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Flame in the Mist by Renee Ahdieh ARC {4 Stars}

Flame in the Mist by Renee Ahdieh ARC {4 Stars}

Flame in the Mist by Renee Ahdieh (Flame in the Mist #1)
Published by GP Putnam's Sons Books for Young Readers on May 16th, 2017
Genres: Historical Fantasy, YA
Page Length: 393 pages
How I got my copy: Publisher
Amazon - IndieBound - Book Depository - Barnes & Noble - Goodreads
Purchases made support this blog

The only daughter of a prominent samurai, Mariko has always known she’d been raised for one purpose and one purpose only: to marry. Never mind her cunning, which rivals that of her twin brother, Kenshin, or her skills as an accomplished alchemist. Since Mariko was not born a boy, her fate was sealed the moment she drew her first breath.

So, at just seventeen years old, Mariko is sent to the imperial palace to meet her betrothed, a man she did not choose, for the very first time. But the journey is cut short when Mariko’s convoy is viciously attacked by the Black Clan, a dangerous group of bandits who’ve been hired to kill Mariko before she reaches the palace.

The lone survivor, Mariko narrowly escapes to the woods, where she plots her revenge. Dressed as a peasant boy, she sets out to infiltrate the Black Clan and hunt down those responsible for the target on her back. Once she’s within their ranks, though, Mariko finds for the first time she’s appreciated for her intellect and abilities. She even finds herself falling in love—a love that will force her to question everything she’s ever known about her family, her purpose, and her deepest desires.

4 Stars

Note: I received an advanced copy of Flame in the Mist from the publisher. Some things may have changed in the final version.

Thoughts:
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The Night Parade by Kathryn Tanquary eARC {4 Stars}

The Night Parade by Kathryn Tanquary tells the story of a Japanese girl named Saki who stumbles upon a death curse while visiting her grandmother and proceeds to adventure within the spirit world for three nights of unexpected adventure. Due to excellent pacing and a rich world of magic, I devoured The Night Parade and definitely recommend it for fans of Japanese mythology.

Note: I received an advanced copy of The Night Parade from the publisher. Some things may have changed in the final version.

The Night Parade by Kathryn Tanquary eARC {4 Stars}

The Night Parade by Kathryn Tanquary
Published by Sourcebooks on Jan. 5th, 2016
Genres: Contemporary Fantasy, MG
Page Length: 336 pages
How I got my copy: NetGalley
Amazon - IndieBound - Book Depository - Barnes & Noble - Goodreads
Purchases made support this blog

The last thing Saki Yamamoto wants to do for her summer vacation is trade in exciting Tokyo for the antiquated rituals and bad cell reception of her grandmother's village. Preparing for the Obon ceremony is boring. Then the local kids take an interest in Saki and she sees an opportunity for some fun, even if it means disrespecting her family's ancestral shrine on a malicious dare.

But as Saki rings the sacred bell, the darkness shifts. A death curse has been invoked... and Saki has three nights to undo it. With the help of three spirit guides and some unexpected friends, Saki must prove her worth - or say good-bye to the world of the living forever.

4 Stars

Strengths:
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The Name of the Blade by Zoë Marriott ARC {4 Stars}

The Name of the Blade by Zoë Marriott is a fun and funky adventure through London running from Japanese myths that suddenly have become all too real. Forget anything you’ve heard about The Name of the Blade already! I honestly disagree with a lot of the negative things I’d been worrying about so much that I don’t really understand how I read the same book as everyone else D:. The Name of the Blade is a seriously delightful adventure that is different from the YA we read all too often here in the States and one of the reasons why I love getting books originally published elsewhere :D.

Note: I received an advanced copy of The Name of the Blade from the publisher. Some things may have changed in the final version.

The Name of the Blade by Zoë Marriott ARC {4 Stars}

The Name of the Blade by Zoë Marriott (The Name of the Blade #1)
Published by Candlewick Press on Nov. 11th, 2014
Genres: Contemporary Fantasy, YA
Page Length: 368 pages
How I got my copy: Publisher
Amazon - IndieBound - Book Depository - Goodreads
Purchases made support this blog

When Mio sneaks the family's katana -- a priceless ancestral sword -- from her parents' attic, she just wants to spice up a costume. But the katana is much more than a dusty antique. Awakening the power within the sword unleashes a terrible, ancient evil onto the streets of unsuspecting London. But it also releases Shinobu, a fearless warrior boy, from the depths of time. He helps to protect Mio -- and steals her heart. With creatures straight out of Japanese myths stalking her and her friends, Mio realizes that if she cannot keep the sword safe and learn to control its legendary powers, she will lose not only her own life . . . but the love of a lifetime.

4 Stars

Strengths:
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4.5 Stars: Kinslayer by Jay Kristoff ARC

Kinslayer by Jay Kristoff is the second book in the Lotus War trilogy (I assume it’s a trilogy >.>). These books take genre-bending to the extreme with a mix of steampunk, japanese futuristic culture, mythical beasts, and environmental apocalyptic events. I have to admit that I was not as thrilled with Stormdancer (Lotus War #1) as many of you, but I am so converted with Kinslayer! If you were like me and didn’t quite get what all the fuss was about, you should definitely check out this second book, which is more action-packed, more character-packed, and so many feels!

Note: I received an ARC of Kinslayer from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. Some things may have changed in the final version.

4.5 Stars: Kinslayer by Jay Kristoff ARC

Kinslayer by Jay Kristoff (The Lotus War #2)
Published by Thomas Dunne Books on Sept. 17th, 2013
Genres: Fantasy, Steampunk
Page Length: 432 pages
How I got my copy: Publisher
IndieBound - Book Depository - Goodreads
Purchases made support this blog

A SHATTERED EMPIRE
The mad Shōgun Yoritomo has been assassinated by the Stormdancer Yukiko, and the threat of civil war looms over the Shima Imperium. The Lotus Guild conspires to renew the nation’s broken dynasty and crush the growing rebellion simultaneously – by endorsing a new Shōgun who desires nothing more than to see Yukiko dead.

A DARK LEGACY
Yukiko and the mighty thunder tiger Buruu have been cast in the role of heroes by the Kagé rebellion. But Yukiko herself is blinded by rage over her father’s death, and her ability to hear the thoughts of beasts is swelling beyond her power to control. Along with Buruu, Yukiko’s anchor is Kin, the rebel Guildsman who helped her escape from Yoritomo’s clutches. But Kin has his own secrets, and is haunted by visions of a future he’d rather die than see realized.

A GATHERING STORM
Kagé assassins lurk within the Shōgun’s palace, plotting to end the new dynasty before it begins. A waif from Kigen’s gutters begins a friendship that could undo the entire empire. A new enemy gathers its strength, readying to push the fracturing Shima imperium into a war it cannot hope to survive. And across raging oceans, amongst islands of black glass, Yukiko and Buruu will face foes no katana or talon can defeat.

The ghosts of a blood-stained past.

4.5 Stars

Strengths:

  • Kinslayer’s writing is delicious. I like it much more than Stormdancer’s ;-). I found myself drawn in by the poetic descriptions, clutching the cover during the action, and sniffling at the adorable animal voices >.>. I am convinced that Mr. Kristoff must have actually got inside a dog’s head based on how well he captured the thoughts of a certain canine companion who I adore and want to see again (hint hint!).
  • I know that there were some complaints about the use of japanese-styled language in Stormdancer and am happy to report that some of the specifics have been fixed in Kinslayer. I also have very much enjoyed exploring farther parts of the world beyond the wasteland of the chi fields.
  • There are a lot of characters and a lot of POV in Kinslayer and it works wonderfully. We get about four distinct storylines that all carefully wind together for the epic conclusion; this is how fantasy storytelling should be!
  • Omg the feels. There were a lot of all varieties D:
  • I looooove grey characters and the multiple POV helps develop those in between characters so much. I loved the internal conflict that I’m sure many rebels really do feel when deciding how much sacrifice is too much. Also omg I must know what happens in the next book!

Weaknesses:

  •  Do not eat while reading Kinslayer. There are a fair number of gross scenes involving flaying flesh, losing eyeballs, and torture. You have been warned.
  • There are a couple of scenes that seem kind of random in hindsight. I’m hoping a certain visit to some monks makes more sense in the next book, since right now it seemed like a convenient way to move the plot along and that makes me sad.

Summary:

Kinslayer goes far beyond not falling to second book syndrome by improving greatly from the first book. I feel so much more connected to these characters and this world and I want them to win dammit! Kristoff does a marvelous job of bringing many characters to life, including some furry friends, and I’m quite excited to see where he brings us next!

4.5 Stars
Anya from On Starships and Dragonwings

– Anya

 

 Kinslayer by Jay Kristoff

Four Stars: Stormdancer by Jay Kristoff

Kristoff has blasted onto the fantasy scene with Stormdancer, a steampunk, japanese fantasy. Stormdancer tells the story of young Yukiko whose life has been filled with tragedy and a deadly secret. This secret, however, is just what she needs to befriend the legendary griffin she and her father are sent to hunt down by a corrupt emperor.

I started seeing reviews for Stormdancer a while ago, and quickly found Jay Kristoff’s blog because he is just a hilarious blogger. I’ve never been caught by the steampunk bug, and so I figured this could be a good book to ease into those waters. I had some pretty high expectations for Stormdancer due to all the hype and Kristoff’s obvious awesomeness, and it didn’t quite meet those expectations. I’m really looking forward to watching how Kristoff’s grows as a writer, however.

Stormdancer by Jay Kristoff Goodreads Amazon
Title:
Stormdancer
Author: Jay Kristoff
Pages: 322  (hardcover) pages
Genre-ish: Japanese Steampunk Fantasy
Rating★★★★☆ – interesting premise and characters, flat delivery
Setting: Stormdancer occurs in a steampunk/fantasy world inspired by Japan, with balloon carried skyships and mechanized armor for the rich. The land has been horribly polluted by the overfarming of the only fuel source: chi. The sky is red, the rain black, the land dying, and yet the emperor and Guild do nothing to fix it. Legendary creatures such as naga, sea serpents and griffins are in living memory, but suspected to be completely extinct due to overhunting.
Premise: When the young emperor wakes up from a “vision” of him flying on a griffin against the armies his empire is waging war against, his greed compels him to have this impossible desire. He orders Yukiko and her father to go find this legend for him to ride. They set out on the suicide mission with a number of loyal companions, but soon crash into the last wilderness in the empire. However, before crashing, they see the legend in the flesh, and Yukiko is able to communicate with it….

Strengths:

  • First and foremost, I have never heard of a setting like in Stormdancer. The fresh ideas of the book fueled a lot of my interest in it, and Kristoff definitely delivers on awesome new ideas.
  • I love tattoos, so the idea of an entire culture being symbolized by the tattoos that people adorned themselves with was pretty darn awesome.
  • Anytime a strong female overcomes tragedy and can communicate with legendary animals, there will be awesomeness. The action scenes that Kristoff is able to write when Yukiko and Buruu fight alongside each other are stunning.

Weaknesses:

  • Let’s start with the subject of some very negative Goodreads reviews. Apparently Stormdancer fails on the Japanese culture thing, though I’m not enough of an expert to really know. If you are informed about Japanese culture, apparently this book might piss you off a lot.
  • On a similar note, all of the japanese terms sprinkled in lead to a headache for people not used to them. I had a very poor visualization of the characters throughout the book because I had trouble remembering what different outfits and weapons looked like. When writing for an English speaking audience, it’s usually best to avoid needing to constantly info dump just to keep your reader knowledgable about what you’re talking about.
  • The setting was super depressing. Due to all the pollution, everyone is dying of cancer, and I mean everyone. This is fine to start with if things get less depressing, but I was just never happy when reading Stormdancer because I was being constantly reminded how much everything sucks. This is certainly useful to drive tension and plot sometimes, but there needs to be resolution as the main characters make things better. Maybe there will be in the later books, but Stormdancer was less exciting to read than I had hoped.

Summary:
While there are a number of things that make it clear that Kristoff is a new author, Stormdancer is still a very interesting book. The setting and ideas in it are captivating, and I hope that the rest of the trilogy improves on the flaws of the first book. I think people who like steampunk more than me will probably be more captivated by the various technologies, but apparently people with an interest in japanese culture cringed a lot while reading Stormdancer. Whether or not you like Stormdancer, though, I really think you should check out Kristoff’s blog because it is hilarious.

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Anya from On Starships and Dragonwings – A

 

 Stormdancer by Jay Kristoff