HOUSE OF FLAME AND SHADOW

From the Crescent City series , Vol. 3

Pure entertainment, for better or for worse.

Despite the best efforts of the evil Asteri, Bryce, Hunt, and crew are back to save Midgard in the third installment of Maas’ Crescent City series.

When we last saw Bryce Quinlan, she was escaping an attack from the all-powerful Asteri, the despotic rulers of the planet Midgard. Bryce manages to leap through a portal and finds herself in the Fae’s original home world, where the Fae she meets are recognizable to her, but also somehow more powerful than the Midgardian Fae, who live under the Asteri thumb. These new Fae don’t fully trust the strange woman who appeared in their world out of thin air, and Bryce doesn’t have time to convince them she’s not a threat. When she escapes her holding cell to an underground system of tunnels, she finds the ancient secrets that hold the key to defeating the Asteri once and for all, as well as restoring the people of Midgard to their full power. Armed with both knowledge and weaponry, Bryce opens a portal back to Midgard. But will she make it back in time to save Hunt from the Asteri dungeons? Will her circle of unlikely allies be able to overcome their differences to unite against their evil overlords? Or will the wicked Asteri be two steps ahead and stop their rebellion before it can even start? Book Three somehow finds even bigger extremes than Books One and Two. With a magic system that is loosely defined enough that Maas can make it work in whatever ludicrous ways the plot needs it to, and villains who say things like, “I’m going to teach you a new definition of pain,” this is the kind of writing that gets called a “guilty pleasure.” But it’s certainly not tedious. Though it’s more than 800 pages long, readers may find themselves hauling this heavy book everywhere, unable to put it down.

 Pure entertainment, for better or for worse.

Pub Date: Jan. 30, 2024

ISBN: 9781635574104

Page Count: 848

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Review Posted Online: Jan. 30, 2024

FOURTH WING

From the Empyrean series , Vol. 1

Read this for the action-packed plot, not character development or worldbuilding.

On the orders of her mother, a woman goes to dragon-riding school.

Even though her mother is a general in Navarre’s army, 20-year-old Violet Sorrengail was raised by her father to follow his path as a scribe. After his death, though, Violet's mother shocks her by forcing her to enter the elite and deadly dragon rider academy at Basgiath War College. Most students die at the War College: during training sessions, at the hands of their classmates, or by the very dragons they hope to one day be paired with. From Day One, Violet is targeted by her classmates, some because they hate her mother, others because they think she’s too physically frail to succeed. She must survive a daily gauntlet of physical challenges and the deadly attacks of classmates, which she does with the help of secret knowledge handed down by her two older siblings, who'd been students there before her. Violet is at the mercy of the plot rather than being in charge of it, hurtling through one obstacle after another. As a result, the story is action-packed and fast-paced, but Violet is a strange mix of pure competence and total passivity, always managing to come out on the winning side. The book is categorized as romantasy, with Violet pulled between the comforting love she feels from her childhood best friend, Dain Aetos, and the incendiary attraction she feels for family enemy Xaden Riorson. However, the way Dain constantly undermines Violet's abilities and his lack of character development make this an unconvincing storyline. The plots and subplots aren’t well-integrated, with the first half purely focused on Violet’s training, followed by a brief detour for romance, and then a final focus on outside threats.

Read this for the action-packed plot, not character development or worldbuilding.

Pub Date: May 2, 2023

ISBN: 9781649374042

Page Count: 528

Publisher: Red Tower

Review Posted Online: Jan. 12, 2024

IRON FLAME

From the Empyrean series , Vol. 2

Unrelenting, and not in a good way.

A young Navarrian woman faces even greater challenges in her second year at dragon-riding school.

Violet Sorrengail did all the normal things one would do as a first-year student at Basgiath War College: made new friends, fell in love, and survived multiple assassination attempts. She was also the first rider to ever bond with two dragons: Tairn, a powerful black dragon with a distinguished battle history, and Andarna, a baby dragon too young to carry a rider. At the end of Fourth Wing (2023), Violet and her lover, Xaden Riorson, discovered that Navarre is under attack from wyvern, evil two-legged dragons, and venin, soulless monsters that harvest energy from the ground. Navarrians had always been told that these were monsters of legend and myth, not real creatures dangerously close to breaking through Navarre’s wards and attacking civilian populations. In this overly long sequel, Violet, Xaden, and their dragons are determined to find a way to protect Navarre, despite the fact that the army and government hid the truth about these creatures. Due to the machinations of several traitorous instructors at Basgiath, Xaden and Violet are separated for most of the book—he’s stationed at a distant outpost, leaving her to handle the treacherous, cutthroat world of the war college on her own. Violet is repeatedly threatened by her new vice commandant, a brutal man who wants to silence her. Although Violet and her dragons continue to model extreme bravery, the novel feels repetitive and more than a little sloppy, leaving obvious questions about the world unanswered. The book is full of action and just as full of plot holes, including scenes that are illogical or disconnected from the main narrative. Secondary characters are ignored until a scene requires them to assist Violet or to be killed in the endless violence that plagues their school.

Unrelenting, and not in a good way.

Pub Date: Nov. 7, 2023

ISBN: 9781649374172

Page Count: 640

Publisher: Red Tower

Review Posted Online: Jan. 20, 2024

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