Book Review: A Court of Wings and Ruin (A Court of Thorns and Roses #3) by Sarah J. Maas

Hello! The much anticipated third book in the A Court of Thorns and Roses (ACOTAR) series, A Court of Wings and Ruin (ACOWAR), was released on 2nd May, 2017 and I was able to get a copy the very next day thanks to the pre-order suggested by my fellow Massassin. Thanks Saima ❤ This is NOT a standalone novel so don’t skip the first two books in the series folks!

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Spoiler-free review

It’s huge like HUGE!! (705 pages) You can legit use it instead of a plain old dumbbell. I am sure a lot of people are disappointed (I actually have seen posts about this on social media) but remember that expectations were really high for this release. There were several fascinating fan theories but it appears that Sarah went in a completely different direction haha!

There are three parts: Princess of Carrion, Cursebreaker and High Lady. Everyone was agonizing over Feyre being stuck at the Spring Court and Tamlin’s “advances”. That part doesn’t take up too much space which I was glad for. I think you’ll find Feyre’s time at the Spring Court very satisfying 😉

The first ¾ of the book is paced quite well in my opinion. Nothing feels rushed or slow. We get to meet many exciting new characters especially the High Lords who I hope will feature further in the series. The characters we know and love return as this trilogy concludes. We learn so much more about the cadre, the Court of Nightmares, Velaris and Prythian as a whole. More of Miryam, Drakon and Jurian’s history is revealed and there are plenty of twists to enjoy. My personal favorite returns were the Bone Carver, the Weaver and the Suriel. I loved their stories and their contribution to the plot. Nesta and Elain have significant roles and we see how they have changed after becoming High Fae. Their father makes an appearance and we get to know where he’s been this whole time. As promised, Amren’s true identity is finally revealed though I didn’t understand it until someone spelled it out for me.

I enjoyed the storyline of the missing human queen we all wondered about. I won’t spoil it but her story is actually a loose adaptation of a fairy tale. We anticipated more of Rhys and Tamlin’s history but that barely gets any pages. Instead, the focus is on the Autumn Court’s history and its connection to Mor. Lucien obviously gets much space as a result of that and his contribution in the war. The plot follows the war with Hybern as expected but not all is doom and gloom so don’t worry. There’s plenty of smut (not a fan) and mushy romantic moments (again not a fan). If you thought things were dangerous before you’ll see just how bad things can get. There’s Fae magic and creatures to learn about besides cool action.

I can’t talk about ships and controversial characters without giving out spoilers so I’ll reserve my thoughts for the spoiler-y section. My issues with this book are similar to the ones I had with the previous two. The last third feels rushed. I understand the chaos of the war and personal preferences but there were many significant events that didn’t get the attention they deserved. Sarah was like, “Yeah, that happened. Let’s move on!” and I was like, “That’s it?”

There were some important things particularly with regards to the ships that weren’t concluded properly. It could be that she plans to explore them more in the upcoming books but still, it would have nice to have some conclusive interactions. There are some things that brought down the rating for me. I have noticed that Sarah makes things super convenient at times which kills the charm of a perfectly good story for me. I mentioned this about the mate thing in A Court of Mist and Fury (ACOMAF) too. ACOWAR leaves you with more questions than answers. That’s probably why some readers were disappointed.

It isn’t a bad book at all and you should definitely pick it up if you have already read ACOTAR and ACOMAF. Let me know what you’re looking forward to in ACOWAR.

 

WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD!

 

Spoiler-y review

Okay, time for some real talk. I’ll split the stuff into sections so let’s get started!

Plot

I was happy with the plot. The beginning, middle and end were all good. There was tons of action, mystery and thrill just as it should have been. There was politics, betrayal and unexpected twists. Yay! Things at the Spring Court were wrapped up well. I didn’t anticipate Lucien becoming such a close ally but enjoyed his role in ACOWAR. I wish we could have visited all the courts but we couldn’t sadly. I was happy to see Tarquin again because I have a crush on him hehe! I think Sarah did a good job with the twists. I totally didn’t see them coming.

I enjoyed learning about the histories of various characters especially the story about Nephelle. That was cute. I was disappointed that we didn’t see the Weaver and the Bone Carver interact much and we never learned who their bother was. I thought it might be Briaxis. The battle scenes were awesome and exaggerated but that’s okay. It’s fantasy after all 😀

 

Controversial characters

Tamlin

I don’t think anything ever excuses abuse and you can’t ever make up for it especially after Tamlin exploded at Feyre in his study. It doesn’t matter if she provoked him on purpose. The fact that Tamlin killed or let Rhysand’s mother and sister be killed is not something I can get over. Tamlin claims to do everything to protect his court yet he treats his subjects poorly particularly when he chose Ianthe over his guards. He insulted Feyre and Rhys badly during the High Lords’ meeting but then saved her life from Hybern apparently because he still “loved” her. He gave a drop of his power to save Rhys wishing Feyre a happy life doesn’t make me forget anything that happened before. I don’t judge characters on their morals but it’s important to say that I don’t think Tamlin deserved forgiveness or redemption. As a character, I enjoyed Tamlin’s role and him being so unstable added more anticipation to the plot. I am glad his role wasn’t small because that wouldn’t have made sense. I was happy that he was smart enough to side with the High Lords in the war.

Nesta

Let me just say this first. Nesta was a shitty elder sister and nothing excuses her behavior. She is one of my favorite characters. She brings excitement to any scene though she did change quite a bit in the second half. I didn’t expect her to agree to help the cadre but she did diligently. I think she and Amren made a great team. The part where the sisters got together after Elain’s rescue was touching. I enjoyed her facing the King. It was nice to see her care about someone besides Elain for a change.

Elain

I place Nesta and Elain in the same category of shitty sister though Elain did have her moments with her sweet gestures towards Feyre. I felt sorry for her throughout the book but she was very close to being pathetic in my opinion. I am glad she came through in the end as the situation was reversed with her and Nesta.

Lucien

I can never forgive Lucien for being a bystander while Feyre was being abused by Tamlin. At least he apologized and was willing to play his part in the war. It was interesting to learn about his family’s history but I feel like Sarah told us many things yet didn’t tell us how it factored into the plot. I was hoping Lucien and Tamlin would confront each other but that didn’t happen. Considering their friendship since ACOTAR, I was disappointed their interaction was literally zero after Lucien left the Spring Court.

Feyre’s father

He is probably the one I blame the most for Feyre’s condition in ACOTAR. Not only did he sit on ass the whole time he never tried to change the behavior of her sisters. I think he had a fitting end in ACOWAR. Even if he didn’t do anything for his kids while he was alive he wanted to become the father they deserved and died trying to protect them.

Villains

The King

I loved his cunning and schemes. He was a worthy adversary for the High Lords and I was seriously impressed by his battle strategies. He was a cool villain throughout the series and I was sad to see him go. While his death was satisfying, it seemed so insignificant to the other characters that it bothered me.

Ianthe

I love Ianthe. She brings so much fun to the plot. Stubbornly evil till the very end. I love her craftiness which Feyre turns against her. I had a blast watching Feyre destroy Ianthe using own weakness against her. The part where Feyre orders her to crush her hand was awesome. I wasn’t very happy with how she died and would have preferred her to suffer for the rest of her miserable life.

Amarantha (Honorable mention)

Even though she’s dead, Amarantha came up so many times. I am glad Sarah kept it real and highlighted the hardships of the survivors of sexual abuse.

Relationships

Feyre and Rhysand

It’s important for me to say that I can’t overlook what Rhys did to Feyre without her consent Under the Mountain. Feyre stresses again and again on how much Rhys cares about her consent compared to Tamlin. If Sarah wanted readers to completely accept Rhysand then she should have made Feyre fully consent to Rhy’s schemes Under the Mountain. Besides that, their bond just gets better and better with every book. It’s a healthy relationship where both partners respect each other’s wishes though they are both sneaky. I loved the surprises they both prepared for each other in the final battle.

Nesta and Cassian

I know many people didn’t want this ship to go further because they hate Nesta as a person. I don’t like Nesta as a person but their romance in ACOWAR was too good. I have been enjoying their interactions since ACOMAF and I was SO relieved to know that there was no mate stuff between them yet. It’s a strained, quiet bonding between them. Their close interactions were the kind I hold my breath for. 100% satisfied!

Elain and Lucien

I really don’t know what is going on between them and where it will all go. I feel like the mating bond between them was pointless if this is how they parted ways. I was SO annoyed when I found out that they were mates in ACOMAF. Nothing happened between them like nothing literally.

Mor and Azriel

I don’t quite understand Mor’s romantic preferences but her story was sweet and sad at the same time. I don’t know why things between her and Azriel were left this way because this ship was so hyped up in both books. I am hoping there might still be a satisfying conclusion to this.

Amren and Varian

Amren is my favorite character and I was hoping for something more between her and Varian after their interaction at the Summer Court. They went from sweet and subtle to “I don’t care who’s watching”. It was hilarious and I was cheering on Varian. I don’t know if we’ll see them again but I’ll miss them. This was definitely my favorite ship in this series after Nesta and Cassian. Yes, I pick ships based on their entertainment value LOL!

 

Deaths

Amren

I love you Amren but you should have stayed dead! I am not sure how I feel about Amren’s betrayal. I don’t understand how she could stand by while Feyre, Cassian and Nesta were in such danger from the King. I want an explanation for that. All of them could have easily died and they almost did. That being said, I liked her death scene. It was emotional and meaningful. I felt like she had gotten everything she had desired in her life. She came back in such a weird way and I felt like her sacrifice and that intense death scene lost meaning.

Rhysand

I wouldn’t have minded if Rhys had not come back to life but maybe that would have defeated the meaning of the famous Suriel dialogue, “Stay with the High Lord.” I enjoyed his death scene too and it felt true to his character. However, I don’t understand how he came back the same way Feyre did. Even the High Lords doubted it. It was like a children’s fairy tale. It made no sense and again, his sacrifice lost meaning to me.

The Bone Carver

I was fascinated with the Bone Carver in ACOMAF and I was so happy to see him again in ACOWAR. His past and true character cast him a different light. I am glad we got to know him better before he died. His death scene was great too. I am sad he died but that’s what he wanted so I guess I should be happy for him.

The Suriel

Ah, this death hit me the hardest. I would rather Rhys had died instead of the Suriel. It’s sad that we never learned its name. This death scene was really emotional and I truly fell in love with the Suriel there. His death scene was my personal favorite. Bye bye Suriel. I hope there’s loads of gossip where you’re going 😦

I think I have poured out all my views on ACOWAR for now. Have you read it? What did you think about it?

 

A Book Review of Blues by Masooma Memon

Hello everyone! Today I will be reviewing another superb entry from Daastan’s A War Within competition: Blues by writer and blogger, Masooma Memon. Before we dive into the analysis let’s just appreciate this beautiful book cover. It really does capture the essence of the story.

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Waneeza Z. for Daastan Publishers

Blurb

Depression is an abyss. An abyss with sharp, scintillating canines that can swallow you whole.

She knows about it because she had been devoured by it once. She has come a long way, and at most of the nights she feels proud of herself, but some nights the memory of it is strong enough to pierce her skin and shatter her once again. She was nine when her parents went separate ways.

She thought she could survive that, but what she didn’t expect was that a dark, hollow abyss was waiting to engulf her just up the road.

 

My Thoughts

When I talked to Masooma about her story she told me it was about depression. I admit it made me hesitant to read it because I generally don’t go for sad stories. We all seek happiness in our lives, right? Most people don’t enjoy hanging around depressed people because they don’t want to be dragged down with them. I thought Blues was going to drag me down with it. Boy was I wrong!

I didn’t need to go past the first few lines to fall completely in love with the writing. The author is gifted at spinning sentences that push the limits of your imagination and allow the meaning of those words to penetrate deep inside your mind. I was enchanted and totally sucked into the story from the beginning.

The narrative is in the first person which may put off readers who don’t enjoy this point of view in fiction. The writer has cleverly woven in diary entries which enhance this form of narrative. We follow the protagonist’s journey into the past as she leafs through pages of her old diary. The growth in her character is evident from the stark contrast between her past self and present self. The story starts with her making new beginnings determined to change for the better. Unlike many she is not afraid of her past and decides to face her demons head on. We can see that she has come a long way from days filled with hopelessness, self doubt, denial and loneliness. She reflects on the thoughts of her younger self and tries to spot the mistakes that made her fall so deep into the darkness of depression.

In the past, she felt imprisoned by her broken family. Her entire life was consumed with the grief and rage that comes with being a neglected child. That’s what she thought as she let her anger eat away at her common sense. It was clear whose fault it was but being stuck in her confused thoughts she directed the blame in the wrong direction. She allowed herself to be defined by her circumstances and her actions followed the path to self destruction.

With time she learned to escape from her pain, accepted the ugly truths of the world, appreciated the ones who never gave up on her, was grateful for what she had and most importantly, believed that she was not helpless or worthless. Living in a world that constantly seeks to put you down, it’s hard to believe in your value. Through Blues, the author shows us that there is always an escape from depression. It is usually a place you create yourself by holding fast to pessimism and thinking of problems rather than solutions. When you unearth the power of change that lies within you there is nothing that can stop you from moving forward towards the light. It is you who has to take the first step or else you could be lost in the darkness forever.

 

Overall Opinion

Beautifully crafted, Blues is an inspiring tale that serves as a lesson for us all.

 

My Rating

*****

 

Have you read any of the short stories published this year at Meraqissa store?

A Book Review of An Abandoned Leaf by Neeraj Brahmankar

Hello readers! Besides my Whimsical Wednesdays series, where I post a detailed book review every week, I will be sharing reviews of shorter publications like short stories I have read. Daastan is a relatively new publishing platform of Pakistan that organizes short story competitions in both Urdu and English categories. I participated in “A War Within” (English category) and made it to the Top 15. Today, I will be reviewing the first entry I read from this year’s batch of short stories: An Abandoned Leaf by Neeraj Brahmankar. Congratulations on clinching the 6th rank this year, Neeraj. May you enjoy more success in the future 🙂

 

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Cover by Waneeza Z. for Daastan Publishers

Blurb

A War outside is visible, but when it is within you, even if you bleed, no one sees it. There was a war between his mind and vocal cords.

Some people are fortunate enough to be born with a healthy body. Some are born disabled. He struggled to speak, due to stammer.

“An abandoned leaf” portrays the life events of a boy who despite having chaos in mind and outraged with pain, tried to flow like a meandering river.

Passing through a stage of resistance to abject surrender, he fought a long battle against the stammer, and words were like leaves buffeting against the wind of stammer.

Now even after battling with all his demons, he is left with nothing but a blurry childhood. Will he ever be able to revive what is lost?

 

My Thoughts

An Abandoned Leaf by Neeraj Brahmankar is non-fiction and written with a first person narrative since the author relates his story. It may sound a bit like an autobiography as he shares his struggle with stammering, which he developed as a child due to an illness.

The book opens with a quote by Einstein that pretty much sums up the message the author is trying to convey through this story.

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He explains that every person has their own special strengths so they should not be compared with others and made to feel inferior for not having a particular ability. To add to that everyone has their own idea of “normal” and “perfect”. The expectations are equally strong from each side but all demand different things.

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In this case, his disability was something that most of us don’t think twice about because we have to put in zero effort to give our thoughts a voice. He describes the importance of speech in human expression and reveals how hard it was to even say his first name. It’s not difficult to imagine how such a disability robs a child of confidence and self-worth. A child lives to please their peers and elders. The theme of the contest, “A War Within”, fits here as “the endless battle between my brain and my vocal cords”. He says that even if he managed to speak, his words weren’t invited by most people. However, all wasn’t gloom and doom as you join in the joy of his first success: shouting his name out loud during an interview for a school admission.

This is the point where he decides to take control of his life and not let his stammer dictate his progress. The author’s dedication to rising above his disability is truly inspiring not just for the disabled but also the rest of us who give up at the first sign of failure. He narrates his struggle with “different shades” of his stammer. You can see that it is way more complex than it appears from the outside. If you have ever wondered what life’s like for a disabled person then An Abandoned Leaf will give you a whole new perspective. The invisible war within the author mentions is not something others can see peering in from the outside. Whether you realize or not how every little comment opens up a world of hurt for them, it is unacceptable to be insensitive about something that’s not in their control.

His perseverance and hard work led him to not only overcome his stammer but excel in public speaking. Meanwhile, he also became a wonderful writer and poet. The young boy who struggled to speak became fluent in several regional and global languages. He found solace in music playing the harmonium where words seemed inadequate to express the depth of his feelings. He was bullied and taunted at every turn by others but his family and some teachers stood firm by him. It just goes to show how far a person can go with a few kind hearts and understanding minds.

The author delivers a powerful message to the disabled to become the masters of their own fate. This story is an eye opener for teachers, family, friends and the rest of us who look down on the disabled. Many do not bother to extend a helping hand or worse, humiliate them. This is a very common attitude that needs to change. You learn about the first hand experiences of the amazing man who was pushed down repeatedly but never lost hope or gave up on his dreams.

 

Overall Opinion

The writing is beautiful, personal and has a strong impact on the reader. I don’t read non-fiction that often but this is one piece everyone should read regardless of your preferred genres. It’s not just a story of a stammering boy but a mirror that shows us how ugly we appear to such people. There is so much we can do but we don’t even bother saying a kind word. Like the author said, “Love is all that they need” and The Beatles agree 🙂

 

My Rating

*****

 

Have you read any of the short stories published this year at Meraqissa store?

A Book Review of Beckoning Darkness (The Damned and the Pure #1) By J. D. Stonebridge

whimsical-wednesdays

Hello! Welcome to the first post of my brand new series, Whimsical Wednesdays, where I will be reviewing a book every week J

My first selection is a book I received from the author in exchange for an honest review. It belongs to the Fantasy and Paranormal Romance genre. So, if this is something you’d like to try then read on!

Beckoning Darkness” is the first book in the “The Damned and the Pure” series by J. D. Stonebridge. The name of the series makes sense since the hero is a “Damned” demon and the heroine is a “Pure” angel. I liked the depiction of the angel, Ariel, on the book cover but that sword is what stole my heart. It was released in 2014 and is now part of a trilogy.  So don’t worry about waiting for the next book to come out.

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Blurb

God left humanity in the care of the angels. Centuries have passed, and Heaven is preparing for His return.

After centuries of imprisonment in Heaven, Ariel is given a chance to redeem herself in the eyes of the archangels. Years after her last descent, Ariel must return to the mortal land to fulfill her mission for the coming of God. But the memories of her past sins catch up to her, and Ariel must decide where her faith truly lies.

The city of Chicago was the chosen residence of the eccentric demon, Caelum. His taste of entertainment sets him apart from the rest of his kind, driving him to walk amongst the mortal men. But when he is presented with an opportunity to have a hand in Hell’s grand plan, temptation beckoned him to take the risks. Walking through shadows and nightmares he crosses paths with an angel from Heaven, and the memories of his forgotten humanity begin to resurface.

Both Heaven and Hell have plans for the End of Days with the angel, Ariel, and the demon, Caelum, at the center. When faith is threatened, two natural enemies become unlikely allies in a war for all Humanity.

My Thoughts

I have never read a book by this author so I was excited to see what I would find. Beckoning Darkness opens with Ariel being released from imprisonment now that the archangels have a mission for her. What her sin was exactly even she doesn’t know. Her memories of that time have been erased. It’s not that her memory doesn’t try to resurface; it’s just that she’d rather not remember her shame. Fresh out of prison, she is assigned a task on earth and is eager to redeem herself in the eyes of Heaven as it prepares for the return of God.

Ariel is your typical Goody Two-shoes as you would expect of a mythological angel. She reminds me of that one kid in your class who refuses to budge a centimeter from the rules *points to self*. It’s almost like she is brainwashed since creation (which she probably is) into thinking that the world is black and white. She believes the best of all Heavenly beings and the worst of anyone remotely related to Hell. In a way, Ariel is the most naïve and innocent creature you have ever come across. She is an adult but I am sure you know street kids way smarter than her. The core of her ignorance is her belief that doubt is sin. This is why she fights so hard to keep her “faith” even when the signs clearly tell her otherwise.

I enjoyed Caelum’s entrance. It shows you the harsh reality of humans and where demonic influence would actually stand if it existed as in this book. You could say our boy’s a bit unique. He is a demon who doesn’t like Hell or torturing souls. He has no loyalty to anyone but himself. So, in many ways, he is the opposite of Ariel. He survives dodging Hellish beings especially his superiors. Unlike Ariel, he loves the human world. He enjoys the fine comforts of life. Caelum has no recollection of his life before he was a demon but he knows that he used to be human. He is smart and charming. Did I mention this is all a façade for how deadly he really is? While angels can fly and heal, Caelum can move between shadows undetected and create nightmares. As Fate (or someone else *coughs*) would have it, Caelum and Ariel are assigned the same task by their higher-ups: influence the same human. Since beings off Heaven and Hell are sworn enemies, our leads are polar opposites and they are competing for the same prize, their first meeting goes something like this.

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Ariel’s straight-faced self-righteous dialogues in reaction to Caelum’s flirtatious provocation remind me of Castiel from Supernatural. It’s hilarious and kind of sad (for Ariel).

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I wasn’t expecting the book to veer off in a completely different direction with how that particular mission ended. I thought the story would be about that mission. I was quite glad though because that’s where the plot thickens. Ariel’s dreaded doubts arise and I delighted in her inner war. Is it bad that I didn’t take the woman’s side? Yes, I sold my heart to a demon but you can’t really blame me. Caelum grows on you pretty fast. He’s a swell guy despite being a demon. Are you telling me you wouldn’t want to be influenced by someone like that? !

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Coming back to the plot, mysterious events start to happen around them and disturbing rumors reach them (ooooooooohhh!). As you might have guessed, this is the part where they shake hands and decide to help each other “solve the mystery” *Uses Shaggy voice*. Ariel is still a haughty biatch but that’s okay, she goes through a tough inner battle and plays her part admirably. Lots of other supernatural creatures join the party and the bloodbath begins!! That’s always my favorite part 😀

Strange mysteries, heart-rending betrayal, slick action, soul deep agony, fun world building, interesting characters, engaging storyline; yup, Beckoning Darkness has it all. Not only are the two main characters well developed but the secondary ones are all integral to the story and refreshing. The main mystery wasn’t hard to solve but I guess the author intended that. The others kept me hooked and I enjoyed how they unfolded. There is still a lot we don’t know and the book ends in a sort-of cliffhanger.

The writing style pulled me in from the prologue and kept me in its spell till the very end. I have read a fair number of Paranormal Romances about angels and demons but I was glad to see this book take a different approach to it. The plot did not depend on romance (Thank God!) so I was able to enjoy the story without the compulsory seduction, couple fights and make ups. This was nice. It was really nice. One thing I wanted to see more of was the world-building. I felt like a lot of things just existed but weren’t explained properly. In the beginning, there is significant human interaction so you can see how the supernatural world fits into the human one. After that, the humans are not mentioned yet everything happens in the human world. There is so much more I wanted to know but I thought was unfairly kept from me. You might be frustrated by some aspects of the writing like not having enough to go on but it won’t prevent you from enjoying the book. I hope all that will be revealed in the second book.

Will Caelum and Ariel become buddy-buddy or will they remain “just friends”? Find out in the next episode of “Days of Our Lives in Hell”. JK do read the next book in the series, “Wavering Light” to see where the story goes.

Overall Opinion

If you love reading Paranormal Fiction then Beckoning Darkness will give you something new in this genre. Even with its weaknesses, it is a very well written book with characters that you can connect with and an engaging plot.

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My Rating 

****

Will you be adding this to your TBR list?