ARC Review: INTO THE DIM by Janet B. Taylor

Check out what I thought about INTO THE DIM, which was pitched as a YA Outlander!

into the dim coverTitle: INTO THE DIM
Author: Janet B. Taylor
Pub Date: March 1, 2016 from HMH Books for Young Readers
Amazon: Pre-order!
B&N: Pre-order!
Goodreads: Add it to your shelves

When fragile, sixteen-year-old Hope Walton loses her mom to an earthquake overseas, her secluded world crumbles. Agreeing to spend the summer in Scotland, Hope discovers that her mother was more than a brilliant academic, but also a member of a secret society of time travelers. Trapped in the twelfth century in the age of Eleanor of Aquitaine, Hope has seventy-two hours to rescue her mother and get back to their own time. Along the way, her path collides with that of a mysterious boy who could be vital to her mission . . . or the key to Hope’s undoing. Addictive, romantic, and rich with historical detail, Into the Dim is an Outlander for teens.

Brittany recommended this book to me, so I was super stoked when Edelweiss granted me an e-arc.

Let’s do this review in list form!

The Bad

ugh hook ouat once

*Ummm… the slut shaming was so painful. Cut that shit out.

Examples:
“The redneck boys where I was from preferred girls like my cheerleader cousins. Size two. Blond. Busty. Brainless.”
First of all, stop perpetuating shameful and mean myths about cheerleaders. And blonds. And people who are slim or have big boobs. And also, do size 2 girls have big boobs? Wouldn’t that cause massive back strain?

“But then again, I’m not one of those slutty St. Sebastian girls.”
Umm… Hope, you just got to Scotland. You don’t even know anyone from St. Sebastian. And even if you did, rude and unnecessary.

There was also some ageism thrown in there (“How can someone so old move like that?” “Though you look pretty good for an old gal, I must say.”). It just really made for an unpleasant reading experience whenever it would appear.

*Historical inaccuracies. Rachel, a prominent Jewish character, tells Hope that her family came to England after her people were forced out of France. I was confused by this since in my Intro to Medieval History class we learned that Jews were not expelled from France until the 1300s. Furthermore, the first country to expel Jews was England (in the 1200s) (This book takes place in 1154). I did a little poking around online and found that Philip Augustus of France did expel Jews from his properties in 1182, but that’s still 30 years in the future.

*What makes this inaccuracy more uncomfortable is that Taylor’s England is super Anti-Semitic, which was just as painful to read as the slut shaming and ageism.

Examples:
“It sickens me that our king would allow a Jew to even enter his palace, much less tend to his queen.”
“…wondered what a Jewess had between her legs.”

“Until the Godless Jews are scourged from this land, decent Christian folk are not safe.”
“It’s a Jewess.” She snarled on the last word.
“How is it that you consort with our Hebrew brethren–” his lip curled at that–

It just feels super weird to embrace the anti-semitism, but not accurately reflect the Jewish experience in terms of expulsion. Unless I missed something in my digging and by the 1150s, Jews had been forced out of France. It is true that Henry II treated the Jews better than other monarchs, so in that regard Into the Dim is correct.

*The first third of the book is so slow! I thought there was a lot of stuff that could have been cut to move the plot along faster. Basically Hope gets to the manor and does a lot of wandering around, meets a boy, learns and trains for the trip back in time, there’s a super long flashback/diary entry that I skimmed…

*Speaking of backstory, the one with Hope/Bran takes a long time until she remembers/learns about it, and I found that so annoying. There were so many places she could have pushed him for more information, and she doesn’t. It felt like it was drawn out just for plot’s sake. Later she just hears a name and has an epic flashback which is oh so convenient (which goes along with another point below about not having to work for anything). Along with Hope being slow just for plot, in the midst of a dire escape while one of the main characters is dying, she just stops for a make out session, which screamed of ridiculousness to me. Yes, I was swooning, but um STAKES. You can make out when you get home and find penicillin.

*There was nothing really special about this book that made it stand out from any other YA fantasy. Special snowflake MC who is pretty but doesn’t know it, with 2 guys who are total opposites and mad about her. Sometimes I can overlook these things if they’re done well or with a twist, or something about the writing really grabs me, but not in this case.

*The MC and her friends didn’t have to work for anything. All the historical figures/adults in 1154 are already on someone’s side because they’ve had interaction with the rival time traveling families before. It really took all the anticipation away because the ‘bad guy’ was obviously in league with the bad time travelers and vice versa. I didn’t feel any stakes since everything was pretty much handed to them.

The Good

asfdgh emma

*Bran!! Swoony, funny, adorable Bran.
*Pretty epic backstory between Bran and Hope. I really liked it.
*Doug and Phoebe were SO cute!
*So were Rachel and William!
*Gosh just all the romance in this book!
*Hope being a boss and burning iron bars.
*Calling Collum on his hypocrisy. Great to see self-aware characters!

INTO THE DIM has all the romance of Outlander, but the slut shaming and lack of stakes hurt my overall enjoyment of the novel. 

Cover Thoughts
the royals eleanor bored annoyed eh

Favorite Quote (all quotes from an ARC! Not final.)
“William was cute in a medieval boy-next-door way…”

cutie alert agent carter

Favorite Character
Bran…

oh my god josh hutcherson

Waiting on Wednesday: THE STAR-TOUCHED QUEEN by Roshani Chokski

I’m so excited about this YA Fantasy!

Waiting on Wednesday Theme: OMG I WANT THIS BOOK NOW

treat yo self parks

the star touched queen coverTitle: The Star-Touched Queen
Author: Roshani Chokski
Pub Date: May 3, 2016 from St. Martin’s Press
Amazon: I’VE ALREADY DONE IT NOW YOU PREORDER TOO
B&N: OR HERE
Goodreads: Your shelves NEED this book

Cursed with a horoscope that promises a marriage of Death and Destruction, sixteen-year-old Maya has only earned the scorn and fear of her father’s kingdom. Content to follow more scholarly pursuits, her world is upheaved when her father, the Raja, arranges a wedding of political convenience to quell outside rebellions. But when her wedding takes a fatal turn, Maya becomes the queen of Akaran and wife of Amar. Yet neither roles are what she expected. As Akaran’s queen, she finds her voice and power. As Amar’s wife, she finds friendship and warmth.

But Akaran has its own secrets – thousands of locked doors, gardens of glass, and a tree that bears memories instead of fruit. Beneath Akaran’s magic, Maya begins to suspect her life is in danger. When she ignores Amar’s plea for patience, her discoveries put more than new love at risk – it threatens the balance of all realms, human and Otherworldly.

Now, Maya must confront a secret that spans reincarnated lives and fight her way through the dangerous underbelly of the Otherworld if she wants to protect the people she loves.

The Star-Touched Queen is a lush, beautifully written and vividly imagined fantasy inspired by Indian mythology.

Truth time: I’ve been looking forward to this book since Roshani announced she signed with her agent on Querytracker with a YA Indian Inspired fantasy. I followed her on Twitter right after that and was SO stoked when the deal announcement came. THIS BOOK. I haven’t read it so this is just hypothetical flailing about how amazing I expect it to be.

brb singing about my feelings

I love fantasy, I’m Indian, I’m all for girls finding their voice and power, I love romance, I love secrets, and lush world building, and pretty words, and I kinda love the ‘forced relationship to love’ trope. So I’m convinced this book is made for me.

PLUS THAT COVER. Mega swoon. That has to be one of the most perfect covers ever.

Are you excited for THE STAR-TOUCHED QUEEN? The only acceptable answer is ‘gcujksvdfghb YES.’

ARC Review: MAP OF FATES (Conspiracy of Us #2) by Maggie Hall

Check out what I thought of the second book in the high stakes CONSPIRACY OF US series!

map of fates coverTitle: Map of Fates
Author: Maggie Hall
Pub Date: March 8, 2016 from Putnam Juvenile
Amazon: Pre-order!!
B&N: Pre-order!!
Goodreads: Add it to your shelves

Two weeks.

That’s how long it took for Avery West’s ordinary life to change forever. In two weeks, she discovered she was heiress to a powerful secret society known as the Circle, learned her mother was taken hostage by the Circle’s enemies, and fell for a boy she’s not allowed to love, just as she found out another was her unwelcome destiny.

Now Avery crosses oceans in private jets to hunt for clues that will uncover the truth about the Circle, setting her mom and herself free before it’s too late. By her side are both the boys: Jack—steady, loyal, and determined to help her even at the expense of his own duty—and Stellan, whose connection to Avery grows stronger by the day, making her question what she believes at every turn.

But at the end of a desperate hunt from the islands of Greece to the red carpet at Cannes comes a discovery that not only changes everything, but could bring the whole world to its knees. And now Avery is forced to face the truth: In the world of the Circle, no one is what they seem.

Thanks to Dahlia Adler for her epic #MapofMates ARC giveaway!

I LOVED MAP OF FATES SO MUCH! I had high expectations for it since I loved book one so much, and it did not disappoint. It was one of my most anticipated sequels, as you know, since I did a Waiting on Wednesday post for it. I’m happy to report the plot did not unfurl the way I expected it to, and that was totally fine.

Here’s some backstory for you about me. When I read The Conspiracy of Us, I was intrigued by that beautiful cover, and the comp title to Ally Carter, who basically made my middle and high school reading life. I was obsessed with Gallagher Girls and Heist Society. Those books were some of my favorites. The last Gallagher Girls book came out my freshman year of college and it was so surreal for me to have started this series pre-high school and be reading the last book as a freshman in college. Anyway! I started Conspiracy of Us, got hooked on page one, but then Avery made some questionable decisions and the plot kind of descended into cliche territory. I kept with it, hoping the magic of page 1 would return, and once Prada happened–around the 80pg mark–I was totally back on board and in it to the end.

With Map of Fates, I was in it from page 1. This book grabbed me and did not stop. Avery had such great growth and dimension to her. I loved seeing new sides to her and seeing how all the madness was affecting her.

map of fates

In Conspiracy I shipped both sides of the love triangle, leaning a little more to Jack, but still open to Stellan. The second installment brought more shipping, and I think I’ve landed firmly in Stellan-land. Oh my gosh. Stellan. He just shines in this book. So there’s one specific scene that just had me dying and someone else might be dying in it too, but I shipped it so hard even though it maybe the most unsexy scene ever. Oh, wait, but then there’s another one with a head injury… and another with alcohol and bar stools. Ah! I just love it ALL.

On the Jack front, his character develops too, but it never feels like we’re learning these things about him to make us ship Avery/Stellan. It feels organic to his character, like we’re peeling back his layers. I just love really good character development.

Luc!! Elodie!! My babies! I love them. When we see Luc for the first time in this book is one of my absolute favorite moments of any book ever. I was laughing so hard I needed to snap a picture of the scene.

Clearly I love the main characters of this series dearly, but I also love the writing. It’s so readable and evocative. All the different countries are well drawn and even the other families of the Circle come to life in their own ways. Map of Fates delves deeper into the twelve bloodlines and I never got bored reading those scenes, like I was waiting until Avery joined up with her friends. I loved meeting all the characters and their worlds.

What about stakes, you ask?? Oh, well let me tell you. The stakes get bigger. Order vs Circle is not so clearly defined anymore and the consequences are far reaching. I mean, they always have been since the Circle basically controls the world, but they feel very grounded in this book.

There was one plot point that happens towards the end that felt a tad sudden. It didn’t have the emotional impact on me it should have because I found it rushed. But it’s a minor issue to me and I suspect it will have an effect on Avery in book 3, so maybe there will be more chance for development there.

The Conspiracy of Us and Map of Fates are super fun novels that define escapism. They’re such a joy to read, packed with excitement, adventure, and scorching romance. I’m so excited for book 3, but sad it’ll be the end of such a wonderful trilogy. I can’t recommend this series more highly! This is something I’ll definitely reread. And they’d make such great movies! Where are you, Hollywood?????

ps These books look great next to cats.

map of fates cat

Cover Thoughts
Think pink!!

Favorite Quote
Look, I want to share with you all the things that made me laugh and/or swoon, but you just need to experience it yourselves. Sorry not sorry.
peter-pan-sorry-not-sorry

Favorite Character
ALL OF THEM. I WILL CUDDLE THEM ALL.
my-babies belle ouat

Best Books I Read in: January (and You Should Too)!

Sorry I left you guys waiting for this month’s list a couple extra days longer. I got distracted with snow and school and watching The Royals.

So in January I read a whooping 16 books! That must be an all-time best. I wanted to read as much as I could before the semester started–though I still read a fair amount the last two weeks of January, balanced with school work. Let’s get started!

love actually dancing

Short version here!
-WOLF BY WOLF by Ryan Graudin [asfghjkl masterpiece]
-MAP OF FATES by Maggie Hall [swoon]
-KILL THE BOY BAND by Goldy Moldavsky [this book is effed up]
-EVERY LAST WORD by Tamara Ireland Stone [cute! poetry! yay!]
-THE ANATOMY OF CURIOSITY by Maggie Stiefvater, Brenna Yovanoff, and Tessa Gratton [yessssss]

Longer/cooler version here!

wolf by wolf

OH MY GOD THIS BOOK. I love it SO much. I read it in a day because I just could not stop. I don’t think I’ve ever really read an alternate history book, so I wasn’t sure what to expect. I was also wary of the subject matter since we’ve had a crop of Nazi Romance Book scandals in the last several months + last semester I took a class on Genocide, so the material was close to my heart. But this. book. was. incredible. Yael is such an amazing MC–she’s been through so much shit, but she still has so much heart, and it’s beautiful. The plot is nonstop and the writing broke me. Like, I had so many feels, it was disgusting [evidence below].

Amazon || B&N || Goodreads

map of fates cover.

The Conspiracy of Us was one of my favorite books of last year. I loved the characters and was totally hooked. I was so excited to win an ARC so I could read it and sate my fangirlsh needs! But who was I kidding, this book just made me need book 3! Again, spot on characters, humor, and sass. And swoony guys that actually made me CHANGE SHIPS. This has NEVER happened to me before. But as much as I love Jack Stellan, I’m here for Avery and her character growth and unraveling all the mysteries of this twisty tale. Okay, and Stellan. Full review coming soon!

Amazon || B&N || Goodreads

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anatomy of curiousity cover.

I’ve never really read short story collections before, but I’ve been in a writing slump recently, so I wanted to check this out since it’s a book for writers and readers. And oh man, I’m so glad I did! These stories and the writing tips/insights/notes  were incredible. The stories themselves were super interesting. I was hooked on two of them and found the other interesting but it just didn’t grab me, though the author notes were still invaluable. If you’re a fan of one or more of these authors or enjoy fantasy and richly woven stories, def check this out!

Amazon || B&N || Goodreads

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kill the boyband cover.

I LOVE THIS BOOK SO MUCH! I don’t even know how to talk about it and I want to review it, but you see how not knowing how to talk about this book could pose a problem. Just… just… I don’t even know. This magical book is somehow real. It has messy characters, insane situations, satire, a twisty plot, and GIRLS AND THEIR POWER AND FEELS. I’ll try to be coherent about this book some other time.

Amazon || B&N || Goodreads

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.every last word cover

The poetry in this book is beautiful! I thought it was also interesting to see a different manifestation of OCD that had more to do with invasive thoughts than the more well known neurotic tendencies. Even though this book deals with a heavy subject, it was a fluffy easy read with fun characters and a cute ship.

Amazon || B&N || Goodreads

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What are the best books you’ve read recently? Have you read any of these?

 

Waiting on Wednesday: SCARLETT EPSTEIN HATES IT HERE by Anna Breslaw

I’m so excited to talk about this booK!

Waiting on Wednesday Theme: Nerdy Book of My Heart

vanessa excitement

Scarlett Epstein Hates It Here coverTitle: Scarlett Epstein Hates It Here
Author: Anna Breslaw
Pub Date: April 19, 2016 from Razorbill/Penguin Random House
Amazon: Pre-order it here!
B&N: or here!
Goodreads: Add it to your shelves!

Meet Scarlett Epstein, BNF (Big Name Fan) in her online community of fanfiction writers, world-class nobody at Melville High. Her best (read: only) IRL friends are Avery, a painfully shy and annoyingly attractive bookworm, and Ruth, her pot-smoking, possibly insane seventy-three-year-old neighbor.

When Scarlett’s beloved TV show is canceled and her longtime crush, Gideon, is sucked out of her orbit and into the dark and distant world of Populars, Scarlett turns to the fanfic message boards for comfort. This time, though, her subjects aren’t the swoon-worthy stars of her fave series—they’re the real-life kids from her high school. Scarlett never considers what might happen if they were to find out what she truly thinks about them…until a dramatic series of events exposes a very different reality than Scarlett’s stories, forever transforming her approach to relationships—both online and off.

I feel like I might have talked about my love for all things fangirly in my Waiting On post for Gena/Finn. Regardless, if you could not tell by now, I love fandom. I started writing through fanfiction, so stories about fanfic are always close to my heart.

I’m really intrigued to see how the fanfiction world will mesh with her ‘real’ life. The pitch just kind of hits everything need I need it to–except ‘annoyingly attractive’ best friend because why do we hardly have YA friendships where the MC does not feel overshadowed by her prettier friend? Hopefully that’s just the pitch being misleading and the actual book won’t disappoint me.

Are you excited for SCARLETT EPSTEIN HATES IT HERE?

Author Interview + Giveaway: Nicole Castroman of BLACKHEARTS

Today I’m so stoked to bring to you an interview with the fabulous Nicole castroman. She’s the author of your new favorite Blackbeard origin story BLACKHEARts.

ABOUT THE BOOK

blackhearts

Amazon || B&N || Book Depository || Goodreads

 

You may recall this feelsy review swooning for my new favorite novel, BLACKHEARTS. I was so enamored with it that I was jotting down questions immediately after finishing (I was inspired!) before I realized that interviews are an actual thing that exist and that I could find Nicole’s website and get in touch with her. And thus, this happened!

 

 

Read on for Nicole’s thoughts on Blackbeard, writing, and what Anne and Teach’s favorite TV show would be!


 

THE INTERVIEW

  • What did you know about Blackbeard before writing your novel and what was the most interesting thing you learned during/after your research?

The only thing I knew about Blackbeard before writing my story was that he was a notorious pirate. I think one of the most interesting things I learned after doing my research was that he wasn’t as harsh and brutal as many people believe. Was he a good guy? No. But there were much more sadistic and crueler pirates out there. It was said that Blackbeard was quite engaging and almost agreeable to those who did as he asked. He preferred not to use force to get what he wanted. Instead he created his demonic appearance in the hope that people would automatically capitulate or give in to his wishes.

  • What was the first pirate story you heard, movie you saw, or fact you learned that made you go, “YES PIRATES!”?

When I heard that Blackbeard had held the entire city of Charleston, SC hostage, I was hooked. He didn’t ask for money. His only demand was for medication. He could have had anything, but that was all he asked for. Because of this, I wanted to know more about Blackbeard and where he came from.

sokka spend my vacation at the library atla

  • What was the hardest part of the writing process? How was writing two distinct POVs? Were there things you wanted to have your characters do or words you wanted to use but couldn’t, due to the time period?

The hardest part of the writing process for me was to try to stay historically accurate, at least as far as the voice is concerned. If I read a historical novel, I want it to sound historical. Nothing would have bothered me more than to write a modern voice set in 1697 England. Language has evolved over the centuries. Diction, pronunciation, articulation, and delivery can all change. The way my kids speak now is different from how my parents spoke when they were young. I wanted my story to sound authentic, without making it sound too old fashioned. It needed to flow, but still appeal to a modern teen. My 16yo daughter was a big help in this regard.

  • I especially love the moment Anne realizes the double standards between women of lower and upper classes, and how she—as a lower class woman—may have more freedom than someone like Miss Patience. Freedom is a major theme of the story. Do you think Anne, Teach, and Patience would be different people if they had the freedom they wanted?

Oh, good question. If Patience was a maid, it would be interesting to see if she’d act any differently. Somehow, I still get the feeling she’d feel superior to others. She’d most likely boss the other maids about.

winning try it regina ouat

I think if both Anne and Teach had the freedom they wanted, they’d be able to accomplish amazing things. It’s all about the choices they would make, and what they’d do with their freedom.

  • I loved the duality to Miss Patience. Do you see Anne and Miss Patience as character foils? Did you always set out to frame them that way, or did it develop as you were writing and revising?

I definitely set Anne and Miss Patience as character foils. Anne is supposedly inferior, at least according to Patience, but Anne’s character and strength are far greater. I actually tried to make Miss Patience more appealing, but I couldn’t find one redeeming quality about her. She’s bigoted and cruel and it’s just like Mary and Sara say. She might be pretty on the outside, but she’s ugly on the inside and it shows.

austenland done

  • Teach and his father have a very tense and complicated relationship, and I loved getting to see that through both Teach’s perspective and Anne’s. But the whole novel had interesting and complicated character dynamics like Anne/Teach, Anne/Mr. Drummond, Patience/her mother. Did you have a favorite to write? Or one that was the hardest?

I loved writing all of their character dynamics. Nobody is perfect and I wanted each character to have some flaws. I enjoy a story that challenges the reader and makes them question whether they like a character or not.

  • Blackhearts read like a Victorian novel to me. Who are your favorite couples from classic literature? What are your favorite classic lit novels?

One of my favorite couples is definitely Elizabeth Bennett and Mr. Darcy. I love Pride and Prejudice.

darcy and lizzie pride and prejudice

I’m also a fan of Rhett Butler and Scarlett O’Hara. I might have teared up a bit when my family and I went to the Margaret Mitchell house in downtown Atlanta. That’s where Margaret Mitchell wrote part of the book.

gone with the wind i love you well that's your misfortune

Another novel that some people might not know about is THESE IS MY WORDS by Nancy E. Turner. Sarah Agnes Prine and Captain Jack Elliot belong together as much as the previous two couples I mentioned. I have a soft spot for epic love stories. 🙂

  • Do you think women’s clothes should have more pockets?

I definitely think women’s clothes should have more pockets. 🙂

  • If Anne, Teach, and supporting crew of Blackhearts were in our world, what do you think their favorite TV shows would be?

I think they’d be big fans of Poldark. Anne might like Shark Tank. It’s a show about people going after their dreams. Teach might enjoy Shark Week.

poldark

  • Can you tease your next project?

I hope to be able to give you an answer to this question in the near future.

ill-just-wait-here-titanic-jack


ENTER THE GIVEAWAY

I’m hosting a preorder giveaway for a copy of BLACKHEARTS. All you have to do is follow me on Twitter and retweet THIS tweet (also embedded below) and you’ll be entered to win. Contest ends on Sunday 2/7 and is open international as long as Book Depository ships to you. May the odds be ever in your favor 😉


MEET THE AUTHOR

nicole castroman

Nicole was lucky enough to come with her very own best friend…she has a twin sister who can read her mind and finish her sentences for her.

At the age of 13, she went to Europe for the first time and it changed her life. She loves learning about different people, languages and cultures and speaks fluent German. She knows enough Spanish to get herself into trouble and can still read the Cyrillic alphabet from when she studied Russian.

She received her B.A. from Brigham Young University and has lived in Germany, Austria and two different places called Georgia. One is the country located on the Black Sea. The other is the state of Georgia where she now lives with her handsome husband and two beautiful children who continue to amaze her.
Website || Twitter || Facebook || Pinterest || Goodreads

ARC Review: REIGN OF SHADOWS by Sophie Jordan

Check out what I thought about a new YA Fantasy Retelling of Rapunzel!

reign of shadows coverTitle: REIGN OF SHADOWS
Author: Sophie Jordan
Pub Date: February 9, 2016 from HarperTeen
Amazon: Pre-order it here!
B&N: or here!
Goodreads: Add it to your shelves

Seventeen years ago, an eclipse cloaked the kingdom of Relhok in perpetual darkness. In the chaos, an evil chancellor murdered the king and queen and seized their throne. Luna, Relhok’s lost princess, has been hiding in a tower ever since. Luna’s survival depends on the world believing she is dead.

But that doesn’t stop Luna from wanting more. When she meets Fowler, a mysterious archer braving the woods outside her tower, Luna is drawn to him despite the risk. When the tower is attacked, Luna and Fowler escape together. But this world of darkness is more treacherous than Luna ever realized.

With every threat stacked against them, Luna and Fowler find solace in each other. But with secrets still unspoken between them, falling in love might be their most dangerous journey yet.

Thanks to HarperCollins for sending me an ARC!

REIGN OF SHADOWS was an enjoyable read. I flew through it, and it had nothing to do with its slim volume. It kept me turning the pages and rooting for the main characters, Luna and Fowler. Despite my enjoyment though, there were a lot of things I disliked about the novel.

My biggest complain is that there’s no reason for it to be a 2 book series. So little actually happens in book 1 that some of the romantic tension could have been cut to add in more plot and conflict that has to do with Luna’s true identity, the secret she’s keeping, and how it affects her world. A lot of scenes are repetitive and don’t establish anything new. Luna and Fowler trek through the forest and bump into people and have sexual tension and almost kiss but then don’t and then do more walking and almost kiss again. The interesting stuff like the bounty hunters slaughtering teenage girls and the main plot line of Luna being the true heir to the throne are barely present. Sometimes I also felt Luna was kept from making decisions purely to stretch the thin plot.

ugh hook

There isn’t really an ending since it just ends on a massive cliffhanger very abruptly, after a massive plot twist is revealed. I have no problem with a cliffhanger when it feels natural, like some questions have been answered or a character arc has progressed, but this book was devoid of character arcs for me and the world building still left so many questions (a forest in a world that has no sun? what do dwellers look like/what are they/how did they even come to be? how does the city above the trees have a lake?), that the end doesn’t provide any closure while still leaving the story open. It just cuts out, like if you were in a movie theater and the screen goes black in the middle of the film.

reign of shadows

As a Rapunzel retelling, it had some interesting subversions. I liked that Luna was blind instead of her “prince.” I just don’t know if she was written as Magical Disabled Person instead of simply a normal disabled person who knows how to take care of herself and isn’t solely her disability. Luna has a lot of skills, but I don’t know how she could maneuver around foreign parts of the forest without a walking stick or anything perfectly. Maybe that’s just my ignorance.

While this is a retelling, it also reads like a romance novel. Words like “heady” and “sinew” were used multiple times, which isn’t a big deal, but it just changes the feel or aesthetic of the novel. The plot was basically made up of romantic tension and almost kisses, as mentioned. I’d also call it insta-love, though some might dispute me on that point. Also, the first “moment” they share when Fowler nearly kisses her seemed to come out of nowhere, since he was very closed off before then. Fowler and Luna both fulfilled some very common, cliche romance tropes. Fowler is the gruff alpha male closed off to love, and Luna is the bright-eyed, optimistic innocent  girl. I just wish something else was done with their characters so the trope wasn’t so pronounced.

Despite that, I still enjoyed this story! Fowler and Luna had some great sass, their POVs flowed well, and I liked the side characters of Perla and Sivo. I hope we see them again! Side note: When Luna leaves the tower and begins to run out of food Perla gave her and she had feels, that gave me feels. Loved that.

feeeeels

Some might be bothered by the pace of the novel, but I wasn’t. The lead up to the end feels vaguely episodic with stuff Happening, Dramatic Break Ups and Getting Back Together compared to how slow the previous 250 pages were. All in all, REIGN OF SHADOWS needs some fine tuning, but kept me hooked to the page. Recommended for romance and fairy tale fans, rather than someone looking for a good fantasy.

Cover Thoughts
enchanted

Favorite Quote (From an ARC, so check the final version)
“Being a little dangerous in this world was a requirement.”
ouat hook once eyebrow

Favorite Character 
Maybe Fowler…? 🙂
asfdgh emma