Today I’m reviewing two YA fantasy books, and I have to say, I absolutely adore both of these book covers! So pretty!
Unfortunately I didn’t like one of these books quite as much as I liked the cover. So read on for my full reviews!
A Promise of Fire by Amanda Bouchet
“I conquered a kingdom and found a treasure.” His voice turns gravelly, low. “I won’t let you go. Not now. Not ever.”
In the far North, where magic is plentiful, a ruthless Queen rules with an iron fist. Meanwhile in the magic-starved South a rebellion is rising against the Queen’s tyranny, with a non-magical family seizing the throne for the first time ever. And it’s Cat – a soothsayer and circus performer – who finds herself stuck in the middle of this dangerous conflict. But is she more than she seems?
I feel like I should have liked this book less than I did… It seems like a weird thing to say, but there were so many things in this that really irk me in a book, but oddly I still enjoyed the story.
But about those things that irked me… There was insta-lust, a special snowflake heroine, a broody, hunky love interest, over-the-top, earth shattering sex scenes and even a ‘mean girl’ rival, seemingly invented simply to make the heroine seem even more amazing. Basically, it was cliche-city!
But at the same time, there was enough good things about the book that I didn’t hate it, and I found myself getting through the story pretty quickly. For one thing, it was a very fast-paced book, with the two main characters meeting in the very first scene, and then the adventure beginning pretty much straight away. There was also plenty of action scenes, which kept things moving along nicely, and I really loved the world of the story. I especially liked how, even though the world of the book is entirely made-up, the author uses Greek mythology as a basis for the religion of the book, with Gods like Hades and Poseidon being very much real.
There was also some great side characters (Griffin’s family for example), although I’m not entirely sure that made up for the stereotypical ‘snarky heroine who doesn’t trust anyone’ and ‘brooding, muscly warrior/love interest’ that was Cat and Griffin.
I also felt like there was some shaky ground in regards to consent in this book: initially Cat is hostile towards Griffin, despite her attraction to him, yet he still seems to be intent upon being romantically involved with her, and often comes across as quite controlling (he does have her tied to him on a magical rope for a lot of the book, which is pretty morally sketchy!). This book also fell into that ‘kidnap victim falls in love with captor’ trope, which is something I’m generally not a huge fan of.
Overall though, I didn’t hate this book. The story itself was fast-paced and interesting when it wasn’t side tracked with the main characters being annoying, and/or having slightly cringe-worthy sex, and the world was very imaginative. I can’t say I’m in a huge hurry to read the next book (A Breath of Fire), but I intend to get to it at some point to see where this series goes.
Wintersong by S. Jae-Jones
“Once there was a little girl who played her music for a little boy in the wood. She was small and dark, he was tall and fair, and the two of them made a fancy pair as they danced together, dancing to the music the little girl heard in her head.”
Ever since she was small, Liesel’s grandmother has told her tales of the mythical Goblin King, the Lord of Mischief who rules the mysterious Underground. Liesel has always been enchanted by these stories and her own half-forgotten memories of a mysterious youth, but she finds that she must put these things aside, along with her gift for music, to help her family with the running of their inn. However, when Liesel’s sister Käthe is stolen away by the Goblin King, Liesel must venture into the Underground and face the king of tricksters, to try and get her back.
This book was so beautiful and atmospheric! The prose seemed to literally ooze a combination of fairytale charm and dark mystery, and I adored the characters of Liesel and the enigmatic Goblin King.
Wintersong seems to take influence from so many different things – The Goblin Market by Christina Rossetti, Grimm’s fairytales, classical music (and I know a lot of people have said it’s a retelling of Labyrinth, but since I’ve never watched it, I can’t really say!) – but combines them to make something truly unique and spellbinding. I loved the way the seemingly ordinary 19th century Bavaria of the story gives way to this strange, dangerous and rather creepy underworld of magic, goblins and fairies, and the way music is interwoven into the story was really effective.
I seem to have overlooked this book for so long, as I’ve been aware of it for ages but just never thought to pick it up. So I’m so glad I finally did! It really was a beautiful book, and I loved everything from the dark, enthralling world of the underground to the twisting turning plot and many intriguing characters. I especially loved Liesel as the heroine, and the way she develops as a person throughout the book. At the start she is fine to be overlooked and taken for granted by her family, dwarfed by her brother’s musical talents and her sister’s beauty. But by the end of the book she has started to put her own needs and desires first and takes control of her own situation, which is something I loved.
I really can’t recommend this book enough, especially to people who love fairytales and magic. I’m literally so excited for the release of Shadowsong next year!
So have you read A Promise of Fire or Wintersong? What did you think?