Book review | Three Dark Crowns by Kendare Blake

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rating-4-stars

Three Black Witches are born in a glen,

Sweet little triplets

Will never be friends.

 

Three Black Witches, all fair to be seen.

Two to devour,

And one to be queen (267).

After reading Anna Dressed in Blood, I could not resist trying another book by Kendare Blake. My opinion of Three Dark Crowns does not differ much from that of Anna Dressed in Blood. Both books are fast-paced, action-packed and in terms of reading level quite easy. They might be more suitable for the slightly younger young adults. Still it does not mean that Kendare Blake’s novels are not uncannily addictive for somewhat older readers as well. Also it makes this novel an excellent mother/teen daughter buddy read.

Three Dark Crowns is best described as a grim, original fairy tale (pun intended J). In every generation the reigning queen gives birth to triplets. Three sisters, raised separately and all heirs to the throne, have one year from the night of their sixteenth birthday to battle each other till only one remains. The one left standing will be queen. Each sister is said to have her own magic: Mirabella rules the elements, Katherine can survive the deadliest poisons and Arsinoe can make nature do her bidding.

I was immediately gripped by this dark, bewitching story and finished it in a day. I was almost late for a dinner with friends, because I could not put it down. Though some of the plot twists were predictable, such as Arsinoe’s discovery at the end of the novel, it did not make it a less thrilling read. Kendare Blake makes it hard to pick a side in this brutal world, since the reader gets insight into the thoughts of all three sisters.

Although the story is highly entertaining, Kendare Blake’s writing might lack depth for those who are no longer part of the young adult age group. The sisters are brought up with the notion that they will have to murder their sisters in order to be queen. You would expect the sisters to rebel in some way or at least question their fate. However only one of the sisters tries to escape this gruesome future and even she is quickly guided back to her initial path.

The expected publication date of One Dark Throne, the sequel to Three Dark Crowns, is September 19th 2017. Write it down in your diaries, people! I will. Despite it being a little too easy to read, I can’t wait spending another day in my PJs totally immersed in this book.

Blake, Kendare. Three Dark Crowns. New York: HarperTeen, 2016.

Book review | Anna Dressed in Blood by Kendare Blake

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rating-3-stars

I often bring a book with me wherever I go. However some time ago when I was at my parents’ place I didn’t have a book in my bag, since I hadn’t planned staying that long. So I asked my youngest brother if he had a cool book lying around. He handed me Anna Dressed in Blood and I am very happy he did. I just really (really!) liked it. I had an awesome afternoon reading this spooky book.

Anna Dressed in Blood is a terrific ghost story. It felt like reading about a younger cousin of the Winchester brothers from the TV show Supernatural. Cas hunts ghosts ever since his ghost hunting father was killed by an incredible nasty one. Cas and his mom move from place to place chasing ghosts. When Cas is tipped about Anna with her white dress soaked in blood, he knows it will be his next gig. However Anna is an incredible powerful ghost and defies a lot of Cas’ knowledge about ghosts. Is she too much for him to handle?

This book is a goose bump read. Not too spooky, but spooky enough to keep you in your seat reading as fast as you can to find out what happens next. It contains Voodoo magic which always scares the hell out of me. Kendare Blake writes fast-paced, action-packed scenes that make you laugh one moment and hold your breath the next. I love Cas’ sarcastic humour and the book’s gory descriptions. My only point of critique: although it is a young adult book, the language and writing style seems to better suit a children’s book. Since I no longer fit in the young adult category, the reading level of this book was way too easy for me.

This does not make Anna Dressed in Blood a less entertaining read though. If you are in for some creepy hours on the couch, I would highly recommend it. Has anyone read the sequel, Girl of Nightmares? I saw this book trailer (caution: contains Anna Dressed in Blood spoilers) and it really makes me want to read it.

Blake, Kendare. Anna Dressed in Blood. Antwerpen: Uitgeverij Manteau, (2011) 2013.

Book review | The Graces by Laure Eve

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rating-5-stars

“Everyone said they were witches. I desperately wanted to believe it. I’d only been at this school a couple of months, but I saw how it was. They moved through corridors like sleek fish, ripples in their wake, stares following their backs and their hair” (1).

It is simply impossible to put down this book once you start reading. I started it on Christmas Eve and couldn’t tear myself away from it on Christmas Day (much to the annoyance of my family, since we were doing a Harry Potter marathon). I might have missed most of the first and third film, but I did finish this awesome book.

The Graces are said to be witches. What else could they be with their beauty, wealth and carefree lives? The three Grace children, fifteen-year-old Summer and seventeen-year-old Thalia and Fenrin, are the most popular kids in school. Each Grace is unique in their own way and everyone in town is enthralled by them. River, new in town with a past full of dark secrets, is just as obsessed with the Graces as everyone else is and she desperately wants to get noticed by Fenrin Grace. However being friends with a  Grace might not be forever and it is key to keep in mind the higher you climb the harder you may fall.

The big question I had while reading this book was: are the Graces actually witches? Nothing really extraordinary happens in most of the novel. It makes you question if the novel is about the dangers of human obsession instead of witchcraft. The Graces portrays teenage angst and high school social dynamics accurately. It was recognizable and I am relieved I don’t have to go through high school ever again. Although sometimes a work environment can resemble high school quite a lot.

The story is told from a first-person perspective. Still River was a mystery to me. What frightened me was how clearly obsessed she was with wanting to fit in. What boundaries would she dare cross to stay in the Graces inner circle? Although she mentions her past, she does not unfold it until the very end. River’s got one hell of a revelation in store for the reader.

Prepare yourself for a great twist. Prepare yourself to be hooked. This is one wicked read you will enjoy immensely. The sequel will be released in September. That is a long wait…

Eve, Laure. The Graces. London: Faber & Faber, 2016.

Book review | A Court of Mist and Fury by Sarah J. Maas

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rating-5-stars

“I peered into the dark, gleaming interior of the can I’d opened: blue. […] I painted all day. And when the sun vanished, I painted all through the night” (507).

I love Sarah J. Maas’ storytelling. She paints this amazing world. A world I don’t want to live in, because let’s face it I’m not brave enough to survive in it. But it is a world that I love to dream about while safely tucked in my bed.

A Court of Mist and Fury might be my favourite book of 2016. Although I loved A Court of Thorns and Roses, Sarah J. Maas just seems to hit one right note after the other in the second novel of the series. To all of you who have not read A Court of Thorns and Roses yet, please beware this review contains spoilers. If you are looking for a spoiler-free review of the first instalment, check it out here.

A Court of Mist and Fury opens with Feyre trying to come to terms with what happened Under the Mountain where she made a deal with Rhysand to spend one week a month with him at his court, was forced to kill two High Fae, almost died and finally became High Fae herself. It is not a surprise that Feyre is not able to forgive herself for what happened. The Spring Court slowly seems to turn into a prison and the time she spends at Rhysand’s court is her only escape.

This short intro might convince you it is a quite dark novel, but to me this couldn’t be further from the truth which this quote perfectly demonstrates (my favourite quote of the book by the way and I guess everybody else’s fav too):

“To the people who look at the stars and wish […] To the stars who listen—and the dreams that are answered” (337).

Quite a few new characters are introduced in A Court of Mist and Fury. I absolutely love all the characters who form Feyre’s new family. Another treat is we learn a lot more about Rhysand. Who doesn’t love a tall, dark and mysterious guy? Feyre’s character development in this novel is amazing. She starts off as an insecure girl forced into the damsel role and transforms into one fierce woman who can defend herself and the people she loves. Tamlin is not as present in this book. Although I admit to liking Tamlin in A Court of Thorns and Roses, I almost despise him in A Court of Mist and Fury. When rereading the first book, all those flaws that are so evident in the second novel were already present in the first.

I don’t want to give anything (else) away, but what I will tell you is: if you haven’t already read this book, you definitely should. It is a book about self-discovery, friendship and true love. It is full of drama, funny scenes, ooh and aah moments and I literally clapped my hands after reading certain sections. Hence my most anticipated book of 2017 will be ACOTAR3!

Maas, Sarah J. A Court of Mist and Fury. London, Oxford, New York, New Delhi and Sydney: Bloomsbury Publishing, 2016.

Book review | A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas

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rating-4-stars

‘I knew I was headed down a path that would likely end in my mortal heart being left in pieces, and yet … And yet I couldn’t stop myself’ (221).

On an incredible amount of book blogs, I found reviews of Sarah J. Maas’ novels. The reviews of A Court of Thorns and Roses were written with such enthusiasm that I bought this book instead of the first installment of the Throne of Glass series.

A Court of Thorns and Roses is a variation on ‘Beauty and the Beast’, but fiercer, darker and more enchanting. Feyre hunts in order to provide food for her family. One night she kills an animal that is part of the Fairie Realms behind The Wall. When a stranger comes knocking at her family’s cabin, he tells her the price for killing the fairie animal is ‘a human life in exchange’ (37). In order to keep her family safe, she accepts his offer to live behind The Wall in a magical, strange and dangerous land.

The first page of the book instantly pulled me into Feyre’s world and I could barely stop reading. Luckily I had a few days off! So my advice: clear your schedule before even thinking of opening this book. A Court of Thorns and Roses is more on the adult side of young adult which I like. It contains romance, a huge inferiority complex, magical creatures, evil lurking and an action-packed ending. I however couldn’t give this book a five-star rating, because the second book in the series is even better and I do not have a six-star rating system.

Find out more on: www.sarahjmaas.com

Maas, Sarah J. A Court of Thorns and Roses. London, Oxford, New York, New Delhi and Sydney: Bloomsbury Publishing, 2015.

Book review | Uprooted by Naomi Novik

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rating-5-stars

Love, love, love this book! It took me under two days to finish it and I wanted to read it again at once. Thankfully I could control myself and wrote this book review instead. I have not been able to stop talking about this story and I am thrilled to share it with you.

A dark forest, a high tower, tons of magic and a young heroine taken prisoner by a mysterious wizard. Isn’t that just awesome and very much like a fairy tale? Although this story contains some elements of familiar fairy tales, such as Beauty and the Beast and Rapunzel, it is incredibly fresh and exciting.

I don’t want to spoil anything by giving you some kind of summary, so here is a quote from Uprooted that convinced me to read the book:

“Our Dragon doesn’t eat the girls he takes, no matter what stories they tell outside our valley. […] He takes a girl to his tower, and ten years later he lets her go, but by then she’s someone different” (3).

Where other writers might have devoted entire chapters on what readers most likely consider to be major events in the novel, Naomi Novik barely spends a paragraph on; it works though. Uprooted is fast paced and written in such a way that you can almost feel the magic. Novik’s storytelling makes it very easy to imagine a world where people battle a corrupted wood and find magic in everyday life. This dark wood does not only imprison characters in the story, it totally captures me. This book goes on my favourites-shelf without a doubt and I would recommend it to everyone who loves a magical story.

Nice detail: the metal ornament in the photograph was once the headboard of a four-poster bed my dad made and now decorates my parents’ garden as a frame for blossoming climbers. In the centre of the frame is a heart with my parents initials. A recycled happily-ever-after for their symbol of love. Too corny? Lol. Go and find out if Naomi Novik’s Uprooted is a happily-ever-after for you.

Want to know more about Naomi Novik? Check out her website: www.naominovik.com

Novik, Naomi. Uprooted. New York: Del Rey, (2015) 2016.

Book review | Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs

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rating-4-stars

A few weeks ago I wandered around in The American Book Center, my favourite English bookstore in Amsterdam. I quickly found myself drawn to the horror section. Though I am a bit of a scaredy-cat, spooky stories always intrigue me. On that day, one book in particular caught my eye. The strange photos on the dust jacket, the linen cover with gold writing, the old photographs and the decorated pages… I just could not resist picking up a copy of Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs. It felt like browsing through an old journal and I could barely wait finding a cosy nook to start reading.

 So what is Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children about? Sixteen-year-old Jacob grew up with his grandpa’s unusual photographs and tall tales about children with special abilities. After his grandfather’s tragic death, he soon finds himself on a remote island off the coast of Wales. Here Jacob discovers an abandoned orphanage, Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, and he begins to doubt if his grandfather’s stories were only stories.

 Expecting it to be a ghost story, I obviously did not dare to read it after dark. However after the first creepy chapters, the book swept me up in an exciting story without any real ghosts, I promise. The pictures in the book give the story a strange sense of reality. It also reminds me that all pictures come with a story that, peculiar or not, are often still pretty wonderful. In the photograph above, I included some pictures of my family’s stories. For instance, the horse once saved my then three-year-old father by not wanting its favourite snack. My grandfather found it strange, looked at the ditch behind him and saw that his son was no longer standing there. My grandfather was just in time to fish my father out of the water. Isn’t that one peculiar horse?

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children is the first book of a trilogy. I have read them all and I loved every minute spent in this strange, gothic fantasy. I would like to point out it is a Young Adult book. Since I found it in the horror section, I did not realise it until I was already fascinated by the pictures, plot and characters. I do not mind a good YA book once in a while and these books were definitely worth my time.

For more information about these books, the author and photography visit Ransom Riggs’ website: www.ransomriggs.com

Riggs, Ransom. Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children. Philadelphia: Quirk Books, 2011.