Empire Of Storms – Sarah J. Maas

“Hand in hand, they stared towards the darkness coating the mountains, the dread-lord’s bone drums pounding like hammers on iron. Too soon, those drums would be drowned out by the screams of dying soldiers. Too soon, the valley fields would be carved with streams of blood.”

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Blurb: “The long path to the throne has only just begun for Aelin Galathynius. Loyalities have been broken and bought, friends have been lost and gained, and those who possess magic find themselves at odds with those who don’t. At the kingdom of Erilea fracture around her, enemies must become allies if Aelin is to keep those she loves from falling to the dark forces poised to claim her world. With war looming on all horizons, the only chance for salvation lies in a desperate quest that may mark the end of everything Aelin holds dear.”

This is the fifth book in the best-selling Throne Of Glass series and everything is certainly out to play for. Aelin Galathynius is finally back in her long-lost kingdom Terrasen though is having to stay hidden until she has built up enough allies to help her re-claim the throne. The witches are preparing for war and Dorian is reeling from the events of the previous book.

I found the reading experience of Empire of Storms very mixed. The main problem I had was that current storylines at the forefront were brought in during Heir of Fire so when I considered re-reading the previous two books in order to refresh my memory, I was left with the conundrum of “am I willing to re-read two 600+ page books before Empire of Storms?” I didn’t and so I found this novel a struggle because of how deep the roots of certain character arcs are now extending. I frequently had to access character wikis to remind myself of who certain people were and access full recaps of previous books to understand where the characters were. This is no fault really of Sarah J Maas but me and my laziness. However, what I did enjoy  is that seemingly separate characters are now starting to cross paths and form the bigger picture as this series is now nearing the end.

The character who formed the centre of my affections was Manon Blackbeak ( a character who previously I detested having to read).No matter what your thoughts are on her, it is impossible to deny how fantastically well she’s written. Throughout this book in particular I loved seeing how she grew when she finally decided to stand up for herself and I was rooting for her through every single appearance she made. Another was the seemingly irrelevant Elide Loche who becomes one of the vital characters in this part of the story. I wasn’t sure what to make of her but she is yet again another testament to brilliantly written characters and her story may be tragic enough to match Aelin’s. Elide was another character I rooted for every step of the way.

This book felt very slow, especially in the middle and I feel that a lot of the action that happened was moreso intended to keep the reader interested as it’s a long quest that takes the centre of the story.

Although, in true Sarah J.Maas manner, she left it on such a note that I can do nothing but impatiently wait until the next book.

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A Court Of Mist And Fury – Sarah J. Maas

“You want to save the mortal realm?” He asked. “Then become someone Prythian listens to. Become vital. Become a weapon.”

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Blurb: “Feyre survived Amarantha’s clutches to return to the Spring court – but at a steep cost. Though she now has the powers of the High Fae, her heart remains human, and it can’t forget the terrible deeds she performed to save Tamlin’s people. Nor has Feyre forgotten her bargain with Rhysand, High Lord of the feared Night court. As Feyre navigates its dark web of politic, passion, and dazzling power, a greater evil looms – and she might be the key to stopping it. But only if she can harness her harrowing gifts, heal her fractured soul, and decide how she wishes to shape her future – and the future of a world cleaved in two.”

This is the sequel to the New York Times best-selling book A Court Of Thorns and Roses. The story opens with Feyre recovering from the events of the first book and dealing with how she’s going to tell her lover, Tamlin, about the deal she made with Rhysand; the High lord of the Night Court. Feyre and Tamlin’s wedding approaches and Tamlin becomes increasingly more protective of her, demanding that she only stay within the house, and occasionally extends this to the grounds. But it’s been more than a month, and Feyre knows that Rhysand will show up soon to cash in on their deal: having her for one week, of every month, for the rest of their lives. And now Feyre is immortal, this is a deal that will last a very long time.

This was one of my most anticipated books of the year and I don’t think I’ve ever been so let down by a book.  This book is over 600 pages long and there didn’t seem to be much plot or substance to it at all. I’ve noticed recently with Sarah’s books is that (despite me being a fan of her work) they’re just getting longer and it feels like they’re long for the sake of being long; most of the content could easily be cut down.  So it felt like a long-winded book anyway and I just couldn’t connect to any of the characters like I had in the previous book, I just found myself resenting most of the characters throughout my reading experience. Character motivations seemed all over the place.

I honestly can’t really tell you what the plot is about because there just didn’t seem to be any and it just appeared masked by roaming around different places to open up the world, endless conversations and a lot of very very graphic sex scenes. (I note that while this is a YA book there was no “mature content” warning on the book itself) I’m all for sexual liberation etc but it was just out of place and thrown in there to create something a little steamy to keep the readers interested.

The only thing I really liked what the process of Feyre discovering her powers and learning to control them, but with Rhysand being the one to train her it just felt creepy and made me quite uncomfortable. Another thing I noticed was that Rhysand was constantly referred to by two names: “Rhysand” and the shortened “Rhys.” While this could just be me being a little picky, the constant interchanging on the two names made me feel like there were two different people there. And Feyre, for the most part, wasn’t comfortable around him so her resorting to nicknames again felt out ofplace.

In Sarah’s latest newsletter she talked about this book and how she actually wrote this series before Throne of Glass and how A Court Of Thorns And Roses had just been gathering dust on her computer. After reading this book, I really wish it was just a stand-alone and had stopped at the first book.
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Throne Of Glass Tag

This tag was created byAlexaLovesBook and Soobsessedwith and when I saw it was Throne of Glass themed I HAD to do it!

Lysandra – a book with a cover change you loved

 

Ironically my choice for this one is the book this tag is based off. Throne of Glass definitely has one of the best cover re-designs I’ve seen. I didn’t know there was a different cover until I saw it in one of jessethereader’svideos. I’m not a fan of books with models/real people on the cover. It just puts me off a bit. The new cover is simple, white and the drawing of Celaena is just so badass.
Abraxos – a book that’s better on the inside than it looks on the outside

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It’s not hard to ignore that the first edition cover of The Great Gatsby is well… not nice. I’m taking this topic in the sense of the book cover is awful, but the story inside is truly wonderful. There’s rich people, lavish parties, secrets and lies. I Love it so darn much.

Erilea – a series with great world building

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The world that immediately came to mind is that of the Darker Shade of Magic series.  In this book there are four different Londons: Grey London which lacks magic and is ruled by a mad king, Red London were magic is revered in a flourishing empire, White London ruled by whoever murders their way to power, and Black London… which no one mentions. The description of each of these realms is so rich and beautiful. I felt like I was walking through them while reading this book.

Rifthold – a book that combines genres

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Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children is told through the medium of prose and creepy old photographs. It takes the basic things that make something horror-esque and combines it with magical fantasy elements. I didn’t expect to enjoy this book as much as I did because horror just isn’t for me. But this book is too good not to miss.

 

Damaris – a book based on/inspired by a myth or legend

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Hear me out on this one… Yes I have mentioned before on this blog that I’m not a fan of Percy Jackson, nor do I intend to finish the series BUT I have read The Lightning Thief and this was the first (and only) thing to come to mind when I looked at this question.

Kaltain Rompier – a book with an unexpected twist

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The last book I read that really made me gasp, splutter and drop it was A Grimm Warning which is the third book in The Land Of Stories series. Seriously, this ending nearly killed me. I need to get on to the fourth book pronto!
Assassin’s Keep – a book with an unreliable narrator

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I brought this up with a group of people a while ago and they disagreed with me however, I find that the protagonist – Charlie – is unreliable. The story is told through letters he writes to someone unknown (it reads like he’s writing the letters to you) talking about aspects of his life, mainly his internal struggles. Some of the things he chooses to and not to tell just makes me doubt whether I can trust him.

Asterin Blackbeak – a book that’s got squad goals

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Ultimate squad goals award goes to the shadowhunters of The Mortal Instruments universe. They just make a really cool badass team with the occasional help of warlock Magnus Bane.

 

Terrasen – a book that feels like home

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Harry Potter has been such a monumental part of my life. I grew up reading these books. I followed the characters from children to adulthood as I went through the process myself. Even though I hated school, the idea of Hogwarts (even with the workload) just fills me with warmth and happiness in a world where I can use Accio to get me things when I’m too lazy to move. Whenever I pick up any of the books and re-read them, I feel like I’m going home and returning to old, well-loved friends.

 

Aelin Ashryver Galathynius – a book with the power to destroy you

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Allegiant – the final book in the Divergent Trilogy – utterly ruined me. This was the most I’ve cried reading a book next to Harry Potter. I think this is probably my favourite in the trilogy because even though the ending is so bittersweet, it feels like the right ending for this book.

 

Manon Blackbeak – a book that intimidated you

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This is without a doubt one of the most beautifully written books I have ever read. And I doubt I will find anything in my lifetime that tops it. This is the story of a German girl called Liesel who steals books… and the narrator of her adventures is death. You read that right, death. However, this book is huge. I am quite a quick reader but it took me a good month to get through this one.

 

Ronan Whitehorn – a book that makes you swoon

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I had to sit and think really hard for this one. I guess I’m just cold and heartless as I resorted to scrolling through my read list on Goodreads in the hopes of finding a suggestion. Then I came across Eleanor & Park. This book is so cute and the relationship formed between Eleanor and Park is adorable.

 

Chaol Westall – a book that challenged you to see things differently

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I bought a copy of this book along with the new, recently recovered Which Pet Should I Get? Purely because there was a line from Oh The Places You’ll Go that helped me get through high school: “You have brains in your head, you have feet in your shoes, you can steer yourself any direction you choose.” I knew this quote but had never actually read the book.

As a recent university graduate who is back in her hometown, living with her parents, not exactly doing or being where she wants to in life, I feel a bit stuck. Reading this book helped get things into perspective for me and made me see that sometimes being stagnant is all part of the journey and just because I’m in this position now, doesn’t mean I will be forever.

 

Fleetfoot – a book that you received as a gift

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This books was given to me as a git by my wonderful writer friend Jenny.  It’s an Alice In Wonderland spin-off kind of thing. I am still yet to read it but look how gorgeous this cover is!

 

Eye of Elena – A book you found right when you needed it

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I discovered this book at a really difficult time in my life and without it, I truly don’t know where I would have ended up. It gave me the courage and the strength to keep going on, when all I wanted to do was give up.

 

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Top Books of 2015

So another glorious year of reading is over and while I await new releases with great anticipation. It’s now time for me to reflect on my favourite books I read last year.

Disclaimer: not all of the books listed came out in 2015, some of them I just happened to read in that year. I will state these accordingly. Also, the order the books appear in this post doesn’t reflect the order in which I enjoyed them.

Asking For It by Louise O’Neill (2015)

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This story follows teenager Emma O’Donovan who goes to a house party with her friends. She wakes up on the front porch of her house the following morning with no memory of how she got there or what happened. Until various photos and videos start to make their appearance on the internet. This book is a very difficult read and I won’t lie, it’s not pleasant at times. But this doesn’t mean we should avoid the serious and important topics this book discusses. The quote on the front of the book says “She writes with a scalpel.” That couldn’t be more true.
A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E.Schwab (2015)

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In A Darker Shade Of Magic there are four londons: Grey London which is dirty, boring and lacks magic, Red London where life and magic are admired with a flourishing empire, White London which is ruled by whoever murders their way onto the throne, and Black London… which no one speaks of.
Kell is the last of the Travelers – rare magicians with the ability to travel between the various londons. He smuggles items from realm to realm for those who are willing to pay the price. But when he accidently gets accused of treason, the only thing left for him to do is flee.
Simon Vs The Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli (2015)

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Simon is a not-so-openly gay sixteen year old sending emails to his secret lover who goes by the name of Blue. He understands Simon, and Simon has quite a few feelings for the person on the other side of his emails. When the emails fall into the wrong hands, Simon finds himself being blackmailed by one of his classmates: if he doesn’t play wing-man and help this person get with his friend, then the emails will be released to the entire school and not only that, but the privacy of Blue will be destroyed.


Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs (2011)

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Told through the medium of prose and creepy old photographs, a horrific family tragedy sends Jacob looking for clues on Cairholm Island off the coast from Wales. Here he discovers the abandoned orphanage known as Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children. When chased by a girl who produces fire and a boy who can turn invisible, Jacob finds himself trapped in September 3rd 1940, the day Miss Peregrine’s home was destroyed by a bomb dropped during World War II. And he’s stuck in a time loop where the day restarts just as the bomb hits the home.

Throne Of Glass by Sarah J. Maas (2012)

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After years of being a prisoner in the salt mines of Endovier, eighteen year old assassin Celaena Sardothien is brought before the Crown Prince, Dorian who offers her her freedom. But only if she competes as his champion in a competition to find a new royal assassin. If she wins, she must serve the kingdom for four years and then she will be free. But when a contestant turns up dead, swiftly followed by the death of another, can she find out who is behind the killings before she becomes the next victim?
All The Bright Places by Jennifer Niven (2015)

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Theodore Finch is fascinated by death and constantly thinking of ways to end his life. Violet Markey is living for the future, counting each pitiful day until graduation. When the pair meet on the ledge of the school’s bell tower they inadvertently save each other.

When paired together on a project, the new duo are sent off to discover “natural wonders” of their state, making some important discoveries about themselves along the way.

 

Uglies by Scott Westerfeld (2005)

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Tally is an ugly. She cannot wait until she turns sixteen and becomes a pretty: to become part of a world where her only job is to look good and have fun. Tally’s friend, Shay isn’t sure she wants to become a pretty and decides to run away. As Shay’s only friend, Tally is approached by the authorities who offer her a choice: find her friend and turn her in, or never turn pretty at all.
Everything Everything by Nicola Yoon (2015)

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Everything Everything tells the story of Maddy, a teenager with a rare illness – she’s allergic to everything. She can’t go outside. She has spent her life interacting with only her mother and nurse.

But when a moving truck appears next door and Maddy sets her eyes on Olly, she feels she has to get to know him, no matter what the cost will be.
Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn (2014)

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It’s the morning of Nick and Amy Dunne’s fifth wedding anniversary. Nick is out buying last-minute presents while his wife is adding the last details to her treasure hunt based on clues linked to aspects of their years together. When Nick returns home to find the home trashed and his wife missing, he calls the police.

But the suspiciously articulated crime scene and disturbing passages in Amy’s diary lead the detectives to wonder, could the husband have killed his wife?
A Court Of Thorns And Roses by Sarah J.Maas

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An utterly beautiful Beauty And The Beast retelling following the huntress Feyre who kills a wolf in the woods. Later, a beast-like creature demands retribution and takes her as his prisoner to a magical land she’s only heard about in legends. Feyre learns that her captor isn’t a beast but in fact Tamlin – one of the immortal faeries who once ruled their world.
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A Court of Thorns and Roses – Sarah J Maas Signing

**This post is spoiler free on ACOTAR and TOG series**

On one uneventful day I was scrolling through Twitter when I came across a tweet from the wonderful Sarah J Maas. Three words in this tweet made my heart jump into my mouth: UK book tour. I quickly grabbed my phone and sent a text to my writer friend Jenny telling her that the possibility of us not going simply wasn’t a option. We booked tickets and the antagonising wait began.

I have to hang my head in shame here because despite getting A Court of Thorns and Roses the day of release, I hadn’t made it past page fifty (life just gets in the way sometimes). So the hour long car journey to Birmingham became half catching up with Jenny as I hadn’t seen her in a while, half reading the book. We arrived to Birmingham with no issues and went on a little adventure to bow down to the Waterstones store that was the venue for the signing. I got so excited by the “queue here for Sarah J Maas event” sign that I fell off the pavement and hurt my ankle. With an hour to go before it started, people were already queuing.

Jenny and I left enough time to eat so we went to my favourite eating place Wagamamas which again was a chance for us to catch up but quickly spiraled into trying to multi-task using chopsticks while reading the book (“Just one more chapter, I promise!” was uttered several times). I ate my Yasi Chan Han so fast due to the mixture of nerves and excitement I was feeling that soon after we paid the bill and made our way back to waterstones where the queue was now stretching around the side of the building. We joined the back and began reading again.

This was my third time at a book signing and honestly if you’re an avid book reader, nothing can compare to the feeling of being surrounded by people, all clutching copies of the book, who love it just as much as you do. Not only that but getting to meet the person behind the words, who strung those beautiful sentences together and created these characters that make you wish it were possible to jump into the book and hug them, is a feeling that there just simply aren’t enough words to do justice. Also, it provides a platform for you to talk to strangers about the book when talking to someone you don’t know might be unfathomable to you in any other situation.

When everyone took their seats the atmosphere was so intense as we stared at the stage where Sarah J Maas would soon make her appearance. When she did, she was greeted by applause and screams. The very timid looking Sarah said a quick hello and then took her seat for the interview part of the signing. I just want to point out that this was Sarah’s THIRD signing of the day and she still looked utterly flawless!

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For those who don’t know, ACOTAR is a retelling of Beauty and the Beast with a faerie lore twist. The interviewer asked Sarah what other fairy tales she would like to retell to which Sarah responded with The Little Mermaid but wasn’t down for ocean world building or figuring out how mermaid reproduction works (Sarah loves her sexy scenes).

Questions were asked over how Sarah came up with the character Celaena in Throne of Glass. She launched into a story about how in seventh grade (year 8 to us English people) she felt that you could either be a girly girl or a nerdy tomboy, but you couldn’t be both. She chose girly girl because she thought it was the cooler option and she stopped reading, pretended she was an airhead, and that she hated things like Indiana Jones until one day when she went “hang on, why can’t I paint my nails while watching Indiana Jones?” She liked the idea of creating a character who was badass but also had that “stereotypical” girly side. The idea for Celaena came from when Sarah was watching Disney’s Cinderella and laughing at the Duke’s over-the-top reaction to Cinderella leaving the ball. She thought about what would make the Duke’s reaction valid and joked that maybe Cinderella was an assassin and had left the ball because she’d just tried to kill the prince.

When the topic turned to her writing process she started off by saying “I write the boring shit to get to the sexy stuff” which resulted in several minutes of laughter from both Sarah and the audience. She said that she always has to write linear (beginning – middle – end) and that she has a playlist for each character and listens to that when she needs to get into their heads for a scene. She revealed that she has a mirror behind her computer so that she can act out her scenes using a batman voice, which led her on to say that she could never write in coffee shops or any other public place because she’d probably get thrown in jail.

Her advice to aspiring writers was “write as often as you can but remember that it’s important to go out and live your life. You can’t spend it shut away in a room, you need to get out there and talk to people you wouldn’t normally talk to. Also, there are going to be people out there who tell you that writing isn’t realistic and you can’t make a career from it. Fuck them. Don’t listen to them.”

She then told a really touching story about how her parents were very against her writing and frequently told  her it was more of a hobby and she’d never make a living from it, yet when she rung her mother to tell her that Throne of Glass had made it onto the NY Times bestseller list, her mother said “I regret ever saying those things to you.” I found this so relatable because as a writer myself, I’ve had pretty much all of my family say these things to me, and despite finishing a degree in Creative Writing and English, working on a novel and trying to get a job in publishing, they still think writing is a silly pipe dream for me. So having an author like Sarah who is my total inspiration for writing YA Fantasy and seeing how far she’s come and that some people had traveled over three hours to see her, filled me with hope. And I actually had a little cry after meeting her because I got to tell her how much she inspires me.

I urge everyone who hasn’t yet, to read all of her books because they are just so rich and beautifully written that seriously, you’re missing out if you don’t. And if Sarah ever does an event near you, go to it. Meet other fans of the books, make friends, see how funny, charismatic and almost other-worldly Sarah is. You won’t regret it.

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Check out Sarah J Maas on Twitter

Check out Throne of Glass on Goodreads

Check out A Court of Thorns and Roses on Goodreads

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