The Cruel Prince by Holly Black

CruelprinceI am suffering a book hangover. The only relief is the promise of two more books in this trilogy. The Cruel Prince is the best Holly Black novel yet. This is no small statement. Black has impressed me with her immense talent from the very first. When I read Tithe, I realized YA didn’t mean kid stuff. While I pre-ordered The Cruel Prince nine months before it published and even though I purchased it as an e-book, print, and audible book so that all the Black fans in my family could enjoy it, I wasn’t prepared for the brilliance of this book. I could discuss various aspects of this novel for hours. At some point, I will listen to the audiobook just to savor the rich language.

The premise of the book is three sisters grow up in the land of faerie; the half-faerie sister wants to return to the human world, one sister wants to assimilate, and the heroine wants to triumph over the faeries. The story begins with the murder of the girls’ parents in the human world by a faerie.

As with all Black novels, the characters are complex, multi-faceted characters with flaws. For example, Jude, the protagonist, is a liar and her greatest desire is to become a killer. There is nothing cliché about her portrayal of the characters. The character development in this novel defies expectations.

This novel is a fantasy novel, but Black writes intelligently about real-world situations, including a love-hate relationship with an abusive family member and classroom bullying. The plot is intricate with twists and turns. Black takes the reader on a journey with no known destination.

The world building is phenomenal. It is a sensory delight as Black engages all the senses with her vivid, vibrant descriptions of the faerie world. The reader can imagine the taste of faerie fruit, the feel, and texture of an outfit composed of velvet and owl feather, and the pain of a knife plunged into a hand. Then there are the denizens of faerie, the horned, mischevious little boy, the green-skinned sprite with black eyes, and the hooved prince to describe a few. With these details, the reader is immersed in the world of faerie.

Due to her beautiful use of language, I tend to read Black novels much more slowly than other novels. But this book ended too soon. I wanted more. It is early in the year, but this may be the best book I read in 2018. I highly recommend it.

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Bannerless was a Disappointment

When I first read Carrie Vaughn’s Kitty Norville novels, I was impressed by her fresh take on the werewolf novel. Her characterizations and plots were skillfully executed. Every novel was an excellent read.

So when I had an opportunity to read her new post-apocalyptic mystery novel, I was thrilled and excited. Then it took me months to finish the novel. First, I blamed myself. I am a reader, who must be in the right mood for a book. But it wasn’t me. It is the book. This is one dull, plodding story. The story is larded with flashbacks to the heroine’s first romance and her trek across the country with musician lover. I have no issues with flashbacks. I have no issues with

The story is larded with flashbacks to the heroine’s first romance and her trek across the country with musician lover. I have no issues with flashbacks. I have no issues with a backstory. I have read and enjoyed books that chapters to get to the main characters. But the flashbacks in this story served no purpose. They just dragged an already slow pace.

The heroine, who is investigator and judge in the agrarian, post industrial world of the novel, is pedantic and judgmental. When the mystery of an outsider’s death is finally revealed, there is no surprise. The mystery was very predictable.

This novel does not work on so many levels. There is nothing unique about the post-apocalyptic world created. The main characters are not particularly interesting.  There is no real mystery. Vaughn is busy writing the sequel to Bannerless. Sadly I won’t be reading it.

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The Madness of Mercury by Connie di Marco

This book is a wonderful cozy mystery involving a San Francisco astrologer. Julia Bonatti is enjoying some small success in her career. A local paper is publishing her astrology based advice column. She has a loyal clientele. But Mercury is in retrograde and life becomes difficult. A cult like religious group accuses her of being a witch. Escalating harassment and violence from the cult result in her taking refuge at the home of a client.

This novel was a perfectly paced, well-executed mystery. The author has carefully placed the clues. She has teased and bemused the reader with red herrings. Any astrology aficionado will enjoy her references to astrology. It is an excellent start to a new series.

 

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A Peace Divided by Tanya Huff

Gunnery Sergent Torin Kerr has left the military, but she is still immersed in the action. The former marine is now a peace keeper for the Justice department of the Confederation. When an outlaw group of Confederation and Primary species captures a team of scientists on a remote, uninhabited planet, Kerr finds herself leading a group of Confederate and Primary soldiers. The former enemies must unite and work together on this mission in an unknown terrain.

After seven books, this series does not flag. Torin Kerr is the tough, pragmatic leader of an interspecies group of former marines and civilians. Huff excels at characterization and world building. Yet it is the fast paced action that keeps the reader absorbed in the story from beginning to end. It is not necessary to read any other books in the two series involving Kerr to enjoy this book. It is military science fiction at its best.

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The Rogue by Meredith Allen Conner

 Pia has been raised by the Order, a villanous group who want to use her elemental power. But despite experiments, abuse and torture, this elemental power has never appeared. Now on the run from the Order, Pia is on her own. She doesn’t dare find her long-lost sisters, who have themselves been hunted by the Order. But the Order isn’t the only predator following her.

This fourth and last book in The Elementals series was one of my favorites in the series. It didn’t have the laugh out humor of the first book, but it had a provocative romance. Full of action, this book brought the series to a satisfying conclusion. Pia is on a path of self discovery.  She has more power than she knows.   But she cannot take on the Order alone. She must learn to trust and rely on other people, including some scary werewolves.

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Made of Stars by Anne Fraiser

I love short stories when they are done well  .  A short story should be a punch to the solar plexus, leaving the reader breathless. Long after the punch, the reader can still feel the short story. My kids all hate me for making them read The Lottery. But Shirley Jackson knew how to throw a mean punch.

But the emotional punch doesn’t have to be about shock and horror. It can be about wonderment. A story can enchant. One of my favorite short stories read in recent years is Made of Stars by Anne Fraiser. This is a vampire romance, which is a departure from her usual writing. I was bedazzled by this mesmerizing story about a vampire in love with a stranger. It is a bargain for 99 cents on Amazon.

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