Tag Archive | magic

Review : Poison Study, Magic Study, Fire Study

Poison Study;  by Maria V. Snyder
Genre : Fantasy
Series : Study series : Book 1
My Rating :

Magic Study;  by Maria V. Snyder
Genre : Fantasy
Series : Study series : Book 2
My Rating : 

Fire Study;  by Maria V. Snyder
Genre : Fantasy
Series : Study series : Book 3
My Rating : 


Sentenced to death, Yelena will seize any opportunity to stay alive; so when she is offered the position of  food tester for the Commander, she immediately accepts. It’s an offer that comes with a twist; to ensure that she doesn’t try to escape, she will be poisoned, and given daily her dose of antidote -which she would die without. But danger might come from unsuspected sources, and as Yelena steps into what she believes to be a temporary situation, her true story is revealed and her life is forever changed.

The Man of the House and I first read Poison Study when it came out in 2007, and we loved it. I thought the setting, the characters, the plot, everything was great and just different enough to be refreshing when compared to the traditional fantasy I was devouring at the time. So when the following books came out, we added them to our shelves. It took me a while to get to them though, so last year I finally reread Poison Study and followed with the next two books.

I was happy to discover that I still loved Poison Study, even after a second reading. I loved Yelena, found her story intriguing, and felt her relationship with Valek was paced perfectly through the pages. It was a great mix of mystery, romance and worldbuilding, without stepping into the overfantastical-fantasy type of fiction (you know, the kind with magic and elves and mythical creatures and wars and demons, etc). I did feel that some part of the plot was a tad too obvious, but the ending itself had a few surprises.

Sadly, the amazement I had felt in the first book evaporated as I started reading Magic Study. What had been an original setting became a more traditional one of fantasy, with magic school and all that. Yelena was still a nice character and I loved the part that was about her reuniting with her family, but the plot itself was less surprising. Also, not enough Valek.

Which is a trend that continued in Fire Study. At that point, I had a very hard time reading. I will be honest and say I was bored. Had it been the first of a series, I would probably have given up, but after spending so much time with Yelena, I wanted to know where this led. Again, I missed Valek, and despite the action, there wasn’t enough to keep my interest. Plus, I found that Yelena hadn’t developed as a character. To me, her voice was more adult in the first book. It might have been that I wasn’t paying attention enough though.

A side note about age : I was very surprised to see this book being shelved as YA on Goodreads! Here, the books are sold in the regular fantasy section, not with the YA literature, and I have always thought of them this way. It doesn’t really matter really, but I thought it was funny; adult YA readers often argue that good YA doesn’t have an age, and this seems to prove that. I personally think the characters are a bit too old to be considered YA (Yelena is 21, and I imagine Valek is older? I guess?), but honestly, I don’t think the tags matters much. If you want to read it, read it! 🙂

So, I’m not sure what happened between book one and three, but I didn’t like it. I would not hesitate to recommend Poison Study to readers, but I would advise to lower your expectations before getting to the following books. Hopefully, you will enjoy them more than I did, and will be able to appreciate the complete series.

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3 Reviews : Hex Hall, Firelight and The Candidates

Sometimes I don’t feel like talking to an extent about some of the books I’ve read, so I choose to go with the short reviews instead. I’ve done this in the past mainly with books I hadn’t enjoyed, but this time it’s not the case. Instead, here are three books I did enjoy reading but that didn’t leave a strong impression on me.

These share some similarities, as all three are the first of their series, and all have a paranormal aspect. They also all provided a healthy dose of entertainment – just what my brain needs when it’s time to turn off after a long day! And if only for that reason, they at least deserved a short mention here, because even though they might slip off my mind after some time, I’ll probably read their sequels anyway!

* * *

Hex Hall by Rachel Hawkins
Pages : 323
Genre : YA, Paranormal, Magic
Series : Hex Hall, Book 1
My Rating :

What it’s about : Ever since she’s discovered she’s a witch, Sophie has been prone to “incidents”. When one particular incident on prom night gets her in trouble, she is sent to Hex Hall, a school where witches like her but also shapeshifters and faeries get to learn to live with their abilities. When students start being attacked, Sophie has to pick her allies and decide who she can or can’t trust.

My Thoughts : This was quite fun, actually, and it makes me sad that I don’t have much to comment about it, because in the “quick paranormal read that entertains greatly” category, Hex Hall is one I am really glad to have read. Sophie was a likable character and I loved her sense of humor. It wasn’t the sarcastic-teen kind of humor we often see in YA fiction, it was simply fun.

Sophie has a love interest, of course, but while the author described their instant connection, I was never convinced by it. So, for me the romance really was second place to all the rest. On the other hand, I loved Sophie’s vampire roommate. Their friendship, I was convinced of. It was complex and realistic in the way they interacted with each other.

All in all, a cute read and I can’t wait to read the next book. 🙂

Series Reading Order :

  1. Hex Hall
  2. Demonglass
  3. Spell Bound (coming March 2012)

* * *

Firelight by Sophie Jordan
Pages : 323
Genre : YA, Paranormal
Series : Firelight, Book 1
My Rating :

What it’s about : Jacinda is a draki, a descendant of dragons with the secret power to take human form. When a dangerous turn of events forces Jacinda to flee from her home with her mom and her sister, she doesn’t feel prepared to face the mortal world. Once there though, only one thing makes her feel more alive : Will, the beautiful guy who’s a danger to her own family.

My Thoughts : Dragons! I love stories with dragons and the like, so between that and a fantastic cover, I was looking forward to this one. While it wasn’t as amazing as I had hoped it to be, it certainly was an entertaining story with lots to twists and turns. The fact that Jacinda knows what she is from the start, rather than discovering her new abilities, also makes it different from many YA novels.

However, I felt there was a lot of repetitions in the narration, especially toward the middle. I felt Jacinda kept repeating the same complaints, again and again. Also, I didn’t feel the story went as smoothly as it could have gone. Despite that, I was left curious enough to put the next one (with an equally beautiful cover!) on my wishlist.

Series Reading Order :

  1. Firelight
  2. Vanish

* * *

The Candidates by Inara Scott
Pages : 293
Genre : YA, Fiction
Series : Delacroix Academy, Book 1
My Rating :

What it’s about : Weird things always happen around Dancia, especially when something threatens the people around her. But when, despite being average in everything, she gets offered a prestigious scholarship at the mysterious Delacroix Academy, Dancia knows this is her chance to change the course of her life.

My Thoughts : I wish the story stood out as much as the cover does, but sadly, I found it extremely predictable. The idea was fun : boarding schools and the like always make perfect settings for weird and mysterious stories, but I didn’t feel the author explored this one in a sufficient way. There was also too little surprise left for the reader, considering the “truth” is revealed really far in the book.

However, I found Dancia likable and the group of student intriguing enough to keep me reading. I’ll probably read book two, but I’m considering borrowing it rather than buying it.

Series Reading Order :

  1. The Candidates
  2. The Marked

Review : Ice

Ice by Sarah Beth Durst
Pages : 308
Genre : YA, Fantasy
Stand Alone
My Rating :

What it’s about :

On the day of her 18th birthday, Cassie comes face to face with a talking bear who makes her the following deal : if she’ll agree to marry him, he will bring back her mother, imprisoned away since Cassie has been a kid. Cassie has no idea what she’s in for when she says yes; in the following months, her life will be turned upside down more than once, taking her across the Arctic and testing her will in many ways.

Magical. Enchanting. Breathtaking. Adventurous. Surprising. Poetic.

Those are only few of the many words I could use to describe my experience of Ice. I loved, loved, LOVED it – even more because I hadn’t expected to.

I discovered Ice last year, reading reviews of it on various blogs, and thought it looked interesting enough. I still had some doubts it was a book for me though, as I am a very capricious reader when it comes to fairy tales. I’m not sure why, but not all re-tellings work well for me. Plus, talking animals, when written seriously, have a tendency to come off as ridiculous (to me, anyway), so it was with great skepticism that I pulled Ice from the bottom of my TBR pile.

From the start I loved Cassie. She’s the kind of main character I enjoy : she’s strong, not whiny, intelligent. She has a head on her shoulders and is ready to do anything for those she care about. She’s dedicated in a way that is admirable, which doesn’t mean that she’s perfect or never worried. She felt complete to me, and very real.

This realness in Carrie’s character was important in a world that suddenly reveals itself as filled with magic. It allowed me, as a reader, to really discover this magic through her eyes, and to understand (to some degree) what she was going through. I was especially worried about the “falling in love with a bear” part, since other readers had mentioned how weird it was, how unbelievable. It worked for me though. It’s definitely a personal feel; I liked Bear and found him to be very “human”, and the fact that he could change into a man at night reinforced that impression.

The author also did an amazing job of describing the Arctic. I could feel the cold through the pages, imagine the landscape of infinite white, the ice castle Bear created and all the places Cassie visits. I did felt the action was going in circles a bit at some point, when Cassie talks to a spirit, who brings her to another spirit, who brings her to another spirit… but in the end, it was only a small piece of the novel.

I loved Ice, and already can’t wait to read more from the author. Also, isn’t that cover just gorgeous?

Review : Once a Witch

Once a Witch by Carolyn MacCullough
Pages : 308
Genre : YA, Fantasy
Series : Witch, Book 1
My Rating :

What it’s about :

For many years, Tasmin has been the black sheep of the family : despite an important prophecy announcing her as the most Talented witch of her generation, her powers never manifested. When a handsome yet mysterious stranger gives Tasmin a special mission, her life takes an expected turn as she discovers the hidden truths behind her family and the prophecy.

I’ve always had a special fondness for witches (maybe because there’s been one or ten people I would gladly have changed into frogs!), so I was naturally drawn to Once a Witch. A light fantasy read with an interesting premise, the book started out good but never really lived up to my expectations.

The setting, though nothing new, is interesting. I like the idea of everyone born with a different talent, which sounds close to reality (don’t we all have different things we’re great at?) Tasmin was engaging enough, as was her whole family.

The problem, for me, was more in the plot and its predictability. I guessed most of what would happen very early in the book, and kept waiting for the moment I would be proven wrong. Sadly, except a few “twists” I couldn’t have guessed, there were very little surprises. This could have been saved by a few humorous scenes, or a charming romance, but everything felt a bit bland.

It wasn’t bad : I finished it and would read the sequel, but it was all a bit forgettable. Once a Witch is a nice read, but I would have a hard time to pinpoint something that makes it “special”, distinct from the other books of the genre. Still, if you enjoy an easy, not too over-the-top fantasy set in our world, you might want to give this one a try.

Series Reading Order :

  1. Once a Witch
  2. Always a Witch (Coming August 2011)

Review : City of Glass

City of Glass by Cassandra Clare
Pages : 541
Genre : YA, Urban Fantasy
Series : The Mortal Instruments, Book 3
My Rating :

From the Back of the Book :

To save her mother’s life, Clary must travel to the City of Glass, the ancestral home of the Shadowhunters — never mind that entering the city without permission is against the Law, and breaking the Law could mean death. To make things worse, she learns that Jace does not want her there, and Simon has been thrown in prison by the Shadowhunters, who are deeply suspicious of a vampire who can withstand sunlight.

As Clary uncovers more about her family’s past, she finds an ally in mysterious Shadow-hunter Sebastian. With Valentine mustering the full force of his power to destroy all Shadow-hunters forever, their only chance to defeat him is to fight alongside their eternal enemies. But can Downworlders and Shadowhunters put aside their hatred to work together? While Jace realizes exactly how much he’s willing to risk for Clary, can she harness her new found powers to help save the Glass City — whatever the cost?

Third in The Mortal Instruments series, City of Glass is an action-packed novel that offers a very well rounded conclusion to previous storylines. At 541 pages, the book isn’t light, but there’s so much going on that the reader won’t be bored.

City of Glass has a lot of good points, however it was my least favorite of the three books. Unlike the two previous ones, where twists and new plots were surprising us every couple of pages, I found this book to be quite predictable. Very soon in the beginning I had a good idea of how things would turn out and yes, they did just as I thought. At some points in the book, I felt Clare was a little too obvious in her writing : she would write that one of her characters felt that this or that “felt wrong” and, sure enough, 200 pages later, a huge twist happened revealing that things were, indeed, very very wrong. Huh.

One of the things I enjoyed as the books progressed was Clary’s part into the story. At first, she was a lot more of an observer than a real participant. It made sense in a way : she knew nothing of her abilities or of this new world. In City of Glass, she allies knowledge and action, initiating more events rather than living through them. I still found her annoying at time, but that didn’t keep me from liking her most of the time!

We also learned a lot more on the dynamics of the Shadowhunters world, and the more we learned, the less I found resemblances to the Buffy Universe. That’s not a bad thing, more of an observation! In fact, it’s a good thing that Clare has her own original universe.

In the end, I thought this was a lot of fun, but I’m not a fan as I am of, let’s say, Collins’ The Hunger Games. I would still recommend it to those of you who enjoy YA and urban fantasy with a lot of action, twists, and romance!

Series Reading Order :

  1. City of Bones
  2. City of Ashes
  3. City of Glass
  4. City of Fallen Angels (published 2011)

Review : City of Ashes

City of Ashes by Cassandra Clare
Pages : 453
Genre : YA, Urban Fantasy
Series : The Mortal Instruments, Book 2
My Rating :

From the Back of the Book :

Clary Fray just wishes that her life would go back to normal. But what’s normal when you’re a demon-slaying Shadowhunter, your mother is in a magically induced coma, and you can suddenly see Downworlders like werewolves, vampires, and faeries? If Clary left the world of the Shadowhunters behind, it would mean more time with her best friend, Simon, who’s becoming more than a friend. But the Shadowhunting world isn’t ready to let her go — especially her handsome, infuriating, newfound brother, Jace. And Clary’s only chance to help her mother is to track down rogue Shadowhunter Valentine, who is probably insane, certainly evil — and also her father.

To complicate matters, someone in New York City is murdering Downworlder children. Is Valentine behind the killings — and if he is, what is he trying to do? When the second of the Mortal Instruments, the Soul-Sword, is stolen, the terrifying Inquisitor arrives to investigate and zooms right in on Jace. How can Clary stop Valentine if Jace is willing to betray everything he believes in to help their father?

Having now read the three books in the series, I can say this is definitely my favorite! Lots of actions, many twists and turns, mysteries, danger, great developments for the characters; I really enjoyed it! Clare created a sequel worth of its predecessor and I flew through the pages in just a couple of days.

I really can’t say much more than that without risking spoiling it; however, there is one thing I would like to talk about – or should I say, one character, and that character is Alec. I have to say, I just love what Clare did with him!

Very soon in the first book, we learn that Alec is gay. To be honest, I have some difficulties with the typical homosexuals we often meet in books and movies. You know the one : the fashion-obsessed, gossipy, high-pitched voice, colorful gay who’s function if mostly comic-relief. I understand that some gays fit that stereotype – I worked for many years in the Gay Village in Montreal and I did meet them! But if I look at the guys I personally know that are gays, none of them really fit that description. Anyway, that is a whole other debate that would deserve its own post, so back to the review :

I liked Alec because he was exactly NOT like this. If you take away all the parts discussing his love life, there is nothing pointing at his sexual orientation : he doesn’t walk around in sparkly pants, worship Madonna or panics if his hair gets undone. His sexual orientation is part of who he is rather than being the thing that completely defines him. In other words, I was glad he wasn’t used as a ridiculous comic relief : Alec is a character you can take seriously. He is a complex guy who has yet to completely accept this part of who he is, and I really felt for him (much more than I did for Clary, I have to say).

So yes, I enjoyed this one, and even more after reading the third book since some issues that were bothering me were then fixed. If you’re into fast-pace paranormal novels and you enjoyed the first book, this one is definitely one not to miss!

Series Reading Order :

  1. City of Bones
  2. City of Ashes
  3. City of Glass
  4. City of Fallen Angels (published 2011)