My friend Morissa recently joined the blogosphere. You guys should check her blog out!
Sunbolt by Intisar Khanani
Released June 13th, 2013
Received as an ebook through NetGalley
The winding streets and narrow alleys of Karolene hide many secrets, and Hitomi is one of them. Orphaned at a young age, Hitomi has learned to hide her magical aptitude and who her parents really were. Most of all, she must conceal her role in the Shadow League, an underground movement working to undermine the powerful and corrupt Arch Mage Wilhelm Blackflame.
When the League gets word that Blackflame intends to detain—and execute—a leading political family, Hitomi volunteers to help the family escape. But there are more secrets at play than Hitomi’s, and much worse fates than execution. When Hitomi finds herself captured along with her charges, it will take everything she can summon to escape with her life.
This book completely took me by surprise. Khanani may be an indie author, but this book is as good as (if not better than) many of the books currently sitting in the YA section at Barnes & Noble. If you enjoy reading about powerful females saving people and kicking butt, then this book is for you.
Sunbolt is a novella, so it is fairly short. Most readers will tell you that this doesn’t have an impact on the quality of the book, and I agree with that to a certain extent. However, I do feel that the novel was lacking emotional depth. In the first half, we are thrust into action and adventure, yet we aren’t given the necessary amount of time to form a connection with the protagonist. As a result, I often found myself wondering why I should care about the protagonist to begin with. Why should I be invested in her story? Why should I want her to succeed? I almost felt as if I was handed an incomplete book because of that lack of emotional and mental development.
Other than that, this novella had all the makings of a good fantasy. The protagonist, Hitomi, is a person of color (which is AWESOME). She’s resourceful, intelligent, strong, and witty. She’s also determined and full of a desire to help the people around her.
Being a fantasy novel, magic does play a significant role in the story. There are also vampire and werewolf-like creatures, as well as other creatures such as a “breather” which basically can suck the soul out of you. There aren’t really any love interests in the novella, so if you’re looking for romance this isn’t the place to find it.
Overall, I think this series has potential and I’m looking forward to reading the next installment once it comes out.
Thanks for reading,
The Splintered Series by A.G Howard
If you’ve read my reviews before, you know that I don’t normally review an entire series at one time. Originally, I planned on reviewing Splintered on its own, but I ended up reading this series so fast that I can’t really separate the books anymore. It’s all just become one giant blur of emotions and crazy events. So, I’m going to do my best to try to explain why I ended up loving this series so much.
Here is the Goodreads synopsis of Splintered to give you a bit of background:
Alyssa Gardner hears the whispers of bugs and flowers—precisely the affliction that landed her mother in a mental hospital years before. This family curse stretches back to her ancestor Alice Liddell, the real-life inspiration for Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. Alyssa might be crazy, but she manages to keep it together. For now.
When her mother’s mental health takes a turn for the worse, Alyssa learns that what she thought was fiction is based in terrifying reality. The real Wonderland is a place far darker and more twisted than Lewis Carroll ever let on. There, Alyssa must pass a series of tests, including draining an ocean of Alice’s tears, waking the slumbering tea party, and subduing a vicious bandersnatch, to fix Alice’s mistakes and save her family. She must also decide whom to trust: Jeb, her gorgeous best friend and secret crush, or the sexy but suspicious Morpheus, her guide through Wonderland, who may have dark motives of his own.
When I started reading this series I had no idea what to expect; unlike so many other books that I’ve read, there wasn’t really any hype or talk surrounding it (or at least none that I had seen). It seems like the Splintered fandom is pretty quiet, and that needs to change effective immediately because these books are AMAZING.
Since the author does draw inspiration from Lewis Carroll’s story, Splintered features magic and crazy creatures galore- but with a dark and sinister twist. One of the reasons this series is so amazing is Howard’s attention to detail and her commitment to engaging the readers’ senses. Her descriptions of Wonderland and its inhabitants are so rich that you feel as if you are experiencing everything first hand. Wonderland is no longer the fun and bright place you saw in the Disney movie; it’s scary and threats lurk around every corner.
Another aspect of this series that also drew my attention was the extent to which the protagonist’s parents were involved in the plot. A common trend I often see in young adult literature is the lack of a consistently present parental figure, or the presence of one who is problematic. While these kinds of relationships certainly exist in real life, they are not a reflection of every real world family. It was refreshing to see that even though Alyssa’s relationship with her parents, especially her mom, does become strained at times, her parents consistently support her and do what they can to be around her and keep her safe.
As for Alyssa, I thoroughly enjoyed reading this series from her perspective. She’s fun and quirky and, like any good character, has her own flaws and shortcomings that she works through on her journey into adulthood. She develops strength and confidence as she matures, and along the way she learns to balance other people’s expectations with her own expectations for herself.
Now I know what you may be thinking. What about the romance? Are there any good looking love interests to swoon over? Yes, there are romances. And yes, they are very swoon worthy- I literally had to stop reading several times to either a) stop blushing, or b) put a hand over my heart and sigh dramatically. I kid you not. In case you were wondering, there is a strong presence of a love triangle, but that wasn’t a problem to me. It certainly didn’t detract from the story. Actually, I would argue that it made the story better because Morpheus and Jeb (the two love interests) are like incarnates of Wonderland and the human world, so they represent everything that those two worlds have to offer.
Oh, and you know this guy?
Well, he’s the character that Morpheus is supposed to be based off of, but he gets a MAJOR upgrade in Splintered. Oh, Morpheus. I could write an entire post on why his name has been added to my “Favorite Male Characters of All Time” list. He’s a tricky, manipulative, self-serving word master with a penchant for eccentric fashion and flashy moth-covered hats, and yet I could not help but fall in love with his wicked ways. But seriously, the guy’s got a hat for literally every occasion. Seduction Hat? Check. Insurrection Hat? Check again.
Before I end my post, I’d like to take a moment to do something I don’t normally do. I’d like to thank A.G Howard for writing this beautiful series. Before reading it, I had been stuck in the biggest reading slump of my life. College had hacked away at my will to read, and, in a fit of desperation, I almost gave up on something that I consider to be my passion. This series changed that. It made me fall in love with reading all over again, and I will be forever grateful for that.
Take the time to fall into this series just like Alice fell down the rabbit hole. I promise you that it’s worth it.