My rating: 5 of 5 stars
How I Got It: Purchased ebook
Publication Date: January 2014
Publisher: Purple Monkey Press
Point of View: 1sr Person Present Heroine
Genre: YA Fantasy Adventure
I honestly didn't think my luck could hold this far. I mean, three five-star reads in a row? After loving "The Midnight Sea" by Kat Ross and "Caraval" by Stephanie Garber so much, I expected this short, indie-published novel to be an enjoyable but ultimately somewhat lack-luster followup to both of those. Probably a three star read at best.
I. Was. So. Wrong.
WHAT I LOVED
Um . . . everything?
Okay, let me be a bit more specific. And I'm going to TRY to be specific without sounding too over-the-top, because I want all of you to believe me and try this book for yourselves!
Actually, I'll reverse my usual order and start with what I DIDN'T like so much, so you can see that my fangirl raving is tempered by some criticism.
WHAT I DIDN'T LIKE SO MUCH
The beginning was a bit frenetic for my taste. Don't get me wrong: It was exciting and enjoyable, but it gave me the impression that the book would be shallow. All action, little character, that kind of idea. The part with the carriage struck me as a bit random (though, that being said, I appreciated the heroine's stubborn insistence on trying to accomplish her mission even when everything was going against her. A character trait that crops up again several times over.)
Within the first two or three chapters, I really thought I had the whole book figured out--who the trope characters were, what the world was like, how the action would play out, etc.
And then things didn't go that way at all.
WHAT I LOVED
Ms. Khanani just kept taking me by surprise. I would settle comfortably into my expectations and then have them utterly rocked. By the 45% point, I was so hooked, it was a wrench to have to put the book down. By the 65% point, I knew I had found a new favorite author.
Hitomi--the main character, is a strong heroine. In a genre packed to brimming with "strong heroines," she stands out. And part the reason why is that the author gives her very specific limitations. She is NOT trained in combat, so she can't solve her problems with sheer aggression. I really appreciated this because I have trouble liking the more murderous heroines that are so popular these days (Katsa from "Graceling," Celaena from "Throne of Glass," etc.). And while she does possess some unusual abilities, her characterization never depended on Special Snowflake qualities. She was a real, unique, intelligent individual with a strong stubborn streak.
Also(POSSIBLE SPOILER ALERT HERE) when Hitomi does cause death through the course of the adventure, it MATTERS to her. She doesn't just brush it off and continue on her way. It takes a toll on her emotionally. I appreciated that as well. It makes the stakes feel more real when the heroine doesn't just kill without a qualm or with very little qualm. And she never TRIES to kill, either. Things . . . happen . . .
Another thing I loved--this wasn't a romance. Which is odd coming from me, because I'm a total romantic at heart! But the thing is, there was great CHARACTER and CHEMISTRY going on in this book. I'm totally shipping Hitomi with one of the guys introduced (won't say who), and I feel very interested in knowing if she'll end up with him. But the emphasis wasn't on the romance at all. It was on the adventure and the character and the journey.
Less is more, people. Seriously! Ms. Khanani proved that, because I'm more invested in seeing whether or not Hitomi ends up with Someone Who Shall Remain Nameless than I was in any of more overt YA romances I've read this year.
The magic. Awesome use of magic. I read somewhere that magic should always take a toll of some kind on the magic user, and Ms. Khanani seems to understand this and use it to brilliant effect. Her magic is beautiful, dangerous, and even deadly. (That climax! What the heck!!!)
And . . . this author wove vampires and werewolves into her book in such a way as to make them feel fresh and new. Yet another twist I was NOT anticipating at all.
So yeah. What was meant to be a filler-fun read for me surprised me completely and turned out to be my favorite read of 2017 so far. And I think all of you who enjoy a good kick-butt-heroine-conquers-impossible-odds fantasy should read this, because it's one of the best I've seen in the genre.
I think I'm going to wait to read Memories of Ash, though. After stalking the author's website, I learned that book 3 might not come out until late this year, so I want to spread out the fun. I'm totally bumping up her fairytale retelling, Thorn, on my TBR pile, though!
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