Tag «Dystopian»

Fresh Fridays: Royal Replicas (#1) by Michael Pierce

Fresh Fridays: On Friday, I review a brand new series (ie. only has one book released so far) to see if the series is worth keeping up with. Here is this week’s offering:

Royal Replicas Series

Other books in the series:

booksynopsis

Synopsis for Royal Replicas (from Goodreads):

“Princess Amelia is dead… and one of you will replace her.”

Seventeen-year-old Victoria Sandalwood has served the Duke and Duchess all her life. Over the years, she’s learned to make due with what she has and endure her surrogate father’s awful punishments. She dreams of escape, but never expected it to come in the form of a message from the Queen of Westeria.

Victoria learns that she’s the Queen’s daughter, the younger sister to Princess Amelia, and it’s time to come home and claim her birthright. When she arrives, she discovers she’s not the only one who received the royal message.

Victoria must compete with six other girls to earn the affection of both the Queen and a princely suitor… and to replace the secretly deceased Princess Amelia. If she fails to win the crown, Victoria may just have to fight for her life…

breakdown

Series: Royal Replicas
Author: Michael Pierce
# of Books: 2 (Royal Replicas, Royal Captives)

There is a prequel novella (#0.5) called Royal Reset

Book Order: Chronological
Complete?: No, Royal Captives, is to be published
Genre: Young Adult, Dystopian, Romance
Heat Rating: warm
Point of View: First Person, Single
Publication Date: July 11, 2017 – ongoing
Source & Format: YA Bound Book Tours–eARC

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

While the cover drew me in, the synopsis had me wanting more. I love books with courtly intrigue or politics and throw in the idea that girls have to compete to be the next princess? I was so there!

I went in hoping for a book like The Selection but with a lead I could actually like and a story that actually went somewhere.

What I Liked:

–The Mystery of the Competition–

Trying to figure out the Queen of Westeria’s motivations for the competition truly had me eager for me. It kept me hooked and had me coming up with all sorts of conspiracy theories. I love books that keep me guessing.

–The World–

Dystopian worlds all share the same basic foundations which can get monotonous over time. But this one still felt fresh to me. I think it’s because we don’t focus too much on its structure and keep our focus on Victoria’s journey. I’m hoping that we can expand this in the sequel(s).

What I Didn’t Like:

–The Choppy Romance–

While this wasn’t the main reason I picked up this story, I do like a solid romance in my reads. Unfortunately, this one was a little all over the place. I could forgive Victoria for her back and forth feelings given the situation(s) she finds herself in. I would be torn too. However, I really didn’t see the connection to either boy and her flip-flopping drove me NUTS because of it. The connections just seemed shallow and too quick for me to really “pick a team”.

–It Played Things Too Safe–

With some of the plot twists, I feel like they were revealed a little too abruptly. There were certain things that could have built or been taken to the next level to give this book the “wow” factor it easily could have.

The Novella, Royal Reset:

I read this after Royal Replicas and I feel like you could read it before or after. I found it didn’t give too much away in terms of a certain character (I actually had more questions than answers after I finished reading it–even though I had read the full novel). But, I do think it does a slightly better job of explaining Victoria’s home life and leads nicely into Royal Replicas.

My Expectations for the Rest of the Series:

I have so many unanswered questions that I’m curious to see what is going to happen next! I’m hoping now that the novelty of the romance is done, we can get back to the nitty gritty of the plot and trying to uncover what is at play.

My Rating: 3/5

[Royal Reset] 3/5 | Royal Replicas 3/5 | Royal Captives TBP

overall

This is a lighter dystopian read packed with an addictive and suspenseful plot that is layered in mystery.

Read if You Like: dystopian, courtly intrigue, mysterious plots
Avoid if You: hate love triangles
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Single Sundays: 5 to 1 by Holly Bodger

Single Sundays: While this blog may be focused on reviewing book series as a whole, we can’t forget about the good ole’ standalone novel! On Sundays, I will review a novel that is considered to be a standalone novel. Here is this week’s offering:

Synopsis for 5 to 1 (from Goodreads):

In the year 2054, after decades of gender selection, India now has a ratio of five boys for every girl, making women an incredibly valuable commodity. Tired of marrying off their daughters to the highest bidder and determined to finally make marriage fair, the women who form the country of Koyanagar have instituted a series of tests so that every boy has the chance to win a wife.

Sudasa doesn’t want to be a wife, and Contestant Five, a boy forced to compete in the test to become her husband, has other plans as well. Sudasa’s family wants nothing more than for their daughter to do the right thing and pick a husband who will keep her comfortable—and caged. Five’s family wants him to escape by failing the tests. As the tests advance, Sudasa and Five thwart each other at every turn until they slowly realize that they just might want the same thing.

Told from alternating points of view—Sudasa’s in verse and Contestant Five’s in prose—allowing readers to experience both characters’ pain and their brave struggle for hope.

breakdown

SERIESous’ Top Picks: Canadian Author
Author: Holly Bodger
Genre: Young Adult, Dystopian, Poetry
Heat Rating: cold
Point of View: First Person, Alternating
Publication Date: May 12, 2015
Source & Format: Public Library–eBook

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

I marked this as a book I found from a blog but I’m not sure where. Not that it really matters, this book seemed to be everywhere when it came out so I’m sure it wasn’t a single source. The cover was making lists of fave covers; the synopsis is more than intriguing and the narration style is noteworthy. So I put it on my TBR but never got a chance to read it back in 2015. Which is why I added it to my 5 Year 5 Book Challenge as a pick for 2015.

The Concept:

I love stories that challenge our everyday norms; in particular our views on gender roles. I just loved the idea of a matriarchal society–where women are in control and boys compete to win their hand. It’s very reminiscent of something you might see in Victorian times; only this is the future and an isolated society and girl’s are the ultimate prize. I thought this exploration was done fantastically and you can tell it is the driving force behind this story. It really makes you think about what it means to be a woman or a man in society and the expectations that come along with it.

The Narration Style:

I definitely missed the part in the synopsis about Sudasa’s chapters being in verse so that was a cool surprise. It’s easy to read (the flow is great) and the formatting is awesome. Very unique. As a whole it really works as a tool to convey how restricted Sudasa is in her life.

HOWEVER, I did struggle near the end trying to interpret what was happening. The ending seemed so rushed to me because it is told in verse (not in full paragraphs) and I had a hard time following. I just felt like I was misinterpreting what was being said and so I couldn’t put in together the developments. And in turn, that dampened my reading experience (and my rating).

The Characters:

I really liked these two as leads. They were not only rebellious but also intelligent as well. Meaning they thought about everything they did before they did it. I liked that they weren’t overly impulsive.

For this story being a shorter novel, I was really impressed by how developed they were as characters.

The Romance:

I just want to say that if you think this is going to be some epic romance between two people who never wanted to get married–think again. Like I said above, this story is all about pressures from society and not the romance. The marriage situation is just a tool to emphasize the circumstances.

My Rating: 3/5

overall

As I approached the final few chapters, this was going to be a 4/5 star read for me. Unfortunately, this story just felt a little rushed at the end. It’s a great story about gender roles/expectations but it isn’t a romance by any stretch of the imagination.

Read if You Like: dystopia, reversed gender roles
Avoid if You: want a romance
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Series Review: Red Rising by Pierce Brown

Series Review: Is this series worth your time? Does it get better as the novels progress? Or does it get worse? Find out below:

booksynopsis

Synopsis for Red Rising (from Goodreads):
Darrow is a Red, a member of the lowest caste in the color-coded society of the future. Like his fellow Reds, he works all day, believing that he and his people are making the surface of Mars livable for future generations.

Yet he spends his life willingly, knowing that his blood and sweat will one day result in a better world for his children.

But Darrow and his kind have been betrayed. Soon he discovers that humanity already reached the surface generations ago. Vast cities and sprawling parks spread across the planet. Darrow—and Reds like him—are nothing more than slaves to a decadent ruling class.

Inspired by a longing for justice, and driven by the memory of lost love, Darrow sacrifices everything to infiltrate the legendary Institute, a proving ground for the dominant Gold caste, where the next generation of humanity’s overlords struggle for power. He will be forced to compete for his life and the very future of civilization against the best and most brutal of Society’s ruling class. There, he will stop at nothing to bring down his enemies… even if it means he has to become one of them to do so.

breakdown

SERIESous’ Top Picks: Fave Read 2016
Series: Red Rising Trilogy

There is a spin-off series in the works, the Iron Gold Trilogy.

Author: Pierce Brown
# of Books: 3 (The Red Rising, Golden Son, Morning Star)
Book Order: Chronological
Complete?: Yes
Genre: New Adult/Young Adult, Science Fiction, Action, War, Dystopian
Heat Rating: cold
Point of View: First Person, Single
Publication Dates: January 2014 – February 2016
Source & Format: Public Library–Hardcover

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

Red Rising caught my eye around the time it was released in 2014 but I didn’t think much else of it. The synopsis sounded intriguingly vague and so I decided to “wait and see” if I should pick up the series. As time passed, it seemed to be getting lots of positive reviews and I made the decision to wait until everything was released so I could binge read it all.

I admit, I was a little worried when I first saw the cover of Red Rising, touting it to be like “The Hunger Games”. Lots of series of have tried but nothing has ever lived up to the rush I got reading the first Hunger Games novel. But, the promise of a male protagonist and a dangerous, political game made me excited to dive into this series.

The Concept / The World:

This is one dark, dangerous world–and it sucks you in. I adore dystopian stories that are rich in politics and strategies and this series has it in spades. You don’t know who to trust; you don’t know what games are afoot and if the characters are aware; and you definitely don’t know who will live to see another day.

In that respect, it reminds me of Game of Thrones. You have all these players vying for power in a world that is simple but complexly layered. And no one seems to be safe from the violence. Sure, get attached to the characters but be prepared that some might not make it far.

I also see where the Hunger Games links occur. The idea is very Katniss Everdeen-esque. Darrow is picked to the be face of the rebellion (like Katniss) but unlike Katniss, he doesn’t hesitate to do so. The plot of Red Rising is also very similar to the Hunger Games themselves–and I think fans will embrace the concept with open arms even if it is more politically driven than the need to survive alone.

The Plot:

This series is one of those 5 star reads you give simply because it is beautifully crafted from start to finish. You don’t give it 5 stars simply because you couldn’t put it down–you give it 5 stars for its methodical execution. Simply put, I’ve never read a series like this before. Though I found these novels addicting, I really took my time with them–averaging 7 days to read them instead of my usual 2-3 days.

These books have so many layers; so many doorways for the plot to move down. The twists were amazing. I love stories that have so many games afoot you don’t know fact from fiction or who is in on the betrayal or not.

That being said, I can see why people wouldn’t enjoy them that much. They do start slow, each book rebuilding itself after the amazing ending of the last. I know the violence and murder will turn a lot of people off. People may have a hard time liking the characters. And if you don’t enjoy the mind-games of characters and the charades of politics, you might find this series dry as well.

All I can suggest is to try the sample or give the first book a shot because this whole series builds up beautifully. I feel like these books are ones you appreciate more in hindsight, when you can see how everything unfolded and how it all works together.

The Characters:

Most YA dystopian reads that I pick up have female protagonists. Honestly, I think Winston from 1984 is the only male dystopian lead I can think of off the top of my head if pressed. And while I love reading about strong female protagonists, I always enjoy seeing a male hero rise to the occasion.

Darrow is an interesting character. He easily garnered my sympathy early in the series and maintained it throughout. I loved the way his mind worked–it was endlessly fascinating. His plans, his manipulations, his compassion–they make him unique and a joy to watch. Seeing him grow over the course of these novels was a real treat.

I won’t say much about the other characters because it will lead to a lot of spoilers but I really grew attached to a lot of them. Some I didn’t even realize until something awful happened. I definitely loved and hated these characters and I love when a series brings that out in me!

The Romance:

This is such a minor part of the series but I love how it adds to the depth of the story. This isn’t a romance series by any stretch of the imagination.

My Expectations for the Spin-off Series:

I have my hypotheses for what will happen next but I can NOT wait to see what happens next!

Series Rating: 5/5

Red Rising 5/5 | Golden Son 5/5 | Morning Star 5/5

overall

If you love a good science fiction novel rich in action, political intrigue and many, many plot twists, you NEED to read this series!

Read if You Like: politcal dystopians, male protagonists, science fiction
Avoid if You: dislike violence, want more romance

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Series Review: The Prodigy Chronicles by C L Denault

Series Review: Is this series worth your time? Does it get better as the novels progress? Or does it get worse? Find out below:

The Prodigy Chronicles

book3 book4

booksynopsis

Synopsis for Gambit (from Goodreads):

In Earth’s battle-ridden future, humans have evolved. Those with extraordinary skills rise to power and fame. Those without live in poverty.

Sixteen-year-old Willow Kent believed she was normal. But when a genetically-advanced military officer shows up in her village and questions her identity, long-buried secrets begin to emerge. With remarkable skills and a shocking genetic code the Core and its enemies will do anything to obtain, Willow suddenly finds the freedom she craves slipping through her fingers. Greed, corruption, and genetic tampering threaten every aspect of her existence as she’s thrust, unwilling, into the sophisticated culture of the elite Core city. To ensure peace, she must leave the past behind, marry a man she’s never met, and submit to the authority of a relentless officer with a hidden agenda of his own.

Her life has become a dangerous game. How much will she sacrifice in order to win?

breakdown

Series: The Prodigy Chronicles
Author: C L Denault
# of Books: 1+ (Gambit, book 2, book 3, book 4)
Book Order: Chronological
Complete?: No, Book 2 will be released
Genre: Young Adult, Science Fiction, Action, Dystopian
Heat Rating: cool
Point of View: First Person, Single
Publication Date: March 2015 – ongoing
Source & Format: NetGalley–eARC  |  Thanks REUTS Publications!

disclaimernetgalley

thoughts

**This post was originally posted as a Fresh Friday review of the first book of the series. It has now been updated to reflect my conclusion to DNF this series. It will not be further updated.**

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

Gambit had been on my NetGalley personal wishlist for a long time. It was always at the top of my “request” list because the synopsis sounded kick-ass. It sounded like a science fiction dystopian novel rich in political intrigue and danger. I LOVE stories like that and I really wanted Gambit to join that list of awesomeness.

What I Liked:

–The Genetics Aspect–

I thought the abilities of these characters were really intriguing. As someone who has studied biology for many years, I liked the approach this novel took. Society’s focus on making the human race stronger by selective breeding and other methods–ethics aside–is very interesting and gives this world a depth I really enjoyed.

What I Didn’t Like:

–The Pacing–

I felt like this book moved at a slow pace. I thought more of it would take place in the Core, leading to more politics and the like, but it took a long time to get there. And once it did, I had lost interest.

It doesn’t help that Willow just lets things happen around her. She doesn’t push back too much–at least that’s the case earlier in the novel–so she was a bit of a lump on a log for the vast majority of this story.

But another reason the pacing seemed so was…

–Too Many Unanswered Questions–

I kinda felt like things were thrown out there but never really worked upon. Things were mentioned earlier and then randomly reappear later and I had a hard time keeping everything straight. Maybe part of the problem was I read this book sporadically over a week and with mild interest, thus dampening my memory but things just didn’t seem to add up for me.

–The Romance–

At first, I worried there was going to be a love triangle but that is not the case in the slightest. The arranged marriage trope takes a backseat for the longest time and the other potential triangle goes away quickly.

But with the potential love interest, I wasn’t feeling it. It seemed to appear out of nowhere and I didn’t like the unhealthy approach it had. Shame, because a good romance might have kept me interest.

My Expectations for the Rest of the Series:

There are a lot of things left unanswered that might make this story more interesting. However, in the long run, I didn’t enjoy this one all that much and my investment is pretty much zilch in continuing on to the next one.

My Rating: 2/5

Gambit 2/5 | Book 2 TBP

overall

This one just took too long to get anywhere. The potential was there but it just didn’t work it to its full advantage. I would seek a second opinion if you are interested in reading it because I know a lot of people did enjoy it.

Read if You Like: slower stories, science fiction
Avoid if You: dislike slow stories, want more romance

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Series Review: Soulless by Jacinta Maree (The Immortal Gene #1)

Series Review: Is this series worth your time? Does it get better as the novels progress? Or does it get worse? Find out below:

The Immortal Gene Trilogy

Other books in the series:

booksynopsis

Synopsis for Soulless (from Goodreads):
Welcome to Soulless.
We are the generation that laughs at death.

Reincarnation; what was once considered a gift of immortality has become an eternity of nightmares.

Nadia Richards lives in a world plagued by reincarnation, a system of recycling souls where all past memories, personalities and traumatic events are relived daily in disjointed sequences. Trapped within their own warped realities, not even the richest and most powerful are saved from their own minds unraveling. Madness is the new human nature, and civilizations are crumpling beneath themselves trying to outrun it.

Within a society that ignores death, Nadia appears to be the one exception to the reincarnation trap. Born without any reincarnated memories and with printless eyes, the hot tempered 19 year old quickly becomes the ultimate prize to all those wishing to end the vicious cycle, or for some, to ensure they could evade death forever.

breakdown

SERIESous’ Top Picks: Fave Cover (Soulless)
Series: Immortal Gene Trilogy
Author: Jacinta Maree
# of Books: 3 (Soulless, Soul Finder, Soul Reaper)
Book Order: Chronological
Complete?: No, Soul Reaper, is to be published
Genre: New Adult, Dystopian, Science Fiction, Supernatural
Heat Rating: cool
Point of View: First Person, Single
Publication Date: October 2015 – ongoing
Source & Format: Author & YA Bound Tours–eARC

disclaimer

thoughts

**This post was originally posted as a Fresh Friday review of the first book of the series. It has now been updated to include the newest publications in the series.**

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

I first saw this book on NetGalley and had to resist the urge to hit request simply because I adore this cover. I just love the blend of the colours and the image itself. I almost hit the request button again once I read the synopsis because it sounded really, really cool. But alas, I didn’t have the time to read it then.

Normally, I read Contemporary New Adult novels but I’ve recently started to expand my horizons. I loved my first forey into the non-contemporary genre with Queen of Blood and again with House of Royals, so I was really curious to pick this one up. Add to that, Poulami @ Daydreaming Books‘ great review of Soulless (we seem to have similar tastes in books) and I really wanted to give this book a chance and soon.

So when I was asked by Jacinta to review her book, I couldn’t wait! I immediately said yes and dove in as soon as I could!

What I Liked:

–The Concept–

This is a really intriguing world! The whole idea of reincarnation is fascinating, and it is presented in way that I have never heard or read about before. The idea that multiple lives are within one person and that they can remember them all? It adds an interesting element to the story; one that is a little unpredictable and adds another layer to the characters.

AND, I felt like things were really explained well. This could be a super confusing concept to keep track of but new terms were always explained or things were briefly recapped so I never felt lost.

–It’s Always Moving–

The plot moves fast in this story, so I was never bored. There’s a lot of action, revealing plot twists and changing of the scenery. I really enjoyed that. While it definitely is a bit of a slow build to the bigger plot points, the story always keeps progressing so you never feel like you are waiting for something to happen.

–Lack of Romance-Centered Plot–

While I love a good romance, I really enjoyed the fact that there wasn’t a huge focus on romance in this story. It allowed me to learn more about Nadia as a character and get more invested in the world and its story. I’m not saying I wouldn’t have liked to have seen some more romantic moments, but it was refreshing not to have a story dominated by a romance and instead focus on the story at hand.

What I Didn’t Like:

Honestly, there really wasn’t anything that I didn’t really enjoy when I read this book. It held my attention from start to finish, I liked the plot twists and I like where the rest of the series is heading.

I suppose, it did take me awhile to warm up to Nadia. She seemed more cliche at the start of the novel and very stereotypical. However, her character presentation became more polished as you read so I grew to really like her over time. The same can be said about the rest of the characters.

The only thing that I think it holding me back from giving it a 5/5 is that it didn’t completely blow me away. Because the plot is always moving and building, this book felt more like an introduction to the larger plot points the rest of the series is going to have. Meaning, this story is just getting starting. I’m hooked but not obsessed…yet.

My Expectations for the Rest of the Series:

Like I said above, I think this series has great potential. Soulless did a great job introducing the world and all its players and I am really excited to see what is going to happen in Soul Finder. I’m hoping in it we are going to get more elaborated story lines and perhaps some more stability for Nadia, allowing the reader to get a little more invested in her story.

updates

–September 25, 2016– Book #2: Soul Finder

Not only does it hit the ground running in terms of action, but it also builds in terms of the plot. I really enjoyed the dramatic developments we get throughout this story. There were many things that happened that I wasn’t expecting and I found that to be very refreshing. I love when stories surprise me like that. Nothing about this is typical or cliche which is awesome and I think that is in thanks to the gritter and dark edge this sequel has to its predecessor.

However, I did have a bit of a rough start with this novel. I don’t think starting it when I was a little tired was a good idea because I struggled a little to keep straight was was happening exactly. It had also been a while since I read the first novel so it took me some time to get reacquainted with the world. (Not that that takes long, Jacinta Maree does a great job of explaining the way the world works in a way that is both organic and easy to follow). Everything moves at a fast pace in this story and so I found myself getting a little behind in the first few chapters. But it really gets a good flow and progression around the 25% mark and maintains that throughout.

We get a little more romance here and I really appreciated that. But at the same time, I’m glad it wasn’t the primary focus of the novel and that the plot stays focused on Nadia learning more about the Soulless and the world. It too surprised me in its execution and I had mixed feelings about it but in hindsight, I appreciate its progression.

Read my spot on the Soul Finder Blog Tour!

My Rating: 4/5

Soulless 4/5  |  Soul Finder 4/5  |  Soul Reaper TBP

overall

For those itching to try a non-contemporary New Adult read or for those who want a story that doesn’t have a lot of romance, this is a great one for you to pick up. It reminded me of a true New Adult version of Julie Kagawa’s The Immortal Rules–an adventure story set in a violent, supernatural dystopian world but with less focus on the romance. I’m looking forward to the sequel!

Read if You Like: adventure, science fiction, dystopian
Avoid if You: want more romance, dislike violence

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Series Review: The Book of Ivy by Amy Engel

Series Review: Is this series worth your time? Does it get better as the novels progress? Or does it get worse? Find out below:

The Book of Ivy by Amy Engel | The Book of Ivy Series

booksynopsis

Synopsis for The Book of Ivy (from Goodreads):
After a brutal nuclear war, the United States was left decimated. A small group of survivors eventually banded together, but only after more conflict over which family would govern the new nation. The Westfalls lost. Fifty years later, peace and control are maintained by marrying the daughters of the losing side to the sons of the winning group in a yearly ritual.

This year, it is my turn.

My name is Ivy Westfall, and my mission is simple: to kill the president’s son—my soon-to-be husband—and restore the Westfall family to power.

But Bishop Lattimer is either a very skilled actor or he’s not the cruel, heartless boy my family warned me to expect. He might even be the one person in this world who truly understands me. But there is no escape from my fate. I am the only one who can restore the Westfall legacy.

Because Bishop must die. And I must be the one to kill him…

breakdown

Series: The Book of Ivy
Author: Amy Engel
# of Books: 2 (The Book of Ivy, The Revolution of Ivy)
Book Order: Chronological
Complete?: Yes
Genre: Young Adult, Dystopian, Romance
Heat Rating: warm
Point of View: First Person, Single
Source & Format: Public Library–eBook

thoughts

**This post was originally posted as a Fresh Friday review of the first book of the series. It has now been updated to include the newest publications in the series.**

My Expectations for the Book/Why I Picked it Up:

I was very excited to read The Book of Ivy. I loved the concept of the story–it was very Cruel Beauty-esque but with a more dystopian focus than fantasy and I really, really enjoyed Cruel Beauty so I couldn’t wait! But then, I started to see mediocre reviews for The Book of Ivy on some of the blogs that I follow and got a little less excited. Yet at the same time, it just really made me want to read this more. So I lowered my expectations slightly and went into with an open mind.

I’m glad that I did commit to picking up this book because I really did enjoy it! I was reading The Book of Ivy just on the cusp of my exams so I wanted a book where I didn’t have to think so hard and could get lost in the story. And with this book I could. I was immediately drawn into the world and couldn’t wait to see what would happen next. Was I able to put it down and function with my life–absolutely. But when I was reading, it managed to capture my attention and keep it.

The Concept/The World:

Why I think a lot of people give it a low rating is because its execution isn’t completely original; or at least to me it wasn’t. I’ve read a LOT of dystopian books and The Book of Ivy is a super mashup of ones I’ve read before. If anyone has ever read Pandemonium (Lauren Oliver’s Delirium Trilogy‘s 2nd book) they have very similar story lines and concepts. I also got vibes from the Matched Trilogy, The Breathe Series and The Selection as well. The only key difference is, while I found Ivy to be a little on the boring side, I liked her character a lot more than the heroines of these other series. The same can be said about Bishop who completely won me over from the start.

The Plot:

I think the key going into this book is to not expect some high-tension scenarios. I found The Book of Ivy coasts along at a moderate rate because the romance isn’t very passionate; the action is non-existent (ie Ivy isn’t some kick-ass heroine) and it really isn’t politically focused. It’s a very subdued dystopian novel which isn’t necessarily a bad thing–it just makes it look like the younger, not as interesting sibling of bigger dystopian titles like The Hunger Games.

However, that isn’t to say the dystopian world we get isn’t interesting! I really enjoyed the look at gender roles in society, especially how a female “contributes positively” to her community; and what happens if the concept “for the common good” is taken to an extreme. While these themes aren’t highly elaborated, they are definitely present and it add to the story in a positive way.

The Characters & The Romance:

As I said before, Ivy didn’t particularly “wow” me but I did like her character. She showed a considerable amount of growth as the story progressed and I liked her rebellious nature. And while I thought Bishop’s character was a little more on the stereotypical side of things, I liked him a lot. Together I thought they made a great pair.

Which is why I wish the romance was a little more elaborated on. I didn’t mind the slow build and I actually think it was executed in the best way for this story; but the romance fan in me did wish for some more passion 😉

My Expectations for the Rest of the Series:

I’m looking forward to The Revolution of Ivy and am very glad that this book will be the finale. Not everything needs to be a trilogy and I feel that 2 books is the perfect length for this series!

updates

–July 4, 2016– Book #2: The Revolution of Ivy

While I forgot some of the littler details of the inaugural novel, I really enjoyed this finale.

I found the start to be slow but I kind-of expected that given the ending of The Book of Ivy. However, it quickly built up speed and become very interesting.

I liked the character development of Ivy we get here. This novel is really about her coming to terms with who she is as a person and what she wants to be happy in life. She makes some tough choices and I applaud her for that.

I wanted a little more excitement at the end but given the nature of the series, I’m very satisfied with how this finale played out. And, the romance was adorable <3

My Rating: 3.5/5

The Book of Ivy 3.5/5 | The Revolution of Ivy 3.5/5

overall

Is The Book of Ivy the greatest dystopian novel ever? No. But if you go in expecting a slower, more subdued dystopian story, I think you will enjoy it! It’s execution is very similar to that of the Delirium Trilogy in the sense that it isn’t a high action, high tension story (like Divergent or The Hunger Games). However, I did feel like The Book of Ivy had a better execution than the Matched Trilogy by Ally Condie which explores similar themes.

Read if You Like: low action dystopian, mild romance
Avoid if You: like kick-ass heroines (literally), dislike slow stories, want more romance

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Fresh Fridays: An Ember in the Ashes (#1) by Sabaa Tahir

Fresh Fridays: On Friday, I review a brand new series (ie. only has one book released so far) to see if the series is worth keeping up with. Here is this week’s offering:

An Ember in the Ashes Series

Other books in the series:

booksynopsis

Synopsis for An Ember in the Ashes (from Goodreads):
Laia is a slave. Elias is a soldier. Neither is free.

Under the Martial Empire, defiance is met with death. Those who do not vow their blood and bodies to the Emperor risk the execution of their loved ones and the destruction of all they hold dear.

It is in this brutal world, inspired by ancient Rome, that Laia lives with her grandparents and older brother. The family ekes out an existence in the Empire’s impoverished backstreets. They do not challenge the Empire. They’ve seen what happens to those who do.

But when Laia’s brother is arrested for treason, Laia is forced to make a decision. In exchange for help from rebels who promise to rescue her brother, she will risk her life to spy for them from within the Empire’s greatest military academy.

There, Laia meets Elias, the school’s finest soldier—and secretly, its most unwilling. Elias wants only to be free of the tyranny he’s being trained to enforce. He and Laia will soon realize that their destinies are intertwined—and that their choices will change the fate of the Empire itself.

breakdown

Series: An Ember in the Ashes
Author: Sabaa Tahir
# of Books: 2 (An Ember in the Ashes, Book 2)
Book Order: Chronological
Complete?: No, book 2, will be published in 2016
Genre: Young Adult, High Fantasy, Supernatural, Magic, Dystopian, Romance, Action
Heat Rating: cool *mature subject matter*
Point of View: First Person, Alternating
Publication Date: April 2015 – ongoing
Source & Format: Public Library–eBook

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

This book was everywhere around it’s release date but I had put it on my list in March when it was added to my library. In hindsight, it was great because High Fantasy novels have been my JAM lately and this fit the bill perfectly! But the key words that drew me in: “inspired by ancient Rome” and “spy”. Also, the promise of a forbidden romance–yes please!

So needless to say, I was really excited to read this book.

The Concept / The World:

I really liked the world this book takes place in and I’m sure I would have liked it more if I knew more about ancient Rome. I know general stuff but nothing to confirm this book has deep-rooted inspiration. Though it is important to note that the subject of rape is brought up multiple times within the book so if that makes you uncomfortable, just be aware.

The societal hierarchies were easy to follow with their Latin names but I found the supernatural elements to be VERY confusing. Confusing in the sense that I couldn’t remember what each creature did as I read because the names were in Latin and I have an awful memory. It would have been easy to rectify if I bothered to flip back in the book–though in the end it really isn’t a huge deal.

The Plot:

This book started really slowly for me. It took me a while to get into the story because the first quarter or so is used to build up the world. Which is fine, it just makes this book seem longer than it is (though it is long, even as an eBook).

But once this got going, man, I was hooked. It helps that we get to very well developed POVs. Elias’ POV is packed with action while Laia’s is more of the political side of things and in addition they each have their own plotlines. It’s almost like you have two different stories in one and the reader in me who loves lots of things going on really liked that. (Don’t worry, it’s really easy to understand what is happening and it isn’t very overwhelming!).

However, while there were some excellent mini-twists along the way, there were some points that were too predictable for me. That’s why this book is only a 4 star and not a 5 star to me because I really wasn’t WOWed by any of the plot points. Yes, those few twists we got were great and the battle scenes were hard to call; but I just felt like it was lacking that book-altering twist for me. Which is a shame, because I really enjoyed reading this book!

The Characters:

I loved Elias as soon as we met him. I just loved his personality and morals plus, I adored his friends. His POVs were easily my favourite to read about because they were so interesting and action-packed. Honestly, this book could have just been his POV and I would have been happy.

I liked Laia but she isn’t going to win any “amazing heroine awards” in this book; but at the same time, I don’t think she’s supposed to. Unlike other high fantasy heroines that I have been reading about recently, Laia isn’t prepared for the life she is thrust into in any way. She isn’t a fighter, she isn’t a rebel: she is a scared girl who makes rash decisions because she doesn’t know any better–which is so refreshing to me!  She reminds me that not all heroines are like Katniss or Celaena and that is A-OK! (Though I agree that as a reader she is hard to read about because there is a great secondary character who is like those two heroines that I think readers will/do like more). It was great to watch her grow into the independent woman she always could have been. Her passion to help her brother is her greatest strength and weakness and I can’t wait to see what happens to her in the future because of it.

The Romance:

This one is hard to review without giving too much away but I’ll give it a shot!

Normally, I’m not a fan of love triangles but I really enjoyed the interchanging ones in this book. I say interchanging because there a multiple suitors for multiple characters–and when I say ‘suitors’ I mean people who have crushes on characters but they aren’t all serious contenders in the end. What I really liked is that I don’t know who I want to “win” the main love triangle because I really like all the characters involved. But at the same time, I feel like all the possible romantic relationships need some series attention before they can be resolved–they aren’t fully developed because the romance really isn’t a huge focus of the book. It’s important but it isn’t the sole focus of the book–which is why it is hard to say who will end up with who in the end. The love triangles do their job of adding to the plot but they don’t take away from it so I really didn’t mind their presence.

My Expectations for the Rest of the Series:

I’m really excited to read the sequel to this book! This book didn’t WOW me but I really think the next one could because all the great lead-ups are there, they just need some fine tuning.

My Rating: 4/5

overall

Like I said, this book was missing the WOW factor for me but I really, really enjoyed reading it! It has all the great elements needed for a high fantasy YA series and I can’t wait to see what is in store in the sequel!

Read if You Like: slower stories, world-building, high fantasy
Avoid if You: dislike slow stories, want more romance, don’t like supernatural elements

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Series Review: Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard

Series Review: Is this series worth your time? Does it get better as the novels progress? Or does it get worse? Find out below:

booksynopsis

Synopsis for Red Queen (from Goodreads):
The poverty stricken Reds are commoners, living under the rule of the Silvers, elite warriors with god-like powers.

To Mare Barrow, a 17-year-old Red girl from The Stilts, it looks like nothing will ever change.

Mare finds herself working in the Silver Palace, at the centre of
those she hates the most. She quickly discovers that, despite her red blood, she possesses a deadly power of her own. One that threatens to destroy Silver control.

But power is a dangerous game. And in this world divided by blood, who will win?

breakdown

SERIESous’ Top Picks: Fave Read 2015 (Red Queen), Biggest Disappointment 2016 (Glass Sword)
Series: Red Queen
Author: Victoria Aveyard
# of Books: 3 (Red Queen, Glass Sword, King’s Cage, book 4)

There are two novellas: #0.1 Queen Song & #0.2 Steel Scars

Book Order: Chronological
Complete?: No, King’s Cage, will be published February 2017
Genre: Young Adult, High Fantasy, Dystopian, Magic
Heat Rating: cool
Point of View: First Person, Single
Publication Date: February 2015 – ongoing
Source & Format: Public Library–eBook

thoughts

Find out why I DNF’d the Glass Sword (Book 2) below:

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

Lately I’ve been really into High Fantasy novels–if you look at my 5/5 star books for the year, most of them are high fantasy YA novels. I’m loving this blend of dystopian tones, magic, romance and political intrigue. They are everything I love in novels and I’m so stoked that current YA trends are churning out these amazing pieces of fiction.

So, I think it goes without saying, I was super excited to read the Red Queen. I was actually excited for it before I even picked up the other High Fantasy books I read this year and dutifully ignored other reviews so nothing would be spoiled. I was hoping this book would be what I wanted The Selection to be: a politically focused dystopian read with a heroine who is actually intelligent. And after I read The Winner’s Curse and Snow Like Ashes, I was really hoping Mare would be in league with these fantastic leading ladies!

The Concept / The World:

The entire Red Queen world is a combination of lots of other fantasy and dystopian worlds but at the same time, I found it to be very refreshing. It took elements from my favourite books and used them to their full advantage without going over the top or feeling unoriginal. So while some people will definitely see parallels, I never felt like I was reading a regurgitation of another book. The book does a great job of building and explaining the world at the start and throughout the novel so world-building fans will love it!

I usually don’t love magical elements in my stories but I really loved the way it works here. It was very Avatar: Legend of Korra to me with their powers and I had a lot of fun learning about all the different types of Silvers.

The Plot:

While this book started very slow to me, it really kept my attention and I always felt like it was building up to something. And boy was it building up to something! This story is great! It truly kept me on my toes and I never knew what was going to happen next!

This book had a great balance between action and politics; though the political aspects are the standout feature to me. I’m not sure how many people watch Game of Thrones but I adore the political games that are always afoot with those characters. And this book had the same deceptive games. I loved that it kept me thinking five moves ahead but I was always surprised but what happened next.

And the last 100 pages—simply amazing!

The Characters:

When I first started reading this book, I was really worried Mare would be like America from The Selection: a girl thrust into a situation she never imagined yet does nothing as everything happens around her to resolve the world. That frustrated me to no end with the Selection Trilogy so I was very relieved that that wasn’t the case with Mare.

Mare isn’t an instant kick-ass character though she is a interesting character–and I really loved that. She isn’t flawless and she really has to work for what she wants which made reading so captivating.

And the same can be said about the other characters. They really kept me on the edge of my seat and they all had great character development.

The Romance:

Don’t go into this book expecting some passionate romance. While it definitely is there and has an important role to play, it isn’t all consuming which was great. Even the romantic in me was satisfied by what we had here.

My Expectations for the Rest of the Series:

Red Queen really set the stage for the rest of the series and I truly can’t wait to see what happens next!

updates

–November 17, 2016– Book #2: Glass Sword

I really hummed and hawed over DNFing this one or not. Even ran a Twitter poll…most people said to DNF it.

I was SO BORED by this book!

I LOVED the Red Queen! I was a strong defender of it, telling everyone to not be so hard on it and all that. So Glass Sword was one of my most anticipated reads of 2016.

But this was dreadfully dry. Nothing seemed to be happen except the passing of time.

Understandably, everyone is a little beaten down. Mare especially. I really struggled with her character. Cal was so dull; and there was very little Maven.

This is the very definition of a Book 2 slump if you ask me. It’s just one of those bridging books that is a necessary evil to the series. Seems like something big happens at the end that I am curious about, but not curious enough to pick this one back up.

It’s been 8 months since I stopped in the middle of the novel and I haven’t regretted it yet.

Perhaps I’ll finish it another time but as of right now, this is a DNF’d series for me.

My Rating: DNF

Red Queen 5/5 | Glass Sword DNF

overall

Even the slow start couldn’t deter me from loving this book! It’s perfect for readers who love political games with a dash of physical action. YA High Fantasy at its finest!

Obviously, my opinion has changed. Each book seems to have a slow start and really only climaxes at the end of the novel. Sorry, but I just need something that will keep my attention all the way through.

Read if You Like: characters with magical/supernatural powers, world-building, high fantasy
Avoid if You: dislike slow starting stories, want more romance

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Movie Mondays: Insurgent

Movie Mondays: On Mondays, I will review a book series or novel that has been made into a movie. I will then answer the question that everyone asks: which is better, the movie or the book? Here is this week’s offering:

Book: Insurgent by Veronica Roth (2012) | Movie: The Divergent Series: Insurgent (2015)

Which did I read/see first? The BOOK

Book Cover | Movie Poster

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The Book:

Series: Divergent Trilogy (#2)
Author: Veronica Roth
Genre: Young Adult, Dystopian, Action, Romance
Point of View: First Person, Single

Thoughts:

Trying to follow-up from the awesomeness that is Divergent is a huge task and one I felt Insurgent didn’t meet. You know, I hardly remember anything about this book except how it ends because that ending shocked me completely and made me excited to read Allegiant.

It’s weird because things definitely happened throughout Insurgent. We are never in the same place for very long and there are various twists along the way that set-up great things in the future. So maybe that is where this book fails: building up for future events and not paying enough attention to its own plot. It’s the curse of the middle book in a trilogy and it’s a shame that Insurgent had to fall prey to it.

As I said in my series review of the trilogy, Insurgent lacks a lot of action; especially when compared to Divergent. So I think in that respect that was why I found it to be a little slower.

Conclusion:

Looking back at my GoodReads ranking of Insurgent, I see that I gave it a 5. And I definitely know why I did: because it set things up perfectly for the last book with that ending. So the ending is definitely a 5/5 but I’d give the book a 4/5. (Also, I read this like 3 years ago so I guess it’s normal to forget what happened)

Rating: 4/5
Series Review: Full series review here!

Similar Reads: The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins (The Hunger Games Trilogy #1); Under the Never Sky by Veronica Rossi (Under the Never Sky Trilogy #1); Matched by Ally Condie (Matched Trilogy #1) and Delirium by Lauren Oliver (Delirium Trilogy #1)

The Movie:

Were my Expectations Met?

So I was expecting this movie to be a lot faster paced than I remembered the book to be and it definitely was! I found Insurgent never really had a dull moment and it kept my full attention. Seeing all the simulation aspects come to life was really cool and I thought it was well done. There were some cheesy moments and two weird camera shots but all in all, I thought it captured the essence of the series well.

How Close is it to the Book?

After my quick Wikipedia look at the what happened in the book, I realized they changed a lot. Some things were minor (like Tori’s brother) and I think that change was for the best. Like I said, I felt like the book had too much going on and the movie simplified it to some extent.

However, they changed the ending and that really pissed me off. OK, to be fair, it’s just one little detail but it was truly the best part of the ending to me when I read the book. So I left the movie pretty upset that they changed it.

I also like that the relationship between Tris and Four isn’t so wishy-washy. They really present a united front more-so in the movie than they do in the book–which was great because they are one of my favourite literary couples to read/watch.

Did I Like the Cast?

HELL YES! Man, the casting in this movie is fantastic! I know some people don’t like Shailene Woodley but I thought she did a great job as Tris, just like she did in the first movie. I really don’t need to say how great Theo James is as Four–and I’m not talking about his looks…much. No, in all seriousness, he is exactly how I wanted Four to be in all aspects of the character.

Like most people, I developed a huge crush on Ansel Elgort after he starred in The Fault in Our Stars. But even he couldn’t save me from hating Caleb–so job well done Ansel 😉 And Miles Teller–where have you been all my life! If you had asked me if I would have liked Peter EVER, I would have flat out said “no”. But Miles really presented a Peter that was charming and fun and he was one of the best parts of the movie to me.

What Am I Expecting Next?

While I think splitting up Allegiant into two movies is a very, very stupid idea (it was by-far the dullest of all the books) and only see it as a money grab: I am slightly excited to see where they take it. A lot of the plot changes they made really leave the world beyond the wall a huge mystery and I’m honestly not sure what direction they are going to take it.

I fear that it is going to be another Mocking Jay Part 1 scenario where we get a whole lot of talking and not so much doing. *sigh*

So, which is better: the book or the movie?

In this case, the winner is the MOVIE? You know, I really don’t know what to pick! In some ways, I like the faster pace of the movie a lot more than the book but to be fair to the book, it’s been sooooo long since I read it. For now, I’m going to say the movie and if I ever reread the series, I’ll reevaluate this 😉

Do you agree? Leave a comment below!

Synopsis for Insurgent (from Goodreads):

One choice can transform you—or it can destroy you. But every choice has consequences, and as unrest surges in the factions all around her, Tris Prior must continue trying to save those she loves—and herself—while grappling with haunting questions of grief and forgiveness, identity and loyalty, politics and love.

Tris’s initiation day should have been marked by celebration and victory with her chosen faction; instead, the day ended with unspeakable horrors. War now looms as conflict between the factions and their ideologies grows. And in times of war, sides must be chosen, secrets will emerge, and choices will become even more irrevocable—and even more powerful. Transformed by her own decisions but also by haunting grief and guilt, radical new discoveries, and shifting relationships, Tris must fully embrace her Divergence, even if she does not know what she may lose by doing so

Trailer:

Series Review: The Winner’s Trilogy by Marie Rutkoski

Series Review: Is this series worth your time? Does it get better as the novels progress? Or does it get worse? Find out below:

book3

SERIESous’ Top Book Series: Favourite 2015, New Must Read Author, Favourite Series, Sad to See Go 2016
Series: The Winner’s Trilogy
Author: Marie Rutkoski
# of Books: 3 (The Winner’s Curse, The Winner’s Crime, The Winner’s Kiss)
Book Order: Chronological

There is a prequel novella: Bridge of Snow

Complete?: Yes
Genre: Young Adult, Dystopian, Romance, High Fantasy, Alternate History
Heat Rating: cool
Point of View: Third Person, Alternating

Thoughts:

I won’t lie: the covers are what drew me to pick up this series (it wasn’t until after I read it that this book seemed to be on a lot of blogs that I follow). Both The Winner’s Curse and The Winner’s Crime were new additions to my library’ eCatalogue and after I read the synopsis, I decided I really wanted to read these books. I honestly didn’t know what to expect plot-wise from these novels but I knew that I was expecting awesome things and I eagerly dug in.

I didn’t get right into The Winner’s Curse because I felt like it was assumed that I knew the history of the world. Not that the world is overly complicated (I got the gist of it pretty quick); I just felt like it was expected that I knew why these two cultures were clashing and why there was conflict in Kestrel’s world on a deeper level without being told why. Perhaps I just missed that one key line that explains everything earlier in the book. Regardless: the truth of the matter is that the conflicts present in this book are no different than the conflicts we see in our modern world despite its historical edge. And once I was a few chapters in, I was sold (no pun intended) on everything this book was bringing.

If you take the intelligent, strategic heroine of June from the Legend Trilogy, minus her physical ability to kick ass and add the historical vibes of For the Darkness Shows the Stars, you get The Winner’s Curse.

Which means it’s pretty awesome!

Despite my personal distaste for slower novels, I really loved The Winner’s Curse! I loved how everything built up slowly and was intricately linked together. There was a plot-line I wasn’t expecting and I thought it made the story 20x more interesting. This book was never afraid to take risks and that makes it vastly different from the other dystopian YA novels out there. (Though it isn’t really that much of a dystopian novel, rather a high fantasy with some dystopian elements present.)

It also differs from other YA with its AMAZING heroine! I adored Kestrel as a heroine. It’s been a long time since I’ve found a dystopian-esque heroine that didn’t drive me up the wall in some way or another. She was smart, always thought about her actions and was never irrational in her decisions. She’s a strategist and I find that so refreshing in a heroine. Don’t get me wrong, I love heroines who can physically kick ass but it was so AWESOME to read about a heroine who uses her intelligence to outwit her opponents instead of her fists or sword.

I also really liked Arin and her relationship with him. It’s slow building but has so many interesting layers to it that it was a lot of fun to read about. It reminded me a lot of June and Day’s relationship (from Legend) in the sense that they balanced each other out. They were a great pair when they were together but just as amazing when they were on their own and I loved that! Being “on their own” is an important thing to highlight because if you are expecting some grand romance–think again! I found that the romance played a very minimal part in the story as it focuses more on the politics of the countries wayyyy more than it does on the relationship between Arin and Kestrel. It is definitely there but it takes more of a backseat throughout the story.

The Winner’s Crime doesn’t slow down from where its predecessor left off; in fact, it builds on it. Though I thought it started on the slow side, it quickly amped up its pace as you read. The Winner’s Crime definitely has more political intrigue to it which I have been craving to read about for such a long time and that made me really happy. So many great twists and turns! I really didn’t know what was going to happen despite all the clues along the way–which is probably why I would say it is my favourite of the two so far (but it was a really close and hard choice to make!).

I simply cannot wait to read The Winner’s Kiss!!! I just want to see a cover or a synopsis or even a specific release date so I can satisfy some part of my excitement!

Just a quick note on the novella (well, it’s really just a very short story). It takes place when Arin was a child, therefore it is technically a prequel. However, I think you will get more out of it if you read it after The Winner’s Curse or even The Winner’s Crime. I read it after The Winner’s Crime and I feel like that was a good time to read it because I could make the connections it inspires. However, it really doesn’t contribute to the story in any way other than to provide a taste of Arin’s life before The Winner’s Curse and isn’t necessary to read if you can’t find it (or don’t want to pay the $1 to read 20 pages).

updates

–May 23, 2016– Book #3: The Winner’s Kiss


I admit, I was worried this book wouldn’t live up to the personal hype I’ve built up in my mind over the last year waiting its arrival.

But damn, this book was finale perfection!

It had everything I wanted: politics, action, romantic tension and great twists. I was absorbed from start to finish, hanging on every word. Even though I’m sad this series is over, I couldn’t have asked for a better finale!

Series Rating: 5/5

The Winner’s Curse 5/5 | The Winner’s Crime 5/5 | The Winner’s Kiss 5/5

overall

One of my favourite YA reads this year and a new favourite series for me! Loved every minute of these books! (I may even break my buying physical books pact to own these novels!) If you want to read a dystopian-esque novel with a FANTASTICALLY intelligent heroine, her complimentary male counterpart and lots of political intrigue–this is the read for you!

Read if You Like: intelligent heroines, politics, high fantasy
Avoid if You: want more romance, want more detailed world-building

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Synopsis for The Winner’s Curse (from Goodreads):
Winning what you want may cost you everything you love

As a general’s daughter in a vast empire that revels in war and enslaves those it conquers, seventeen-year-old Kestrel has two choices: she can join the military or get married. But Kestrel has other intentions.

One day, she is startled to find a kindred spirit in a young slave up for auction. Arin’s eyes seem to defy everything and everyone. Following her instinct, Kestrel buys him—with unexpected consequences. It’s not long before she has to hide her growing love for Arin.

But he, too, has a secret, and Kestrel quickly learns that the price she paid for a fellow human is much higher than she ever could have imagined.

Set in a richly imagined new world, The Winner’s Curse by Marie Rutkoski is a story of deadly games where everything is at stake, and the gamble is whether you will keep your head or lose your heart.

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