Book Review: A Court of Thorns and Roses Series – Sarah J. Maas

I need to start out with saying I think this series is on the right track for things we need in YA Literature. I loved it. I shamelessly loved it, and I will continue to read it, probably even after the publisher ruins the plot with those added six books they signed.

When nineteen-year-old huntress Feyre kills a wolf in the woods, a beast-like creature arrives to demand retribution. Dragged to a treacherous magical land she knows about only from legends, Feyre discovers that her captor is not an animal, but Tamlin—one of the lethal, immortal faeries who once ruled their world.

As she dwells on his estate, her feelings for Tamlin transform from icy hostility into a fiery passion that burns through every lie and warning she’s been told about the beautiful, dangerous world of the Fae. But an ancient, wicked shadow over the faerie lands is growing, and Feyre must find a way to stop it . . . or doom Tamlin—and his world—forever.

So that’s the excerpt from the first book. It’s going to get spoilery from here on out as this is more of a discussion than a real review. The review is: I loved it.

So anyone who’s read the books knows everything goes to shit in the second book and Feyre and Rhysand are mates and DEATH TO TAMLIN… right? Well. While I love Rhysand, and I truly believe he and Feyre were meant to be, and I love where the plot took them, I want to take a little time to argue for Tamlin.

I took to tumblr to get my fill of Feyre x Rhysand fanart and found everyone and their mother talking about how they knew Tamlin was just an abusive relationship from the start and how grotesque he is etc etc -___-

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But let’s talk about Tamlin for a second because there is a very important lesson here that a lot of discussions miss. I just read a point by a tumblr user that pins Tamlin as irredeemable because he killed Rhysand’s family, or idly watched.

Tamlin’s father felt threatened by Rhysand’s court. That was the point. Tamlin’s only fault is that he followed his father. His father told him that, as a king, this is what had to be done to keep their families safe. Tamlin standing on the sideline and watching Rhysand’s mother and sister die was purely a matter of “whose side are you on?”

When a war breaks out, each side thinks they’re on the side of the righteous. No one ever fights a war because they think they’re wrong. We are horrified that Tamlin watched because we love Rhysand. We are on Rhysand’s side. We see him as the righteous leader we would get behind because we are reading through Feyre’s unreliable narrative.

Now, is Tamlin a shitty ass boyfriend? Sure he is. But was it justified? Absolutely. Feyre keeps saying that he stopped trying to woo her after they got engaged. Which might be true. But he was upset and heartbroken when she didn’t break the curse at first. He could have helped her, but maybe he was hurt and outraged by the 50 year curse he had failed to break. He probably blamed himself as well as Feyre.

Now. When they got back to the Spring Court, the boy who lost everything is trying to protect Feyre. The boy who already demonstrated for us how controlling he had learned to be from his father’s fae tradition, is being a dick. Tamlin is a product of his environment. The only problem with Tamlin is that he is ignorant.

Tamlin has feelings. He loves Feyre. He just thinks he is displaying his love, and going to the ends of the earth to help her, to find her, to make up for what he didn’t do under the mountain for her. (Because keep in mind, Tamlin doesn’t know Rhysand the way we do. Tamlin knows the Rhysand of the Court of Nightmares. Please keep that in mind. He knows that Feyre hates Rhysand. He has not seen what we’ve seen.) The problem with Tamlin is that he needs to be taught how to love and Rhysand has already been taught how to love.

Tamlin is a victim of circumstance.

Rhysand is a good person because he has had life experiences that have lead him to understand true empathy and Tamlin is ignorant to that kind of love.

Tamlin is shitty and redeemable. His heart is in the right place.

** Edit**

I got a response here basically stating that Tamlin shouldn’t be excused because he “Doesn’t know any better.” Because he is not a child. And I agree, this is my response:

He has to learn how to behave differently from how he was raised. Tamlin follows the law and does not question it. Because he is an adult it is taking him much longer to learn to question the establishment, where Rhys grew up with that mindset. He didn’t help Feyre because tradition told him not to. Be isn’t someone who doesn’t know any better at all, that is not the point I was trying to make. He is someone who was taught values and truly believes he is on the side of the just. He believes in tradition. But he is willing to change ad displayed in the last scene with Feyre. It’s just taking him a while because he is so old and has grown up with this set of values. I think he’s shitty and I’m glad we got to know Rhys who is undeniably a better character no matter how morally ambiguous he is, but again, Tamlin doesn’t know Rhys as we do.. so if we knew Rhys as Tamlin does, we probably would have acted as Tamlin did. And regarding watching Rhysand family die, again, he thought his father was right. He believed his court was the righteous. It isn’t that he didn’t know better, it’s that this is what he believed to be true and because he believes in tradition, he doesn’t have the mind to question anything.
Tamlin has a lot of learning to do. To be redeemed he has to stop doing things he thinks are right, and start educating himself. I don’t think he has very many unique opinions or ideas. He needs to step outside of tradition and become his own person.

**Edit Edit**

Another user replied “So abuse is excusable under certain circumstances?” and I just thought it was a good part of the discussion to address

My answer for that is:

No, Abuse cannot be justified. But he is not irredeemable because he made decisions based on his past experiences. He was acting in a state of war, trying to keep her safe the only way he knew how based on how his own family was slaughtered in their beds. He tried to keep her safe as he was taught to, and traumatized enough to do, and she left and found a good relationship. He went to find her, not because he wanted to chain her up, but because the last time he saw Rhysand, he was Rhysand of the court of nightmares, the dickhead Rhysand who we know Feyre understands to be a false front. Let us not forget that Rhysand drugged Feyre so she wouldn’t remember him kissing her and grinding on her and having very lewd dancing for all to see. That is how Tamlin remembers him, and that is why he went after Feyre. Tamlin being redeemable does not mean he didn’t do things which are inexcusable. It is up to him to learn from his mistakes. Every character in this book is morally ambiguous and our side in the war determines whose actions are excusable and whose are not.

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Book Review: Wink Poppy Midnight – April Genevieve Tucholke

wink poppy midnightApril Genevieve Tucholke never fails to impress me. I am absolutely a fan. I picked this one up first because the cover is GORGEOUS, and second, because I read the Between series by Tucholke and it was incredible.

I have to admit, I was a little thrown off that these three weren’t elves. Wink, Poppy, and Midnight, are the main characters we follow through this story, and are really just high school kids.

I loved how the naming bought a bit of magic and mystery to the book. The whole thing was rather dream-like and even maybe a bit fairy tale, and yet we had some pretty normal characters.

Maybe there wasn’t magic in the book at all. Maybe it was more about how we want magic. Doesn’t everyone want magic?

I think the blaring point of this book is that no one is ever one thing. These characters are multifaceted and will keep you guessing until the very end.

I also enjoyed the strong theme of how outside influence can make you feel like something else entirely. There were strong themes dealing with identity, influence, and labeling.

The whole thing was great, full of incredible characters, and I urge you to read this so we can discuss it.

21 Questions with Beverley Lee

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I have been waiting for this book for months now. It’s arriving today in the mail via Amazon and I cannot wait to get my hands on it!

Beverley Lee is one of the talented writers working on my upcoming curatorial project, Crows on Heartstrings. Now, she’s working on a series devoted to her mysterious boy, Gabriel Davenport.

I was lucky enough to sit down with Beverley Lee and ask her a few questions about The Making of Gabriel Davenport!

Welcome to an article highlighting all the reasons I am obsessed with Gabe and why you should be too!

 

 

  1. When was Gabriel born? (How long have you been working on his story?)
    • Gabriel started off in the summer of 2014 as the first 3,000 words of a short story competition (which I incidentally never entered) but something wasn’t quite right. I picked it up again in January 2015 and immediately knew what was wrong. Originally Gabriel was a girl, called Erin. Once I changed that, his story all fell into place.
  2. What is one thing you want us to know about your story
    • That even though the theme is dark, it is about the indomitable human spirit of courage and hope in seemingly hopeless situations.
  3. Will we get any fun ship names from this book? 
    • Maybe not in this book but most definitely in the sequel. And I’m not telling or it would give the game away 😉
  4. Will this be a standalone book or part of a series?
    • It’s the first in a trilogy which isn’t bad for something that started out as it did 🙂
  5. If Gabriel could give us any warnings before we read the book, what would he tell us?
    • That it’s very bleak in places. And that sometimes the things good people do don’t always matter.
  6. What was your favorite part of writing this book?
    • Developing the character relationships. It’s thrilling to take what you have created and watch them grow. Gabriel is my protagonist but there are other characters who are essential in his story and each one has their own tale to tell.
  7. What is Gabriel’s personality type?
    • He’s a INFP- A ‘Mediator. Yes, I’m nerdy enough to have done the personality test for him! I love that it fits him so well. If you didn’t know him you would say he was reserved, but you wouldn’t know about his inner flame. He is led by the purity of his intent, not by logic, something that gets him into sticky situations.
  8. Who are you most excited for us to meet?
    • Moth. The whole game changes when he appears.
  9. Who are you most worried about us meeting?
    • Moth. Which might sound odd but you’ll see when you read. He makes things ‘difficult’.
  10. What was the most daunting part of getting Gabriel published.
    • Believing in myself. Don’t let anyone tell you that self publishing is easy. There is SO much to think about and so many ways to take yourself down the wrong path. I’ve had to learn on my feet but hopefully won’t make the same mistakes next time!
  11. What would Gabriel think if he broke the fourth wall?
    • That I’m a sadist *laughs* I certainly put him through it but I hope he would realise that the story demanded it, and if I made it easy for him he wouldn’t be the character he is today.
  12. If Gabriel were a superhero, who would he be most like?
    • Spiderman. There’s a part in the book where he talks about how cool it would be to have the ability to fly – and I think Spiderman comes pretty close to that.
  13. What are the key themes you tackle in this book?
    • The struggle between darkness and light and our perceptions of it. And what happens when the line blurs in between.
  14. Who is your favorite character in this book?
    • Apart from Gabriel? 😉 I have a very soft spot for Noah. He’s loyal and supportive and amiable but this can lead to him being put upon. He’s the closest to me in this book.
  15. Do you think we will agree with your answer for number 14?
    • I’m not sure! I think you’ll like him. He has a wonderful back story too and has a huge impact on how things play out in part 1 of the book.
  16. If Gabriel met you in real life, would he like you? (By the end of the book)
    • By the end of the book? Definitely not…
  17. Can you tell us a bit about the plot?
    • This is a longer version of the back blurb. I can’t go into specifics as I don’t want to spoiler! In a house built on truth something lays hidden.

      Beth and Stu Davenport moved to the English hillside town of Meadowford Bridge to give their young son, Gabriel, an idyllic, rural childhood. But in a single evening, the Davenports’ dream is shattered by a hidden, ancient darkness– and their lives are forever changed.

      Years later, Gabriel Davenport, now a capable, curious young man, makes the ill-fated decision to go looking for answers about his mysterious past. As soon as he begins his quest, his life becomes a place of shadows. The people he loves and trusts are acting abnormally. The strange woman who lives upstairs is even more haunted than usual. Even his most trusted friend seems to be hiding something.

      As one fateful night deepens, and the line blurs between darkness and light, Gabriel must confront the terrible events that destroyed his family all those years ago. He is faced with a choice: continue living the life that was never his to begin with, or give himself over to a terrifying new reality more sinister than anything he’s ever known.

      The darkness is watching.

  18. What sort of genre is this?
    • It’s a dark fantasy, set in the present but with definite ties to the past.
  19. Did you always want to write this genre?
    • Definitely. I’ve always been in thrall to the darker side of fiction and I love incorporating supernatural twists into tight plots and character driven stories.
  20. Will you continue in this genre or will you venture out?
    • I’m very comfortable in this genre but if the right story kept nipping at my heels I would certainly run with it to see where it led me.
  21. Does Gabriel fit with the Crows on Heartstrings Theme? (Is he doomed or do we have hope?)
    • Ah, the tough one. I’m going to say both, because it’s true 😉

For more on Gabriel and Beverley, find her on twitter, @constantvoice

Book Review: Lady Midnight – Cassandra Clare

Let me preface this by saying I am a fan of Cassandra Clare and though this review is harsh, I respect her as a writer and will continue to read and buy her work.


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Lady Midnight, for me, was a war over Quality vs Quantity. Did we get a 600+ page book? Sure we did. Though as an aspiring writer, I cringed over the unclear plots and redundant description of clothes.

When I first started reading, I gave Cassandra Clare the benefit of the doubt because she had to reintroduce us to the world for the new series without a Clary or a Tessa, who were learning the world with us. But what ended up happening was anytime we learned something new, I felt like it was info-dumping. The narrator took us aside and dumped a Shadowhunter Textbook on our heads and then resumed the story.

The next worrying bit for me, was how much description of appearance there was. How many words are there for the Blackthorn verdigris eyes? I feel like Lady Midnight maybe should have been called Emma and Julian’s closet. I think I know every article of clothing they own.

I have a few bits I want answered but am hopeful will be answered later and are no just abandoned plot lines, like Julian’s sea-glass bracelet everyone stopped talking about halfway through the book.

I did like seeing cameos from the Shadowhunter Alums, but sometimes it just felt like a crutch. The climax of the story dragged on a bit too long and the resolution seemed redundant, mostly because the Alums came back.

We could talk about Emma going Will Herondale on Julian (spoiler, if you know what this means for love) And how at first I just thought Emma and Julian seemed like genderswapped Jace and Clary. (They grew into their own and became their own characters but it took a while for me to connect to them)
We could also talk about Mark being in the middle of an overlapping love triangle. (Though I don’t feel the bond between Cristina and Mark wasn’t enough to hold up an angle of a love triangle.
The betrayal seemed regurgitated…so many things seemed like a stitching of her own novels until they looked like a new one.

But let’s instead talk about what was great: Mark Blackthorn is a sly fox and he’s wonderful.
The forbidden love between Julian and Emma is so hot.
Necromancy!
Honestly, the major plot of the story, the introduction to Faerie was all great and creative and fresh. (though I hated the shadow market and how getting there was exactly like Diagon Alley)

I am excited about the return of Jem and Tessa.

And Kieran’s love story, my goodness. That boy is a tragic gem!

So overall, I liked the story, I don’t mind the love triangles, I just wish the writing was tighter and more precise. Also, Cassie, stop telling me about their clothes every five seconds!

But I’m still going to read the rest of her books and buy everything Cassandra Jean illustrates because I do love the world Cassie Clare creates.

Book Review: Radio Silence – Alice Oseman

25322449I need to tell you first and foremost how much I adored this book. Alice Oseman is a goddess. Solitaire was gorgeous, and her second book, Radio Silence is even better.

So what do you need from a good book? Juicy Romance? Strong Female leads who never miss a beat? Is that what you really need? Because you won’t find it here and I promise you, this book gave me more ‘feels’ than anything I’ve read this year.

I definitely commend Alice Oseman for keeping her cast of characters diverse in sexuality, gender, and ethnicity. That’s just normal, isn’t it? Alice Oseman has a way with making the ordinary extraordinary, doesn’t she? And she doesn’t have to whitewash her characters to do it. Alice showed her mostly non white, entirely LGBTQIA+ characters as normal people, being normal– And guess what? That’s because everyone is normal regardless of these labels, and everyone can carry a novel if the character is fleshed out enough. And no, (for you more conservative readers) it doesn’t mean anyone is shoving an agenda down your throat.

So let’s move on then: Moral of the first section, Alice is inclusive of all people in this book.

Aled Last. I love Aled. He is a sweet and snuggly boy (Alice has said he doesn’t necessarily label himself according to gender, though he was born a boy)  I don’t love him because he needs saving, or because he is in love with the female protagonist, because arguably, neither is true. I love him because he is Aled, and he is remarkable. It is so easy to feel a connection to Aled, … and all the characters for that matter.

But what about the strong female lead? Well. Frances is strong, and female. But the trope we’re all tired of is that women have to be infallible to be strong. I love Alice Oseman because she keeps writing incredibly complex women, even in her minor characters, and you cannot tell me they’re not strong women. They’re real women, girls, people going through things, and she treats her beautifully flawed women the same way we treat cis white male characters… and you know what? I love them, I love her characters. It’s what makes everything so profound and resounding about her plots. Her women aren’t assassins or damsels, they’re just girls, which is what we need.

There had to be one thing right? It’s spoilery. So stop reading if you want to read this book.

Aled is in a complicated relationship with Daniel/Dae Sung. And the realness is a little bit too uncomfortable here because I worry about Daniel influencing Aled to dress in ways he wouldn’t normally do himself. I wondered if Daniel was a little too controlling, though, again, they seem to be in a real relationship with real everyday problems, and I’m hoping it’s something they can eventually get over.

Anyway, please read this book. I give it all my approval. Alice Oseman is doing what we all should be doing, writing real characters who are inclusive of all ethnicities, gender, and sexuality without stereotyping, or defining anyone by one trait.