It is release day for Michelle Sagara’s Cast In Wisdom! Definitely a book worth adding to your TBR. The link is to my review if you are interested.
Blurb: SOMETHING IS WAKING
The fiefs that exist at the heart of the city of Elantra are home to sentient Towers that guard the world against the incursion of Shadow. But between the fiefs exists the gray world of the border zone. In it, geography changes between one passage across a border and the next. The rules of magic are different there—and yet somehow familiar to Kaylin Neya.
When a Shadow escapes, Kaylin must find out how…and why. If Shadows can breach the barrier erected by the Towers, the whole of Elantra will be devoured. It’s happened on other worlds. Bellusdeo, Kaylin’s Dragon companion, absolutely believes it can happen on theirs.
The border zone holds secrets and ancient histories, and people are gathering there in search of its power. Without even understanding what that power is, or why it exists, Kaylin is in a desperate race against time to find those secrets first. She doesn’t know who her enemies are. She doesn’t know how many she’ll face. But she won’t face them alone.
Main SPA Evaluation Areas:
World Building: 5/5 Stars
Series Continuity/Expectations: 3/5 Stars
Personal Opinion: 4/5 Stars
I am yet again struggling to review a book in this series that I love. I could almost copy and past my review from the last book as the issues I had with that one are still very much present in this one.
This is now the at least the third book in a row where you see little to no character growth from Kaylin. You see little to no page time from some of the original favorite characters like Marcus, the Hawklord or Sanabalis.
Though we do get more time with Nightshade, that interaction is done almost entirely through his mental link with Kaylin and no actual interaction. There is a great deal of Kaylin’s interactions in this book that are handled in this manner. This is frustrating because it seems that somewhere along the way the deep tensions between Kaylin and Nightshade and Kaylin and Severn have been lost. Whatever tension existed between them has vanished. Severn’s place has turned more into a less personal bodyguard kind of a role while Nightshade has been relegated to more of an advisor/information bank.
I did love that we got to spend more time with the Arkon. This really was more about his story than anything and I was glad to see the focus shift from the cohort. You still get a good dose of them in this book, but they aren’t the focal point. It was also nice to see that Kaylin didn’t collect anyone or anything new in this book.
Another piece that was different in this one from many previous books is that Kaylin seems like more of an observer. She participates and has a few points where her abilities are key, but it isn’t her actions that are the most important. In a way, it is nice to see her not always being the one to come in and save the day, but she is the basis for the series. I would have really liked to see this be a book that helped her character grow in some way.
As far as series expectations go, this is where I tend to get tangled up. If you look at the last several books in this series, this is absolutely right in line with those books. But if you look at the earliest books in the series, this doesn’t have quite the same characteristics and feel. It does have more going on and brings about some drastic changes to the world than the last couple of books, so I’d say it falls in between the early books and the last couple as far as those expectations go.
As I mentioned in my review of Cast in Oblivion, I still love this series and these books, but characters need to grow. There are also things about characters that readers fall in love with and if you leave those things behind, you may end up leaving the readers behind as well. This one did a better job of bringing some of those things along than the last few, but not quite as much as I would have liked.
*I received a copy of this book from NetGalley. Opinions stated are honest and my own.
I don’t tend to set reading goals as I already probably spend too much time with my nose buried in a book. Maybe. It’s debatable. I have no desire to ever again hit or even get close to my highest book count in a year, because that 508 was nuts. I can say that based on the numbers below, I can probably still hang onto my my “picky, moody reader” label.
Books read in 2019
258 New to me; 28 Rereads; 14 DNF
5 Stars: 12
4.5 Stars: 7
4 Stars: 91
3.5 Stars: 34
3 Stars: 80
2.5 Stars: 13
2 Stars: 21
Below 2 Stars: 0
*I didn’t start recording half stars until I changed my rating system in May. I also fully plan on adding at least one or two more books to this before we reach “one” on the countdown clock.
Of those twelve 5 stars I handed out, it isn’t a bit of a surprise that most of them came from authors at the top of my favorites list. Faith Hunter, Anne Bishop and Michelle Sagara (West).
A couple of others were standouts even among those few that managed 5 stars and are worth mentioning again.
One of the other things that I wanted to do as a final wrap up to my 2019 reading is to mention my top Indie Author reads for the year. Keep in mind that these are books that I KNOW are indie books. There are probably dozens of indies on my read list for the year, but not all authors are upfront and it isn’t always easy to tell. If I wasn’t 100% certain, I didn’t notate that a book was an indie.
These are the best indie reads for me this year.
I highly recommend any of the books I’ve listed here. If you haven’t read one of them yet, you really should add it to your 2020 TBR.
*click on any thumbnail to go to the review for that book*
Blurb: The eighth and final book in the epic fantasy House War series closes this chapter in a beloved world of magic and political intrigue, where new threats are stirring.
When the Sleepers wake.
Once, that phrase meant: never. The Sleepers were a myth, part of a story told to children. But in truth, the Sleepers, ancient princes in the court of the Winter Queen, were imprisoned in slumber by the gods themselves—in the cold, dark ruins of the ancient city that lies buried beneath the capitol of the Empire. And that prison is fraying, at last.
They are waking.
The gods no longer walk the world. There is no power that can stand against the princes when they wake—and the city that has been Jewel’s home for her entire life will be destroyed when the Sleepers walk. There is only one person to whom they owe allegiance, only one chance to halt them before they destroy everything in their ancient rage.
But that person is the Winter Queen; she is not, and has never been mortal. Jewel carries the last of the surviving saplings that might usher in a new Summer age—but all of the roads that lead to the court of the Queen are closed.
Jewel ATerafin has faced the Oracle’s test. She has control of the prophetic powers that she once considered a curse and a burden. She will find her way to the Winter Queen, and she will ask—or beg—the Winter Queen to intervene to save her kind, her House, and everything she loves.
But she is mortal, and time has never been her friend. The demons are waiting to bar her way, bringing battle to the hidden ancient paths on which she must travel. To win, she must face the true meaning of the Oracle’s test, and risk sanity and life to make the choice that has always lurked at the heart of the firstborn’s test.
And even then, it might be too late.
Main SPA Evaluation Areas:
Series Continuity: 5/5 Stars
I don’t have much to note specifically here other than to say this book definitely stayed true to form, but this does play a huge part in my overall opinion.
Series Expectations: 4/5 Stars
As usual, this exceeds expectations in most areas. Some I saw coming and others I was surprised by in a way I’m still torn on.
Personal Opinion: 4/5 Stars
I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect with this book as the end of the House War series. Because this is so intricately tied with The Sundered, The Sacred Hunt, and The Sun Sword series, I didn’t know for sure if this was the LAST, last book, or just the last House War book. It doesn’t feel like the end of the much larger universe and story arc that ties all those other series together.
There is so much that happens in this one book, I’m not sure how to unpack it all. Many threads that have been introduced throughout this series (and some of the other connected series) get tied up in this book, which was to be expected, but they don’t feel completely done. There are other, much larger, storyline threads outside of the House War series that are still left unfinished.
I wasn’t entirely surprised by the end result of Jewel’s journey. I am a little surprised at the specific events that get her there. I was honestly expecting different events or circumstances would be the catalyst that brought about her decision, a kind of emotional upheaval, but these weren’t. I am by no means disappointed, just… it came about differently than I thought, leaving me a little torn about my response to the actual events.
There is a conclusion to the storyline about The Sleepers, but I feel like this takes a bit of a backseat to Jewel’s story. Since she is essentially the focal character in this particular series, that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. I think I would have liked to have gotten a better glimpse of their interaction with Meralonne, though. But that is the problem with any great character in any book, you never feel like you get nearly enough page time with any of them.
In typical fashion, I get to the last page and I wasn’t ready for it to BE the last page. There are still lots of threads left unfinished, even the threads of many of the focal characters in this series. There are still so many characters in this series that I’m not ready to see the last of. This book, even being the end of the House War series, means that I don’t have to see the last of them just yet. I’m hopeful that means we will still get more of the specific characters in THIS series, wherever the larger storyline takes us.
*I received a copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
Other areas of note (not included in the SPA rating):
Cover: 5/5 Stars
I have to be a bit giddy about this cover. I have loved the art on ALL the covers of this series. They all hold an extremely consistent look and feel and this blends in perfectly with the rest. I cannot get over all the detail and how deeply this (and all the other covers) reflect the events in the book.
World Building: 5/5 Stars
It is probably obvious if you were to look at my favorites list that this falls into one of my favorite series. It is because of the world building in this series that I love it so much. Fair warning, though! You’ve GOT to read the books in order to truly understand what is going on, that means the books across all the different series. You may be able to pick up one of the series and not feel entirely lost if you read from the beginning of that series, but you would be missing out on some of those finer details and underlying pieces that are so essential to the whole.
There is so much detail and intricacies woven throughout this as a whole. I honestly don’t think I’d want to ever be in the author’s head. To be able to hold it all together and keep it in line and consistent is kind of astonishing.
I’ll be back with pretties soon, but now… I am nose buried in new awesomeness.
Jewel ATerafin has never wanted to be a power. What she truly wants, she built in the streets of the poorer holdings. To protect what she built, to protect what she values above all else, she has accepted that power is necessary.
But with power comes responsibility.
Jewel has forced herself to do what would have once been unthinkable: She has surrendered her den-kin, Carver, to the wilderness, because she must if she is to have any hope of saving the rest of her family, and the city in which they dwell.
But she cannot leave him with nothing. Into his hands, she has placed the single, blue leaf that came from the wilderness and the dreaming combined. She doesn’t know what it does or what it was meant to do—but it is the most powerful item on her person, and it is the only thing she can leave him.
That leaf, however, was created to serve a purpose that Jewel does not understand. Nor does Carver, who now possesses it. With Ellerson by his side, Carver intends to traverse the wild Winter in an attempt to reach home—and the people who are waiting for him.
There are those who do understand the significance of Carver’s gift, and the disaster that will prevail if it remains in his hands. But time is of the essence. These lands are not unclaimed, and the Lord of these lands is waking from his ancient slumber.
Nor is the Lord the only threat. Firstborn, demons, and wild elementals are swirling around two mortal men in a storm that threatens to end the only chance the city of Averalaan has of surviving what is to follow.
I almost wish that I had reread at least the last couple of books in this series before I read this as it took me a bit to sink back into all the characters and this world, especially since it has been a while since Oracle. As usual, I loved this book, so that isn’t much of a shock.
I did hit a couple of places with regards to Jarven, Haval and Hectore that felt repetitive or redundant, making those portions of this book drag, especially when I wanted to get back to what was going on with Carver and Ellerson. I also still didn’t get enough page time with Avandar or Angel, which I was still expecting/hoping for.
In the grand scheme of things, those are minor gripes as this was supposed to be the last book in the series, but in classic MS tradition, one book became two, which means we get another book. I’ll take those gripes instead.
Much like Oracle, though, this book does more to fill in blank areas that are needed before we can get to that last book. I don’t know that we saw any overwhelming change or growth from any of the characters, with the exception of Carver, because of that. I don’t really see that as a negative, though. Lack of growth and the few times of feeling that bit of redundancy aside, this book felt like a whole lot happened. Including my prediction that I was definitely going to be needing lots of tissues by the time this is all said and done.
The last book is due out this June, so only a tiny bit of patience is required.
Blurb: POLITICS ARE HELL
Kaylin wasn’t sent to the West March to start a war. Her mission to bring back nine Barrani might do just that, though. She traveled with a Dragon, and her presence is perceived as an act of aggression in the extremely hostile world of Barrani-Dragon politics. Internal Barrani politics are no less deadly, and Kaylin has managed—barely—to help the rescued Barrani evade both death and captivity at the hands of the Consort.
Before the unplanned “visit” to the West March, Kaylin invited the Consort to dinner. For obvious reasons, Kaylin wants to cancel dinner—forever. But the Consort is going to show up at the front door at the agreed-upon time. The fact that she tried to imprison Kaylin’s guests doesn’t matter at all…to her.
A private Barrani Hell, built of Shadow and malice, exists beneath the High Halls. It is the High Court’s duty to jail the creature at its heart—even if it means that Barrani victims are locked in the cage with it. The Consort is willing to do almost anything to free the trapped and end their eternal torment. And she needs the help of Kaylin’s houseguests—and Kaylin herself. Failure won’t be death—it will be Hell. And that’s where Kaylin is going.
It pains me greatly to write this, but… I didn’t love this book. I have adored this series (and pretty much every single thing put out by this author) from the very beginning, but…
There really wasn’t anything new in this book. Kaylin does all the same kinds of things that Kaylin has always done. There really wasn’t any real growth for her in this book. That and like the last one, I don’t feel like I got enough of the other characters that I want to have page time, mostly Severn and Nightshade. We didn’t even get to see Marcus or the Hawklord in this book. I’m not dissing this. It was not a bad book at all. It was still really good. I just didn’t feel like it did much to move the series forward. There was so much time spent on dealing with the cohort, in this and the last one, that nothing else has room to develop.
Things seem to be getting crowded for Kaylin in this series. She has become a collector, of people and magical creatures, and there are only so many new people/things you can introduce before you lose the important ones that have been there from the beginning. You see it heavily in this book.
I would love to see the next book having more of the feel of the earlier books where more time is spent with Kaylin actually doing things rather than massive chunks of time spent in her head. Characters need to grow. Absolutely. But there are things about characters that readers fall in love with and if you leave those things behind, you may end up leaving the readers behind as well. This book rides very close to that line for me.
Blurb: WITH FRIENDS LIKE THESE, WHO NEEDS ENEMIES?
Private Kaylin Neya thought her home couldn’t possibly get more crowded. But when one of her housemates, Annarion, decides to undertake the Barrani Test of Name, his friends refuse to let him face his task alone—and Kaylin’s sentient home, Helen, is the only structure capable of shielding the rest of Elantra from the magnitude of their power.
Annarion and Mandoran almost caused the destruction of the High Halls once already. Add nine of their closest friends, and the danger is astronomically higher—especially since these guests are at the heart of a political firestorm. Imprisoned almost a millennium ago, their recent freedom threatens the rulership of several prominent Barrani families, and the machinations of those Lords make it almost impossible to tell friend from foe.
As political tensions ramp up, the shadows beneath the High Halls are seeking a freedom that has never been possible before. Kaylin must find a way to keep those shadows from escaping, or that freedom will destroy her city, the empire and everything she holds dear.
If I had to compare this to any of the others in the series, it is probably most like Cast in Peril. That said, I think this is the most different of all of the books so far. It is probably my second least favorite of the series.
Even though I still really enjoyed this, it felt like I was missing much of my favorite characters because the focus was almost entirely on the extended group of the cohort than on any of the established existing characters. It is obvious that Kaylin is bringing them into her sphere of people she considers hers, but I’m not as much of a fan of this group as I have been of every other character that has been brought in.
It was also missing a bit of what I’d consider classic Kaylin. Her personality is absolutely still there. She is still growing and maturing, but there was very little of her innate abilities displayed in this book so it almost felt as if even she were somewhat missing from this story.
This was a much lower key book, with the focus on the politics and intrigue of the Barrani court. If it follows a pattern being much like Cast in Peril (feeling sort of like a gap book to bridge major story arcs), then the next book will be much fuller in the sense of action and progress.
I am currently on a rereading binge. But again, being the occasionally brainless person I am, I completely forgot how many books are in this series. Probably because I only have the first few in print and the rest are digital. I had wanted to get them all read again before the new book came out. I have just started on book 9 of 13 and the new book came out a few days ago so I am way behind.
Blurb: Beneath the streets of Averalaan lie the three Princes of the firstborn, doomed to sleep until the end of days. When gods walked the world, they feared the Sleepers. They fear them even now. If the Sleepers wake, the city will not survive — and the Sleepers are waking.
House Terafin has already felt the consequences of their stirring.
To save the city — and the House over which she rules — Jewel Markess ATerafin must go to face the Oracle. She leaves a House that is still divided, and a city in which demons, in human guise, have begun to move. At no time in Terafin’s history has it faced the dangers it now faces, and it will face them bereft of its leader.
Jewel has always seen unpredictable glimpses of the future — images of death and destruction which she cannot control and cannot always understand. To master her birthright, she chooses to walk the path of the Oracle. In her hands, she carries the only hope of the Winter Queen.
But the path she must travel was old when the gods ceased to walk the world. Ancient creatures stalk winter skies at the behest of the demons who mean to ensure that she will never reach the Oracle’s side.
Secrets, long hidden from all but the firstborn, will finally be brought to light. Choices will be made, and paths chosen, from which there will be no return.
Review: For probably the first time in this series, we get a much closer look at one of the other members of Jay’s den, Jester. While he hasn’t taken on a level of importance as some of the others, like Finch or Teller, we see that he does have a roll to play that hints at becoming more important than just a background character.
We have seen it in other books, but in this book, the gathering of additional support for the entire group, not just Jay, becomes more prominent and solidified. Both in firming up support from past characters as well as introducing some new ones. The specific enemies are still left unclear as new potentials have appeared.
While we got to see quite a bit of growth for some of the den members, Finch in particular, and learned a bit more about Meralonne and Hectore of Araven’s servant Andrei, there wasn’t as much for some of the other characters that I was either expecting or hoping for in this book. I really thought we’d see something more from Angel and learn a bit more about his specific role in relation to Jay. We did get a some, but I kind of thought there would be more. Avandar fell into the background a bit more in this one as well. Since I’m fascinated with his character, I always want more from him.
As is often the case with any book from this author, I wasn’t ready to be finished by the time I got to the end, but for a few more than the usual reasons this time. It didn’t have quite as clean of an ending as her books usually do, and that left me hanging in a way that I wasn’t thrilled with. I don’t want to give it away, but I honestly expected something totally different, or maybe more dramatic. None of that really takes away from how amazing the book overall is because I know that all of the loose ends that have been left are leading up to what should be the last book, so it works.
I will say that I couldn’t help but be brought to tears in this one. It has been a while since a book tore at me that hard, but this one… yeah, it got to me. It has me wondering if I should by stock in tissues in time for the final book of the series is released.
I have FINALLY gotten around to finishing all the re-reading I wanted to get in before I started on the latest book in this series. I thought that before I actually wrote up the review for it, I needed to post a little about the series itself, which is actually listed as three separate series, though I’m not sure why as they are all pretty intimately connected.
The order that these books need to be read in also does not follow from series to series. They overlap. If you are not familiar with them, I recommend reading them in the order listed below:
The Hidden City – The House War
City of Night – The House War
Hunter’s Oath – The Sacred Hunt
Hunter’s Death – The Sacred Hunt*
House Name – The House War*
The Broken Crown – The Sun Sword
The Uncrowned King – The Sun Sword
The Shining Court – The Sun Sword
Sea of Sorrows – The Sun Sword
The Riven Shield – The Sun Sword
The Sun Sword – The Sun Sword
Skirmish – The House War
Battle – The House War
Oracle – The House War
The first note to the series that must be made is that Hunter’s Death and House Name are pretty much the same book. I will admit that these were not the books that I took the time to re-read on this go round as I’ve already read the first several books in the series several times and felt that with the short time I had, I was okay to skip those. Because of that I cannot say definitively, at this time, that they are exactly the same books (hey, it has been a while). They are substantially enough the same that you could easily get away with only reading one. The events in the last couple of books in the Sun Sword series happen at the same time as Skirmish and Battle from the House War Series.
These books are not the kinds of books that you can pick up one of the later books and not be totally lost. You absolutely have to read them in order to be able to follow the story. The entire storyline is incredibly intense and packed full of various different characters and places and political and personal interactions. While each individual series has central characters, which are numerous, many of those characters are critical across the entire story line of all three series. You could probably read the Sacred Hunt Series or the Sun Sword series alone, but if you want to read the House War series, you need to read them all in order to not miss out on something.
If you stop and think of what kind of mind can create the level of writing that is in these books, you just might break your brain. Incredibly detailed world, phenomenally developed characters, intricately wrought and complex situations, relationships and political intrigues. It is just so much to take in and absorb. I actually described it to my husband as though you were reading about all of the residents in a small town, with all the details and personalities of each of those people and their interactions and relationships, except in a completely fantastical world filled with humans, magic, immortals, gods, and demons. While this is a pretty dumbed down description, it is still pretty accurate.
In a way it is funny, because I’m not sure I would like a series like this written by any other author. I don’t typically like reading books that are quite that intricately detailed and full while having to keep so close track of what is going on in a story, nor am I a huge fan of books that are that wed to the entire series that I would feel at a complete loss if I started in the middle somewhere. In the case of these books, though, it is done so expertly that I cannot help but love every bit of it. It is absolutely one of those “suck me in and devour me” kinds of series.
Current reading stats
How I choose the next book to read often depends on how many books are on my To Read list. The fewer I have available, the more time I have before they are due back (if they are checked out of the library) and I will often just pick the one I’m most looking forward to. The more I have on that list, with some getting close to their due date for return, I will pick up the one with the closest due date.
After finishing a book the other day, I went to look at all the books I had checked out and on my To Read list to decide which one I wanted to start next. I had quite a few on that list and was really torn because the bottom couple just weren’t books I was all that excited about starting because I wasn’t thrilled by the previous book in the series. I ended up just going with one that I was way more excited about, thinking I had a bit more time to get to the others before I had to return them.
After doing this a few times and looking at my Coming Soon list of books that are getting released in the next month, I realized that Michelle Sagara’s next House War book, Oracle, was due out on May 5th. It has been a bit since the last release in this series and I thought it might be a good idea to do some re-reading. IF I could get my To Read list under control enough that I’d be able to have time to do that.
Unfortunately, I had a ton of books on that list and a whole crapton on my hold list that would be coming available at random times along the way. I finally decided that if I kept skipping over those bottom list books, then maybe I should just not bother with them all right now. I ended up returning a bunch of books to the library so I could focus on the ones I was actually really excited about. If I get really bored, then I’ll consider checking them out again at some point in the future. Then again, I may not. Seems I’m having difficulty finding the time to read all the ones I’d really like to at the moment, so why waste that time with the ones I’m just not all that jazzed about?
Besides, a Michelle Sagara book will ALWAYS take precedence over any other book. Well, unless it is an Anne Bishop book. I honestly don’t have a clue what I’d do if those two authors ever released a book at the same time. Fingers crossed that I’m never quite that lucky.
Even after pairing it down, I still seem to have too many on that list. If I truly want to have the time to re-read all the connected books from the House War series (that is an awful lot of reading because it connects with both the Sacred Hunt books and the Sun Sword series), I’m going to have to pair it down quite a bit more. I may have to settle for re-reading just the House War books for now.
No matter what I choose, there is going to be a lot of reading in my future. As if that is any different than any other day. 😉
As of right now, my current book count stands at 112 new and 27 re-reads. Seems that I am continuing with my theme of re-reading some of my favorites this year. This month, I re-read one of my all time favorite series, Michelle Sagara’s Chronicles of Elantra. I probably should have read House War (another favorite) first as that is the series that has the next book out (May5), but I’m sure that is going to be the next on the re-read list.
I’m doing a lot of re-reading because I am STILL struggling to find new authors to read that I love. Heck, I’d be thrilled with even just one at this point. Sure, I’ve found a couple of new ones that I like, but I don’t love them and that is getting frustrating. I have grabbed more new books lately that don’t just jump out and grab me when I read the synopsis on the off chance that something will spark when I read the actual book. That hasn’t quite worked yet, but I’m still holding out hope.
Something I realized the other day is that I’m not actually writing very many reviews. While I think it is probably impossible for me to write a review for every single book I read (my current average is about a book and a half a day, so that would be a bit much), I do think I should probably be writing up at least a few more than I currently am. I didn’t realize how difficult it might be to write up something on a book that isn’t either awesome or awful and since I haven’t found much in the first category and try exceptionally hard to avoid the second, that doesn’t leave me with all that much to write about, so I’m going to work on that for next month.
April 7th brings the new release in the Jane Yellowrock series, Dark Heir. I’ve got that one on pre-order and cannot wait to get it. The 7th is also the release day for Diana Rowland‘s latest in the Kara Gillian Series, Vengeance of the Demon. This one I don’t have on my To Buy list, but I am on the waiting list through the library. So glad that I know I’ve got some things on my upcoming reading list to really look forward to.