Lazy Saturday Review: And I Darken by Kiersten White

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I started doing ‘lazy Saturday reviews’ as a way of getting reviews done in just 30 mins, and they proved to be quite popular. They are quick and snappy, and concentrate less on the plot (or content) and writing and more on my overall feelings about said book. They generally end up being a bit of a rant. My fave!

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Title: And I Darken
Author: Kiersten White
Series: The Conquerors Series #1
Format: Digital ARC, 484 pages
Publication Details: July 7th 2016 by Corgi Childrens
Genre(s): YA; Fanstasy; Historical
Disclosure? Yep! I received an advanced copy in exchange for an HONEST review. 

Goodreads 

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No one expects a princess to be brutal. And Lada Dragwyla likes it that way.

Ever since she and her brother were abandoned by their father to be raised in the Ottoman sultan’s courts, Lada has known that ruthlessness is the key to survival. For the lineage that makes her and her brother special also makes them targets.

Lada hones her skills as a warrior as she nurtures plans to wreak revenge on the empire that holds her captive. Then she and Radu meet the sultan’s son, Mehmed, and everything changes. Now Mehmed unwittingly stands between Lada and Radu as they transform from siblings to rivals, and the ties of love and loyalty that bind them together are stretched to breaking point.

Review

I LOVED the idea of this book. I loved that the protagonist is female and based on Vlad the Impaler. I loved that she is a brutal princess who falls in love and has the possibility of thawing throughout the story.

I assumed I would be rooting for her the whole way through. I assumed I would eat this novel up. But.I.Just.Couldn’t.Get.Into.It. I tried, I really tried, and I can’t even pin-point what I didn’t like about it but I kept putting it down and had no motivation to pick it up again. 

I enjoyed the complex relationship between Lada and her brother Radu and how she tried her best to protect him in her own feral way, even if she didn’t understand him and his weaknesses.

I also liked that Lada herself was so unique; she’s certainly not a character you’d come across much in YA so And I Darken definitely stood out for that reason but the pace was just way too slow for my liking. It felt like nothing happened for the first half of the book which frustrated me no end.

Overall, I think this book left me a bit cold due to the deadly mixture of the hype-monster and a slow pace/beginning.

I seem to be in the minority as far as opinions on this go though, so I’d urge you to try it for yourself if you like the premise.

unicorn rating 2 

 

Good Girls Gone Bad: The Merciless by Danielle Vega #YA #BookReview

themercilessTitle: The Merciless
Author: Danielle Vega
Series: The Merciless #1
Format: hardback, 279 pages
Publication Details: June 12th 2014 by Razorbill
Genre(s): YA; Horror
Disclosure? Nope, I bought it.

Goodreads // Purchase

Forgive us, Father, for we have sinned…

Brooklyn Stevens sits in a pool of her own blood, tied up and gagged. No one outside of these dank basement walls knows she’s here. No one can hear her scream.
 
Sofia Flores knows she shouldn’t have gotten involved. When she befriended Riley, Grace, and Alexis on her first day at school, she admired them, with their perfect hair and their good-girl ways. They said they wanted to save Brooklyn. They wanted to help her. Sofia didn’t realize they believed Brooklyn was possessed.
 
Now, Riley and the girls are performing an exorcism on Brooklyn—but their idea of an exorcism is closer to torture than salvation. All Sofia wants is to get out of this house. But there is no way out. Sofia can’t go against the other girls . . . unless she wants to be next. . . .
 
In this chilling debut, Danielle Vega delivers blood-curdling suspense and terror on every page. By the shockingly twisted end, readers will be faced with the most haunting question of all: Is there evil in all of us?

Review

As a huge fan of YA (obvs) and horror I’m always excited to see YA horror books (Yorror as I’m now calling it) published, as they’re few and far between. It took me a while but I’m so glad I eventually got round to buying a copy of this- especially the awesome pink leather hardback version, which is pretty epic!

The Merciless isn’t a case of your old-school Goosebumps or Point Horror. It’s actual horror, that I imagine some parents wouldn’t be too happy about their teens (and certainly pre-teens reading. I kind of wish this book existed when I was 15 because man, I would have lapped it up then.

The Merciless is about a group of ‘good’ girls who take it upon themselves to exorcise the demon out of bully Brooklyn. A prank gone wrong? Revenge gone too far? There’s a whole lot of blood, torment and, well, torture, and the whole way through you’re left thinking ‘are they really doing this?’ 

I can definitely see where they got the whole ‘Mean Girls meets Stephen King’ tagline from. Unlike Stephen King however, this book is severely lacking in the character development department. But you know what? I kind of didn’t care. It would have perhaps made it easier to believe if we knew more about protagonist Sofia before she became friends with the ‘mean girls’ and got involved in the whole Satanic mess, but it wouldn’t make much difference, and it didn’t affect my enjoyment overall.

Like Mean Girls, this book is pretty shallow. But what it lacks in depth it makes up with in relentless action and chaos. It’s also mightily swift in pace. I definitely struggled to put it down, in fact I’m pretty sure I only put it down once. 

I also really enjoyed the sort-of-twist, and although most of the book felt predictable, it was quite easy to second guess yourself and end up with a genuine surprise on your hands. 

I’m already looking forward to the second book. I just hope Vega can develop the characters a bit more. 

unicorn rating 4

The Merciless is out now, and the second book will be released July 5th

Prince of Thorns by Mark Lawrence

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Title: Prince of Thorns
Author: Mark Lawrence
Series: The Broken Empire #1
Edition: Paperback, 399 pages
Publication Details: April 12th 2012 by Harper Voyager
Genre(s): Dark Fantasy; ‘Grimdark’
Disclosure? Nope, I borrowed it from a friend!

Goodreads
Purchase

When he was nine, he watched as his mother and brother were killed before him. At thirteen, he led a band of bloodthirsty thugs. By fifteen, he intends to be king…
It’s time for Prince Honorous Jorg Ancrath to return to the castle he turned his back on, to take what’s rightfully his. Since the day he hung pinned on the thorns of a briar patch and watched Count Renar’s men slaughter his mother and young brother, Jorg has been driven to vent his rage. Life and death are no more than a game to him–and he has nothing left to lose. But treachery awaits him in his father’s castle. Treachery and dark magic. No matter how fierce his will, can one young man conquer enemies with power beyond his imagining?

I had such high hopes for this book. Numerous people have told me that I should give Dark Fantasy, or Grimdark – as all the cool kids are calling it – a go. I like action. I like violence and gore, and I’m a fan of Game of Thrones (although I have yet to embark on the books), so it sounds like a match made in Heaven, but unfortunately Prince of Thorns didn’t quite tick all the boxes for me.

Our protagonist is young Prince Jorg, who’s on a mission of debauchery and revenge along with his own band of loyal, marauding brothers. He has two main goals: The throne, and revenge on Count Renar who killed his mother and brother. Both of these goals lead him back to his father’s castle, where he must face the ghosts of his past.

The way in which I was pitched this book was kind of like imagine Joffrey let loose on a kingdom, and I liked the sound of that. We all love to hate characters like Joffrey, right? But I didn’t quite get that with Jorg.

Having a protagonist who rapes and murders for a hobby is always going to be tricky, and a bit of a risk. It’s not even that I always feel like I need to relate to the protagonist, but I need to have some kind of feelings towards them. With Prince of Thorns, it took me too long to find that. I felt like I needed something extra to get myself invested in Jorg’s story. I didn’t even particularly hate him, I just kind of felt sorry for him.

Saying that, I was compelled to keep reading. I liked the flashbacks to Jorg’s earlier life in the castle, and then, once he returned and faced his father, I definitely started getting into the story as I felt I could finally understand him a little. It was here he showed the first signs of fear and vulnerability, and you could finally see him for what he is – a disturbed and scared boy pretending to be a man.

As for the writing and style of this novel, I’m torn. On one hand I loved the epicness of it, but on the other I found it a bit OTT, enough with the metaphors already.

I love the whole medieval-meets-post-apocalyptic world, but at times I found it hard to picture what was going on, probably because it was over-written for my taste, again, the metaphors!

I’m not at all put off by the Grimdark genre though, or by Mark Lawrence. As a debut novel, Prince of Thorns was a ridiculously daring feat, and I look forward to trying his later offerings to compare.

unicorn rating 3

Prince of Thorns is available in paperback from Waterstones now.