Lore by Alexandra Bracken

Rating: 2.5 out of 5.

Disclaimer: I received a copy of this from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. All thoughts are my own.

Every seven years, the Agon begins. As punishment for a past rebellion, nine Greek gods are forced to walk the earth as mortals, hunted by the descendants of ancient bloodlines, all eager to kill a god and seize their divine power and immortality. Long ago, Lore Perseous fled that brutal world in the wake of her family’s sadistic murder by a rival line, turning her back on the hunt’s promises of eternal glory. For years she’s pushed away any thought of revenge against the man–now a god–responsible for their deaths.

Yet as the next hunt dawns over New York City, two participants seek out her help: Castor, a childhood friend of Lore believed long dead, and a gravely wounded Athena, among the last of the original gods.

The goddess offers an alliance against their mutual enemy and, at last, a way for Lore to leave the Agon behind forever. But Lore’s decision to bind her fate to Athena’s and rejoin the hunt will come at a deadly cost–and still may not be enough to stop the rise of a new god with the power to bring humanity to its knees.

Good to know:

  • TW: sexual assault, gore, violence
  • (Probably) a standalone
  • YA urban fantasy
  • 450 pages

Hey everyone, I hope you’ve been staying safe and keeping busy! I know the past few months have given me the chance to read a lot of the books I’ve been eyeing, and I was super excited to receive an arc of this one.

Lore follows the story of Melora Perseus, the last of the descendants of the hero Perseus (I recommend reading the synopsis above, it’s a bit hard to explain the premise). It’s filled to the brim with fight scenes, romance, and good old Greek god drama. It is definitely a unique take that I was excited to jump into–I went in with expectations of something in the vein of Percy Jackson.

Unfortunately, Lore was written with the same simplistic style of Percy Jackson without the lovable characters or gripping plot. From the start, I was quite disappointed by the way things progressed; it followed the formula of a typical YA–all action, no substance. The story moved at a non-stop pace, but I was never brought to the edge of my seat and it was almost a chore to keep reading. The writing lacked subtlety and the “plot twists”, while somewhat unexpected, felt inconsequential.

I never felt connected to the characters or invested in their story. I feel like Bracken tried to create an anti-hero complex within Lore, but it was shallow and a bit confusing. Lore and the lover boy had zero chemistry and the friendships were absolutely lackluster. The side characters were basically cardboard and the antagonists are out-villained by Doctor Doofenshmirtz. There were violent scenes that were horrible to read and didn’t contribute much beyond shock factor.

I feel like I don’t have much beyond complaints for this one. It was a long book that I didn’t enjoy very much. I can’t tell if it’s because I’ve outgrown YA or because this one was particularly bad. Based on my past experiences with Alexandra Bracken (which weren’t great), I’m hoping it’s the latter.

If you’re looking for Greek-mythology inspired books, I recommend Circe or Song of Achilles.

To Sleep in a Sea of Stars by Christopher Paolini

Rating: 4 out of 5.
Shielded (Shielded, #1) by KayLynn Flanders

During a routine survey mission on an uncolonized planet, Kira finds an alien relic. At first she’s delighted, but elation turns to terror when the ancient dust around her begins to move.

As war erupts among the stars, Kira is launched into a galaxy-spanning odyssey of discovery and transformation. First contact isn’t at all what she imagined, and events push her to the very limits of what it means to be human. 

While Kira faces her own horrors, Earth and its colonies stand upon the brink of annihilation. Now, Kira might be humanity’s greatest and final hope . . .

So I was a middle-grade reader of the Inheritance Cycle and at that point in my life I absolutely loved it. Rereading it recently opened my eyes to some of the flaws that I may not have noticed all those years ago, but it will always hold a special place in my heart. That being said, when I heard about this new book, I was incredibly excited to see how Paolini had evolved, despite my being less enthusiastic about sci-fi.

Turns out this kind of sci-fi is definitely my style. It took Paolini years of rewrites to come out with the final product…and it shows. This was an adventure of epic proportions, and I am still stunned at how he managed to build such an intricate story with philosophical themes about what it means to be human and the value of life in general. This was an 900-page behemoth that kept me turning pages nonstop.

This novel isn’t just “pew pew” back and forth until the bad guy is dead (although there is a lot of that); there are elements that I wouldn’t have expected to see in a sci-fi like this. The character development of our main character, Kira, is pretty astounding. She’s smart and brave while still having moments of doubt and anguish. She’s the perfect companion for this sort of adventure, and I was so proud of who she had become by the end of the book. I don’t think the other characters were nearly as well-developed, but honestly I’m ok with that since everything was from her perspective anyway. Her character arc encompassed a lot of the aspects that brought depth into the story; her exploration of morality and self took this to another level for me. Seeing her struggles of being human juxtaposed against the alien lifeforms/technologies made her decisions relatable while still leaving room for the wonders of the universe.

Also, I was pleasantly surprised by the prose. The Eragon series is a bit notorious for its lack of artistry, and I think Paolini has come a long way in that regard. He has always been a strong storyteller, and this time I think the language was able to reinforce that skill. It wasn’t flowery or especially individualistic, but I think that’s ok for a novel of this length. Having streamlined (but well-written) prose for 900 pages is definitely preferable, at least in my opinion.

There were a few plot points that kind of fizzled out without any bearing on the main direction of the story, which was a bit frustrating. I wish these hadn’t been included because they just made the plot drag a bit. In addition, I think there was a bit too much extraneous description that could have also been trimmed away (descriptions of walking from point A to point B, etc.). Overall, though, I think To Sleep followed a nice arc that wrapped up with a perfectly ambiguous ending. It left a lot of room for thought while still being satisfying.

There are a few things in the afterword that really just made me want to read this again, including affirmation of Eragon Easter eggs as well as a hint towards deeper meanings of certain things in the book. Maybe someone will do an analysis of this one day so that I don’t have to…

Anyways, that about sums up my initial thoughts. I would highly recommend this to Paolini lovers, even if sci-fi isn’t your cup of tea. I think the story was really well done, and I’m so glad I got to see the universe from Kira’s eyes. It’s clear that there is a true love for the beauty of the unknown parts of the vast world we live in. While I may not understand all of the technical jargon*, the wonder and trepidation of being such a small piece in the universe is something I have a lot of appreciation for.

*For those of you who are not comfortable in sci-fi settings, I was in the same boat (ship?) and I don’t think it detracted from my experience. While there is a fair amount of technical jargon, I found that it was fine that I wasn’t able to follow it exactly (also, I’m not sure if it was actually logical technicalities or if it was a load of baloney). I thought that the culture/dialogue was built up well enough that I could understand the gist of what was happening during the especially tech-heavy scenes.

The Forgotten Kingdom by Signe Pike (Release Day & Review)

Rating: 4 out of 5.
Shielded (Shielded, #1) by KayLynn Flanders

AD 573. Imprisoned in her chamber, Languoreth awaits news in torment. Her husband and son have ridden off to wage war against her brother, Lailoken. She doesn’t yet know that her young daughter, Angharad, who was training with Lailoken to become a Wisdom Keeper, has been lost in the chaos. As one of the bloodiest battles of early medieval Scottish history scatters its survivors to the wind, Lailoken and his men must flee to exile in the mountains of the Lowlands, while nine-year-old Angharad must summon all Lailoken has taught her and follow her own destiny through the mysterious, mystical land of the Picts.

In the aftermath of the battle, old political alliances unravel, opening the way for the ambitious adherents of the new religion: Christianity. Lailoken is half-mad with battle sickness, and Languoreth must hide her allegiance to the Old Way to survive her marriage to the next Christian king of Strathclyde. Worst yet, the new King of the Angles is bent on expanding his kingdom at any cost. Now the exiled Lailoken, with the help of a young warrior named Artur, may be the only man who can bring the Christians and the pagans together to defeat the encroaching Angles. But to do so, he must claim the role that will forever transform him. He must become the man known to history as “Myrddin.”

Bitter rivalries are ignited, lost loves are found, new loves are born, and old enemies come face-to-face with their reckoning in this compellingly fresh look at one of the most enduring legends of all time. 

Hi all!

I just want to with a big happy release day to one of my most anticipated releases of 2020, The Forgotten Kingdom by Signe Pike. Huge thanks to Atria Books for sending out an ARC so I could get in on the action a little earlier.

For those of you who haven’t read the first novel of the planned trilogy, I’d highly recommend you check out The Lost Queen. The book follows Lailoken, the man who is supposed to have inspired the legend of Merlin, and his “forgotten” sister Languoreth as they navigate religion, politics, and love in 6th-century Scotland. The novel is a heavily-researched historical fiction with a lush setting, beautifully rich characters and culture, and incredibly sweet love stories (of the sibling, romantic, and platonic variety). I’d recommend it for fans of Outlander (although, unpopular opinion, I think Outlander is overrated and this is much more appealing to me).

But moving on to the second book…wow! I won’t give any spoilers for either of the books, but this one picks up about twenty years after the first one ends. I was a little sad to see how my favorite characters fared (*ahem suffered*) as they grew older, but they continued to develop beautifully in this installment, and we got insight into some amazing new faces as well.

My favorite part of any historical novel is the portrayal of culture and how the author adapts it to the story and modern perspectives, and this book was no different. There is a continual development into the belief system of the early Scots, with emphasis on the cultural prominence of priestesses & Celtic Wisdom Keepers and how they practiced their religion. One thing that I found fascinating was that Signe Pike mentioned classifying this novel as historical fiction rather than historical fantasy in her Author’s Note. She discusses how she writes the characters with the second sight as they would have actually had it in the past–it is more about interpreting signs and meditation/spirituality than fantastical magic. Because these ideas are rooted in a polytheistic (“pagan”) belief system, they are generally given less credence than something like prayers in Christianity. I loved seeing how this played out, and, reading the Author’s Note, I was impressed by the level of thought and research that went into portraying this.

This book was, however, a little more focused on the bloody physical wars of Scotland’s history rather than the more idealogical wars between the “old Gods” and Christianity. For that reason, I think it was a bit less of a pull for me, since that is a topic I am incredibly interested in. I think the battles started to lose my interest at times, which is why this book is a bit less successful than the first (in my opinion, of course). Still, the plot was intriguing and still very much a page-turner.

The writing was rich and atmospheric, and Pike’s love and respect for the setting really shone. Pretty much everything was spot-on for me, and for that reason, I think this novel is something the author should be proud to have next to The Lost Queen. The series is especially impressive considering the historical basis that Pike has compiled as the foundation for this world. I can’t wait to see where this story takes us next.

Happy reading,

July 2020 Wrap-up

It seems like July passed in a heartbeat! Honestly, I am kind of happy about that since I am eagerly awaiting fall book release season (and just fall vibes in general). August is a nice in-between of summery warmth and the beginnings of cozy, so I think it will be a nice reading month. Anyway, I just wanted to give a quick overview of what I read this July and what I rated each one.

Red Sister (Book of the Ancestor): Lawrence, Mark: 9781101988855 ...

Red Sister by Mark Lawrence

Rating: 4 out of 5.
A Cathedral of Myth and Bone: Stories - Kindle edition by Howard ...

A Cathedral of Myth and Bone by Kat Howard

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.
Amazon.com: Unsouled (Cradle Book 1) eBook: Wight, Will: Kindle Store

Unsouled by Will Wight

Rating: 3 out of 5.
Red Sister (Book of the Ancestor): Lawrence, Mark: 9781101988855 ...

White Fragility by Robin DiAngelo

Rating: 4 out of 5.
A Cathedral of Myth and Bone: Stories - Kindle edition by Howard ...

Soulsmith by Will Wight

Rating: 3 out of 5.
Amazon.com: Unsouled (Cradle Book 1) eBook: Wight, Will: Kindle Store

The Near Witch by V.E. Schwab

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Red Sister (Book of the Ancestor): Lawrence, Mark: 9781101988855 ...

Grey Sister by Mark Lawrence

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.
A Cathedral of Myth and Bone: Stories - Kindle edition by Howard ...

The Witch of Portobello by Paulo Coelho

Rating: 2.5 out of 5.
Amazon.com: Unsouled (Cradle Book 1) eBook: Wight, Will: Kindle Store

Gideon the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Reviews:

My favorite was definitely the Ancestor series by Mark Lawrence. I’m currently reading the last book in the trilogy. The most unique was Gideon the Ninth. I was pleasantly surprised to learn that the sequel comes out in about a week, so I’m super excited about that! I also think I did a good job with actually reading sequels at all this month. I have an unfortunate tendency to prioritize different books rather than finishing a series. Definitely something I’m working on though.

What were your favorite reads this month? Do you have any new releases you’re looking forward to in August?