Coming Up: Daughter of Camelot (Empire of Shadows #1)

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Title: Daughter of Camelot (Empire of Shadows #1)
Author: Glynis Cooney
Details: Paperback, 421 pages
Expected Publication: September 24th 2013 by Mabon Publishing

Filled with terrific suspense and budding romance, Daughter of Camelot is a fast paced adventure set against the turmoil at the end of the Arthurian era.

Raised in the shadow of a fort dedicated to training Knights of the Round Table, Deirdre thirsts for adventure.

Instead, at 14, she is sent to court to learn the etiquette and talents of a young woman.

Court life, however, is more fraught with danger than she expected, and Deirdre finds herself entangled in a deadly conspiracy that stretches deep into the very heart of Camelot.

All Deirdre thought she knew and believed in—loyalty, love, bravery—is challenged when she embarks on a quest to defy Fate and save the King.

Synopsis & Image from Goodreads. Click the image to fly there.

More Flaws Than a Broken Mirror? Throne of Glass (ToG #1) by Sarah J. Maas

Click image for Goodreads.
Click image for Goodreads.

After serving out a year of hard labor in the salt mines of Endovier for her crimes, 18-year-old assassin Celaena Sardothien is dragged before the Crown Prince. Prince Dorian offers her her freedom on one condition: she must act as his champion in a competition to find a new royal assassin. Her opponents are men-thieves and assassins and warriors from across the empire, each sponsored by a member of the king’s council. If she beats her opponents in a series of eliminations, she’ll serve the kingdom for three years and then be granted her freedom.

Celaena finds her training sessions with the captain of the guard, Westfall, challenging and exhilirating. But she’s bored stiff by court life. Things get a little more interesting when the prince starts to show interest in her… but it’s the gruff Captain Westfall who seems to understand her best.

Then one of the other contestants turns up dead… quickly followed by another.

Can Celaena figure out who the killer is before she becomes a victim? As the young assassin investigates, her search leads her to discover a greater destiny than she could possibly have imagined.

I don’t think I’ve ever had so many issues with a book yet still loved it. But that’s what happened with Throne of Glass. I absolutely loved the settings and the descriptions in the book, the salt mines sounded horrific and the glass castle sounded beautiful and exciting so I enjoyed the world that Maas created in that way but in other ways it fell flat.

I instantly fell in love with Celaena though. She survived the impossible and came out of it relatively unscathed albeit with a bit of an attitude. She’s a kick-ass, smoking-hot assassin and she knows it, and feels the need tell everyone she is such. I usually find narcissistic characters unbearable but for some reason with Celaena it was OK. It kind of suited her and I felt like she deserved to love herself a bit.

The main issue I had with her was that as the story develops she never quite lives up to her infamy, and no one treats her the way I thought they should. She’s taken out of the deadly salt mines and given a chance at freedom if she competes in the competition but she is so infamous as the deadliest assassin in the kingdom that her identity has to be covered up, yet she’s still free to roam around the castle and make friends with Princesses? It doesn’t make a huge amount of sense, but I went with it anyway.

I enjoyed the relationship dynamics between Celaena and Prince Dorian (what is it with all these princes with stupid names?? Po, Maxon, now Dorian…really!?) Dorian doesn’t seem too bothered that Celaena could kill him with her bare hands, and considering that the contestants are now dropping like flies, he never seems to even doubt her. Which is nice I guess, if not stupid.

Celaena on the other hand comes across as being pretty compassionate for an assassin but she’s still quite icy when it comes to love. We’re never entirely sure if she likes Dorian as much as he likes her, or if her close friendship with Chaol, Captain of the Guard, will turn into something more. To be honest, she doesn’t really seem to care either way. She wants Dorian, but we don’t know if it’s just lust or something more. She’s certainly a character of contradictions – she might be an assassin but she’s a book-loving, dress and shoe-obsessed assassin who doesn’t even seem to enjoy fighting all that much, or really be that good at it.

I liked how fast-paced Throne of Glass was and I was never bored, but I did wish that some of the ‘tests’ that the competitors faced were a bit more imaginative and dangerous. I expected each round of the competition to be a fight to the death so we could see Celaena’s skillz in action, but most of them were harmless tasks like archery which I found a bit lame. However, the gruesome deaths of the other competitors and the mystery and magic surrounding them was enough to keep me interested and entertained.

I haven’t read the prequel novellas yet, and I hope that between those and the following books in the series we’ll discover more about Celaena and how/why she became an assassin in the first place to help us understand her and believe in her more. I also hope that this is just the beginning and that the world Maas has created has something more to offer – I’m sure it does.

Somehow, despite all of its flaws and beyond all reason I absolutely loved Throne of Glass. It didn’t hurt that Maas is a Buffy fan either. Or that her initial idea came from one simple thought – what if Cinderella was an assassin sent to kill Prince Charming (I kind of wish her idea hadn’t evolved so much!)?

Details:Paperback, 420 pgs. Published Aug 02 2012 by Bloomsbury.
My Rating: 4 out of 5 Unicorns
Is it a keeper? Definitely!
If you liked this try: Graceling.

Top Ten Tuesday #1 (Castles)

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Top Ten Tuesday is an original feature/weekly meme created by The Broke and the Bookish.

This is my first ever Top Ten Tuesday post! I’ve been meaning to jump on the wagon for a while…better late than never. Thanks to The Broke and the Bookish for hosting.

This week’s topic was Top Ten Books With X Setting and I’ve decided to go for my Top Ten books with a castle setting (or at least featuring a castle)…because, y’know, I’m a bit obsessed with castles. Click on the images to go their Goodread pages.

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1. The Enchanted Castle – E. Nesbit A rose garden, a maze and an enchanted castle…what’s not to like.

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2. The Lion, the Witch and the Wardbrobe – C.S Lewis Two castles for the price of one! There’s the White Witch’s icy castle with ‘long pointed spires, sharp as needles’, and Cair Paravel with its four empty thrones.

1911374 3. King Arthur and his Knights at the Round Table Camelot is clearly the king of all castles!
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4. The Neverending Story – Michael Ende The Ivory Tower definitely counts as a castle, right?

14976 5. Return to Labyrinth – Jake T. Forbes I LOVE this Manga series of Jim Henson’s Labyrinth. The Castle beyond the Goblin City is epic!

13519397 6. Throne of Glass – Sarah J. Maas The protagonist Celeana thought the idea of a glass castle was ridiculous – I think it’s amazing.


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7. Seraphina – Rachel Hartman The Kingdom of Goredd not only has a beautiful castle but also some pretty unique Dragons.

7180320 8. Castle of Shadows – Ellen Renner I’ve only read the first book in this series but I loved it. The Royal Castle of Quale is as grand as it sounds.

1635042 9. Beauty & the Beast I’ve had this book for years and it’s every bit as beautiful as the film.

237012 10. The 10th Kingdom – Kathryn Wesley I love this book, it brings so many different fairy tales together set in a fantasy world and also modern day New York.

What would be in your top ten books featuring castles? Leave a comment with your TTT link!

The Verdict: Bitterblue by Kristin Cashore

Click to view on GoodReads.
Click to view on GoodReads.

There are just many things to be said about Bitterblue but let’s start with the basics. It’s the third book in the Graceling Realm Trilogy by Kristin Cashore and it looks beautiful.

In Graceling, we entered a world of seven kingdoms where some people are born graced with any number of unique skills or abilities and where we first meet Katsa, seemingly graced with the skill of killing and under the command of King Randa. Katsa becomes increasingly frustrated and depressed about being used in such a cruel way and when Prince Po comes along their journey together slowly reveals just how corrupt the seven kingdoms really are. In Fire, we’re transported to The Dells, a kingdom of ‘rainbow coloured monsters and underground labyrinths’ where Fire, the last human monster is both hated and obsessed over, constantly assaulted for being so irresistible and who refuses to use her mind control to steal people’s memories and secrets.

By the time we come to Bitterblue, it is several years after King Leck’s tyrannous and torturous reign in Graceling and we follow the young Queen Bitterblue as she attempts to rebuild her kingdom; a kingdom that is still deeply affected by her father’s spell over them. But how can you rebuild something that is based on lies and secrets and despicable acts? Especially when the people who were most under Leck’s spell are the ones closest to Bitterblue?

There are so many things I love about this book. I enjoyed Fire, but as soon I opened this it felt like I was coming back home. I was eager to meet up with Katsa and Po again and it didn’t disappoint despite the fact that they weave in and out of the narritive. I think Cashore could easy have ridden the wave of their romance and made that the main strand of this book but I think this portrays a much more realistic and exciting relationship. It’s certainly refreshing to see these characters living their own lives, putting the important things first and not just glaring at each other with puppy-dog eyes. They are definitely not the puppy-dog eyes types!

I love how this story slowly builds momentum. We find the clues as Bitterblue finds them -one by one- linking what really happened during Leck’s time to just how many secrets and lies are being maintained within the city walls. I found myself even more confused than Bitterblue as to who to trust and who to investigate. However, I did feel like there was a lull in the middle where the pace could have been picked up and I just wanted to grab Bitterblue and shake her yelling ‘haven’t you learnt by now you can’t trust anyone, get on with it!’

I enjoyed the mix of the old and new here too. Whenever I think of Kings, Queens and castles, whether it’s in this universe or a fictional one I think of times gone by, but Cashore’s world is full of modern themes making no fuss over boys and girls fighting each other, same-sex relationships, sex before marriage, birth control, or a Queen who wears trousers and slips out of the castle at night to smooch with a thief. And is it just me or is it completely devoid of religion? Hallelujah!

Cashore has created an in-depth world of strong, kick-ass girls, epic sword-fights, passion, and intriguing mystery. Essentially, Bitterblue and those before it are about the abuse of control and power, facing up to horrible truths and having the strength to overcome the impossible.

Bitterblue is published by Gollancz and I received a copy in exchange for a review as part of their Gollancz Geeks Blog.