Monday, February 25, 2013

Author Interview: Gillian Philip + Giveaway

Please Welcome Gillian Philip!

Gillian was kind enough to stop by today to answer all of my very important questions, providing what are quite possibly THE BEST answers imaginable (there's Spike, Clint Eastwood, evil queens, guys you want to kiss and slap, AND flesh-eating horses in this interview!)

Q: Which one of your characters would you most want to kiss?

A: Oh boy. Seth, without a doubt. I fancy him like mad and I think he’d be a great kisser. Not so much with the long-term relationship though... he’s so cranky and temperamental. Also, seriously unfaithful.

Q: Which one of your characters would you want to swap BFF charms with?

A: Jed. Jed doesn’t appear till the second book in the series, but I adore him and I think he’d be a brilliant friend. He’d also be willing to sing karaoke for a laugh, would let me steal food off his plate because it looks better than mine, and get me home safely after a wild night out. If I had to choose one person in Firebrand itself, it would be Sionnach. He’s kind of monosyllabic, but he’d be such a relaxing companion. I could watch movies with him and he wouldn’t be constantly asking me what just happened or where he’s seen that actor before.

Q: Which one of your characters do you most want to slap or give a verbal tongue lashing to?

A: And again with the Seth. In fact he quite often gets a slap or a tongue-lashing from the other characters, but he deserves it, and there are times when I’d like to do it direct.

Q: If you were transported into your book, which scene would you most want to reenact?

A: The part where Seth tames his kelpie. I would LOVE to ride a kelpie, so long as I could be guaranteed not to get eaten at the end of it. Two of my best memories involve galloping horses across wild landscapes (in the Scottish borders and on the slopes of Mount Kenya) so to reenact that scene would be kind of an extreme version.

Q: Which one of your character’s brains would you want to pick the most?

A: The evil queen, Kate NicNiven. I’d love to know what makes her tick. Actually, I’d really like to know what she’s up to. I’m not entirely sure she’s told me the truth about the ending yet. Or Seth’s mother, Lilith. I’d like to ask her what on EARTH she was thinking.

Q: Which scene do you think will surprise readers the most?
This is what I call "motivation to read book 2"

A: Um. There’s a scene in Kate NicNiven’s fortress, during a year Seth and Conal have to spend working for her. Something happens between the brothers that kind of surprised me when I was writing it.

Q: Which scene was the most fun to write?

A: The one when they leave the fortress, and go back to their own dun. A few violent things happen, but nothing anyone doesn’t deserve. And Seth is at his absolute rudest. 

Q: What is one piece of advice you would give your main character?

A: For heaven’s sake, settle down, stop being so defensive and give everyone around you a chance to get close to you. (On the other hand, that wouldn’t make for much of a story...)

Readers should add FIREBRAND to their To Be Read list if they like...

Books about:
Hey, it's a rule: Mention Spike, pictures must follow
     Lost causes and last chances, non-fluffy romance, battles, witchfinders, wolves, snarky adolescents with heroic big brothers, and flesh-eating horses.

Books/movies like:
     Um... A Fistful Of Dollars meets Macbeth meets Merlin the TV series with a dash of Kill Bill. Does that make any sense? No...

Main characters like:
     He’s surly, resentful, violent, bitchy, a bit on the prejudiced side. But underneath it all, he’s mush. I was watching Buffy The Vampire Slayer recently and he’s a little bit Spike.

Romantic leads like:
     He’s not very romantic. As I mentioned earlier, he needs a good slap, frankly. But he looks and acts rather like Billy Crudup as Ned in Stage Beauty.

About Firebrand:

At the end of the sixteenth century, religious upheaval brings fear, superstition, and doubt to the lives of mortals. Yet unbeknownst to them, another world lies just beyond the Veil: the realm of the Sithe, a fierce and beautiful people for whom a full-mortal life is but the blink of an eye. The Veil protects and hides their world…but it is fraying at the edges, and not all think it should be repaired.

Discarded by his mother and ignored by his father, sixteen-year-old Seth MacGregor has grown up half wild in his father’s fortress, with only his idolized older brother, Conal, for family. When Conal quarrels with the Sithe queen and is forced into exile in the full-mortal world, Seth volunteers to go with him.

But life beyond the Veil is even more dangerous than they expected, and Seth and Conal soon find themselves embroiled in a witch-hunt—in which they are the quarry. Trapped between the queen’s machinations at home and the superstitious violence of the otherworld, Seth must act before both of them are fed to the witch-hunters’ fires…

Brimming with intrigue and rebellion, Firebrand is the first book in the Rebel Angels series by Gillian Philip, the Carnegie Medal–nominated author of Crossing the Line and multi-award-nominated Bad Faith.

Author bio:

Further proof of author awesomeness
I live in the north-east highlands of Scotland, with one husband, two children, three dogs (Cluny, Milo and Otto), two psychotic cats (the Ghost and the Darkness), a slayer hamster (Buffy), three chickens (Mapp, Lucia and Mrs Norris) and a lot of nervous fish. I have taken a solemn vow not to get any more pets. I will probably break this vow.

Writing for a living is (a) what I always wanted to do; (b) occasionally frustrating; (c) a lot of fun – I take dictation from the characters in my head, who spend their lives telling me what’s going to happen next.

But I like it that I never know just how it’s all going to end – not till the fat lady sings, the villain meets a suitably sticky end, and the boy gets the girl (or indeed the boy).

As well as full-length books, I write fiction for secondary Key Stage 3. Life Of The Party, Mind’s Eye, Sea Fever and Cyber Fever have been published by Evans Brothers, and short stories The Changeling, Rockface, Misty and The Kindest Cut appear in their sci fi, crime, ghost and comedy collections. And I ghostwrite fiction for companies including Hothouse and Working Partners. (From Goodreads)

Thank you so much for stopping by, Gillian!

Oh Seth, doesn't he sound wonderful? In that totally not a guy I'd like in real life but exactly the kind I'll swoon all over in fiction kind of way. Though Jed sounds like a pretty good real-life catch. Any guy who would let you eat food off his plate because it looks good is a keeper.

(and, shhhh, while watching a movie, I'm totally the person asking what just happened or where I've seen that actor before).

Have you read Firebrand?
How would you answer these questions?
(Remember, no spoilers please!) 

Want a chance to win your own copy of Firebrand? 

Info for the giveaway:
  • What you can win: A finished hardcover copy of Firebrand by Gillian Philip!
  • As always, you do NOT have to be a follower
  • You must have a US/CA mailing address
  • You must be 13 years of age or older
  • One entry per person
  • Your address is not required, but including it will help with sending the book out to you sooner
  • I will contact the winner through email and the winner will have 24 hours to reply before a new winner is chosen 
  • This giveaway closes on March 9th 

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Book Review: The Archived by Victoria Schwab

The Archived by Victoria Schwab
Series: #1 in the Archived series
Release Date: January 22, 2013
Publisher: Hyperion
Pages: 336
Received: ARC from publisher
Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars
Goodreads Page


From Goodreads:

Imagine a place where the dead rest on shelves like books.

Each body has a story to tell, a life seen in pictures that only Librarians can read. The dead are called Histories, and the vast realm in which they rest is the Archive.

Da first brought Mackenzie Bishop here four years ago, when she was twelve years old, frightened but determined to prove herself. Now Da is dead, and Mac has grown into what he once was, a ruthless Keeper, tasked with stopping often-violent Histories from waking up and getting out...

...In the Archive, the dead must never be disturbed. And yet, someone is deliberately altering Histories, erasing essential chapters. Unless Mac can piece together what remains, the Archive itself might crumble and fall.


I thought I was going to cry

I know I shouldn't build up all these expectations, because that rarely works out well. But I'm stubborn and a slow learner and I just can't seem to stop myself from building up all this internal hype and ideas about what I hope will happen.

So what did I expect from The Archived? Not what I got, that's for sure. At first I was really disappointed and worried that all my high hopes were going to come crashing down because The Archived was so different from what I was expecting.

But you know, different is not necessarily a bad thing.

This is not where I expected to be

I had no idea the setting would be the modern world. I was expecting a fantasy world, or at the very least an undefined medieval-ish fantasy-ish world like Victoria Schwab's first book The Near Witch.

At first I was pretty bummed about this because given the choice between the real world and a fantasy world, I'll pick the fantasy world hands down.

But, I coached myself to "just go with it" and I tried to forget my disappointment over the location and just settle into the story. It worked. Before I knew it, I was sucked into Mackenzie's world and I couldn't imagine setting the book in any other place. 

The fact that the Archive isn't known to pretty much anyone except Mackenzie and her fellow Archive employees didn't help things for me either. I hate it when a main character has to spend so much time and effort lying to her friends and family. It's exhausting! It also makes me sad to see that kind of isolation, and Mackenzie was so, so sad.

But, this turned out to be a good thing, too. Mackenzie wasn't the boring kind of sad. She was the interesting kind of sad, like Buffy living the lonely life of a slayer (and Buffy comparisons like that are always a positive). 

Which brings me to my heart breaking

So, yeah, I was kind of disappointed right off the bat, but I was also instantly hooked. I don't know what it is, but some authors are able to make me instantly feel for their characters despite the fact that I haven't even spent more than a few pages with them yet.

(In my totally non-authorish head I think of this as "character dust"—a magical substance only truly exceptional authors have access to and can use to sprinkle on their characters to make me fall in insta-love with them and want to shower them with all the gold stars and friendship bracelets I possess).

Erin Bow pulled this off when she had me sobbing in chapter one, and Victoria Schwab buried me in feelings for Mackenzie from the very beginning. All I wanted to do was hug her and make everything better.

Not only is Mackenzie alone and forced to keep her Archive secret, but the book opens with Mackenzie having already experienced two losses, her grandfather and her little brother. While she still mourns both of them, her brother's death has just occurred and Mackenzie is one giant raw wound.

Normally I would hate this so much because I have zero tolerance or sympathy for the "dead whoever" card. That plot point usually means a mopey main character and excessive harping on sad things. But Mackenzie doesn't allow her grief to paralyze or consume her. Her characterization consists of more than just her grief, and I think this is what helped me connect with her and feel her grief with her instead of impatiently wishing she'd get over it already. 

So what is this book about anyway?

Even though I felt for Mackenzie pretty early on, it took me a while to actually get into the book. For the first half or so I was prepared to give out a solid 3.5 because while I was enjoying it enough, I wasn't in love with it. Not enough stuff was happening and the plot felt a little wandering.

I mean, yeah, I felt bad and I didn't dislike Mackenzie because of the dead brother plot, but I was having a hard time loving the book because of it. Her whole family is reeling from this loss and while Victoria Schwab did a good job writing about all this, I still don't actually like that focus in my books.

It was dreary and depressing and I wasn't sure how such a central part of the story was going to tie into the whole Archive part. It seemed like I was reading two different books and I was worried the fantastical parts were going to be little more than gimmicky filler to trick me into reading an issues book.

But, oh my gosh, I can't even. The Archived is SO much more than an issues book, or a fantasy book. This really is one of those genre transcending books. It's one of those books that matter.

There's all these layers! Just like a cake. Or an onion.

Though it took me a little while to realize, The Archived is totally character driven, which is perfect for a character girl like me. I fell in love with pretty much everyone, including all the villains.

Who, by the way, are the most awesome kind of villain because they're both Very Bad and totally not bad at all. I can completely see their side of things and they make me wonder if I might do what they did if I were ever in their position. Victoria Schwab sets the bar high and gets ALL the gold star points for making villains like this. 

Most of the book is told from Mackenzie's POV in the present, but every so often there would be chapters or sections in italics that take the reader back to when Mackenzie's grandfather was still alive. At first I was confused by these parts since they come on suddenly and the narrative style switches to Mackenzie speaking directly to the memory of her grandfather about the times he trained her to be a Keeper.

Once I caught on though, these sections were great. I liked how instead of info-dumping about how the world of the Archive works, Victoria Schwab chose to explain much of this through these flashbacks (for lack of a better word). Not only was she able to build the world this way, she also deepened the relationship between Mackenzie and her grandfather and illustrated how emotionally taxing it is to be a Keeper. This whole thing added a layer of depth that really brought the book to a higher level.

It also made me sob like a baby.

But don't worry, I didn't cry the whole time. There's also a lot of action!

So, yeah, there's a lot of depth and feeling and important stuff like that.

But there's also a whole lot of butt-kicking.

Mackenzie's job as a Keeper is dangerous, and getting increasingly more so (for mysterious reasons!). Mackenzie spends a whole lot of time in this purgatory-like area between the Archive and our world trying to send wandering ghosts back to the Archive. And by "trying to send" I mean beating them up and shoving them through these creepy "walk into the light" doors that suck the ghosts back into the Archive.

Basically, Mackenzie was like Buffy wandering the graveyards looking to dust some vamps. Which is awesome! Reading these scenes was SO much fun. They made me feel pumped and like I could totally go out there and beat up muggers or something. (Except, not really, because walking up three flights of stairs leaves me winded so roudhouse kicks are pretty much out).

I was super caught up in her regular slayer-ish activities, but there's also a mystery! And, oh, it's a good one. It took a little while to get going, and I admit, I did get a little impatient, but I was totally hooked once it did kick in. This was one of those stories where I thought I had it all figured out, and while I was kind of on the right track, I was also really off base. My jaw pretty much dropped when all the pieces started coming together and I started to realize what was really going on.

Did you think I was going to forget to talk about the boys?

Yup, there are two. No, this isn't a love triangle. And, yes, I've fallen hopelessly in love with both of them (though guyliner? Really?)

One is snarky, funny, and supportive and pretty much a rock for Mackenzie to hang onto. I couldn't help grinning every time I'd read his lines. He's...infectious, in a happy way.

The other is mysterious and wounded without being lame, broody, or annoying. Also, lots of points for the swoony kisses!

Bottom line

I am so hooked. There is no doubt I'll be pushing this book on people and eagerly (note, I did not say patiently) awaiting the sequel.

There are levels and secrets and all sorts of internal politics to the world of the Archive and Mackenzie, being fairly low on the totem pole, is just starting to discover what's really going on. Now that she's nudged the door open, I cannot wait to follow her as she unearths all the secrets!

Also, the ending is pretty much a cliffhanger (see the "not patiently waiting" part).

Explanation of rating system: Star Rating Key 

Do you have any questions about The Archived that I haven't addressed? 
Feel free to ask in the comments!

Looking for another book like this? 
You might like: 

Click on the covers to go to my reviews.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Books I Got (10)

It's been established so clearly that I can't even lie about it: I have no self-control when it comes to books. I acquire them at a much faster rate than I can actually read and review them, but hopefully these posts will help those books get some exposure NOW instead of waiting until I actually manage to find time to, you know, read them.

This post is for the past few weeks.

For Review

Colossus Rises
by Peter Lerangis

So the word on the street is that this book is going to kick off a series that will be the next Percy Jackson. Instead of Greek myths, we're questing after lost artifacts hidden within the seven wonders of the ancient world.

So, basically, it sounds like I'm in for a fast-paced quest adventure with all sorts of cool whiz-bang magical artifacts. Things are looking pretty good.

I haven't had a chance to read it yet, but I did get to skim through the first few chapters while I was waiting for my takeout food to be made (waiting for takeout is just one of many reasons you should never leave home without a book), and I'm already pretty hooked. Short chapters, punchy writing, lots of action, and a good dose of humor. Things are looking really good.

Won through Goodreads First Reads (just when I thought they'd given up on me!).

The Nightmare Affair
by Mindee Arnett

Between the cover and the title, I already like this book. The concept is pretty intriguing, too. I've read a lot of paranormal books, and I've read a lot of boarding school books, and I've read a lot of paranormal boarding school books.

But I don't think I've EVER read a book where the main character is a nightmare. And I mean that literally, as in, a type of paranormal creature. How cool is that?

And while exploring all the possibilities of such a creature could totally keep me occupied for an entire book, Mindee Arnett doesn't stop there. She weaves in a mystery, complete with hot guy and a murder (though not a murdered hot guy, hopefully). Yay!

Requested and received through NetGalley.

The Hero's Guide to Storming the Castle
by Christopher Healy

Be still my heart! I'm still basking in the glory that was the first book and now I can dive into the second! And, look! All of my favorite characters are on the cover displaying all their awesomeness (well, ok, not ALL my favorite characters. There are a lot of characters in this series!)

I might just have to take a day off work so I can dedicate a hardcore reading session to this book.

Pitched, requested, and received from the publisher.

Emilie and the Hollow World 
by Martha Wells

I'm slowly making my way through this (it's my backup read-while-drying-my-hair book) and I'm not really sure what genre I'd put it into. There's elements of steampunk (meh), but that does also come with historical fantasy elements (yay!) and there seems to be a good dose of adventurous questing as well.

Most importantly, I fell in love with Emilie's voice almost instantly and there's a certain other (male) character I am dying to learn more about. 

The cover is pretty awesome, too.
Requested and received via NetGalley.

A Natural History of Dragons
by Marie Brennan

I haven't started this book yet, but I'm already well on my way to falling in love with it. 

First off, there's that cover.  Second, it's historical fantasy. Third, it's historical fantasy following an intrepid adventuress whose job is to study dragons. Fourth, Gina gave it 4.5 stars.

Fifth, I don't need a fifth. I'm in love already.

Pitched for review by publisher.

by Gillian Philip

This is a fantasy split between the historical fantasy setting during a time of witch burnings and a pure fantasy world of the Sithe with war, peril, and brothers.

So, yeah, I'm totally on board with that  and I was already pretty excited to start reading Firebrand. Reading the first chapter (and falling in love with the voice of the male narrator) sold me further.

And then I read the author's interview (you'll get to read it soon), and, oh. my. gosh. I will be SHOCKED if I don't love this book. Not only did her responses include a bunch of amazing stuff that pretty much describes everything I want in a book, but she compared the main character to Spike from Buffy the Vampire Slayer! Spike! How can I not fall in love with this guy?

Do we need a gratuitous Spike picture here?

Yes, yes we do. (You can click it to make it larger.)

Unsolicited review copy sent by publisher.

Fox Forever
by Mary E. Pearson

This is the third book and I haven't read the second yet. But, I did read the first and I adored it (get it? get it??)

Actually, I loved the first book so much that I'm afraid to read the sequels. Anyone read the second book and have some feedback for me? The first book ended perfectly as a standalone, so I'm worried I'll end up tainting my experience by reading an inferior sequel. What do you suggest?

This arrived as a surprise, but I'm pretty sure the source is Shelf Awareness.


The Night Angel Trilogy
by Brent Weeks

I've had my eye on this series for a while (fantasy? a kingdom in turmoil? assassins? A cadre of hot men? YES PLEASE) so I was beyond excited when I saw the entire trilogy on the sale shelf at the library.

Now all I need to do is find the time to read them. 

The Princess of Egypt Must Die
by Stephanie Dray

Stephanie Dray! I have been not-so-patiently awaiting the final book in her Cleopatra Selene series (WHEN IS IT COMING OUT?!?), so I practially screamed with joy when I saw she had released a novellette.

True, this isn't about Selene, but it is set in (even more ancient) Egypt and that plus Stephanie Dray is enough for me! 

What did you get this week? Are you interested in reading any of these books? What did you think of them if you've read them already?


Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Book Review: The Fourth Stall Part III by Chris Rylander

The Fourth Stall Part III by Chris Rylander
Series: #3 in the Fourth Stall series
Release Date: February 5, 2013
Publisher: Walden Pond Press
Pages: 304
Received: ARC from publisher
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
Goodreads Page

WARNING! This is part three of a series! 
I always try to avoid spoilers, but if you're worried, check out my reviews of book 1 and book 2 instead!


From Goodreads:

The saga of Mac, Vince, and middle school organized crime comes to a thrilling conclusion in THE FOURTH STALL PART III. Their business is finished, and Mac’s and Vince’s lives have become something they have never been before: simple. None of the fortune or the glory and none of the risk or threat of juvenile prison. There’s even a new business that has stepped in to take their place (and take the heat off Mac and Vince for once). Things couldn’t be better.

But that was before things at their middle school started to go haywire. Before they found out that there’s a new crime boss at school in the town over trying to consolidate power. And before their old nemesis, Staples, came back to town begging for help after his stint in the clink. Just when Mac and Vince thought they were out, the business pulls them back in. But this time, will they be able to escape with their lives and permanent records intact?


Last we left off with Mac getting out of the business, much to the disappointment of pretty much everyone. Thankfully, getting out is not as easy as it sounds, and Mac soon finds himself embroilled in yet another school-destroying fiasco. Yay!

I loved how the mystery of this installment was a combination of whodunit and problem solving. When Mac figures out who is behind all the problems, the story doesn't end there with a neat Ta Da! moment.

Oh no, Mac still had to figure out how to take this new nemesis down. It was super fun trying to figure out how in the world he was going to do that, while laughing all the while because, well, you'll see when you discover who he's up against. Again, Chris Rylander makes me want to shower him with awards for Awesome Characters (LOVE the villain's marker sidekick!). How does he come up with these characters?!

Maybe it's because of what happened in the previous book, but this time the stakes felt higher than ever before. The impending CONSEQUENCES were pretty serious, and Chris Rylander didn't shy away when it came time to deliver on those consequences. I hate it when I KNOW everything will work out fine for my favorite characters, so it was super appreciated in that I'm-on-the-edge-of-my-seat kind of way that Chris Rylander kept it real instead of rosy.

Still, for all the seriousness of those consequences, I never felt mired in doom and gloom. This series is funny, as in laugh-out-loud-and-read-lines-to-whoever-happens-to-be-standing-near-me kind of funny. The events themselves are humorous, but Mac's way of narrating those events takes it all to an explosively hilarious level. (The whole scene with Kitten is particularly stand out.)

But all good things must come to an end, I guess, and Part III is the end of the line for The Fourth Stall series (or so I hear. I'm not fully committed to accepting this as fact just yet, mostly because I want more). Not that Chris Rylander doesn't let me down gently, because he does. The whole book is peppered with little examples of Mac moving on and growing up. It's all very bittersweet and I may have edged toward choked up once or twice.

While new readers to the series could probably pick up Part III and be able to follow along mostly ok, I don't really recommend that. There are a lot of things that felt like (awesome) nods to established fans that probably won't make new readers feel lost, but they also won't be able to fully appreciate.

Characters, mystery, humor, The Fourth Stall series has it all and is consistently strong across all three books (though, dare I say it, I think this third book might be my favorite). I cannot recommend this series highly enough. Seriously, it's so good that I feel a reflexive Book-Pusher urge every time I think about it.

Explanation of rating system: Star Rating Key 

Do you have any questions about The Fourth Stall Part III that I haven't addressed? 
Feel free to ask in the comments!

Looking for another book like this? 
You might like: 

 Click on the covers to go to my reviews.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Book Review: Scent of Magic by Maria V. Snyder

Scent of Magic by Maria V. Snyder
Series: #2 in the Healer series
Release Date: December 18, 2012
Publisher: Harleqin MIRA
Pages: 414
Received: ARC from publisher, via NetGalley
Rating: 2.5 out of 5 stars
Goodreads Page

WARNING! This is a sequel! 
I always try to avoid spoilers, but if you're afraid you can check out my review of the first book (a book I LOVED)?


From Goodreads:

As the last Healer in the Fifteen Realms, Avry of Kazan is in a unique position: in the minds of her friends and foes alike, she no longer exists. Despite her need to prevent the megalomanical King Tohon from winning control of the Realms, Avry is also determined to find her sister and repair their estrangement. And she must do it alone, as Kerrick, her partner and sole confident, returns to Alga to summon his country into battle.

Though she should be in hiding, Avry will do whatever she can to support Tohon’s opponents. Including infiltrating a holy army, evading magic sniffers, teaching forest skills to soldiers and figuring out how to stop Tohon’s most horrible creations yet; an army of the walking dead—human and animal alike and nearly impossible to defeat.

War is coming and Avry is alone. Unless she figures out how to do the impossible ... again.


I heart Avry


I couldn't stand Avry.

Scent of Magic made a valiant effort in trying to convince me that Avry was ten times more awesome than a rainbow sparkle unicorn and about a million times more lovable than a pile of puppies (which is scientifically impossible because nothing is more lovable than a puppy pile).

And by "valiant" I mean a mix of the sledge hammer approach and a focus on quantity over quality.

But that's ok, right? I mean it's a little unreasonable to expect actual, tangible reasons to account for Avry's magnificence. Scent of Magic works on a much more "take my word for it" level when it comes to character development, and I had an entire cast of characters exclaiming over Avry's awe-inspiring vague perfection to try to convince me.

Plus, I DID read  Touch of Power, so shouldn't the evidence in that book be enough to carry me through the rest of the series?

Except, NO. Because, not only is that totally unacceptable (characters are supposed to be on a continual journey of ever-deepening character growth and development!), it also doesn't even work given the fact that both Avry and Kerrick act completely different in this book.

Which, hey, on one hand it's pretty nice that Kerrick decided to ditch his grumpy and abusive ways ('cause hitting ladies is still unappealing!), but I had a hard time believing that these were the same characters I read about in Touch of Power.

Kerrick is nicer (if blander, and a potential new candidate for the Babysitters' Club), but Avry's changes were weird, and annoying. It felt like she OD'd on Pixie Stix as she gleefully bounced around the camp, her manic, shallow thoughts jumping and rehashing the same (boring) subjects (I miss Kerrick! I am determined to make my sister like me again with oppressive cheerfulness! Look at how quietly I can walk!)  

Yeah, she CAN walk quietly

This quiet forest walking accounts for entire CHAPTERS of the book. Yes, plural! It may even be a quarter of the book. Or half. I don't even know. It was like I was stuck in a dream that kept looping around again and again and I'd never be able to wake up and get free of the loop.

First Avry demonstrates her walking abilities, then she trains some people. Then she trains another group. Then they praise her for walking quietly. Then they train another group. Then they praise her for teaching them this valuable skill. Then they train more.

Now, honestly, walking silently through the forest is a totally neat skill and I want it for sure, but enough is enough. I need a stronger plot than that.

Which brings me to my next complaint.

What happened to the political intrigue?!
To recap Touch of Power, this world is a post-apocalyptic fantasy where various factions are all gearing up for major battles with lots of political maneuvering going on as each faction tries whatever means necessary to wrest control for themselves.

And "whatever means necessary" meant reanimated corpses, Mengele-style experiments, biological warfare, magical seduction, and "I can suck the air out of your lungs with a thought" wizard duels. Which is all pretty badass. And that's only what ONE faction is bringing to the table.

So I was expecting book two, when we get a look into the inner circle of another faction, to really up the ante. Because if any other faction is going to have a prayer at winning the kingdom, they need to step up and fight fire with fire. Or, erm, zombie armies with...well, it's gotta be something awesome.

Except they don't. Avry needs to teach them how to walk quietly and THAT is their big ace up the sleeve.

The villain deserves to win.

Help me prince, you're my only hope!

Remember that prince Avry sacrificed her life to save because he's a master strategist and he's totally going to win this thing?

Well, he's kinda cool? He does do a few nifty things that made me unreservedly award points for cleverness (particularly that whole hiding thing), but Avry ultimately steals his thunder (of course, because she's perfection on earth, in case you forgot).

Even if she hadn't, his few cool ideas aside, he still hasn't done anything to convince me he's worth sacrificing one's life for (even if at this point I'd gladly sacrifice Avry's life for a peanut butter sandwich).

What happened to my flowers?!

I know I'm knocking on Avry a lot, but I should point out that the characters of this particular series were always eclipsed by my jaw-dropping love for Maria V. Snyder's ingenious peace and death lilies.

These flowers are the absolute coolest, not only because of their powers, but also because they're a total mystery with ties to both the rampant world-destroying plague AND the creation of healers. My mind practically explodes with win every time I think about them.

Touch of Power set the stage for the flowers and gave a peek into their connections and history, as well as a glimpse of some of their powers. So I was prepared to be swimming in flowery mystery and magic come Scent of Magic.

And I was! And I wasn't. There are definitely major reveals as far as the abilities of the flowers and the implications this has for Avry and pretty much everyone else. I LOVED this! I was disappointed that the history of the flowers' involvement with the plague and healers was largely ignored in Scent of Magic, but the new flower power info mostly made up for it.

What it didn't make up for was the fact that by the time I finally got to this good stuff I had already been slogging through pages upon pages of The Avry Love Fest mixed with Kerrick's Adventures in Irrelevant Babysitting and about 50% of my involvement had already checked out.

Bottom line

So. Where does this leave me? Do I read book three on the hope that it completely avoids the utter disappointment that was book two and brings me back to the amazing stupendousness that was book one?

Or do I cut my losses and ignore the existence (or, future existence) of book three while trying to blot out the memory of book two and somehow twist the ending of book one so I can forever think of it as a glorious standalone?

Oh conundrums.

So fellow readers, I am taking the easy way out and laying this one squarely at your feet. If, upon finishing Scent of Magic, you felt compelled to raise your arms and let loose with a Darth Vadar wail of rage and regret like *I* did, please do me the favor of reading book three and letting me know if it's any better.

Explanation of rating system: Star Rating Key 

Do you have any questions about Scent of Magic that I haven't addressed? 
Feel free to ask in the comments!

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