A Court of Frost and Starlight

by Sarah J Maas
SmellRating4
(4.23 stars – Goodreads rating)

Published May 1, 2018, by Bloomsbury YA

Genre: Fiction / Fantasy / YA

Format: Hardcover

Page Count: 229 pages

**Warning – Mild spoilers follow**

To the stars who listen…A Court of Frost and Starlight by Sarah J. Maas

I know this is basically a book review, but this novella also taught me a lot about my own reading weaknesses. I present to you:

EASY WAYS THAT AUTHORS CAN DISTRACT ME WHILE I’M READING…

1- Start writing about renovations. My mind immediately jumps into HGTV mode. So while Rhysand and Feyre are concerned with rebuilding Velaris after the Hybern attack, I’m thinking, “Hmmm, I wish they would talk some more about the renovations – Are there competent builders in Velaris, Are they using a specific color theme, Ooh is there shiplap???

2- Add a character like Amren with such quirky qualities that she seems to dominate every scene she appears in. This book had that in spades. Amren’s adjustment to being fully High Fae now was grossly hilarious and disturbing. I love thinking of scary, dangerous Amren as this book’s comic relief.

And 3- Include a scene where three hot, Illyrian males are naked in a sauna. No explanation needed.

I snorted. ‘So the three of them are just in there. Naked. Sweating.’ Mother above.

Despite my mental distractions while reading, A Court of Frost and Starlight is a much-anticipated little novella that whets our appetites while we wait for the next installment of Night Court magic coming from the SJM camp in 2019.

But… not a lot happens.

Am I disappointed in that? Nope. Why? Because we get some picture-perfect scenes with Rhysand and Feyre, some classic boy-behavior from Rhys, Cassian, and Az that makes us remember that they are friends first and warriors second, and some truly LOL scenes with Amren who is still – hilariously – learning to not be an alien.

Amren: I should have selected a male form. At least you  can whip it out and go wherever you like without having to worry about spilling on —

This is an important character-building installment where we see more of our favorite – and not-so-favorite (i.e. Tamlin) – characters as they are normally, without the added pressures of war or catastrophic kidnappings and torture. We learn more about Mor, who I personally can’t wait to see act out her revenge on the entire Court of Nightmares and rulers of the Autumn Court as well. And now it seems that Rhysand isn’t planning on holding her back whenever she decides to do exactly that.

Honestly, I was a little underwhelmed by the paltry Winter Solstice celebrations of the Night Court. We didn’t get to experience how Velaris rings in the changing of the seasons. After the descriptions of such a spirited celebration in the Spring Court during Calanmai the year before, hanging pine boughs, eating a big meal and exchanging presents feels… uninspired. Surely the Night Court could have come up with more creative traditions than those. For example:

  • Magical ice sculpture competitions in the city. The Velaris citizen that creates the best one wins dinner with the High Lord and High Lady.
  • Ice skating on the frozen Sidra river. The banks could be lined with faerie lights. And after the sun goes down, the males of the village could race on it by starlight.
  • There could be a huge Winter Solstice Ball. That would be a much better reason for Feyre, Mor, and Elain to wear the fancy gowns they love so much. And then Amren could have a perfect excuse to wear some of her exquisite jewelry – as if she needs a reason!

While those suggestions still pale in comparison to the feverish excitement and long-standing tradition of the Calanmai celebration, they’re still better than a meal and drinking until passing out, which is all our beloved characters seemed to do. Dull.

Still, while I was disappointed by the Solstice, Nesta’s continued personal exile, and Lucien’s put-upon behavior, I was satisfied that Elain seems to be coming out of her shell, Feyre finally has a hobby, and Rhysand remains utterly perfect.

Plus, there’s more than one mystery in store: Mor encounters something dark and shadowy skulking in the woods. Who/what could it be? Bryaxis, maybe? What was in the small box that Varian gave to Amren? What are Keir and Eris plotting during their not-so-casual meetings in the Hewn City? Could they possibly join up with the butt-hurt Illyrians and begin a civil war right there in the Night Court? And why is Lucien so convinced that Rhys and Feyre will need Tamlin as an ally in the not-so-distant future?

And please, please, please, SJM, please bring back Emerie the Illyrian shop owner! I can’t wait to see how she could eventually fit into the cozy little family in the Court of Dreams. I have my own ideas about how that could happen 😉

4 stars for this little novella which was a sip of cold water on a hot day. And yes, it left me thirsty for more.


About the Author

Sarah J. MaasWebsite

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Sarah J. Maas is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of the Throne of Glass series, as well as the A Court of Thorns and Roses series.

Sarah lives in Bucks County, PA, and over the years, she has developed an unhealthy appreciation for Disney movies and bad pop music. She adores fairy tales and ballet, drinks too much tea, and watches an ungodly amount of TV. When she’s not busy writing, she can be found exploring the historic and beautiful Pennsylvania countryside with her husband and canine companion.

(Bio courtesy of Goodreads)


 

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A Court of Wings and Ruin

by Sarah J Maas
Rating: 
(4.53 stars – Goodreads rating)

Published May 2, 2017, by Bloomsbury USA Childrens

Genre: Fiction / Fantasy / YA

Format: Hardcover

Page Count: 705

A Court of Wings and Ruin (A Court of Thorns and Roses, #3)If he was the sweet, terrifying darkness, I was the glittering light that only his shadows could make clear.

If you’re not familiar with this fantasy series already, quick sum-up: Feyre was kidnapped from the human world and forced to live among the faeries in Prythian. These aren’t Tinkerbell fairies, no. These are otherworldly creatures with varied characteristics and deadly powers.
Feyre suffers a lot (that’s a bit of an understatement), there are a few love triangles, she meets some nice faeries, and then she meets some not-so-nice faeries.  And in an extreme effort not to spoil the series for you, I’ll just say that several relationships become more than a little strained in Prythian, and Feyre has a lot to do with it!

This series was not one that I initially set out to read. As you’ve read from me before, fantasy isn’t my usual go-to genre (although I have read more of it recently than in times past). YA also isn’t my usual go-to genre, so I can honestly say that I got influenced to read this series based on fan enthusiasm alone. And, overall, I haven’t been disappointed. I gave high marks to both Book 1: A Court of Thorns and Roses, and Book 2: A Court of Mist and Fury. However, sadly, my fan-love couldn’t push me to give this particular book in the series higher than 3 stars.

It was war.

I don’t really enjoy reading about war, and this book is filled with it – rumors of war, preparations for war, strategies of war, outright war, individual battles,  casualties of war, and the aftermath of war. Is there gonna be a fight? Are we gonna have to fight? Who is gonna fight with us? Who’s gonna fight against us? Are we gonna win? On and on and on. Because of that, there were some chapters that I found tedious and repetitive.

Remember that you are a wolf. And you cannot be caged.

Here is where I make a confession: In movies where there is a battle scene, I often fast-forward until it’s over. Yes, I know, I know. It’s sacrilege. But I get it. Two sides disagree, they battle, it’s gory, there are some heroes, there are some cowards, one side wins, everyone loses some people. Done. See? I don’t have to see all the guts to get the point.

Only, with a book, I can’t fast-forward. I can’t skip pages. I can’t leave it unread. I know some people are able to do that and be okay with it, but – even with a bad book – I force myself to suffer through it all. So I did. Every battle, every slash of every sword, every clang of ash arrows against every strong shield, and every heart-wrenching injury to characters I’ve come to know and care about over about 1,750 pages now.

So, battle lines are drawn in Prythian and, if I’m being honest, the motive isn’t really clear. Apparently, the residents of neighboring island Hybern (with King Hybern as their lead – yes, confusing) don’t want to be confined to their lands anymore and they want to be able to take humans as slaves again. Yet, when they begin the war, they invade the human territories and just kill everyone. Uh, question? And then their interests are torn because they also want revenge against Feyre for surviving being Under the Mountain and ruining Amarantha’s plans (Book 1). So Hybern is fighting on several fronts, battling several individual Courts, AND the humans, and none of it seems very advantageous or sane.

But it’s war.

But I can say that in 705 pages, LOTS of stuff happens in this book. New allegiances are formed – on both the good side and the bad. Many new characters are introduced, some of whom I have been eager to meet since Book 1. And, of course, Sarah J. Maas does not skimp on the detailed faerie love scenes. Intense. Everyone’s beautiful/handsome, everyone is deadly, and everyone, EVERYONE, has an ego.

Several strings that I thought were going to be tied up were still left dangling in the wind and one of them, in particular, became a little more frayed as it just hangs there (What’s going to happen with Azriel and Mor in light of everything now?) Ugh, so frustrating.

You’ve read my gripes about war and about the dangling threads, but don’t let that make you think that this is a bad book. Sure, it was slower than the others, but still packed with the action and risky adventures that this series is known for. I enjoyed it, just not as much as the others. AND, I’m still looking forward to the novella A Court of Frost and Starlight (Book 3.1) that gets release May 1st, another short novella (Book 3.2), and Books 4, 5, and 6 after that!

Get it here: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-million | IndieBound | iBookstore | Kobo | Waterstones | Amazon UK | Book Depository


About the Author

Sarah J. MaasWebsite

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Sarah J. Maas is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of the Throne of Glass series, as well as the A Court of Thorns and Roses series.

Sarah lives in Bucks County, PA, and over the years, she has developed an unhealthy appreciation for Disney movies and bad pop music. She adores fairy tales and ballet, drinks too much tea, and watches an ungodly amount of TV. When she’s not busy writing, she can be found exploring the historic and beautiful Pennsylvania countryside with her husband and canine companion.

(Bio courtesy of Goodreads)


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A Court of Mist and Fury

by Sarah J Maas
Rating: 
(4.71 stars – Goodreads rating)

Published May 3, 2016, by Bloomsbury USA Childrens

Genre: Fiction / Fantasy / YA

Format: Paperback

Page Count: 626


A Court of Mist and Fury (A Court of Thorns and Roses, #2)It had been a year since I had stalked through that labyrinth of snow and ice and killed a faerie with hate in my heart.

When I was growing up (in the 80s), little extravagances were luxuries. And one such extravagance was Neapolitan ice cream. Three flavors in one! No longer were you stuck with a choice of just chocolate or vanilla or strawberry (blech!) alone – you could have a combination of two or (gasp!) all three!!! One of the world’s greatest inventions: Neapolitan ice cream.

What in the world does Neapolitan ice cream have to do with A Court of Mist and Fury? It’s immediately where my goofy mind went as Feyre began to discover all of her many (and varied) High Fae powers. Because she was knit back together and resurrected Under the Mountain by power from all seven High Lords, she has a bit of each of their extensive abilities – command over water, air/wind, fire, the night/darkness, the day/light, the ability to shapeshift, and the ability to heal (among others). So, she not only became High Fae, she became Neapolitan High Fae!

You forgot that strength, and that you can burn and become darkness, and grow claws. You forgot. You stopped fighting.

OK, in all seriousness – and in the interest of somehow saving this crazy review – I really liked this sequel.

I wonder if – after the success of ACOTAR, Sarah J Maas sat down with George R R Martin and said, “George, how many pages can I stuff into one book before readers start to question my sanity (and their own)?” I have a pretty good idea that George would have topped her out around the 975 mark, which makes the 626-page A Court of Mist and Fury seem altogether manageable.

I had let them make me weak. Bent to it like some wild horse broken to the bit.

Quick summary: Feyre has survived the horrors of Amarantha and Under the Mountain and is living with Tamlin in the Spring Court. But she’s bored. She has things to do, parties to attend, her wedding to plan, but we know Feyre – she wants excitement and adventure! And that’s exactly what Tamlin wants to protect her from. Tamlin knows she’s had enough adventure and doesn’t want her forced to face any more danger. After all, she’s already being called Feyre the Cursebreaker by the people who are in awe of her. So he has to keep her safe for their sake and her own. Feyre’s still having nightmares about being a captive and let’s not forget that there is still the bargain struck with Rhysand to spend a week with him in the dreaded Night Court each month. A bargain that Feyre resents and Tamlin will do anything to break. Anything.

The issue isn’t whether he loved you, it’s how much. Too much. Love can be a poison.

Now, I’m not going to go into any more of the plot because, well… spoilers. But really, it gets juicy! We meet new heroes and new scarily powerful fae-folk. Feyre makes new friends and has to deal with old ones again (in new ways). And just when you thought that Amarantha was the dirtiest and most evil of all of Prythian’s enemies, here now enters Lord Hybern – the evil from which Amarantha’s evil was spawned. (ugh, he makes me want to spit just thinking about him).

I know, I know, this review is a bit all over the place, but for good reason. I’ve just only moments ago finished reading this book and my emotions are going all Willy Wonka right now! I’m satisfied that I finally read this monstrous tome and that it was good! I’m excited to get the next book maybe as soon as tomorrow in the mail. I’m anxious about how this story ended and the tenuous state of my beloved characters. And I’m angry that I ran out of words to read about them until the next book gets to me!

He thinks he’ll be remembered as the villain in the story. But I forgot to tell him that the villain is usually the person who locks up the maiden and throws away the key. He was the one who let me out.

YA fantasy fans will appreciate the careful world-building descriptions and back-stories. Love-starved (sex-starved?) adults will relish the intimate scenes (boom chick wow-wow! No, seriously, she doesn’t hold back in this one). And readers who love good books will recognize Sarah J Maas’s careful attention to detail and respect for the genre.

I’m typically not a bandwagon reader. I don’t immediately read the most popular, the most critically acclaimed, or the most tweeted-about titles just because 100 bookstagrammers are highlighting them in their shelfies. That’s probably apparent simply by the fact that it has taken me so long to even become interested in this series. You can also probably blame that on my infinitely long TBR list too. But when I finally do discover gems hidden in that ever-growing pile (which is rarer than you’d think), I like to give them my version of virtual all-hail, hands-raised, dirty-kneed genuflection – or rather, a great review.

Get it here: AmazonBarnes & NobleIndieBoundBooks-a-millioniBookstoreKoboAudible, and Book Depository


About the Author

Sarah J. MaasWebsite

Twitter

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Sarah J. Maas is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of the Throne of Glass series, as well as the A Court of Thorns and Roses series.

Sarah lives in Bucks County, PA, and over the years, she has developed an unhealthy appreciation for Disney movies and bad pop music. She adores fairy tales and ballet, drinks too much tea, and watches an ungodly amount of TV. When she’s not busy writing, she can be found exploring the historic and beautiful Pennsylvania countryside with her husband and canine companion.

(Bio courtesy of Goodreads)


 

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A Court of Thorns and Roses

by Sarah J. Maas
Rating: 
( 4.28 stars – Goodreads rating)

Published May 5, 2015, by Bloomsbury USA Childrens

Genre: Fiction / YA Fantasy / Romance

Format: Trade Paperback

Page Count: 448

thorns and rosesAll I had wanted — all I had dared want, was a life that was quiet, easy. Nothing more than that. Nothing extraordinary. But now… now…

Feyre Archeron is the sole provider for her household. Her father is crippled and her sisters are lazy and still clinging to ideals from their former lives as wealthy members of their society. But things have changed. Enough so that Feyre finds herself hunting in the woods in holey boots to bring home enough meat to keep her family alive. That’s when it happens. A dangerous predator. A well-aimed arrow. And now Feyre’s life has been irrevocably changed.

There are those who seek me a lifetime but never we meet, And those I kiss but who trample me beneath ungrateful feet.

ACOTAR – as it is commonly called – is a young adult (YA) fantasy book that, at first, was completely off of my radar. Primarily because YA isn’t my usual genre of choice, and also because (outside of A Game of Thrones) I haven’t read a whole lot of fantasy. Movies, yes. Books, no.

But despite that, I ran into a trade paperback version of this book in my local Goodwill store and decided to give it a try. I don’t regret that decision one bit.

At times I seem to favor the clever and the fair, But I bless all those who are brave enough to dare.

What initially pulled me in is that the book doesn’t immediately start off with people with pointy ears and tails. It begins as more-or-less a survival story. Feyre and her family have fallen on hard times and it’s up to her to not only protect them but to feed them and clothe them as well. She’s a young woman (late teens), so taking care of three other (mostly capable, but lazy) adults is a formidable task. But she does it. And she does it well.

I love a book with a strong female lead. I’m not the world’s best feminist by any means, but strong female characters make me feel like I could survive if I got dropped on a deserted island. Maybe.

Feyre is fierce and formidable. Even though she’s “only human” she is relentlessly brave.
However, even though Feyre is cunning and strong, as the story progresses and she enters the world of the faeries, we see that she sometimes makes unwise decisions. I always appreciate when an author is confident enough to make strong MCs fallible.
It’s her ability to survive those errors in judgment – sometimes not without help – that make the story compelling.

At times I seem to favor the clever and the fair, But I bless all those who are brave enough to dare.

Sarah J. Maas has dropped us into a world filled with beautiful flora, handsome men, and deadly enemies. And I loved it all.

A skilled writer, SJM’s buildup is slow and steady. Nothing is rushed, and that gives us time to get to know the characters, their motivations, and the complex world in which they exist. She writes so that we are constantly able to the see the world she has built as it surrounds us in the story. We’re never plopped into scenery that we have no basis of reference for.

Details are key in fantasy, and ACOTAR melds them perfectly into the story without it ever feeling like drudgery to read them.

By large, my ministrations are soft-handed and sweet, But scorned, I become a difficult beast to defeat.

You may have noticed that I’m not talking about the plot much. I know. That’s on purpose. The plot unfolded in a way that made me glad that I hadn’t previously read a lot of reviews and spoilers for it even though this book isn’t exactly new. I think readers who aren’t sure about exploring this world should definitely do it, but shouldn’t be spoiled on the nuances of it that ultimately pull you in.

For though each of my strikes lands a powerful blow, When I kill, I do it slow… 

I would recommend this book quickly and easily to lovers of YA fiction who love a good complicated romance along with their fantasy. I am not a young adult (anymore), but I still enjoyed the story, the skilled writing, the characters, and the promise of future adventure that will also appeal to series-lovers like myself.

I would also recommend it to those who appreciate a good bad-a$$ villain!

Get it here: Amazon | Book Depository | Barnes and Noble | Half Price Books


About the Author

Sarah J. MaasWebsite

Twitter

Pinterest

Facebook

Instagram

Tumblr

Sarah J. Maas is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of the Throne of Glass series, as well as the A Court of Thorns and Roses series.

Sarah lives in Bucks County, PA, and over the years, she has developed an unhealthy appreciation for Disney movies and bad pop music. She adores fairy tales and ballet, drinks too much tea, and watches an ungodly amount of TV. When she’s not busy writing, she can be found exploring the historic and beautiful Pennsylvania countryside with her husband and canine companion.

(Bio courtesy of Goodreads)


 

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Year One: Chronicles of the One

by Nora Roberts
Rating: Gold-star-star-no-background-clipartGold-star-star-no-background-clipartGold-star-star-no-background-clipart.5
(4.19 stars – Goodreads rating)

Chronicles of the One series, #1

Published December 5, 2017, by St. Martin’s Press

Genre: Fiction – Fantasy

Format: Hardcover

Page Count: 419


year oneAnd some like us couldn’t handle what turned on inside them. They’ve gone mad, like she has. Immune to the virus, doomed anyway. That’s the reality…

The Apocalypse. The complete and final destruction of the world. Why are we so fascinated with it? Maybe we all have to admit to just a bit of doomsday thrill at our core. And after living here for a while, we may just imagine what it would be like to have a planetary “clean slate”.

Remember all those movies that sprung up at the turn of this century – apocalyptic and dystopian? The Day After Tomorrow, The Core, Contagion, I Am Legend, The Road, Armageddon. The end of the world was always upon us (usually originating somewhere around New York – go figure) and we flocked to see how bad that ending would be  — from the comfort of our reclining movie theatre chairs, of course. The same has also been true for fiction lovers. Remember Stephen King’s The Stand? Yep, we love the destruction and gore.

I guess even our romance-writing, relationship-loving, happy-ending-addicted favorite author Nora Roberts isn’t immune to the pull of the story of good pandemic plague. This is a story of survivors in the midst of incalculable death, heroes in the midst of innumerable bad guys, and overwhelming light in the midst of very dark days. And it has faeries!

It fights, it seethes, it snarls, and its creatures scream for blood. It will have blood, both good and ill. But it will never win. Now salt to smother what evil sought to free.

For me to have been so excited to read this fantasy book by Nora Roberts – one of my most-read authors – it pains me to only give it 3.5 stars. It wasn’t bad, but then again, it ultimately wasn’t that good either.

Want to know what this book was? Quick summary: Contagion meets the X-Men meets Little House on the Prairie.

Let me start off with what I liked: The Doom. Even the name gives it the weight it deserves. A biological plague on the land that decimates the human population and forces those that remain into survivor mode. Yes, I’m here for all of that! It passes from person to person quickly and without prejudice. There is no vaccine, no cure, and no escape. It is quick, it is dirty, and it is messy. Any pandemic that can eradicate more than 80% of the planet’s population in less than a year gets my full respect.

Add in the fantasy element: Faeries, witches, warlocks, shapeshifters, and, yes, magick! that all rise like phoenixes from the ashes of society, and you’ve got a recipe for a truly captivating and action-filled fantasy novel. You’d think.  But it didn’t quite turn out that way.

Now on to what I thought was lacking: There wasn’t ENOUGH action.  Sure, in every story the tide of action ebbs and flows. It just seems like there was a little too much ebbing; hence the Little House on the Prairie reference. The survivors set up communities and we learn all about their attempts at husbandry, lawmaking, breadmaking, and baby-burping. Spare me the details. I know these are very important babies; babies that may end up having a hand in saving the world, but dang they eat a lot!

And the grammar police in me wants to mention that the stilted dialogue that appears at some points was jarring. Unfinished sentences were peppered throughout the book and in several instances, it was entirely unclear who the speaker was. That seemed out of character for Roberts.

I wanted more action! The “busy” parts of the book were well written. I felt the danger, the fear, the distress, and the determination. But the parts in between were disappointingly bland and mundane. I know this is a trilogy and that creating a world – even a fiction one – takes some plot-building, but do I really have to know about every time Lana cooks a meal or someone plants some rosemary?

And can we know more about the bad guys? There are so many of them (maybe too many?), but I wanted to know more about the Raiders. Who are they? How did they form so quickly? It’s never mentioned if they are Uncanny or human. Are they motivated just to raid and nothing else? And the dark Uncanny — who are the ones that aren’t in human form? Where did they come from?

Plus, I wanted more of a pull into the next book. At this point, I almost feel like I could walk away from the series and be alright. That’s not what a fantasy series – or any series for that matter – is supposed to make you feel. Truth is, there are so many characters and so many storylines, it was difficult to feel attached to any one character or set of circumstances. Not to mention that at certain times, Roberts takes a few pages from George R. R. Martin’s books and… let’s just say, don’t get too attached to anyone.

I enjoy apocalyptic, dystopian novels. They help me appreciate the relatively calm and generally peaceful world I live in every day. Plus, they remind me to keep my go-bag packed full of new batteries and protein bars. Nora Roberts has put her pen (keyboard?) to the fantasy genre and though it wasn’t all that I expected, it wasn’t a complete disappointment. And what better way to start off a new year than to read about a pandemic plague that almost ends life as we know it?

3.5 stars: This book was alright. It had parts that were really well-written, but, unfortunately, there are things about it that might keep me from recommending it to all.

Get it here: Amazon ; Barnes and Noble ; Book Depository ; Half Price Books

About the Author 

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Born into a family of readers, Nora had never known a time that she wasn’t reading or making up stories. During the now-famous blizzard, she pulled out a pencil and notebook and began to write down one of those stories. It was there that a career was born. Several manuscripts and rejections later, her first book, Irish Thoroughbred, was published by Silhouette in 1981.