Friday, 11 September 2015

The Secrets of the Wild Wood By Tonke Dragt

'There's no place you can lose your way as quickly as in the Wild Wood...'

One of the King's knights has gone missing. Sent to explore the mysterious Wild Wood, which no-one dares visit and some say are enchanted, he has vanished in the snow. Tiuri - now Sir Tiuri after carrying out his last perilous mission - has to find him. With his best friend and squire, Piak, he must journey into the heart of a terrifying, secret forest realm, where danger is all around and every path leads you astray. It is a place of lost, overgrown cities and ancient curses; of robbers, princesses and strange Men in Green; of old friends and treacherous new enemies - and a secret plot that threatens to bring down the entire kingdom. 

This gripping, spellbinding sequel to 
The Letter for the King sees a hero facing his greatest test, surrounded by darkness in a world where good and evil wear the same face, and the wrong move could cost his life - but where help comes from the unlikeliest of places. (Goodreads)

52 years on from its initial publication, Tonke Dragt’s The Secrets of the Wild Wood, the sequel to The Letter for the King (published in the UK in 2013) has finally been translated into English to allow us all to enjoy its adventure.

If you haven’t yet read The Letter for the King and want to find out more, you can read my spoiler-free review here:
You can read this novel without reading the first, but having the background of the first novel is a bonus to have going into this one.

The Secrets of the Wild Wood has ultimately solidified Dragt in my mind as one of the great classic fantasy storytellers. To many already, their editions are treasured possessions after being so loved as children, but like Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter, they’re stories that can be loved by anyone, not matter your age, you find yourself drawn back in.

Both the writing and characters feel more matured in this novel. Dragt’s narrative combined with Laura Watkinson’s translation is an example of storytelling at its finest. After reading The Letter for the King, I was confident that the translation would be seamless in this novel, and I was right.
Dragt’s writing feels stronger and bolder, which could be deliberate as it goes well with the return of the main character Tiuri, who is now more mature (Sir Tiuri now) and confident. Tiuri is still the loveable character we fell in love with in The Letter for the King however, reading it feels as if you’re catching up with an old friend. You come to care very deeply for the boy.

The world of the novel, the Wild Wood and its surrounding lands, including Unawen and Dagonaut, is just as vibrant and well described as Middle Earth. The beautiful map set at the front of the book helps you to fall into the world and its adventure alongside Tiuri.

The Secrets of the Wild Wood is a wonderful novel which manages to surpass the first book. You can’t fail to fall in love with this story and its characters. If you enjoy tales of knights in fantasy-medieval settings, this is the book for you.

Its hard to fault- 5stars. 

Thursday, 3 September 2015

Queen of Shadows By Sarah J Maas

Everyone Celaena Sardothien loves has been taken from her. But she's at last returned to the empire—for vengeance, to rescue her once-glorious kingdom, and to confront the shadows of her past . . .

She will fight for her cousin, a warrior prepared to die just to see her again. She will fight for her friend, a young man trapped in an unspeakable prison. And she will fight for her people, enslaved to a brutal king and awaiting their lost queen's triumphant return.

Celaena’s epic journey has captured the hearts and imaginations of millions across the globe. This fourth volume will hold readers rapt as Celaena’s story builds to a passionate, agonizing crescendo that might just shatter her world.

I initially thought I’d write this spoiler free, but I just have too many feelings about the events of this book that I just need to write them down. So if you haven’t read QoS yet, I wouldn’t read. If you have, read on and then we can discuss all the emotions this book caused.
Sorry if it’s a little all over the place, or incoherent, everything is gushing out of me.

If you’re a fan of the Throne of Glass series, you know how beautiful Maas’s writing is. Well, it’s not different in this book. It’s an absolute dream to read. She expertly mixes heartbreaking lines, brilliant action descriptions; have-you-on-the-edge-of-your-seat lines and laugh out loud moments.
Sometimes when a book is written in 3rd person, the reader can get confused as to who is speaking at the moment, but with Maas it’s always very clear. We had a lot of characters having their own points of view in QoS and I am so glad, each one was clear and defined, each character being so well written.

I’m a big fan of big books. Big books are the best. QoS size was heaven. And it’s so action packed. So many things happen, its impossible to put down because its events just grip you from start to finish.

Queen of Shadows is the novel where finally the lingering underlying elements of the story come rushing to the surface. The series has been building to Aelin’s return and her beginning to retake her homeland. The Wyrdmarks, the Valg princes, the evilness in the King and Perrington are out in the open, main plot points.

Now onto the storyline. I’m a reader who is a fan of Manon, but I know there are some who weren’t so fond of her in Heir of Fire. I understand that since her storyline then didn’t have much impact on the overall storyline of the series. Well, in Qos she ends up truly deep in the main storyline, interacting with Duke Perrington and finding out what he’s planning for the witches. I also think Manon grows a lot in this book, or rather becomes a lot more of a good character as she witnesses the corruption going on around her.
The growing importance of Asterin was great, she’s a wonderful character. I loved her unflinching loyalty to Manon and determination to get her to act and not be constantly obedient.
Manon and Aelin’s meeting was as explosive (and badass) as you’d imagine it to be. But eye-opening for the both of them I think. Aelin couldn’t kill her when she saw Asterin’s reaction and Manon left messages to help them with Dorian, she gave them hope.
There was a surprising lack of Abraxos in QoS.

Elide’s introduction was almost bittersweet. To see her still alive and part of the story was great, but what she’d been through and her surroundings were so sad. But she was so strong; the bond between her, Asterin and Manon was awesome to read. QoS portrayed such strong female friendships and just how strong they can be together. GO MAAS.

Seeing what had become of Kaltain was so sad. Both she and Lysandra were characters you weren’t meant to dislike and then CoM and QoS shattered that. Kaltain didn’t deserve to end up that way.

On the subject of ships, I don’t read the series for ships. I just see them as a bonus. But I am a firm believer that the author knows best. How they write something or someone is up to them, because they created them, therefore THEY KNOW BEST. I never finish a book and say ‘it should’ve ended this way’ or ‘this person should’ve ended up with this person’ just because I accept whatever the author writes as the right thing to happen. People may feel differently, and that’s fine. (But please, if you’re angry with how something turns out in book- don’t attack the author. Its seriously not nice.)
I was a hardcore Chaolaena shipper, but now I see that they’re not right for each other anymore. They were in Crown of Midnight, but times have changed, they have changed and they belong with different people now. I really hope they just stay extremely good friends.
The romance in this book was obviously one of the background elements to the book, but it was beautifully written. The main ship of QoS, Rowaelin progressed at just the right pace. They didn’t rush into it and it built into something stable and strong which I think will be awesome in the books to come. QoS seemed to be the start of ships to come.
Anyone else think Aedion and Lysandra might get together? Dorian and Manon too? And Chaol and Nesryn.
Maas seems to sort of pair similar people, Rowan and Aelin both lost their great loves, Aedion and Lysandra are both ‘whores’, Lysandra was a courtesan and Aedion was ‘Adarlan’s Whore’. Dorian and Manon both had some sort of darkness in them, both heirs to thrones, and Chaol and Nesryn were both soldiers, loyal and quite stoic.
The ships are becoming more adult I think. Often people don't spend the rest of their lives with their first love. It portrays that they can change grow out of love with each other.

Chaol broke my heart in this book. Even he could see he was on the wrong path, but he didn’t seem to know the right path. He wanted to help Dorian, but didn’t know what to do to help. He was completely lost, and in feeling lost was lashing out and not letting anyone help him (which is why I’m excited for Nesryn and him to bond). It made me so sad to see Aelin and Chaol butting heads so much. I was glad I held onto hope until the end. Aelin putting the Eye of Elena in his pocket, him losing the movement in his legs leading to him asking Aelin to see her fire magic made me so happy and yet so very sad. I absolutely cried my eyes out when he said ‘It’s lovely’ after seeing her magic. If that’s not accepting her, I don’t know what is and I think any hate between them in buried.
Chaol dedication to Dorian was so admirable too. He was not going to give up on him not matter what and despite his actions, he was still a good man.
Do you think his healer will be Yrene Towers from ‘The Assassin and the Healer’ in the Southern Continent when he goes to fix his legs?

I was unsure as to whether or not Dorian would be ‘fixed’ in QoS, I thought they might find out how, but not bring him back. But I’m so glad they did. From the end, I think its going to be a hard road for him, bless him. He’s going to have to get over Sorcha, killing his father and being the new king of a corrupt kingdom that just had its magic returned, all alone. Or maybe Manon can help him a little. I think he’s going ot grow up a hell of a lot and be the king Chaol always saw him as.
Aelin and Dorian teaming up was spectacular to read. They are the future rulers, fighting for a better future.

When Aelin, Dorian and Chaol all lay next to each other on the grass after the battle and magics return. The image was just too much. The trio that we'd been with from the start all lying together before the shattered remains of the glass castle.

In my QoS theories and questions videos, I questioned how Arobynn would act in this book, since he’s so sneaky. The King was always open in his evilness, but Arobynn was scheming. I NEVER expected both of these characters to be killed in this book. I thought they’d be two that lasted to the last book, especially the King. Arobynn very much revealed his true colours in this book. This series constantly makes me tear up and grip me book in shock, when Arobynn slipped that ring onto her finger, I thought I’d died. When Aelin revealed it didn’t work, my god, i’ve never been so relieved.  Even though you’d expect Aelin to kill him, it seemed right after everything that Lysandra was the one to do it. When Lysandra made her entrance in QoS, I was suspicious that she could be spying for Arobynn and lying to Aelin, but I was so glad to be wrong.
Perrington the real antagonist of the series? Excuse me while I go pick up my jaw from the floor. It was such a surprise and yet makes SO much sense. I never thought I’d feel sorry for the King but oh man.

Aelin finally saw Sam’s grave and OH GOD TOO MANY TEARS. I’m so glad she got closure. But damn, I will never ever get over Sam Cortland’s death. It is impossible.

When Aelin met Aedion, it was such a monumental moment. The look they shared. So many tears. They’re just so alike and so close and protective of each other. Even after so many years, they just accepted each other and reading them together was just heart-warming. I’m so glad they’re reunited. Also, Aedion is Gavriel’s son? That meeting HAS to happen.

Maas always has a perfect ending line to her books. It never fails to make me cry and NEED the next book. QoS’s ending just promised more awesomeness to come. Aelin is HOME. War is coming. (Knowing Maas, that probably inevitably means some people will die NOPE).

This series 

Of course I’m going to give it a 5 stars. It was a great, fast-paced instalment that left me excited for what will happen next.

I’m behind Aelin all the way.