RESTORATION UPDATE

RESTORATION will release on February 26, 2019!

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August’s first attempt to destroy the Foundation not only failed, it also nearly got him killed. Now stuck inside a refugee camp in the bordering nation of Staridruch, he’s determined to get back to Belstrana and finish what he started. So, when an anonymous benefactor offers him weapons and supplies, August cautiously accepts. Only somewhat aware of the danger that his status as an Elect poses to those around him, August travels with Elisa and Alek back to Belstrana, where they hope to join forces with the hidden network of rebels. Unfortunately, the return of old friends and enemies complicates matters, and even the rebels have their own hidden agenda.

Caught between the Foundation, the rebels, and his own sabotaged mind, August soon finds himself tangled in a web of betrayal that spans decades and crosses political borders. With the fate of his homeland and the hope of a future with Elisa at stake, August will risk everything to break the duplicitous bonds that hold him and defeat the Foundation once and for all.

RESTORATION – Cover Reveal!

I am so excited to share the cover of RESTORATION with you today. This book, the sequel to THE ELECT, was a labor of love that took over two years to complete. The back cover blurb will come soon, but for now, let me introduce you to RESTORATION!

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As usual, Amanda Matthews (the cover artist) did an amazing job! I hope you love it as much as I do, and I can’t wait to share the rest of the book with you!

Sneak Peek of RESTORATION

Happy Friday, y’all! Who’s in the mood for some great news?

Firstly, the audiobook of THE ELECT released this week! You can check it out (and BUY it) here and here! The narrator is TJ Clark, and I think he did a phenomenal job bringing August to life. I couldn’t be more pleased with the final product.

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Additionally, RESTORATION, the conclusion to THE ELECT DUOLOGY, is now under contract with publication expected in early 2019!

I am so very excited to share the final half of August’s story with you all. Thank you to each of you who has not only hung in there but also encouraged me over the past two years. Your patience is enormously appreciated. As a thanks and to help get you through the final waiting period, here’s a quick blurb about what you can expect in the upcoming sequel, RESTORATION!

Warning: SPOILERS AHEAD for those who haven’t finished THE ELECT!

Continue reading “Sneak Peek of RESTORATION”

More Updates

Hey, y’all. I hope everyone had a great summer. We’re back in the full swing of school here, but I wanted to provide some new updates on my writing.

THE ELECT

First off, I’m pleased to announce that THE ELECT is going to be an AUDIO BOOK! I don’t have a release date for this quite yet, but I’ve listened to it, and it sounds great. I’m so excited for this next step! I will, of course, let everyone know when this hits audible/amazon.

THE SEQUEL

This July, I finally finished writing the sequel to THE ELECT. It is currently with my editor/publisher, and I am patiently (ha, just kidding) waiting to hear back from her about it. The title is RESTORATION, and I am relieved, astounded, and over the moon about having this manuscript finished. It’s been 4 years in the making, and readers are in for a wild ride with the conclusion to the duology. If/when I get a pub date, I will scream it from the mountaintops.

AGENT STUFF

*cringe* Sometimes… things just don’t work out. After nearly 18 months with my agent, I made the painful choice to move on, so I’m back querying. Professionally, that’s all I’ll say about that on a public forum. If I happen to sign with a new agent, again, I’ll scream it from the mountaintops.

MIDDLE GRADE

At the beginning of the summer, I finished writing a middle grade science fiction novel that I think readers will love. Beta reader feedback has been great on it. So, for the most part, this is what I’m currently submitting to agents who specialize in children’s books. I have high hopes of finding appropriate representation for it and can’t wait to see this book move towards publication.

PICTURE BOOKS

Ah, yes. Picture books. I’ve written a few more and have edited some older ones. At this point, I have around 8 that I think are ready for submission to agents. The thing is… picture book writing is a particularly tough scene to break into, especially since many agents are looking for author/illustrators who can provide artwork for their own stories. If you know me or have ever seen me draw something, you’ll know that this is a laughable concept. I can’t draw. Regardless, my goal is to find an agent who has interest in and can represent both MG and PBs for me.

BUT WHAT ABOUT SELF PUBLISHING?

I’ve considered it, but as of right now, I feel led towards the traditional publication route. I’m not ruling self-publishing out, and I’m certainly don’t look down my nose at those who do self-publish. But I don’t think it’s right for me at this time. In the future? Who knows.

 

Anyways, hopefully this helps answer any questions you have about what’s going on with my writing career. It’s been a crazy couple of months as I’ve transitioned back into querying mode and school has started back up again, but I believe something great will come around soon. When it does, you know I’ll share it here.

Love,

Me, in the porch chair where I spent many, many hours writing this summer.

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An Update

It’s been a while since I posted, and you all deserve an update. A lot has changed, and yet at the same time, very little has changed. So, here’s what’s going on in my writer world lately.

PICTURE BOOKS and SUBMISSIONS

As you may already know, I’ve written about a dozen picture book manuscripts so far (give or take) that have been sent to my agent. Many of them deal with STEM issues or animals or robots. They pretty much all follow a rhyming scheme, and I’m very proud of them. A couple of them are on submission right now with editors, actually, which is thrilling and yet… also kind of boring? I feel like this is the part of publishing that people don’t really talk about. You always here the stories about authors whose agents put them on sub with editors at publishing houses and then BAM! The book sells within a week! While this is probably the dream of every agent and author in the world, the reality (for me anyways), is that authors should expect to wait. A lot. As soon as I have good news to share, believe me, I’ll share it!

 

MIDDLE GRADE

A couple of months ago, I had an idea come to me for a new story. I pitched to to my agent (Marisa), and she liked the premise, so I started writing in my spare time. It actually started out as a picture book idea, but I quickly realized it deserved much more space than a PB could offer. As a result, it morphed into an elementary/ early-middle grade book. I worked on it for several weeks whenever I could, and the story just flowed out of me really well and pretty quickly, all things considered. I finished all 37k words of it about two weeks ago. After getting a couple of other people to read through it and making adjustments based on their feedback, I sent it to Marisa. That was about a week ago, and I know it will take her a while to get around to reading through it. Inevitably, she will give me some great ways to improve the story so that maybe one day it, too, can go on submission. Until then, I’ll keep working away on my other WIP (work in progress), which brings me to…

 

YOUNG ADULT

Ah, here’s the meat. I have been working on the sequel to THE ELECT for LITERALLY four years. Why has it taken me so long? I could give you a list of reasons – parenthood, full-time work, family stuff, life, and generally just… distractions. But I don’t know that those reasons really get to the heart of why it’s taken so long.

There’s a lot of expectation that comes with a sequel. And quite frankly, I’ve – if I’m being honest – have been avoiding those expectations. It really took me a while to actually even figure out where the story was going. I mean, I always knew how it would end, of course, but the road to get there? Not so much. As a result, this book has taken a lot of drafting and outlining and thought, so much so that I got very discouraged and went in to avoidance mode.

The good news is that I finally had a breakthrough a couple of months ago and got the rest of the book outlined (I had stalled out about halfway through the first draft). And now, riding on the heels of finishing my MG book, I’m encouraged and ready to finish this draft. My plan is to have the first draft finished by July, which is 13 days away. I have eight chapters left to write (I think?) and then some adjustments to make before I go back and start fixing major issues. At this point, I just want it written and out of my head. With luck (and a considerable amount of discipline), I will get this draft finished by the time June ends. After that, I’ll send it to some beta readers, who will hopefully help me find holes and issues that need addressing. And once those things are squared away, I’ll get it sent to my publisher, who has a first-look rights to the manuscript. Hopefully, she will like it and then the publishing/editing process will start all over again.

 

Anyways, that’s what’s been going on in my creative world lately. As I mentioned earlier, the sooner I get any type of update, I’ll share it with you!

Thoughts on Being Published

An interesting thing happens when you write a book. You spend weeks, months, maybe even years, pouring out your thoughts on to paper, watching your word count slowly drift upwards. You dig out things from your imagination, create brand new people, describe thrilling (and sometimes mundane) events, design cultures, and build entire WORLDS. And you scribble them down, sometimes with a ravenous appetite for creation and sometimes with the slow intensity of a surgeon wielding a scalpel. And when you finish and see the words “THE END” on your paper, you know it’s not really the end.

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Because then there are edits, and edits sometimes take as long to do as writing the entire first draft. And those edits are usually followed by more edits, more revisions, more chopping and adding and mulling over details, from the minute to the enormous. You pass it off to other people to read, and then they give you more things to fix, more ways to improve. And so you launch into another round, or two, or three, or fifty. And this feels like it could go on forever.

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Sometimes, you shove your work-in-progress into a metaphorical (or literal) drawer, annoyed with the whole process and with yourself, because you just can’t figure out the right words or plot line. Your people aren’t *real* enough, your descriptions not quite what they should be, your plot-line is too cliche. You let it percolate in that drawer, move on to other projects or avoid writing anything altogether. But eventually you get your manuscript back out and dive back in, because your story needs to be told.

But when it really is finished, who is going to read it?

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Whether you self-publish or find yourself a publisher (which in and of itself is a whole other round of nail-biting and gnashing of teeth), you make the choice to turn over your imagination and skills and deepest thoughts to a reading public who, all things considered, will consume it like everything else on the market. And then they will pick your book, your baby, to pieces. Some will love it. Some will hate it. Some will be indifferent to it. They’ll applaud it and encourage others to buy it, or they’ll dismiss it and never speak a word about it. Or maybe they’ll even post scathing reviews of your work on the internet for the rest of the world to see.

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We all do that, don’t we? Review books, movies, music, clothes, lifestyles? We all have opinions and we often voice them.

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But what happens when you’re on the negative end of one of those reviews? I’ve reviewed books negatively before. I’ve disparaged the work of another author before without a second thought. And then I found myself on the receiving end of those seemingly random one-star reviews. Ouch.

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It’s hard not to internalize those criticisms of our books as criticisms of ourselves, our humanity. I do this, despite knowing better. It’s one of those quirks of my INFJ personality, I suppose, to see a critique of something I’ve created as a critique of myself, my imagination, and my skills, and then to be discouraged by it. We’d all be foolish to say that we – at any point – reach a cruising altitude of perfection with our art, whether we are writers or musicians or painters. We are only humans, after all, and we are all trying to “human” the best way we know how. It’s unreasonable to expect only positive reviews of our creations, and it’s damaging to think so highly of our creations that we feel victimized when we receive a negative review.

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I know many authors who refuse to read negative reviews of their work. I’m not sure I could ever be that person. I’m too curious to know what the problem is, where I failed in telling my story, and where I can improve on future stories.

And that is the crux of it.

Where can I, where can we improve as authors and creators? While we ALL want to be considered masters at what we do, we aren’t. Personally, I’m not even close. But I’m trying, and I will continue trying to hone my skills as a writer. After all, practice makes perfect, right?

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If you have published a book through a top press, indie press, or self-publishing platform, you’ve still done something that few people have. You’ve written a whole freaking BOOK. Not only that, but you’ve even convinced other people to give up their precious time to read your book and to PAY you for the privilege of doing so! That’s amazing!

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Do yourself a favor and learn from those reviews, both positive and negative. You will never, ever, ever please every single one of your readers, so don’t expect to do so. Have a clear target audience, know your genre (and read other books in your genre), and then shoot for the moon. And if you come up short this time, figure out why, fix what needs to be fixed in your next story, and fire again. Eventually you’ll get there, right?

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Review: A Discovery of Witches

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Genre: Adult Fantasy

Medium: Paperback

Rating: 4 Stars

FROM THE BACK COVER:

Deep in the stacks of Oxford’s Bodleian Library, young scholar Diana Bishop unwittingly calls up a bewitched alchemical manuscript in the course of her research. Descended from an old and distinguished line of witches, Diana wants nothing to do with sorcery, so after a furtive glance and a few notes, she banishes the book to the stacks, but her discovery sets a fantastical underworld stirring, and a horde of daemons, witches, and vampires soon descends upon the library. Diana has stumbled upon a coveted treasure lost for centuries–and she’s the only creature who can break its spell.

MY THOUGHTS:

A Discovery of Witches is not for the faint of heart. It’s not scary or anything – it’s just dense. Diana Bishop is a witch who doesn’t want to be a witch, mainly because she believes her parents were murdered specifically for their use of magic. She views it as dangerous and longs for a simple, ordinary human life. But without realizing what she’s done, she suddenly finds herself drug into the middle of a multi-millennium-long struggle between witches, vampires, and all other sorts of magical creatures over the existence of a special book that she, apparently, has been able to call up from the depths of the library when all other requests have turned void. Oh, and despite being a witch, she can’t actually do any magic – at least, not well.

Okay, so I have a few thoughts here. Firstly, Diana is an academic character. She’s in the midst of researching alchemy, and as a result, there’s an awful lot of academic language in the book. I often found myself a bit overwhelmed with the information and honestly wondered if a lot of it was really necessary. As a result, I found myself skimming multiple places, looking for an end to the bouts of excessive description and inner monologue that slowed the plot down. For a casual reader, there was a lot that could have been cut in this regard, but that’s just my preference.

Diana is a likable, although somewhat frustrating, main character. I suppose this was to leave room for character growth, but there were a few points when I wanted to grab her shoulders and yell “DUH!” or “KNOCK IT OFF, ALREADY!” In general, though, she was smart, independent, and self-sufficient (or at least she’s supposed to be), which I think the literary world needs a bit more of. Additionally, Matthew, the vampire-turned-love-interest (I feel a bit silly saying that) is a pretty interesting character. He’s old as sin, which I admit was a little creepy, but his character is kind and appealing, albeit a bit intrusive with his whole watch-you-sleeping thing. He did remind me a bit of Edward, from Twilight, in the whole tortured, existential vampire crisis he continually goes through. But I also liked him better than Edward, so there’s that.

Now on to the plot. This is a pretty good story. I finished it in a day or two, because I couldn’t put it down. It’s intriguing, a diverse mix of history, science, mystery, and PG romance that reminded me of an academic Twilight (again, I’m a bit ashamed to confess that). My favorite part was watching the relationship between Diana and Matthew develop (again, ignoring the creepy age), because they worked well together. I wish some questions (mainly, “What the heck is in the Ashmole 782?”) had been better answered in this novel, but seeing as how it’s the first in a trilogy, that would have completely undermined the need for future novels. So, I get it.

I honestly had initially thought I’d rate this 5 stars, but after sitting on it for a couple of weeks, I’ve dropped it down to a 4. If it had been more thoroughly edited and a lot of the superlative description and information had been cut, I’d easily give it a 5. But the fact that I skimmed so much in order to keep up the pace of the story is a big detractor. I’m currently reading the sequel, Book of Shadows, and feel as though I’m slowly trudging through it (again, it needs editing). Will I finish the whole trilogy? Honestly not sure at this point. This second book is… long. I did see that there’s a new television series coming out based on the trilogy, and I am interested in seeing it, so there’s that!

Review: Hamilton Building America

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FROM THE BACK COVER:

This documentary captures the amazing life and times of our nation’s forgotten founding father: Alexander Hamilton. Exploring the iconic American political and financial institutions he helped to create – from the U.S. Mint and Wall Street to the two-party political system – we’ll examine Hamilton’s enormous influence that still resonates today. Ron Chernow, whose biography of Alexander Hamilton served as the basis for the hit Broadway play, along with other notable names including Tom Brokaw and Maria Bartiromo, contribute to an all-encompassing look at one of our nation’s most accomplished leaders.

MY THOUGHTS:

As many of you know, I am a high school teacher by day, focusing specifically on American history. As a result, I’m constantly searching for new resources not only to use in class but to also educate myself further on the information. After all, how can I stress the importance of history and education to my students if I don’t also practice life-long learning, myself? Regardless, when given the opportunity to review a new documentary on Alexander Hamilton, I decided I was “not going to waste my shot!” (GET IT?!)

Alexander Hamilton has been recently thrust into the cultural spotlight thanks in large part to the explosive Broadway musical, aptly named HAMILTON. Naturally, Americans have had their curiosity piqued for this historic figure, who is both lauded and despised for his role in the creation of the United States’s federal government. Not only did Hamilton, who came from very humble origins in the Caribbean, rise quickly among immigrant American colonists to serve as Washington’s personal aid during the American war for independence, but he also then proceeded to lead (and frequently win) debates over the creation of a new US Constitution that would soon replace the Articles of Confederation. Credited with writing the majority of the Federalist Papers, a series of essays urging for the creation of a new, more centralized government, Hamilton proved himself extremely thoughtful, literate, and insightful. Conversely, he was despised by many anti-Federalists (later Republicans), including Thomas Jefferson and James Madison, who viewed Hamilton as an upstart, an immigrant and so-called “mushroom gentleman” who sprung up out of nowhere. It was this disdain for his strong personality and political intervention that ultimately led to his death in 1804 at the dueling hand of Aaron Burr.

Thankfully for Hamilton, he had the guidance and respect of George Washington, who, upon election as the first US president, then appointed Hamilton as his Secretary of the Treasury. Hamilton proceeded to use his position and influence with Washington to achieve numerous of his goals for expanding the strength and reach of the Federal government, including the creation of the First National Bank. Even after retiring from the federal government, Hamilton continued to advocate federal growth. As the documentary accurately points out, Hamilton’s role in the development of America’s banking system, executive power, and national identity cannot be understated.

With that said, let’s talk about the documentary itself. Hamilton: Building America is a pretty standard History Channel special. It has a run-time of 84 minutes, which means that it has to cover a considerable amount of information in a relatively short period of time. By comparison, the run-time for the HAMILTON musical is 2.5 hours.

What I Liked: This documentary did a pretty good job of covering the “highlights” reel of Hamilton’s life, including his Caribbean origins, his marriage to Elizabeth Schuyler, his move to the US and subsequent roles in American politics. The information is mostly surface-level, and is easily understood – good old, basic US history facts. The documentary also includes a significant number of clips of qualified historians, professors, and political figures speaking about different parts of Hamilton’s life and influence, which I can appreciate. Nothing ruins a documentary’s respectability quite like the inclusion of random celebrities who largely seem unqualified for commentary (I’m looking at you, America: Story of US, even though I use you in class a lot). Additionally, there is frequent synthesis comparison to today’s political and economic atmosphere, reminding viewers that today’s divisive partisan politics and states rights / national rights arguments are nothing new. In fact, they’re older than the US itself. Real-world connections are important, and I appreciate that this documentary took the time to build those for viewers and remind them that Hamilton, while dead for over 200 years now, is still relevant to our lives.

What I Didn’t Like: There was an awful lot of repetitive B-roll footage that became quite distracting, much like the incessantly driving music that never seems to slow down. I imagine it’s an attempt to increase the drama, of course, but it seemed too much at moments in the story. The same scenes are used a number of times – Hamilton sitting at a desk or staring out a window, Aaron Burr looking quite snarkily at the camera, Jefferson and Madison shaking hands. It seemed a bit cliche, and I found myself longing to see scenes that were more appropriately representative of the dramatic nature of early-American politics. Additionally, I had a hard time reconciling the actors with the historical figures – their looks and costumes just seemed… off. And rarely do we hear anything from the actors themselves – everything is largely spoken by a single narrator or the interviewed experts. Do these issues take away from the valuable use of the documentary or reduce its ability to inform its viewers? No, not necessarily, but it may reduce their attention span, which was my overall issue.

In the end, this felt like a documentary produced in haste with the specific purpose of meeting a demanding market for more information about Alexander Hamilton following the success of the Broadway musical. This is largely a basic reformatting of information of information already well-known about Hamilton and isn’t groundbreaking in its depth of knowledge or its approach to educating viewers. As a history teacher, would I show it in class? Probably not, mostly due to time constraints (I have to be picky about what I show). But would I recommend it to students to watch outside of class? Sure. Overall, I give Hamilton: Building America 3 of 5 stars.

Review: Siege and Storm

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Genre: YA Fantasy

Medium: Paperback

Rating: 4.5 Stars

FROM THE BACK COVER:

Soldier. Summoner. Saint. Alina Starkov’s power has grown, but not without a price. She is the Sun Summoner―hunted across the True Sea, haunted by the lives she took on the Shadow Fold. But she and Mal can’t outrun their enemies for long.

The Darkling is more determined than ever to claim Alina’s magic and use it to take the Ravkan throne. With nowhere else to turn, Alina enlists the help of an infamous privateer and sets out to lead the Grisha army.

But as the truth of Alina’s destiny unfolds, she slips deeper into the Darkling’s deadly game of forbidden magic, and further away from her humanity. To save her country, Alina will have to choose between her power and the love she thought would always be her shelter. No victory can come without sacrifice―and only she can face the oncoming storm.

MY THOUGHTS:

Siege and Storm is the second book in the Grisha Trilogy by Leigh Bardugo. (You can find my review for the first book here.) I have mixed feelings about this one, but let’s dive in.

During Siege and Storm, Alina has found herself more powerful than she had ever imagined but is somehow still not as powerful as she wants to be. The book centers around her game of cat-and-mouse with the main antagonist, known only to the reader as the Darkling, an appropriately named master of dark magic. In her pursuit to beat him at his own magical game, Alina seeks out a series of amplifiers that will increase her power exponentially, all while trying to stay out of reach of the Darkling, who wants to capture her (again) and use her as a weapon (again). As a result, we’re taken on an adventure crisscrossing here there and everywhere across the Grishaverse.

While I really enjoyed following Alina and her friends, most notably her best friend and quasi love-interest, Mal, through this book, it read at a slower pace to me than the first and was full of internal dialogue and drama to the point that I started skimming since so many of the internal moments were repetitive. Alina is caught in an unbearably tough situation that might very well end in the death of not just her but those who love her and fight alongside her. It is understandably an difficult predicament and is worthy of so much inner turmoil, but it felt like half the book was her battling with herself over her choices. I tend to get weary of this, because it slows the action down so much.

Speaking of choices, there are a few potential love interests weaved into this story, including Mal of course, the Darkling (sort of, in a drawn-to-you-but-hate-you kind of way), and a surprise character named Sturmhond. However, none of them really felt full of spark and romance. Her banter always felt better with Sturmhond, and to me their chemistry read better than hers and Mal’s, who continues to be a rock by her side, despite ever-growing differences. Romance is politically advantageous with Sturmhond, ridiculously dangerous with the Darkling, and should be more natural with Mal (although that relationship takes a serious nose-dive during this book) but it never really clicks with me for any of them. I can’t even say that there’s some weird kind of love triangle, because Alina never really pursues any of the men. Why? Because she’s trying to save the freaking world and doesn’t have the time or mental capacity to deal with it.

If you’re looking for a book that’s primarily romance, this is not it. There are romantic elements, but Alina has bigger issues to deal with (saving the world and all that), and I appreciate that about Bardugo – that she can tell a story about a young heroine who, while aided and influenced by her love, isn’t completely wrapped up in it and can lead the charge in a story without constantly getting weak in the knees over a boy.

On the other hand, I did frequently wish Alina would be less frustrating when it came to everything else she was dealing with. She’s a character on a pendulum, swinging from too flaky to too serious fairly often. Thankfully, though, the supporting characters are always there to bring some much needed humor and humanity into the situation.

In the end, I would definitely recommend this book. It’s full of adventure, new lovable characters, and excitement. Bardugo’s writing continues to impress and inspire, and I’m anxious to see where the story goes next, especially after such an intense ending to this installment! 4.5 out of 5 stars to Siege and Storm!

Review: Shadow and Bone

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Genre: YA Fantasy

Medium: Paperback

Rating: 5 Stars

FROM THE BACK COVER:

Soldier. Summoner. Saint. Orphaned and expendable, Alina Starkov is a soldier who knows she may not survive her first trek across the Shadow Fold―a swath of unnatural darkness crawling with monsters. But when her regiment is attacked, Alina unleashes dormant magic not even she knew she possessed.

Now Alina will enter a lavish world of royalty and intrigue as she trains with the Grisha, her country’s magical military elite―and falls under the spell of their notorious leader, the Darkling. He believes Alina can summon a force capable of destroying the Shadow Fold and reuniting their war-ravaged country, but only if she can master her untamed gift.

As the threat to the kingdom mounts and Alina unlocks the secrets of her past, she will make a dangerous discovery that could threaten all she loves and the very future of a nation.

Welcome to Ravka . . . a world of science and superstition where nothing is what it seems.

MY THOUGHTS:

Y’all. This book. THIS BOOK. Shadow and Bone is the first book I’ve read by Leigh Bardugo, and goodness gracious. THIS is what a fantasy novel should read like. I started it at 10pm, thinking I’d read for a few minutes in bed like usual before getting too sleepy. NOPE. I finished this whole thing in 4 hours and stayed up until 2 in the morning, because it was so dang good that I couldn’t stop reading. I devoured this book.

So, what did I like? Pretty much everything. Told from the 1st person perspective of Alina, a grunt soldier who discovers (along with the rest of the country) that she has magical powers in a moment of extreme danger, the voice was perfect. Description was just enough that I could picture everything in my head without being so intense that I skimmed through it to get back to the story. Alina was level-headed (for the most part) and authentic. So were the other characters, especially the Darkling, who is the dark counterpart to Alina’s light. He was kept just mysterious enough throughout the first 3/4 of the book that I didn’t know where Bardugo was taking his character, but I’ll keep it spoiler-free and just say that his character development was very well done as well. Their conversation was fluid and believable, especially between Alina and her childhood friend, Mal. I LOVED their relationship with one another and cannot wait to see where their relationship goes.

(Brief aside – can we quit having male characters just kiss female protagonists out of nowhere without getting their consent first? I’m all about a spontaneous kiss, but not when two characters are practically strangers! But anyways…)

The world Bardugo built is fully fleshed out, and I pretty much understood everything I needed to about the Grishas (although some of their titles still had me pausing to remember what their power was) and the world they lived in. The pacing was perfect. Nothing felt rushed. And it wrapped up nicely enough before the sequel that I wasn’t flinging my book across the room in frustration when I finished it. I WILL be getting the next two books ASAP.

Anyways, if you’re a fan of epic young adult fantasy books akin to Sarah J. Maas’s Throne of Glass series or Court series, you’ll love this. It’s also significantly less graphic than some of the other YA fantasy novels I’ve read lately, both in gore and sexuality. (Some of Maas’s scenes straight up make me blush and fast forward through them.) I’d be okay recommending this book to a teenager without fretting about explicit content.

In the end, 5 out of 5 stars to SHADOW AND BONE! I can’t wait to read the next one!