Tag Archives: historical

The Impostor Queen 

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The Impostor Queen 

This isn’t a new story – it is clearly playing on the trope where the pampered/sheltered girl is forced to make her way in the world when a disaster thrusts her out of her comfort zone and into real life.  The story is recognizable despite the magical embellishment, but that is okay because I happen to like this trope.  The packaging may not disguise, but it does make a familiar story more appealing.   I gave this book four stars despite the fact that it got a little draggy at some points.

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Goodreads Summary

Sixteen-year-old Elli was only a child when the Elders of Kupari chose her to succeed the Valtia, the queen who wields infinitely powerful ice and fire magic in service of her people. The only life Elli has known has been in the temple, surrounded by luxury, tutored by magic-wielding priests, preparing for the day when the queen perishes—and the ice and fire find a new home in Elli, who is prophesied to be the most powerful Valtia to ever rule.

But when the queen dies defending the kingdom from invading warriors, the magic doesn’t enter Elli. It’s nowhere to be found.

Disgraced, Elli flees to the outlands, home of banished criminals—some who would love to see the temple burn with all its priests inside. As she finds her footing in this new world, Elli uncovers devastating new information about the Kupari magic, those who wield it, and the prophecy that foretold her destiny. Torn between her love for her people and her growing loyalty to the banished, Elli struggles to understand the true role she was meant to play. But as war looms, she must choose the right side before the kingdom and its magic are completely destroyed.

My Thoughts

Elli, the protagonist didn’t waste time being snotty and selfish about her changed circumstances – she comes across as a empathetic and genuinely good person almost from the start.  She may be a bit too good for some readers, but she was raised to see herself as a protector, first and foremost, of the kingdom, so of course she hesitates at plots that threaten to bring only chaos and destruction to her land.  And it is a fully realized world that she is tasked with protecting.  The social, political, and magical structure of this setting is well developed and thoughtful. It feels believable and, while it does have some problems, the people who populate it are as good and evil as any place you want to point to on a map today.  It wasn’t a stylized dystopian, and that is something I think most readers will appreciate.

Despite these positive points, I did think the pacing was a little slow.  It certainly devoted enough time to developing complex characters and relationships, and there is action throughout, but I found myself growing a little bored as I slowly peeled back the layers to reveal what was really happening – this is mostly due to the fact that the mentor figure disappears for several months in the middle of the book, leaving characters and readers in the dark.  This time was used to build a romance and to develop a nuanced cast, but it was a bit of a lull for me.

As far as the romance goes, it was one I enjoyed.  It was carefully staged to grow from friendship into something more intimate without jumping straight into instant devotion.  It had enough conflict to keep me engaged.  As a matter of fact, it was this relationship that kept me reading when my irritation at the stall in the bigger plot threatened my interest.

Overall, I think this book will appeal to many of my high school readers, particularly those who enjoy books like Sara Raasch’s Snow Like Ashes.  I’m adding it to my high school classroom library wish list.  Language and situations are appropriate for high school readers.

I received an ARC from the publisher via Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review.

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Burning Glass

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Burning Glass

I didn’t think this was a bad book, and I think there will be readers who enjoy it. The concept is really cool, and I initially found it very compelling. However, in the end, I had to fight to keep myself reading because I just wasn’t invested in the characters or the outcome. I have a feeling that most of my high school readers would lose interest fairly quickly. I only gave it three stars.

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Goodreads Summary

Sonya was born with the rare gift to feel what those around her feel—both physically and emotionally—a gift she’s kept hidden from the empire for seventeen long years. After a reckless mistake wipes out all the other girls with similar abilities, Sonya is hauled off to the palace and forced to serve the emperor as his sovereign Auraseer.

Tasked with sensing the intentions of would-be assassins, Sonya is under constant pressure to protect the emperor. But Sonya’s power is untamed and reckless, and she can’t always decipher when other people’s impulses end and her own begin. In a palace full of warring emotions and looming darkness, Sonya fears that the biggest danger to the empire may be herself.

As she struggles to wrangle her abilities, Sonya seeks refuge in her tenuous alliances with the charming-yet-volatile Emperor Valko and his idealistic younger brother, Anton, the crown prince. But when threats of revolution pit the two brothers against each other, Sonya must choose which brother to trust—and which to betray.

My Thoughts

I thought this book was rather dull.  The politics bored me and the intrigue was predictable from the beginning.  There is a lot of talk about equality and the archaic class system of a monarchy, but readers are never really given a personal connection to the horrors of the faceless, nameless mass of people that suffer the most under the rule of the Emperor.  It is clear that there is a problem with the system, but since it is so removed from the action, it just doesn’t feel as urgent and necessary as it should. There is only one character that we get to know personally who represents the mistreated masses, and she lives in the castle and is given relative freedom.  The true horrors are vague and expected – hunger, forced military drafting, slave-like conditions.  The people who are suppose to be in charge of the revolution dither around a lot, so the majority of the book builds up and then lets readers down when there is no follow-through.

The protagonist was hard to really connect with because she was a vessel for everyone else’s emotions, maybe. Neither she nor I seemed to be able to distinguish where her feelings ended and those of the other characters began.  While that is the point, this would have been more successful if there had been some clear rules about how the empathy worked.  She came across as indistinct and the “love” she felt for the men she encountered was never clearly, sincerely her own.  I also kept wondering why someone didn’t force their feelings on her and just have her assassinate the emperor – it was clear that she could be induced to act on someone else’s will, but her control inexplicably changed when she got to the palace (I think I was suppose to believe that her connection with the prince was the factor that changed her, but I wasn’t completely sure).  Again, the rules just weren’t clear enough for me.

Again, just because I didn’t enjoy it doesn’t mean you won’t, but it will put some folks to sleep.  Language and situations are appropriate for high school and beyond.

I received an ARC from the publisher via Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review.

Worlds of Ink and Shadow – So that’s where Heathcliff and Mr. Rochester came from

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Worlds of Ink and Shadow – So that’s where Heathcliff and Mr. Rochester came from

Yesterday, I reviewed a book that felt like a Jane Austen.  Today, I’m writing again to my kindred in literary geekery.  Worlds of Ink and Shadow is a fantasy story starring The Brontë family, and it will have you digging out your copy of Jane Eyre (either that old paperback or the delicious movie adaptation starring Michael Fassbender).  It’s a slow burn, but those who stick it out will feel it was worth it.

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Goodreads Summary

Charlotte, Branwell, Emily, and Anne. The Brontë siblings have always been close. After all, nothing can unite four siblings quite like life in an isolated parsonage on the moors. Their vivid imaginations lend them escape from their strict, spartan upbringing, actually transporting them into their created worlds: the glittering Verdopolis and the romantic and melancholy Gondal. But at what price? As Branwell begins to slip into madness and the sisters feel their real lives slipping away, they must weigh the cost of their powerful imaginations, even as their characters—the brooding Rogue and dashing Duke of Zamorna—refuse to let them go.

My Thoughts

I struggled with this book for quite some time before I was finally able to settle in and enjoy the story.  The elevated language, which is necessary to evoke these characters and this time and place, won’t make for an easy read for most YA’s (or adults).  The large cast of characters, though individually distinct, will probably be a roadblock for some.  My biggest struggle was trying to figure out why the author chose the Bronte family because for a good portion of the book that was not clear.  Finally, there is a lot of time spent developing several worlds and characters before a clear direction is established.  For readers who stick it out until the end, I think there is some real pleasure to be had, particularly for those who have read Bronte books and can see the connections.  I teach Jane Eyre, and by the end of the book, I was delighted to see how this author dovetailed her story into the classic.  I had a passing knowledge of the Bronte family, but this book made me go hunting for more.  As a literary geek, I am wholly delighted by this book, and I’ve already been blurbing it to my students since this fall when we read Jane Eyre.  As a realist, I think this might be a difficult book for just any reader to fall into, but those who do, enjoy the ride! Language and situations are appropriate for high school and beyond.

I received an ARC from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Misfit Debutantes, Espionage, and Something Stranje add up to a fun YA Historical adventure in Kathleen Baldwin’s A School for Unusual Girls

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Misfit Debutantes, Espionage, and Something Stranje add up to a fun YA Historical adventure in Kathleen Baldwin’s A School for Unusual Girls

If you enjoy YA historical books like Y.S. Lee’s The Agency series, Gail Carringer’s Finishing School series, or Libba Bray’s Gemma Doyle books, this is a good bet for you.  Settle in with a new set of misfit debutantes working to protect their country from Napoleon’s evil clutches.  Adventure, romance, and smart girls abound in this delightful little book. I thoroughly enjoyed it and read it straight through in an evening. The pacing of the adventure means the pacing of romantic relationships is rushed, but it didn’t effect my overall enjoyment. Many girls of Stranje house were still an enigma to me by the end of the book, but that left room for development and surprises in future installments of the series. 

 
Goodreads Summary

It’s 1814. Napoleon is exiled on Elba. Europe is in shambles. Britain is at war on four fronts. And Stranje House, a School for Unusual Girls, has become one of Regency England’s dark little secrets. The daughters of the beau monde who don’t fit high society’s constrictive mold are banished to Stranje House to be reformed into marriageable young ladies. Or so their parents think. In truth, Headmistress Emma Stranje, the original unusual girl, has plans for the young ladies—plans that entangle the girls in the dangerous world of spies, diplomacy, and war.

After accidentally setting her father’s stables on fire while performing a scientific experiment, Miss Georgiana Fitzwilliam is sent to Stranje House. But Georgie has no intention of being turned into a simpering, pudding-headed, marriageable miss. She plans to escape as soon as possible—until she meets Lord Sebastian Wyatt. Thrust together in a desperate mission to invent a new invisible ink for the English war effort, Georgie and Sebastian must find a way to work together without losing their heads—or their hearts… 

I received an ARC from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.