This is an informal review, in the sense that usually I follow a particular format, but not for this book (it isn’t the first time and won’t be the last).
The Art of Brave had been on my wishlist for a long long time. I am picky with my Art Of books, as they are expensive but also if done well, they tend to inspire my art and own ideas a lot. And they serve as study material for my art.
Obviously, it was an easy choice to buy this when it went on sale on Forbidde Planet, so I did and I do not regret it. The book has a lot of art, yes I know, it is an “art of” but some of them have more of this is how we did stuff and stock images that turned into this. We have some of that here, but also a wonderful quantity of sketches on the various approaches and potential ways of showing each integral character, and even smaller parts, like the will’o’wisps.
It is gorgeous, good quality and I am a happy fox, so I recommend that if you like Art of books, you may consider this one. Plus, maybe watch Brave alongisde (I ended up watching it after going through this book because it is like having a new perspective into it! I love that).
Finally, have a glimpse itno this book, with the page spread for Angus.
When seventeen-year-old Nedra Brysstain leaves her home in the rural, northern territories of Lunar Island to attend the prestigious Yugen Academy, she has only one goal in mind: learn the trade of medicinal alchemy. A scholarship student matriculating with the children of Lunar Island’s wealthiest and most powerful families, Nedra doesn’t quite fit in with the other kids at Yugen, who all look down on her.
All, except for Greggori “Grey” Astor. Grey is immediately taken by the brilliant and stubborn Nedra, who he notices is especially invested in her studies. And that’s for a good reason: a deadly plague has been sweeping through the North, and it’s making its way toward the cities. With her family’s life–and the lives of all of Lunar Island’s citizens–on the line, Nedra is determined to find a cure for the plague.
Grey and Nedra continue to grow closer, but as the sickness spreads and the body count rises, Nedra becomes desperate to find a cure. Soon, she finds herself diving into alchemy’s most dangerous corners–and when she turns to the most forbidden practice of all, necromancy, even Grey might not be able to pull her from the darkness.
I can’t remember why I preordered this book (and I preordered it twice somehow, so past me, must have really wanted to read it, thanks past me), but it wasn’t a super hyped one, or one I have seen many people reviewing and that is a huge shame.
Give the Dark My Love was a punch in the gut and the brain in a very good way. (Weird way to seel this right? give me a chance). We meet Nedra when she is about to leave, and we also meet Nessie. She is her twin and you can see that even though they aren’t rich, this is a family full of love, that cares, and it is a good family (plus the parents aren’t absent exactly, and they are in a way a huge part of the story, but explaining this would be adding a spoiler and I shall leave it at that). Actually, we technically meet her in the prologue which is actually something that happens afterwards in the main story, but never mind. It is a powerful prologue and worth the read.
Then she comes to the main Academy, because she has been granted a sponsorship to help her study there. Potentially from the Emperor. And we get the usual “school/academy” intro. We also get to meet Grey, who is the other point of view for the story, and will give us his side from someone that is rich and is trying to break away from politics (because that is what his father does, and his grandfather, you get the idea).
Oh, and there is a plague happening and it starts at first quietly but it becomes worse and worse drastically, and Nedra starts toeing the line for necromancy because she can’t seem to find any other way to solve this (nor can anyone else, and her Master/senior, Master Ostrum is also trying very hard, and they both agree things just don’t seem to work).
It is very well built as a world, the alchemy part is amazing and evne the necromancy sides are very interesting. So this book kept me hooked.
But one of the things I loved the most was that it shows grief raw, and in different forms. And it was interesting to ask the question of “what are you willing to do or not do when you’re grieving and have lost so much?”. Another wonderful thing is that not everything is blakc and white, plus there are some good twists there (I guessed some, not all, and I liked seeing the twists and the reasons behind them).
In summary, this is a dark fantasy that touches closely on death (and “zombies/necromancy) but also on the human side of grief and on what the response of people can be to plague and other issues.
Alice has been living a shattered life, always on the road, and seemingly always on the run – although her mother Ella has always been vague about from what. Used to overstay their welcome, shifting schools and (in the best of cases) apartments almost as often as clothes, Alice is therefore somewhat surprised when Ella after a very short romance decides to settle down and marry, and Alice gains an extra sister, Audrey, that’s she’s actually starting to get some kind of relationship with. But after just a few weeks, Ella is suddenly missing, and Alice’s got a feeling that what’s always been hunting them is starting to catch up.
From that on, everything unravels quite quickly, as Ella’s disappearance is somehow connected to Alice’s mystical grandmother whom been writing creepy fairy tales, before recently passing away in her (very fairytaly) mansion located inside the Hazel Wood. Ignoring her mothers only instruction; STAY AWAY FROM THE HAZEL WOOD, Alice is fastly and spinningly knee-deep in this mad and mystical forest, where nothing is what it first appears to be.
Rating: 🐖 🐖 🐖 🐖
When writing this review, I realize that I’ve got remarkably few notes written down from my reading of The Hazel Wood. One reason for that is that I’ve got a very vague idea of what I’ve actually read. I tend to like books that are unpredictable in the sense that I’ve got no idea what’s going to happen in the next chapter. The Hazel Wood has however taken this to a new level; throughout this whole read, I had absolutely no idea what was going to take place in the next sentence.
Language wise, this book is an easy read. Plot wise, it’s a nightmare. But maybe that’s the thing with Alice in Wonderland, of which this is a retelling (that sometimes feels quite far-fetched). It’s what I like about this book, but at the same time it annoys me. It’s first when I give up on the track keeping of things that I start to enjoy this story. And then, I really enjoy it.
I also reflect a lot around the original Alice in Wonderland story while reading. Maybe it’s just as confusing, but over the years and due to the literary canon, we’ve all kind of accepted it. When retold in a new format, I once again have to struggle with figuring everything out. Perhaps it’s just the non-classic retellingness that throws me off? ‘Cause part of me really like what I’m reading. It’s exciting, and sometimes creepy as hell. The Hinterland, as the Hazel Wood universe is called, is both uncanny and deeply fascinating. And it’s told in a very convincing way. Even though it’s “completely bonkers” as Cheshire would’ve put it, I buy it all. Maybe not the clichés at first, but then, what is a fairy tale without them?
What really bothers me though is that everything is so very real on the Hinterside, like obviously existing even to the people outside of the craziness. Part of why I like the whole Alice-dilemma is that it’s sometimes vague what happens in her mind, and what actually happens. Removing that thin line is removing something from the heart of the story. But by all means, The Hazel Wood is it’s own book. And, as Dumbledore would’ve said:
“Of course it is happening inside your head, Harry, but why on earth should that mean that it is not real?”
Dr. Bea approves
For those of you wishing for more Wonderland-related nightmares, and are up for an even creepier Alice-retelling, Alice by Christina Henry might be something for you.
I had been reluctant to read this book after having read the Grisha trilogy. I did not like that. And I am still confused as to why they are called little Gregory, but that is just me knowing cultural bits of Russia (my little sister dreamed of marrying a Russian and moving there -don’t ask me why, we never really understood why- so she made sure we knew about the culture and the language, and you know, stuff… She does seem to have desisted of this venture, by the way).
Anyway, less family tales and more review, here it is.
Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo
Criminal prodigy Kaz Brekker has been offered wealth beyond his wildest dreams. But to claim it, he’ll have to pull off a seemingly impossible heist:
Break into the notorious Ice Court
(a military stronghold that has never been breached)
Retrieve a hostage
(who could unleash magical havoc on the world)
Survive long enough to collect his reward
(and spend it)
Kaz needs a crew desperate enough to take on this suicide mission and dangerous enough to get the job done – and he knows exactly who: six of the deadliest outcasts the city has to offer. Together, they just might be unstoppable – if they don’t kill each other first.
I gave this book a chance because Nikki suggested I should and she loved it. So I did. I can thankfully say I don’t regret it.
The book is a big jump from the Grisha trilogy and it is better written and the plot is more refreshing, it is more unique and there are less cliches. The characters are quite varied and it is all in all interesting. Of course, I have a soft spot for Inej (the rest are okay).
Story wise, I was a little annoyed that most of the book is them getting ready or looking back and making the journey to the actual heist, which feels like a filler and I wanted more of the actual action. And then we get to the heist and there is so little of it, it feels rushed.
It gets three foxes because I felt for the characters and I found this “world” better than her previous trilogy (I know this is a duology). I did enjoy it but it didn’t leave such a mark on me that I’d give it the extra foxes, so 3 it is.
To give this book a chance if you, like me, didn’t swoon (or anywhere near that) for the Grisha trilogy. It is not a bad book and that is a good thing. I am not entirely sure which other book to recommend alongside this one. I don’t have many heist books in my repertoire that come to mind and the only books that came to mind as I read this was the previous trilogy. However, now I need to read Crooked Kingdom and maybe then I may suggest something else.
In all fairness, I can think of Spellslinger by Sebastien de Castell as an interesting read if you liked Six of Crows, or maybe if you are into grim dark (caution because this is grim and dark), Prince of Thorns by Mark Lawrence (or anything by Mark Lawrence, you may enjoy Red Sister more, as it is a little less dark and grim). This second book is definitely all about anti-heroes, so make sure you know what you are getting into when you decide to read it.
Side Note: I did draw Inej for Inktober this year, so that tells you at least character wise there was a win for this book.
Disclaimer: There is an Amazon Associates link, but if you choose to use them and buy from them, know that you’re just helping me buy more books and feed my reading needs. Book synopsis is from Good Reads.
So, one of the books I really wanted was Warcross, and when I found out the theme for Spearcraft I was sure it’d be the book I wanted, so I fished discount codes and tried to get it as cheap as possible (because it is on the expensive side with expensive shipping to the UK).
On a funny note, I ended up winning a giveaway for Warcross, so now I have both hardback editions (US & UK). UK edition is the colourful one, US is a robin egg/turquoise colour and smaller.
Mario Bros keyring, which is now with my keys, to show my geeky gaming side.
Hunger Games quote postcard
**Start of rant about gaming**
I have to admit with such a massive gaming industry and such a diverse choice of games, I was expecting less of the same one (there’s two of each, Hunger Games, Mario Bros and Ready Player One) and more variety. And to me Hunger Games is out of place because it is not a pixel game nor is it console or anything, it is a book fandom (and film if you want to go with that).
I may rant but I love gaming and love games and it was a little like “but why is HG here when there is so much more that could be here instead? So many series of games, so much Nintendo, Sony, Microsoft and all other gaming developers have brought out that we love, why not include them in here?”. PS. I restrained myself from reciting all the possible games that could’ve inspired an item because you’d be stuck in a vortex hole of game names and weird old stuff like Chips or Carmen San Diego and that red hat… Plus the 8 bit music… **End of rant**
Ignoring the gaming bit, it was a nice box though I do prefer when the boxes have less “paper” items and I am happy to get my Warcross book. Due to shipping + box costs, it is not good for me so I haven’t kept it but it will probably be quite good for others in the US.