quiet mousy woman is just another lowly diplomat sent by Bulikov's oppressors. Unofficially, Shara is one of her country's most accomplished spymasters — dispatched to investigate the brutal murder of a seemingly harmless historian. As Shara pursues the mystery through the ever-shifting physical and political geography of the city, she begins to suspect that the beings who once protected Bulikov may not be as dead as they seem — and that her own abilities might be touched by the divine as well.

While City of Stairs had made a small blip on my radar when it was released last year, I probably wouldn’t have read it any time soon had it not been chosen as a Sword & Laser book club pick. The cover was a little too grey and the title a little too generic to really pull me in. I’m really glad that an outside force convinced me to read it though because City of Stairs was the type of book that blends intricately woven world building with fully formed characters and just enough action to make this a compellingly readable book.

Bulikov is a large city at the center of a fallen world. For centuries several gods had ruled the continent, giving their people immense power and wealth. With that power and wealth, the gods and their people subjugated the rest of the world. Several generations before the start of this story, a man from a subjugated country found a way to kill the gods and went to war with them. Now Bulikov is a city in ruins, the once power capital of an entire continent destroyed when the gods dead. Now the colonial outpost that overthrew the gods controls the mainland as well and has banned everything having to do with the gods.

And that description barely scratches the surface of this intricate world. A historian who studied Bulikov’s history is murdered at the beginning, causing Shara to come to town. She’s a diplomat who is actually probably a spy. She and her compatriot Sigrud are trying to find out who killed the historian, only to get dragged into conspiracy after conspiracy as certain citizens of Bulikov try to return their city to its former glory.

Shara is determined, a little stubborn and often seems made of steel. She’s a spy in all the best ways and quietly observant, so that she often seems a step ahead of everyone else. Sigrud is a scary looking northerner, who is fearless and not to be trifled with. Together they are engaging protagonists that remain smart and determined until the end. The book slowly unravels their own histories while also figuring out how they fit into this ever changing world. Sigrud easily has all the best action sequences whether he’s fighting monsters or rediscovering his true place in the world.

Bennett’s world building is truly complex with hundreds of years of history coloring each page. It’s surprising this book doesn’t even cap 500 pages because there is so much culture, history and conflict filling its pages. Despite that, it never once feels bloated or weighed down by the world building. The pacing stays constant and the writing is so fluid that the book is terribly difficult to put down.

The only real complaint I have about City of Stairs is the naming conventions. Many names are very long and based on more Eastern types of spelling. It took me a while to figure out which characters were which outside of Shara and Sigrud because their all had similar ending names. Some of the city names were equally as long. I mean, don’t even ask me to say Vorrtyashtan out loud. I eventually got to the point that I glossed over a lot of these named places when I’d reach them so that I didn’t stall out trying to pronounce them in my head.

I haven’t read any of Robert Jackson Bennett’s other words, but now I very much want to and knowing that there is a sequel in this world of Bulikov (though not necessarily a continuation of Shara’s story) makes me very intrigued. City of Stairs is a complete story with an ending that is wholly satisfying. I really enjoyed the characters and many of the action sequences had me incapable of putting the book down. I also like that I now can yell, “Spoons!” at random to confuse people and it makes total sense to me.

City of Stairs was a highly enjoyable book and I’d recommend it to anyone that appreciates world building and complicated histories being built into a narrative. This isn’t Game of Thrones, though. You’re going to get a complete story with action that moves the plot along regularly while the world is slowly built around it. It’s an incredibly satisfying feeling and I look forward to spending more time in this world.

Review: Cruel Beauty by Rosamund Hodge

Cruel Beauty
Rosamund Hodge

Balzer + Bray
I received an advanced copy of this book from the publisher in return for an honest review.
Releases January 28, 2014
352 pages
YA / Fantasy / Twisted Faerie Tales

Find it on Goodreads

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository | Indie Bound

Graceling meets Beauty and the Beast in this sweeping fantasy about one girl's journey to fulfill her destiny and the monster who gets in her way-by stealing her heart.

Based on the classic fairy tale Beauty and the Beast, Cruel Beauty is a dazzling love story about our deepest desires and their power to change our destiny.

Since birth, Nyx has been betrothed to the evil ruler of her kingdom-all because of a foolish bargain struck by her father. And since birth, she has been in training to kill him.

With no choice but to fulfill her duty, Nyx resents her family for never trying to save her and hates herself for wanting to escape her fate. Still, on her seventeenth birthday, Nyx abandons everything she's ever known to marry the all-powerful, immortal Ignifex. Her plan? Seduce him, destroy his enchanted castle, and break the nine-hundred-year-old curse he put on her people.

But Ignifex is not at all what Nyx expected. The strangely charming lord beguiles her, and his castle-a shifting maze of magical rooms-enthralls her.

As Nyx searches for a way to free her homeland by uncovering Ignifex's secrets, she finds herself unwillingly drawn to him. Even if she could bring herself to love her sworn enemy, how can she refuse her duty to kill him? With time running out, Nyx must decide what is more important: the future of her kingdom, or the man she was never supposed to love.

I just had to bump Beauty & the Beast to the top of my Netflix queue. I haven’t seen that movie since I was a kid, but almost from the moment I began Cruel Beauty, I had an intense urge to see that animated film from my childhood. Rosamund Hodge takes that classic story – the original, not so shiny version as much as the more child-friendly version – and twists it into something new, dark and exciting. And yet it still inspired me to watch the version with the singing candelabra.

Cruel Beauty is set on an island ripped from the larger world that now sits beneath a parchment colored sky and is under constant threat of demon attacks. The population lives in fear of the Gentle Lord, who controls the demons and makes deals with anyone foolish enough to ask for them. Nyx’s father was one of those fools, and now his teenage daughter is being sent as payment to the Gentle Lord. She must marry him, use that marriage as a cover to attempt to destroy his rule over her town and hopefully reunite the island with the greater world.

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Leslie's Films in 2013 Review Part 2: Krypton, Gods, Lots of Beer & Zombies (Again)

Over the last few days, I've been looking back on 2013 and figuring out my favorite reads, where I stood on television and yesterday I presented some thoughts on the films of last year. Here continues part 2 of my review of 2013 films.

Movie That Surprisingly Met Expectations: Ender’s Game


My favorite childhood book became a movie after forever and I was honestly scared. There hasn’t been the greatest book to watchable movie adaptation ratio around here, so I went in a little scared. But the people behind this film picked a great Ender and built a battle room that I just wanted to live in. Tons of things were cut from the book and, yeah, Ender is a violent 5-year-old, but for mainstream audiences, this was a fantastic adaptation.

Movie That Was Tons of Fun in Theatres, But Put Me To Sleep on Television: Pacific Rim


Dude, robots! GIANT ROBOTS! SMASHING THINGS! That was all I needed to get me in the theatre and I had a stupid childlike grin on my face from beginning to end. I left the theatre downright giddy even though I could poke holes in the plot until it was in complete pieces. It didn’t matter – GIANT ROBOTS! Then we watched it on television and I fell asleep, so… I’m not sure what that means.

Pleasant Surprise of the Summer: Now You See Me


I didn’t see this until just recently, but I was very surprised at how entertaining this magic mystery movie was. I’m indifferent to most of the cast, but together they held up a pretty straight forward story. Plus Mark Ruffalo is always great as the gruff, slightly grumpy foil.

Movie That Fandom Hates the Most, But I Kind of Love: Star Trek: Into Darkness


There is a lot of fandom angst about the second JJ Abrams Star Trek movie, and yes, the “he’s not Khan, but wait! He’s Khan” publicity thing was really stupid. Overall the second film lacked the same level of humor that made the first one so enjoyable, but this cast has great charisma and JJ toned down the lens flare to more manageable levels. Also Benedict Cumberbatch is in it and he shoots people with a giant laser gun and speaks in a growly voice and yes, I am a fangirl. What of it?

 

And those are the bulk of my thoughts on movies that I saw in 2013. What movies have I missed?