Three Dark Crowns

I don’t know quite where to begin. I finished reading Three Dark Crowns by Kendare Blake a few hours ago, and I’m still processing what happened in this book, particularly the batcrap crazy ending. (I mean that in the best way.) This book is convoluted and vicious–perfect for fans of Kiersten White’s And I Darken and Sabaa Tahir’s An Ember in the Ashes–and I can hardly wait for more.

On the mysterious island of Fennbirn, three sisters–triplets–vie to be the last queen standing. Separated at an early age, the girls grow up knowing that they may one day have to kill their sisters in order to claim the crown. Each queen is supposed to be endowed with her own special brand of magic, and the strength of that magic could lead one of the young women to rule.

Katharine is a poisoner. She should be able to ingest even the most dangerous poison with no consequences. She can craft poisons with the best of them, but she cannot yet consume toxins without being violently ill. If her gift does not arrive soon–before Beltane–she fears that her quest for the throne will be short-lived.

Arsinoe is in a similar situation. She is a naturalist, but she cannot yet control even the smallest portion of the natural world around her, and there is no sign of her animal familiar on the horizon. Her companion, Jules, a powerful naturalist in her own right, has been trying to coax Arsinoe’s gift out of hiding, but the only magic Arsinoe experiences–dangerous spells performed with her own blood–may come with a cost more dire than she realizes.

Mirabella is widely considered to be the front-runner for the crown. She is a powerful elemental, and she has been controlling wind, fire, water, and earth for years. But Mirabella wonders if she’s truly capable of killing her sisters when the time comes. She remembers with fondness their lives before they were separated, and her unwillingness to do her sisters harm is viewed as weakness by those in power. Her path to the throne may seem clear, but her own feelings may cloud the way.

Each of these three sisters are attempting to figure out where they stand in Fennbirn, but they are running out of time to come to terms with their destinies. Their quests for the crown truly begin at the upcoming Beltane celebration. After that, two of them must die so that one can be queen. Add in questions about their gifts, power struggles from without and within, suitors vying for their hands, betrayal, and their own often conflicted feelings, and something has to give.

Will Katharine and Arsinoe receive their gifts before Beltane? If not, can they make others believe they are fit to be queen? Is Mirabella truly the most powerful of the three and destined to be the sole queen? Or does fate have something else in store for these sisters and those who would see them killed or crowned?


I’ve left out A LOT here, but I didn’t want to give too much away. I will say, however, that it’s difficult to determine which of the sisters–if any–should truly be queen. I felt sympathy with each of them at different points, but I can’t say that I was really rooting for any of them. As a matter of fact, I didn’t really like the sisters throughout much of the book. Jules, Arsinoe’s companion, was probably the only character in the book that I 100% liked. That’s okay, though. I think my conflicted feelings on these characters are exactly what the author intended. Nothing is clear cut in this book, and that makes things very intriguing.

For those wondering if Three Dark Crowns is a good fit for middle grade readers, I have to say…I’m not sure. It is brutal, and there are some sexy times (which are kind of understated). Some middle grade readers may be able to handle it; others won’t. I would probably recommend this book to grades 8 and up, but I urge you to read the book for yourself if you work with tweens and young teens. You know your readers better than I do.

The next book in this series, One Dark Throne, comes out on September 19th. There will also be a prequel novella, The Young Queens, released on December 26th. Lots to look forward to in this exciting series!

For more information on Three Dark Crowns, visit author Kendare Blake’s website or connect with her on Twitter. You may also want to check out the awesome book trailer from Epic Reads below. Enjoy!

Now I Rise

Notice: You MUST read And I Darken, the first book in Kiersten White’s Conqueror’s Saga, before proceeding with this post. You’ve been warned.

If it’s not readily apparent, I recently finished reading Now I Rise, the sequel to And I Darken. This series focuses on Lada and Radu Dracul, the children of Vlad Dracul, the inspiration for Dracula. Like I mentioned in the post on book one, this series presents an alternate history of this family. Vlad is not the brutal leader of legend here…but his daughter is.

In And I Darken, Lada and Radu were dealing with their complicated feelings for each other, their circumstances, and the new sultan, Mehmed. In Now I Rise, the complications continue. Lada has left Mehmed’s side to reclaim the throne of Wallachia. Radu, on the other hand, has stayed with Mehmed, and that presents its own set of difficulties.

Lada Dracul is determined to be Prince of Wallachia. It does not matter that she is a woman. She’s the rightful ruler, and she will take what’s hers, by force if necessary. And it looks like force–and lots of it–are necessary. In her quest to rule, she strikes down anyone who gets in her way. She forges alliances that make her sick. She betrays those close to her. All of this to get her closer to the Wallachian throne. Yet even as she is on the cusp of achieving her goal, she misses her brother, Radu, and even Mehmed.

Lada knows that Radu’s silver tongue and gift of diplomacy would get her closer to the throne. As for Mehmed, her feelings for him are a bit more complex. She misses how he makes her feel, but, at the same time, she refuses to place her future in a man’s hands. Also, she doesn’t fully trust Mehmed. He has seemingly thwarted her grab for power, and Lada knows he will do anything–including betray her–to further his own ends. She both loathes and respects that about him. After all, has she not done the same?

As for Radu, he remains completely loyal to Mehmed and the sultan’s desire to conquer Constantinople. Radu does whatever he can to further the Ottoman cause, and, when Mehmed asks Radu to become a spy within Constantinople’s walls, he reluctantly agrees. While Radu does not wish to be parted from Mehmed, he will do as Mehmed asks even as he ignores his sister’s plea for help in her endeavors. Radu knows his feelings for Mehmed will likely never be returned, but he will continue to prove his love and loyalty to Mehmed…no matter what it costs.

While in Constantinople, Radu becomes more and more conflicted. Even as he’s relaying information to the Ottomans, he’s growing closer to those fighting for Emperor Constantine. How can he betray these people who have taken him in, shown him kindness, and trusted him? But how can he turn his back on Mehmed, who he loves more than all others? He’s given up nearly everything for Mehmed, but is he willing to give up his very soul so that Mehmed can conquer a city that seems to be dying anyway?

Both Radu and Lada Dracul are wrestling with questions of loyalty, love, faith, and sacrifice. What are each of them willing to do to achieve their goals? What will they find themselves capable of? Betrayal? Murder? And what will be lost along the way?


Everything I said about And I Darken also applies to Now I Rise. I don’t feel like writing all that again, so read the end of my post on And I Darken to get my full take on both of these books. In short, though, these books raise all sorts of questions on what a person is willing to do to serve their own ends, how love makes a person both strong and weak, what it means to be feminine, and how women who do not subscribe to societal expectations are viewed. And that barely even touches on the religious and historical aspects of the book. It’s a lot to take in, and all of this stuff makes both And I Darken and Now I Rise as sumptuous as two decadent pieces of dark chocolate.

So…how does Now I Rise differ from And I Darken? Well, we get to know both Lada and Radu a bit more. These two characters get more complex with each page, and I’m sure that will continue in the next book. The biggest difference, though, is the elevated brutality. Radu is in the middle of a war zone, and he both witnesses and commits atrocities true to what is happening around him. Lada, in her quest for power, cuts down anyone in her path and leaves a trail of bodies behind her. There’s nothing pretty, delicate, or civilized about her path to the Wallachian throne. She’s vicious, brutal, and without mercy. She has to demonstrate to all that she is no pushover, and she’s not shy about shedding blood to prove her point.

In case you’re wondering, I would recommend both And I Darken and Now I Rise to a mature teen or adult audience. I doubt most middle grade readers are developmentally ready for books like these. They deal with political maneuvering, sexuality, betrayal, and the horrors of war, and I think reading and discussing these issues require a certain level of maturity. You may have a different take, but I urge you to read the books yourself before you make that determination.

Now I Rise will be released on June 27th. The third book in The Conqueror’s Saga should be out next summer. To learn more about And I Darken and Now I Rise, visit the series’ official website.

Stealing Snow

Last night, I finished reading Danielle Paige’s latest novel, Stealing Snow, which is a retelling of The Snow Queen. I figured that, since I adored Paige’s Dorothy Must Die series, I would be equally enamored of her new book. That wasn’t exactly how things worked out.

I did enjoy some elements of Stealing Snow, but I like the Dorothy Must Die books much more. It may have something to do with the subject matter. I’m much more familiar with the Land of Oz than I am with the story of the Snow Queen. (Most of what I know about the Snow Queen comes from Frozen, and I think we can all agree that movie doesn’t come close to the original story.) The convoluted love story also didn’t really work for me. I liked the twist at the end of the book, and I fully intend to read the rest of the series, but Stealing Snow wasn’t as great as I wanted it to be.

When Snow Yardley was just a little girl, her mother sent her to live at Whittaker, a psychiatric facility for “troubled” youth. Snow doesn’t think she’s crazy, but she can’t deny that she has odd dreams and a tendency to be filled with icy anger. (It’s hard not to be angry when you’ve been locked in an asylum for most of your life.) Her only friend at Whittaker is Bale, but even that is taken from when he turns violent shortly after their first kiss.

Snow can’t explain Bale’s sudden violence–and even more sudden disappearance–but maybe there’s someone out there who can. A new orderly at Whittaker tells Snow that there’s a world that lies beyond these walls, and all she has to do to claim it is meet him at the Tree that haunts her dreams. But how can this be possible, and what does it have to do with Bale?

Snow eventually finds a way to escape Whittaker and find the Tree in question. Beyond the Tree lies the mysterious land of Algid. Snow doesn’t know quite what to make of this strange world…or her place in it. Algid is ruled by King Lazar, a brutal, powerful man…who is also Snow’s father. According to prophecy, Snow will soon overthrow her father or join him, making his hold on Algid even more absolute.

Snow isn’t convinced of all that’s being thrown at her, but she has to play along if she has any hope of finding Bale. At the very least, she needs to learn to control her newly discovered powers. As her name suggests, Snow has the power to control snow.

Snow needs to use her new power against the King’s minions, and several interested parties want to help her do just that. There’s the River Witch, who has her own reasons for wanting King Lazar out of power. There’s Kai, a boy who can be standoffish but who Snow feels connected to. And there’s Jagger, the boy who posed as an orderly at Whittaker, and his band of Robbers. Snow doesn’t know who to trust, but she’ll do whatever it takes to save Bale…even if she’s not entirely certain anymore that he’s the love of her life.

Like it or not, Snow is tied to the future of Algid, and a day is coming that will reveal to her more than she ever wanted to know. She’ll discover hard truths about Bale, her parents, herself, and what she needs to do to control her own fate.


As I said before, I wanted this book to be so much more than it was. It felt kind of disjointed at times, and the “love rectangle” really got on my nerves. Snow’s back-and-forth between Bale, Kai, and Jagger was grating and often nonsensical. I get why she was connected to Bale, but she just met Kai and Jagger. I didn’t see any reason for her to be all swoony over them. They could have been complete psychopaths for all she knew. (Of course, Bale had his share of psychotic moments, and she was nuts over him.) I just wanted to reach through the pages, shake Snow, and tell her to deal with her own issues without worrying about all these guys. I mean, seriously, she had enough problems without the male of the species making things more confusing. (And that last sentence may as well be my own personal philosophy on getting through life.)

Anyhoo, Stealing Snow, despite its flaws, was an enjoyable read. I liked the curveball at the end of the book. (No, I’m not going to tell you what it was.) That surprise made up for a lot and made me want to read more of this series.

Speaking of the series as a whole, there are two prequel novellas that are already available. The first, Before the Snow, tells more about the River Witch and her connection to King Lazar. The second, Queen Rising, gives a closer look at Margot, queen of the Robbers. Since I found both of those characters to be quite interesting in Stealing Snow, I’ll give those two stories a read very soon. The second full-length novel, which is currently untitled, will be out sometime in 2017.

If you’d like more information on Stealing Snow and Danielle Paige’s other books, visit the author’s website. You can also connect with her on Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, Tumblr, Snapchat, and Goodreads.

The Crown

Turn back now if you haven’t read Kiera Cass’ Selection series up to this point (The Selection, The Elite, The One, The Heir, and the Happily Ever After collection). You’ve been warned.

As you’ve no doubt gathered, I recently finished reading The Crown, the final installment in The Selection series by Kiera Cass. I fell in love with this series almost four years ago. I’m sad to see it end, but I have to say that the finale was satisfying. It had a variety of conflicts, but all of them were–more or less–resolved by the end of the book, and it was very apparent just how far this family had come since we first met America and Maxon in The Selection and Eadlyn in The Heir.

The Crown, of course, continues where The Heir concluded. Princess Eadlyn of Illéa is in the midst of her own Selection, but choosing her future husband is not the only thing she is dealing with.

Eadlyn’s mother, beloved Queen America, has suffered a heart attack, and her father, King Maxon, refuses to leave his wife’s side. That leaves running the country to Eadlyn, who is not exactly the people’s favorite member of the royal family.

Eadlyn must try to do what’s best for Illéa while convincing her people that she can be approachable, fair, sensitive, and empathetic…all while trying to figure out who of the remaining young men in the Selection will eventually rule beside her. No problem, right?

Almost against her will, Eadlyn has grown close to the men who are now part of the Elite. Each one of them would, in his own way, make a suitable companion for Eadlyn. But can Eadlyn truly love any of them? Perhaps, but Eadlyn wonders if it’s possible for her to have a love like that shared by her parents. If so, could that one special man be right in front of her eyes?

While she’s trying to choose a potential mate, Eadlyn also jumps into ruling Illéa as best she can. She tries to truly listen to the people and what they want, and an old friend seems to be intent on helping her do just that. Eadlyn values his insight and his connection to the people, but she’s not thrilled that he seems to be making more out of their relationship than is really there. Could this young man be making his own bid for the future queen’s heart, or is he working on an entirely different agenda?

It seems as though events are spiraling out of Eadlyn’s control. How can she be an effective leader when she feels so overwhelmed? Can she do what’s right by Illéa and her people, face the threats coming her way, and stay true to herself and her heart? Could her own happily ever after possibly be within reach? Read The Crown to find out!


I apologize if this post seems a little off. I’m on a lot of allergy meds right now. At the very least, I hope that I’ve whetted your appetite for The Crown without giving too much away.

I do think The Crown is a great conclusion to a wonderful series, and I, for one, love seeing how much Eadlyn grew as a person from the last book through this one. She really comes into her own. I also appreciate seeing how things end up for the characters encountered in the first three books in this series. A nice bit of resolution there, and there’s even a surprise revelation that I was not expecting. Good stuff.

For more information on The Crown, the entire Selection series, or author Kiera Cass, visit the author’s website, Twitter, or Facebook. You may also want to take a look at the official book trailer for The Crown below. It perfectly sets the mood for this outstanding book. Enjoy!

And I Darken

Yesterday, Kiersten White’s newest book, And I Darken, was released into the world. I was lucky enough to get an early copy via NetGalley, but I didn’t manage to finish the book until last night. You know how it is–vacation, work stuff, naps–all of that got in the way.

Anyhoo, I did finish this first book in a planned trilogy last night, and I can say with absolute certainty that it’s unlike anything I’ve read in recent memory. It is a batcrap-crazy ride, and I mean that in the best way possible. And I Darken defied all of my expectations, and I cannot wait to see what awaits the characters I encountered in this book.

So…what’s it all about? While some sources have And I Darken listed as fantasy, I wouldn’t be so quick to attach that label…at least to this first book. There is no fantasy involved…unless you maybe want to call alternate history a type of fantasy (which I don’t). This story takes place during the rise of the Ottoman Empire, and it is the tale of the children of Vlad Dracul (the inspiration for Dracula, of course).

Now, in this telling, Vlad is not exactly the fearsome ruler of legend. He’s still in charge of Wallachia (part of Romania), but he’s weak and under the thumb of the Sultan. He essentially offers his children, Lada and Radu, as collateral to the Sultan.

Radu is a gentle, handsome boy who goes virtually unnoticed by others…unless they’re pointing out his apparent weakness. Forgotten by his father, Radu seeks solace in Islam and finds a measure of peace in his new circumstances.

Lada is fierce and sees being a woman as a liability. She knows that she is equal–if not superior–to any man. She is at once Radu’s protector and tormentor, and, even though she hates that her father has abandoned them to the Sultan, she remains loyal to her homeland of Wallachia.

Eventually, the siblings encounter another child who would become central to their lives. This boy is Mehmed, and he is the Sultan’s heir. Radu is immediately drawn to Mehmed, and the two quickly become friends. Radu is tormented by his feelings for Mehmed and confused about what those feelings might mean.

As for Lada, she soon becomes Mehmed’s confidante. He can drop his shields around her and simply be himself. Yes, he will be Sultan soon, but with Lada, he can simply be Mehmed. Lada resists getting involved with Mehmed. After all, attachment and emotion are signs of weakness. Her primary goal is survival…by any means necessary. As time passes, though, Lada and Mehmed grow closer, and Lada realizes he is becoming an essential part of her life. She does wonder, however, if she is equally important to him.

Set against a background of political maneuvering, betrayal, fighting, and even murder, Radu and Lada must decide what each of them are willing to lose to achieve their own ends. Will Radu be able to suppress his own desires and give up his only family to remain by Mehmed’s side? Will Lada abandon her goal of returning to (and ruling) her beloved Wallachia to form some semblance of a life with Mehmed (and his harem)?

Love and loyalty will be tested in these tumultuous relationships. What–or who–will be sacrificed in the process? Read And I Darken, the first book in The Conqueror’s Saga, to find out.


Like so many before it, this post doesn’t come close to capturing just how rich, dark, and satisfying this book is. (I almost feel like I just described a piece of dark chocolate.)

And I Darken is an intense read that makes a person think about just what they’d be willing to do to serve their own ends or even the good of those around them. Would you be willing to betray the person who means the most to you? Give up your family, faith, or future? Walk away from everything and everyone you’ve ever known? Kill? Those are just some of the things facing the characters in this book, and these situations and how they play out could lead to some very profound discussions.

Other discussions might come when talking about the characters themselves, especially Radu and Lada. In Radu’s case, there’s the issue of coming to terms with his sexuality in a time and place that didn’t even address anything other than heterosexuality. (Apparently, it’s okay to have multiple wives and concubines, but being gay is taboo. Another potential topic to explore there.) How have things changed since the time of the Ottoman Empire? Have things changed at all in certain parts of the world? Is being gay still considered being something “other” even in the so-called “modern” world? So many questions to ponder.

And then there’s Lada…

Lada is a warrior. She buries her feelings deep and displays very few outward signs of weakness. She is vicious and determined to get what she wants. She does whatever she must to survive and protect those she cares for, but she knows that her ultimate goals conflict with those of Radu and Mehmed, and she has to decide what to do about that. Lada is a complicated character, one who rarely even understands herself or her motivations, but she is absolutely fascinating to read about. Lada’s character could lead to many discussions on what it means to be feminine; how women have been viewed historically and in the present, especially as it pertains to fighting, defying expectations, and dealing with patriarchal societies; and even something like negative reactions when women put their own needs and desires first.

I’m curious to see what will happen with Lada in the next two books, and if she’ll truly become the brutal inspiration for a very different legend of Dracula. Should be interesting.

Speaking of future books, I have no idea what the title of book two will be. I’m assuming it will be released about this time next year, but that’s just a guess at this point.

If you’d like to learn much, much more about And I Darken, please visit the book’s official website. I’ve only explored it a little, but it has lots of information to offer, including character descriptions, a book trailer (which I’ve also included below), an author bio, and more.

Lastly, for those wondering if And I Darken is a good pick for the middle grade crowd, I would have to say no. While this book is extremely compelling, I think many of the themes and situations are more suited to a high school crowd. As always, though, read it for yourself to determine if it’s a good fit for your students/patrons.

Glass Sword

Notice: I highly recommend that you read Red Queen before proceeding. This is not a spoilery post, but you still need to read the first book. (It’s not a bad idea to read Queen Song and Steel Scars as well. These two novellas provide a bit of perspective when going into the second full-length novel in this outstanding series.)

Now, let’s move on to Glass Sword, the second book in Victoria Aveyard’s Red Queen series…

Having finished Glass Sword just minutes ago, I don’t know how I’m going to write a coherent post about it considering that I am completely numb right now. That is a sincere compliment to the author of the book. Continuing with my day as planned is going to be a struggle when all I want to do is curl up in the fetal position and think about how much this book wrecked me. (Being an adult with responsibilities kind of sucks at the moment.)

Given that I don’t want to spoil the experience for all of you, I’m not going to do my standard recap of the book today. I will say, however, that things don’t get better for Mare and company. They’re on the run from Queen Elara and the newly crowned King Maven, they’re looking for more Reds with power (newbloods), and they’re trying to figure out exactly who they can trust. Mare doesn’t quite know what to do with herself. Is she a leader? Is she the face of a revolution? Is her loyalty to the Scarlet Guard, her family, all of the newbloods out there…or is she only loyal to herself? There are no easy answers, but Mare needs to figure out where she stands before she becomes just like the monsters she’s running from.

Glass Sword is not a book that will give you the warm-fuzzies. Even though it’s hinted at, there’s no grand romance going on here. (That may come in future books. I’m not sure.) The characters are in the midst of a war, and nothing about it is pretty. It’s gruesome, gritty, and real. (Yes, I know this is a fantasy/sci-fi book. It still manages to capture the horrors of war in a realistic way.)

Glass Sword is, in my opinion, 100% Mare’s story of how her circumstances drive her to do both noble and terrible things. She’s proud of some of her actions and horrified at others. She drives people away while longing to hold them close. She sacrifices pieces of herself for her cause and forces herself to harden her heart. This war is taking its toll on Mare, and she doesn’t know if she can handle the cost. Even with everything she’s done–and will have to do–Mare isn’t sure that it will be enough to stop Maven and prevent even more lives from being lost.

I’ll go ahead and tell you that there is no happy ending in this book–which is true for many “second books” in a series. At the end of this one, you’re going to want to immediately dive into the next book…but you can’t. The third book, currently untitled, won’t be out until sometime next year, so we’ve got a wait ahead of us.

I hope I’ve whetted your appetite for Glass Sword without giving too much away. If you want to learn more about Glass SwordRed Queen and Victoria Aveyard, visit the author’s websiteblogTwitter feed, or Facebook page. You can also check out the book trailer below. It does a good job of summing up Glass Sword without revealing a ton.

Queen Song

Note: Even though Queen Song is a prequel novella to Victoria Aveyard’s Red Queen, it’s a good idea to read Red Queen first. (Also, Red Queen was published first, so there you go.)

As you’ve no doubt gathered, I recently finished reading Queen Song, the first prequel novella in the fabulous Red Queen series. This short story tells the tale of Coriane, who you may recall was the mother of Cal and was the first wife of King Tiberias. That’s not where her story began, though. Coriane was a simple girl–or as simple as a Silver can be in this world–and she had resigned herself to a somewhat mundane existence. Fate, however, had other plans…

All Coriane has ever wanted is to build things. She delights in taking things apart, figuring out how they work, and putting them back together better than they were before. She spends her spare time poring over technical manuals…when she’s not being forced to suffer through etiquette lessons or the like. As a Silver of somewhat noble birth, she’s expected to take part in the trappings of the royal court, even though she’d rather be doing almost anything else.

One evening at the palace, Coriane comes into contact with two people with the power to change her life forever. First, there is Elara, a girl with the ability to enter–and toy with–the minds of others. Coriane finds herself as Elara’s terrified plaything for several horrible minutes, and she escapes to the relative safety outside. It is here that she meets Tibe, the Crown Prince. The two strike up a conversation…a conversation that Coriane never expects to lead to anything more than an unlikely friendship. It seems that Tibe may have other ideas…

As Coriane and Tibe grow closer together, it becomes clear to everyone that the Crown Prince has chosen his future queen. This puts an enormous target on Coriane’s back, and, even though she has come to love Tibe, she remains fearful of what others may do and expect of her…especially the dangerous and devious Elara.

Documenting her thoughts in a diary, Coriane reveals what it’s like to go from Silver nobody to Queen. Little by little, she feels herself being lost to the world around her. She’s simply not the girl she once was. She fears for the fate of her loved ones–especially her brother Julian, her husband Tibe, and her son Cal–and herself. She worries over the continuing war and what it could mean for her family. And she wonders if the disturbing thoughts in her head are her own.

Is Coriane in control of her own fate, or is someone else whispering deadly thoughts into her mind to further their own agenda? You decide…


Given how Queen Song ended and what happened in Red Queen, I have no doubt as to who was pulling–and cutting–Coriane’s strings. I’m guessing that anyone who’s read either of these stories will come to the same conclusion I did.

Queen Song gives readers a quick look at the early lives of several characters from Red Queen. Readers see what lead to some of their decisions and what continues to drive them. This is particularly true for Cal, Tibe (the King), Julian, Elara, and even Maven. (I doubt I have to explain why.)

Coriane’s story, while often heartbreaking, gives a bit of insight into her relationship with both her brother and the man who would be her husband. It also shows how dedicated Coriane was to her son and having him grow up in a world without the constant threat of war. This young woman wanted a better world for her family, but, sadly, someone else wanted to be in control of that world. (Again, if you’ve read Red Queen, I don’t have to explain anything more.)

I think Queen Song is an excellent addition to the Red Queen saga, and I look forward to reading even more. There is one more novella, Steel Scars, which is already out, and I plan to read that this weekend. The second full-length novel, Glass Sword, comes out next week (!!!), and I’ll get my hands on that as soon as possible.

To learn more about Queen SongRed Queen, and Victoria Aveyard, visit the author’s websiteblogTwitter feed, or Facebook page. Have fun out there.

Red Queen

I should begin this post by thanking the South Carolina Young Adult Book Award Committee for placing an outstanding book like Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard on next year’s list of nominees. Had they not, it probably would have taken me a lot longer to get to this most excellent book. So thanks to this group of librarians, teachers, students, and others for including Red Queen on the Book Award list and moving it to the top of my TBR pile.

Now, let’s move on to my thoughts on Red Queen. In a nutshell…Holy Crap on a Cracker. I was blown away by this book, and I honestly don’t know how I’m going to be able to express that in a single blog post. (I’ll do my best, though.)

I guess I’ll start with this: If you were to combine the X-Men, Graceling, The Hunger Games, and The Selection, you might get close to the awesomeness that is Red Queen. Yep, that about covers it. Still not enough info? Well, let’s explore this fantastic story a bit more…

Mare Barrow is a seventeen-year-old who lives by her wits. She lies, cheats, and steals to get by, and she realizes that, if she should be caught, it would mean certain death. Why, then, does Mare risk so much?

Mare is a Red. To be Red in this world is to be “less.” The Silvers–humans with silver blood and amazing abilities–are in power, and they plan to stay that way. The Reds fight and die in wars of the Silvers’ making, they work for scraps, and their lives are daily struggles. Until Mare is conscripted into the army, her only way to contribute to her family is to steal whatever she can to make things just a little easier.

Mare sees no way out of her current life, but a chance encounter with a strange young man–known only to her as Cal–changes everything.

Soon, Mare finds herself with a new job–working for the Silvers in the summer palace. This position ensures that she won’t have to join the army, but how did she come to be working here? Who could have possibly gotten her this job? Imagine Mare’s surprise when she realizes that Cal, the young man she recently met outside of a Red tavern, is none other than the Crown Prince. He’s the reason she’s here, surrounded by the very people who keep Reds like her under their heels.

But it seems that fate has more in store for Mare than she or anyone else realized…

When Mare’s life is in danger, it is revealed that she has powers of her own–an unheard-of occurrence in this world. Only Silvers have power, and the royal family will not let anyone learn that Mare, a mere Red, has special abilities. So Mare is passed off as a Silver and betrothed to Maven, Cal’s younger brother. Now, Mare is a princess-in-training, and she knows that the Silvers around her are looking for any excuse to put an end to the threat she poses to their way of life.

As for Mare, she’s looking to be even more of a threat. When the opportunity arises to join the Scarlet Guard, a group of rebellious Reds looking to end Silver rule, Mare takes it. She can help the Guard from the inside and finally stop the tyranny that Reds have lived under for so long. She may even find some unexpected help along the way.

But nothing is as it seems inside the palace. Mare doesn’t know who can be trusted or when everything will come crumbling to the ground. Have those in power seen everything she’s been doing, everyone she’s been talking to? And what will happen to Mare if her secret activities should be discovered? Will she be able to count on the Silver allies she’s made, or will they betray her for their own agendas?

Mare stands in the midst of this war between Silver and Red. How will her position, abilities, and relationships factor into the events to come? Read Red Queen to find out.


I hope I’ve done a little to entice you to read this wonderful book. It truly is phenomenal, and I look forward to reading more in this series.

Speaking of more, the next full-length novel, Glass Sword, comes out on February 9th. If you can’t wait that long–yes, I know it’s only a couple of weeks–there are also two novellas already out. They are Queen Song and Steel Scars, and I plan to read those as soon as I finish up a couple of other books.

While Red Queen is, in my view, definitely written for a teen audience, I do think that some middle grade readers will eat it up. Those who love The Hunger Games and The Selection will find a new series to devour in Red Queen.

If you want to learn more about Red Queen and Victoria Aveyard, visit the author’s websiteblogTwitter feed, or Facebook page. You can also check out the Epic Reads book trailer below. It doesn’t give much of anything about Red Queen away, but it does look pretty cool.

Happily Ever After

It is highly recommended that you, at the very least, read the first three Selection novels (The Selection, The Elite, and The One) before reading the Happily Ever After collection. Most of the stories will be all kinds of confusing if you don’t. Get to it!

After finishing The Heir a couple of days ago, I just couldn’t let go of the world Kiera Cass created in her Selection series, so I decided to finish up the novellas included in Happily Ever After. These stories include a few I’d already read in ebook form, but I ended up rereading a couple because I forgot what happened (and because I neglected to write posts on them).

Like I indicated at the beginning of this post, each of these stories is best approached after already becoming familiar with what happens in the first three novels in the series. I’ll try to explain why as I we go along. Let’s get started…

The Queen (Selection #0.4)

I actually did manage to do a short write-up of this novella, and you can read that here. Even though The Queen serves as a prequel to the entire series, I would read it after finishing The One so that you can adequately compare the characters of Amberly, America, Clarkson, and Maxon. Each of the characters is very different, and they all approached hardships in varied–and not always positive–ways.

If you’re curious, I still think King Clarkson is a butt-faced jerk.

The Prince (Selection #0.5)

This is one of the stories I re-read so that I could remember exactly where it fit in the Selection timeline. The Prince, obviously, is told from Maxon’s perspective, and it takes place both immediately before and during the first days of his Selection. I would say that this story can be read after finishing The Selection.

The Prince provides an interesting look into Maxon’s rather tense dealings with his father, his feelings on the Selection as a whole, and his earliest interactions with America. In this story, Maxon also struggles with the very concept of love. If he can’t feel anything for a girl who he’s known forever and professes her love for him, how can he possibly grow to love one of the thirty-five girls chosen by his overbearing father, all in a matter of months? Luckily, his mind is somewhat eased fairly early on.

I think it’s clear to see in this story that, for Maxon, the winner of his Selection was decided before the competition even began.

The Guard (Selection #2.5)

The Guard, told from Aspen’s perspective, should be read after finishing The Elite.

If you’re at all familiar with this series (and by this point, you should be), you know that Aspen was America’s first love back in Carolina, and he’s now a palace guard. Both he and America are still very close, and Aspen is trying to envision a future where they can be together…even as he sees America winning the heart of the future king.

While Aspen is looking for any stolen moments with America that he can find, another guard and a Selection contestant are caught in a compromising situation. The consequences of their actions make him think about his relationship with America and how far he’ll go to keep her in his life. Is he willing to risk everything? Is she? (If you’ve already read the first three books, you know the answers to these questions, but it’s still fun to see things from Aspen’s point of view.)

The Favorite (Selection #2.6)

This story, which I read for the very first time this morning, might be my favorite (Ha!) of these short stories. It focuses on Marlee, America’s closest friend in the competion. This girl managed to make it to the Elite round of competition for Maxon’s hand…before she threw it all away for love.

The Favorite begins immediately after the Halloween party (seen first in The Elite) that changed everything. Marlee and Carter, a palace guard, were discovered with each other, and they’re now in the palace cells awaiting their punishment. Marlee is certain they’ll be sentenced to death, but they are to be publicly caned and virtually exiled instead. As long as she and Carter can be together, Marlee is willing to take whatever punishment the King dishes out.

Marlee is unprepared, though, for just how vicious this caning actually is. The fact that her family is forced to watch doesn’t help the situation. Through it all, though, Carter is there with her, professing his love. And, even though she doesn’t realize it at the time, her friend America–and even Prince Maxon–are there for her at what seems to be her lowest point. With Carter by her side and good friends who’ll move heaven and earth to help her, Marlee feels like she’s won something more precious than a crown.

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Okay…so those are the four major short stories in this collection. But wait, there’s more! Happily Ever After also includes several extras that are worth a mention:

  • Endpapers that feature a map of Illéa. This map clarifies a few things for me. Also, I really like geography, so I enjoyed comparing this map to the current map of North America and figuring out why places were redrawn and renamed the way they were. (Yes, I know this makes me even more of a nerd than some of you probably thought. I’m okay with that.)
  • Lovely illustrations peppered within each story.
  • Several scenes from Celeste’s perspective. These were particularly enlightening, given that I loathed Celeste for most of the series. She really grew from the spoiled, entitled girl we first met into someone who would do whatever she could to redeem herself.
  • The Maid. Told from Lucy’s point of view, this story gives readers a look into this girl’s budding romance with Aspen. Lucy, who serves as one of America’s maids, is worried that Aspen can never let go of his first love. It’s up to Aspen to convince Lucy that she’s truly the one for him.
  • After the One. This story is an epilogue for The One and, obviously, should be read after finishing that book. It is very sweet and serves as a great lead-in to The Heir.
  • “Where Are They Now?” Updates on three of the Selection candidates and what happened to them after this huge chapter in their lives came to an end.

All in all, Happily Ever After is a must-read if you’re a Selection fan. I thoroughly enjoyed it, and I’m glad I spent this last day of 2015 immersed in this world. For more on all things Selection, visit Kiera Cass’ website.

With that, I bid you adieu. I hope everyone has a fantastic New Year’s Eve. Be safe out there, and be sure to come back here tomorrow for my year in review, my reading resolutions, and the books I’m most looking forward to in 2016. Happy New Year!

The Heir

If you haven’t read The Selection series up to this point (The Selection, The Elite, and The One), turn back now! You’ve been warned!

Now that we’ve got that out of the way, let’s move on to The Heir, the fourth full-length novel in Kiera Cass’ Selection series. (There are also four novellas that go along with the series–The Prince, The Guard, The Queen, and The Favorite. If all goes according to plan, I’ll post on those tomorrow or Thursday.)

The Heir, which was released in May of this year, introduces Selection fans to Princess Eadlyn, the daughter of Maxon and America. (See now why you need to read the first three books before moving on to this one?) If the first three books make you think of The Bachelor, well, Eadlyn’s story will bring The Bachelorette to mind…but, you know, better.

Princess Eadlyn knows she will be Queen someday. In the meantime, she learns everything she can from her father, King Maxon, and she also seeks the counsel of her mother, Queen America, and her three younger brothers. Eadlyn knows, though, that the future of Illéa is in her hands. Her primary focus is on doing whatever she can to someday be an effective ruler. She has zero interest in finding a romance as epic as that of her parents. Unfortunately, that decision may not be up to her…

When reports surface of problems with the country’s new caste-less system, King Maxon and Queen America devise a plan to keep the people’s minds on something else. They believe that their only daughter, the Heir to the throne of Illéa, should go through her own Selection. It worked for them. Why not for their daughter?

For her part, Eadlyn is against the idea from the beginning. She isn’t looking for love, and she doesn’t need a man to get in her way. She has things to do, and a Selection will only slow her down. Her parents, however, feel that this is the best move for the country, so Eadlyn has no choice but to go along with it…but she doesn’t have to like it.

Soon enough, thirty-five strange boys are moving into the castle, and it’s up to Eadlyn to figure out which one will annoy her the least (if possible). In the back of her mind, though, Eadlyn is comforted by the knowledge that she doesn’t really have to choose any of them. If, at the end of three months, none of the young men have earned her heart, she can let them all go.

Eadlyn removes some of the boys immediately, and her coldness in doing so earns some media attention that she never truly expected. Do people really think that she is cold and heartless? How can she change the public’s attitude when she doesn’t want to be a part of this in the first place? Is there any way to turn all of this around and give her father the time he needs to address the growing outcry against the monarchy?

As days go by–and Eadlyn really gets to know the remaining candidates–she also comes face-to-face with her own shortcomings. She’s built a wall around her heart, and she’s loathe to let someone get to know the real her. A few of the Selection entries, though, have managed to capture her interest, and she finds herself softening a bit. Eadlyn is taking the time to get to know these young men, and she’s learning more about herself in the process.

Can Eadlyn find a way to truly immerse herself in the Selection? Is it possible that the man she’s meant to marry is in this group? Will Eadlyn be able to put all of her preconceived notions–about her parents, the Selection, the candidates, and herself–aside and do what must be done for the future of Illéa? Time will tell…

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Truth time: I found Eadlyn to be a snob, and, for much of the book, her attitude really bothered me. (I would say the same thing about a male character who behaved the way she did.) I get that she’s being groomed to be queen, but she had an almost unshakable air of superiority. I do think, however, that was the author’s intention. Eadlyn has one focus–becoming Queen–and she doesn’t have time for anything or anyone that interferes with that. Unfortunately for her, it’s that attitude that leads to many of her problems in this book (and possibly the next one).

If you’ve read the other books in this series, you can probably guess that The Heir ended on a bit of a cliff-hanger. Things are up in the air with Eadlyn’s Selection, the state of affairs in Illéa as a whole, and even with the royal family. All of this only whets my appetite for the next book, The Crown, which will be released on May 3rd, 2016. (According to Goodreads, The Crown is the series finale. That’s what we thought about The One, so I’m not so sure.)

Like the rest of the series, I think The Heir is suitable for any libraries that serve middle grade, teen, and adult readers. There’s something here for everyone to enjoy, especially if you’re already a fan of the previous books.

For more information on The Heir, the entire Selection series, or author Kiera Cass, visit the author’s website, Twitter, or Facebook. You may also want to take a look at the official book trailer for The Heir below. It in no way captures Eadlyn’s complex personality or gives anything away, but it’s still pretty good.

As for me, I’m going to spend tomorrow finishing up the Selection novellas (compiled in Happily Ever After). I’ve already read three of them, and I have to say that those added to my enjoyment of the series as a whole, and I’m sure the final story, The Favorite, will elicit the same response. I hope to let you know about that soon. Happy reading!