Captain Jack Sparrow

The Crimson Crown by Cinda Williams Chima

Raisa has faced many obstacles to claim her birthright, the Grey Wolf Throne. Finally crowned Queen of the Fells, she now faces nearly as many obstacles in making sure she keeps it.

The hostility between the Clans and the wizards is growing. Worse, wizards are being murdered in the streets. The Commander of the army opposes her plan to get rid of the mercenaries in favour of raising an army of citizens. The Bayars are still plotting to marry her off to Micah or to kill her and replace her as queen.

It was a chore making it through this book.

I was only vaguely interested in the political machinations of the book and the only thing that kept me going was this small part of me that wanted to know how it would all end.

I think Micah could have been a truly tragic character, torn between his love and desire for Raisa and his family loyalties. But because we only really saw him through Raisa and Han’s eyes, I don’t think he ever lived up to the character he could have been.

This goes back to my last review and wishing that more time had been spent developing the minor characters.

I will say that in the end, I do think that the reveal of who was murdering the wizards made sense, but I still group that character in with the others as needing more development. Especially with the reveal of the other huge crime they committed previously.

It’s not like I didn’t know that they were building towards a Raisa and Han happy ending, I just find it odd how much time the book spent bringing up the fact they were very distantly related while moving them towards their couple-hood. I know it’s back countless generations but it was still an odd choice.

I wasn’t completely satisfied with the ending, though it did build from past books.

I did like that the book had Raisa’s father and grandmother make some questionable choices, so that they weren’t completely innocent in the clan versus wizard feud.

Grade: C


The Grey Wolf Throne by Cinda Williams Chima

After escaping Micah and the Montaigne’s, Raisa is alone and on the run for her life. Her enemies are determined to kill her, so that the Grey Wolf Throne will eventually pass to her younger sister.

Han Alister is travelling back to Marisa Pines, to fulfill his obligation to the Clans. Along the way, he comes across a wounded Rebecca.

But as the secrets between them are finally revealed, distrust and betrayal threatens to cause a rift, just as they need each other the most, as Raisa will have one chance to claim her birthright.

Well, this book definitely had a lot more happen in it then the last two books. It also pretty much stayed on the main plot, of ensuring that Raisa could claim her birthright and not be removed from the line of succession. Despite all of that, I still felt it dragged in some places.

I’m happy that the books finally revealed who Fire Dancer’s father was, although I don’t think it was such a big surprise. I can’t really think of who else could have been his father; there weren’t a lot of options presented.

I can’t say that I’m excited to read the fourth book, at times it was a struggle to make it through this one, but I do want to find out what happens at the end.

Grade: C

Sins of the House of Borgia by Sarah Bower

Esther was only six years old when her family was forced to flee Spain, when King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella expelled all of the Jews from their country.

Settling in Rome, her father becomes a banker. He eventually lends aid to fellow Spaniard Rodrigo Borgia in his bid for the papacy.

Years after Rodrigo is elected Pope, he repays Esther’s father by allowing her to become a lady-in-waiting to his daughter Lucrezia. Though it’s not what she wants, Esther gives in to her father’s wishes, converts, and joins Lucrezuia’s household, as her new mistress prepares to leave Rome to wed her third husband.

Though Esther is unhappy at first, she soon finds herself drawn to Lucrezia’s charming and handsome brother, Cesare.
But the Borgias’ enemies are everywhere, determined to bring down the powerful family once and for all.

I watched the first two seasons of the Borgias on TV but didn’t make it into the third, so I was interested in the setting of this book, which mainly took place after the events I had seen in the television series. That being said, I did not like this book.

I had trouble believing that Esther could be so in love with Cesare after one brief dance at a party that she would honestly think he would ride across Italy and actively seek her out. Though everyone tried to tell her what was going on with him, she blinded herself to everything and thought if she only proved her devotion to him he would reward it with love. I know that in real life people do the same thing, but reading it just seemed so farfetched when it was only one dance.

I was also a little disappointed that the only point of view we got throughout the book was Esther’s, because she wasn’t aware of what was really going on with Cesare, Lucrezia and all their scheming. By not having chapters told from their point of view I felt like I missed out on a large chunk of the story.

Grade: C
Ardeth Bey

The Exiled Queen by Cinda Williams Chima

Han and Dancer have left the Fells, heading to the wizard school at Oden’s Ford so that they can learn to control their powers. Along the way they run into Cat Tyburn, who has survived the murder of the rest of her street gang. Having no place else to go, she joins them.

Princess Raisa is also leaving the Fells, escaping from the forced marriage her mother has planned for her. She decides to enroll at the army school at Oden’s Ford, believing it will make her a stronger queen in the future.

Unfortunately for both Raisa and Han, their enemies are closer than they think. Micah, his sister Fiona and their cousins are also enrolled at the wizard’s school at Oden’s Ford.

I am so conflicted about this book, because I like the main characters, I like the author’s writing style, and there is nothing that really bothers me about the book, but it just feels like nothing really happens over the course of the book.

Raisa spends so much of the book just waiting for word from home on whether or not she can return. The disagreements she has with one of the teachers and the romantic tension between her and Amon just don’t feel like enough to keep any momentum in the story, so it felt like it dragged a lot throughout the book.

Even though Han and Micah come face to face, I really don’t feel that Han is in any danger of losing anything, not his life, or his amulet, or even his place at the school.

I wish that more time could have been spent with Fire Dancer, Cat and Amon. They are interesting secondary characters, but we only ever see them through the eyes of Raisa or Han, because they are the only ones who get chapters from their point of view.

I will stick with the series because I own all four books, but I hope that more happens in the next book.

Grade: C


The Outlaw by Angus Donald

When he is caught stealing by the Sheriff’s men, Alan Dale’s mother saves him from losing a hand – or mom – by giving him to Robin Oddo, known as the outlaw Robin Hood.

Robin becomes his mentor, arranging tutors to teach Alan how to fight and how to sing, allowing Alan to become a trusted member of Robin’s band. But Alan also witnesses firsthand Robin’s terrifying ruthlessness.

As the Sheriff of Nottingham, Sir Ralph Murdac, closes in on Robin, Alan learns that there may be a traitor close to Robin. Can one of Robin’s closest comrades actually betray them all?

The author’s style of writing drew me into the book right away and was one of the main reasons why I finished it and why I will probably read the next book. I liked the characterizations and his take on the historical setting – I’m not sure I’ve read a Robin Hood story set while Richard the Lionheart was a prince and his father was still the king. Given how much I was drawn into the book by the author, I just wish that the book itself was better overall.

I did like the author’s take on the Robin character. I feel like ruthless might be putting it too lightly in terms of some of his actions. He wasn’t so much a “merry man” in this book, but someone who inspired terror in both his enemies and his allies.

The women characters were poorly handled throughout the book. None of them had any really characterizations or any story outside of the male characters. When the women characters were important to propel a man’s story forward they were there; if they weren’t needed they faded into the background. I also didn’t like Alan’s weird possessiveness over Maryanne.

This won’t be the first book where I have had this criticism, but I wish that  future Alan wasn’t the story’s narrator. Maybe I haven’t read an example that worked for me, but when narrators say something like, how wrong we were, or years later Robin and I did this, it takes me out of the story momentarily so that I get annoyed by it. I also felt that future Alan’s plot with a sick grandson was a pointless diversion from the main story.

The main flaw I found with the book was a lack of a plot or any motivation for the main character. Alan is with Robin because he has to be, but beyond that he doesn’t seem to be driven by anything. There are a couple of throw away lines about what Robin is hoping to accomplish, but those don’t seem to be driving the plot either. It’s more like this happens, they react, and then something else happens that they have to react to.

Plus the traitor is pretty easy to figure out.

Grade: C

Stand Up Speak Up

Farlander by Col Buchanan

Ash is a member of the Roshun – a highly skilled group of assassins. Suffering from a medical condition that will one day rob him of sight, he decides to take on an apprentice.

Nico lives in city of Bar-Khos, currently besieged by the Holy Empire of Mann. When he is caught trying to steal from Ash, instead of losing a hand he finds himself being offered a chance to learn how to be a Roshun.

But when the son of the Mann’s Holy Matriarch kills someone under the Roshun’s protection, Ash and Nico embark on a mission of revenge that may very well be impossible.

I find myself conflicted with this book as I liked the world that the author built for the most part and many of the characters, though the villains were very one-dimensional, but I just couldn’t accept the central premise of the Roshun. They are a weird cross between assassins and bodyguards but they don’t really do anything to protect anyone. People are said to be under their protection in the books, but all that means is that if the person is killed the Roshun will avenge their death. For me it just seems ridiculous and pointless.

The ending of the book did have a twist I wasn’t expecting, but I don’t think it was enough for me to continue with the city.

I think I would have preferred a book set in this world without the Roshun. If the series had focused on the Holy Empire of Mann and their war of conquest and on the people trying to resist them, I think I would have liked that book.

Grade: C


Nevermore by Rob Thurman

When the Vigil’s latest attempt at killing Cal go horribly wrong and destroys everything that Cal loves, Cal will stop at nothing to set things right. That includes following a Vigil assassin through time to stop him from assassinating a younger version of himself and trying to warn Niko and his friends about the danger they face in the future without destroying that future completely.

This book didn’t have an ending! The story is going to continue in another book next year, which is so aggravating, because all of the books of this series have been self contained stories up until now, I wasn’t expecting the non-ending of this book.

I guess the ridiculously slow pace of the book makes sense in retrospect if it wasn’t going to end in this one, because it took way too many pages before anyone actually did anything about the assassin sent back in time. Too much of the book was spent on Cal’s inner thoughts once again.

Grade: F

Sergio Ramos and Iker Casillas

The Demon King by Cinda Williams Chima

Han Alister is a reformed thief, having walked away from leading one of the street gangs in Fellsmarch to protect his mother and younger sister. He tries to earn his living hunting with the Clans and helping on old hermit sell his alcohol in the city.

Raisa ana’Marianna is the princess heir of the Fells. Having come of age, men from all over her kingdom and the neighbouring ones as well have begun to court her. Raisa is determined to put off marriage for as long as possible.

Millennium ago the Demon King nearly destroyed the world and only the Clans were able to stop him, at a price. The Wizards of the realms were forbidden from marrying royalty and the amulets that control and amplify their powers could only be granted by the Clans.

But the Bayars, the highest Wizard family in Fellsmarch, start to doubt the history they have been told and to question the rules that have been placed upon Wizards, using their closeness to Raisa’s mother, Queen Marianna, for their own ends.

When Han crosses path with Micah Bayar, he comes into possession of an amulet of great power. One that the Bayars will do anything to get back.

Meanwhile, Raisa is trying to learn more about the kingdom she will one day rule, seeing evils being committed in the royal family’s name. Worse, she begins to uncover a plot against her father, Averill Lightfoot of the Demonai Clan.

I thought this was a good opening to the series though as a single book not a lot happened in it.

There were some parts of the book where I was so frustrated with Raisa. I know she’s young and just starting to learn the truth about the world and the people around her, but there were a couple of times where someone’s action made it obvious that she shouldn’t trust them or she ignored some very important advice that I just couldn’t believe that she couldn’t see the mistakes she was making.

I liked that the book took some unexpected turns. There were a couple of places where I thought I knew what was about to happen and then the story went a different way, so I appreciated that. Sometimes when you read a lot it seems like there’s not that many surprises left.

I hope that the rest of the series continues to be interesting and, with the backstory out of the way and the foundation for the plot in place that more will happen in the next book.

Grade: B


Yesterday’s Sun by Amanda Brooke

Moving to a quiet English countryside was meant to be the beginning of their life together for Holly and Tom.  While Tom has  dreams of raising a family in their new home, Holly’s difficult childhood makes it hard for her to picture herself as a mother.

When Holly discovers a moondial while cleaning their new garden, it offers her a devastating glimpse into her future: Tom, with the baby daughter he’s always dreamed of, mourning the loss of Holly during childbirth.

As she learns about the moondial and the horrible cost it asks, Holly will be forced to choose: her life or her daughter’s?

I wish this book had been longer, because I feel like it was a concept that needed to be explored more. I especially wanted to know more about what happened after the epilogue.

I know that Holly is the story’s main character, but I wished that Tom would have spent more time as part of the story, instead of away for work all of the time.

I also don’t like the often trotted out cliché that every women needs to be a mother and that everyone always tries to downplay a woman’s desire not to be a mother with “it will be different when it’s you and your kids”. I guess the author chose to make Holly someone who wasn’t sure if she wanted kids so that we would spend more time wondering what her choice would be.

Grade: B

Ruud and Sergio

The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest by Stieg Larsson

Lisbeth Salander is fighting for her life after being shot and buried alive by her father.

Although she is no longer suspected of the murders from the last book, she is still facing criminal charges for attacking the bikers and her father.  What makes her situation even worse is that the section of the Swedish secret police who have been covering up her father’s crimes are determined that the truth of their operations won’t be revealed now.

As the forces against Lisbeth work to have her committed or convicted, Mikael is determined to help Lisbeth overcome the injustices that are being done to her. Working with his newspaper staff and the small group of people that Lisbeth trusts, they have a hard fight ahead of them, against people who will stop at nothing to protect themselves and their secrets.

I didn’t like this book as much as the first two, mainly because it was about confronting and dismantling a secret organization/government conspiracy, which isn’t really the type of story I normally read.

There were a couple of subplots to the story that I didn’t feel added anything to the overall plot, mainly Ericka’s story. Considering where her character ends the novel, I felt like her whole plot was a wasted idea. Also not needed was yet another woman who is romantically interested in Mikael.

I skimmed large parts of the book, but was still satisfied with how it all ended.

I know a fourth book is being published in the series by a different author I believed so I may have to try to find that one at some point. I’m interested to see where the characters go from here.

Grade: C