4 stars · 5 stars · book review

book review: The Beauty of Darkness by Mary E. Pearson

WE’RE FINALLY HERE AHHHHHHH HHHHHHHHHHHHH

Lia and Rafe and co. leave Venda and try to save their kingdoms from Komizar’s power hungry clutches.

1) Plot – Lots of twists and turns I could not predict. I’m always pleasantly surprised if it’s a good plot that I can’t completely figure out in one go.

2) Characters – Lia continues to be a motherfucking badass, Kaden gets justice, Rafe grows on me, Viceregent GETS THE ROAST, Lia’s parents get some nice moments, PAULINE ALSO IS A BADASS

Lia. My girl Lia. That girl was taking names in the second half of the book and I was shook. In a good way. She took control, made hard decisions, and got shit done. Golfer’s clap for you, MEP. It’s amazing to compare Lia in book 1 vs. book 3 Lia who basically became Morrighan’s king regent until she took over as queen of Venda after the battle. This is how you do character development (hand over heart).

Rafe – I actually did feel a lot for Rafe in the last book – his life is falling apart and he has to take command of his own kingdom plus also look out for Lia bc of love and also deal with his parents’ death. Boy has a lot on his plate. Rafe is so devoted to Lia (hand over heart) making some questionable decisions because he believes in her alkdsjfaefg.

Kaden – HE GOT JUSTICE MY SON GOT JUSTICE. I did miss the abundance of Kaden we had before. It just feels like there was significantly less of him because obviously Rafe is very important in this book.

Pauline is so unhinged and ready to take names and cut a bitch. She made me clutch my pearls. PAULINE. All while being preggo or post-preggo. I did think her interactions with Kaden were nice. I didn’t really see much basis for it, but for what we got it was still nice. Just nice.

Damn, I didn’t expect to like the king of Morrighan this much after just one chapter of him having it all figured out – being like “King Jaxon, you’re kneeling to the wrong person if you know what I mean…” damn. The queen too – even if we don’t see much of Lia’s parents, what we get is still solid.

3) Ending – MY GIRL LIA is the ~Queen~ of Venda. RAFE GREW MELONS FOR HER AND THEY’RE GONNA WORK THINGS OUT. aslkdfjasrer The long delayed happily ever after. Even the happily ever after trope is milked for all it’s worth. Kudos, MEP. Though, I did feel the Kaden x Pauline thing was rushed, but Rhys is a cute name for a baby (side glance I have an OC named Rhys). It’s not like I think they’re a bad match or anything, perhaps I’m missing the basis on why they should be together narrative-wise besides oh ye Kaden and Pauline get a happy ending.

Overall I enjoyed the ending of this series a lot. The writing was consistently well-done and while the premise for the series isn’t unique, the way MEP works them to her advantage is stellar. Lia is uncontested as my fave YA heroine because she doesn’t just throw quips around and poof shit’s done for her. She dragged herself through hardship to get where she is – she earned it and proved that she is enough and worthwhile – as an individual and as a leader. That’s not really something you often see developed to this sort of magnitude and with such intricate story-telling, in YA at least. The main trio are all solid characters in their own right. I only wish there were something more done with Kaden and Pauline.

I suppose the one main criticism for the entire series I have is that while its strength is that it does things that have been done before – but very well, it would have been nice to have some more unique elements included as well.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars 

Advertisements
4 stars · book review

book review: The Heart of Betrayal by Mary E. Pearson

Spoilers for Kiss of Deception and Heart of Betrayal. Let’s dive into it!

So Lia and Rafe are stuck in Venda and they gotta navigate all these cray politics with the Komizar of Venda.

1) Worldbuilding – continues to deliver quality content to an e-reader near me

First of all, I’d really like to mention I impressed I was with how MEP developed the different cultures of the kingdoms. While I’m still iffy on what the gift actually is, the world around I am completely on board with. There are obvious distinctions between the mindsets of Vendans, Morrighans and Dalbretchs (?? idk is that what their demonym is?). We learn with Lia how Venda really is vs. the barbaric image Morrighan and Dalbreck has of it.

MEP makes good use of the holy text excerpts. At first I brushed them off in the first book, but they’re of the utmost importance once you start to realize what they mean.

2) Characters – interactions between the big bad and Lia are a treat to read (I mean in terms of how intriguing their dynamic is), Kaden’s tragic backstory is revealed (my assassin son!), Rafe and Kaden finally feel distinct enough from each other, again also very solid minor characters whose interactions with Lia makes the world feel very real. Rafe’s squad and Griz are also pretty damn good. The Vendans are good. They’re just all good.

So, the Komizar. He’s everything I wanted the Darkling from Greg to be (which was not delivered) and hell yes did he deliver. Dear Regi isn’t a cartoon villain or too easy to beat or stupid – if you know anything about my quips with villain characters, my main complaints are that they’re usually all INTJ and their plans fail too easily. No such thing with Komizar, he’s got motive, he’s got goal, he’s got the method and the manipulation and he ain’t afraid to use it and Lia’s gotta be able to perform at his pace or else he’s gonna chip away at what’s left of what she has.

Komizar is manipulative and loves control and dangling bits of control in Lia’s face. He’s so nasty, but it seems like he’s doing it for the “good of his people” or framing it as such at least. This dude was one of the highlights of the book. He’s just so nasty and sleazy but he has charisma and charm which makes him stand out a lot as a villain. He has the ability to back his shit up. Unlike your stock INTJ villain whose plan fails at the first flub *COUGH*.

Komizar’s relationship with Kaden is interesting as well. One of the main strengths of this series is that it establishes character relationships very well and it doesn’t waste time. Every interaction is meaningful. Relationship Chekov’s gun.

Kaden – I’ll always be rooting for Kaden, my moe assassin son deserves happiness and justice. I did predict that his father would be the viceregent because of Andres’ hair description. While I do prefer his and Lia’s dynamic vs Lia and Rafe’s, it’s obvious at this point there isn’t a love polygon, which I’m fine with because y’all don’t need romance to be happy. They have a connection that goes beyond romo even if they aren’t truthful to each other.

Lia – I love Lia more with each book. Yes, she’s in a dangerous situation, but she still maintains that brazen quality that I like about her. This installment also gives us a generous display of her intellect and savvy. AND IT SHOWS US not tells us. Lia’s intelligence is always in action because she always has to be on her toes because of the conflict btw her and Komizar. I love how she learns so much about Venda and is a badass motherfucking translator, picking up the language so fast mmmm.

ALSO SHE SHANKS KOMIZAR oh lorddd

Rafe – Is fine. He and Kaden always be fighting lol. His interactions with his squad is pretty endearing.

3) Writing + plot – MEP is rocking it tbh

The Kiss of Deception series isn’t exactly told in a linear fashion. Yes, we follow the POV characters chronologically with flashbacks, but there’s lots of planting of elements that are brought back later with satsifactory pay off that I didn’t even see coming. I can say that is also the case for the last book, The Beauty in Darkness (I just finished it before writing this review). We see this with the holy texts and stuff we see in the Morrighese court. I’m always trying to predict what happens in stories because usually i can see the tropes and indications of how the story will unfold. MEP utilizes the story elements she introduces very well and I couldn’t the story outcomes even if I was able to pick up on the planted elements.

Writing is good as always. I didn’t notice anything too awkward and I’m glad for the consistency of the quality.

What an ending tho. I read through like a third of the last book right after I finished this because the momentum !!!!

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

3 stars · 4 stars · book review

book review: The Kiss of Deception by Mary E. Pearson

Not entirely spoiler free, but I let you know when to look away.

EDIT: I realize I don’t even bother to write or provide a synopsis for these books lol. But that’s ok bc that’s what Goodreads is for, right?

Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

1) Characters – Lia is the YA protag we deserve, the love interests aren’t so bad after the reveal, side characters are great complimentary additions to the cast

I loved Lia from the start. I was afraid she’d be written as this cliché runaway princess, and in a way she does fit the trope. Pearson dissects the runaway princess trope well, so the applying the trope itself really did work in Lia’s favor. She’s got spunk, she’s got smarts, and she makes mistakes, which makes sense. I can’t believe I’m praising something so little like our main female protag having her own motivations and fears because that really says about the quality of the bulk of female protags I’ve seein in YA, BUT when you do it, you gotta do it well and that’s what Pearson brings to the table with Lia. Lia isn’t traditionally strong, but she isn’t a pushover either. This girl fights back but chooses her battles.

Side characters – The inclusion of side characters was a wise choice because it actually feels like Lia is interacting with REAL people. The environment feels real, and this makes Lia feel all the more real.

The Assassin – lol while I was reading this I was like this guy really sucks at his job

The Prince – somehow the voices for the prince and the assassin felt oddly similar.

The thing with the prince and the assassin characters is that while yes, the intrigue is who’s who, not giving these character more solid voices dampens the strength of the romance to up the strenght of the intrigue. This only made me more confused because it was hard to tell Rafe and Kaden apart. Four way confusion with two characters.

*SPOILER SPOILER SKIP SKIP DONT READ IF YOU DONT WANT SPOILERS*

Kaden – MAN IDK I LOVED KADEN A LOT MORE THAN I THOUGHT I WOULD after the reveal. Yeah, he sucks at his job, but there’s an endearing quality to him. What a moe assassin.

Rafe – I was kinda eh before the reveal because I had a hunch on who was who and I was right. I only really started liking him at the very end when he pretended to be the Prince’s emissary

Also worth mentioning after Lia gets kidnapped, I LOVED LOVED LOVED that scene where she had to bury Walther. My god. This is character writing at its finest. FOINEST.

*SPOILERS ARE OVER, WELCOME BACK*

2) Writing and World – fucking great i loved it all

The writing is very lyrical. It starts strong and end strong because not only is the narrative cohesive and the tone consistent, but the extra tidbits from the Morrighan and Vendan holy texts were an excellent touch you don’t see too often in YA fantasy these days (or so I’ve seen lol). The world feels very complete even though I myself couldn’t figure out what the cryptic texts meant.

3) Romo – weakened by the fact we didn’t know who the heckie was who but at least the triangle is a line now.

I already mentioned how we sacrificed concrete character for intrigue until we figured out who was who. This was what pulled the book down for me, but it didn’t dampen my overall enjoyment of the book.