Sunday, June 29, 2014

Book Review: Thief's War by Hilari Bell

Knight and Rogue series
Release Date: March 8, 2014
Publisher: Courtney Literary 
Pages: 254
Received: ARC from author
Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars

Why isn't there more buzz about this series? 

The Knight and Rogue series is one of those hidden gem series that doesn't seem to get talked about a whole lot but I'm gobsmacked as to why (except maybe the covers. Gotta say, I'm not a fan of them).

I'm going to try writing this review a little differently because, let's be honest, who doesn't shy away at the sight of a review for a fourth book in a series you haven't read?

But I WANT you to read this review. Not for me, but for the books, so I'm going to avoid ALL spoilers. (Still worried? Fine, here's my review for the first book instead.)

Why you should read the series

Brothers in arms

Michael and Fisk start out as reluctant allies and carry that hate mixed with love thing throughout the series.  They're polar opposites, so they're always bickering over which approach to take and worrying that the other is going to get hurt because they're doing something stupid (so each believes).

The beauty is that they're both often right. Michael is the chivalric knight (in an age where knights are ancient history) driven to do the right thing, even if it burns him. Fisk is a snarky conman and thief used to looking out for himself. Michael's a glass half full kind of guy. Fisk is definitely the glass half empty type.

They both contribute a lot to their partnership and I love seeing them work together to become a team greater than its parts.What makes it even better is both characters get to narrate, so we get to see everything first hand through both of their perspectives.


Each book has its own central mystery and Hilari Bell definitely knows how to write a good mystery. The clues are subtle enough that the resolution isn't totally obvious, but they're also not so hidden that I couldn't pick up on them. They come together at a nice pace, too, so the plot is always steadily building toward the big reveal. 

Character depth

Michael and Fisk are the type of characters who feel real. Stick them in a random situation and I know exactly what they'll say and what they'll do. I could tell you which jokes they'd laugh at and which would fall flat for them. Put them in a tavern and I could point out the lady they'd fall for.

As far as character depth and development, Hilari Bell has written Michael and Fisk a cut above your average character. Each book sees them grow and change and come more fully into themselves.

Not your typical fantasy

These books are set in a kind of fantasy 18th/19th-ish century, but they're not at all Jane Austeny. The characters aren't improper, but they're not Proper either. It feels more...American, maybe. Whatever it is, I like it.

The world building is pretty different, too. There's a whole system of magic and I like how even the characters don't know entirely how it works. Experiments, speculation, and fear surround magic and discovering how it works is another layer of mystery threaded throughout the books.

Improves with each installment

I wasn't IN LOVE with the first book, but I did like it enough to buy the sequel when it was on sale. I'm glad I did, because I liked that book even better. The second and third are a toss up for me as to which one I like better (maybe the second, but then again, there was that scene in the third...), but the fourth really raised the stakes (and that ending!) and now I am dying to read the fifth.

Bottom line

Each book is a solid, stand-alone fantasy/mystery, though they should definitely be read in order. If you're just starting out with the series, I highly recommend giving both the first and second book a shot before making any decisions. I think the story really hit its stride in book two.

For those already familiar with the series but perhaps a little wary because Thief's War isn't published by Harper Teen like the previous books, don't worry at all. The fourth book is a worthy addition and well worth the purchase.

I might even go so far as to say it's the best in the series, but then I remember that scene in book two...and that scene in book three...and that other scene in book two...

Explanation of rating system: Star Rating Key 

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

Looking for another book like this?
You might like:

 Click on the pictures to go to my reviews/Goodreads.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Giveaway: Divided by Elsie Chapman (US/CA)

Divided by Elsie Chapman
Sequel to Dualed

Info for the giveaway:
  • What you can win: A finished copy of Divided by Elsie Chapman
  • As always, you do NOT have to be a follower
  • This giveaway is US/CA only
  • You must be 13 years of age or older
  • One entry per person
  • 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 June 30th 

Monday, June 9, 2014

Mini Review: Eleanor: Crown Jewel of Aquitaine by Kristiana Gregory

Release Date: September 1, 2002
Publisher: Scholastic 
Pages: 188
Received: Library
Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars
Royal Diaries series 

This book is gross.

You know how sometimes you can read a historical fiction book and not really feel like you're IN the time period? Yeah, not this book.

Hats off to Kristiana Gregory because this lady nails the historical time period despite the thoroughly modern middle grade voice used for Eleanor (complete with groan-inducing "diary I must hide you in a clever place!" thoughts scattered throughout the book. I swear these diary book heroines spend 1/4 of the pages talking about hiding their diary).

Mostly Kristiana Gregory accomplishes this sense of "place" by throwing in every random bit of disgusting 12th century detail from parasitic worms to bathroom accommodations. You can also play a rousing game of 1000 Ways to Die in Medieval Europe! because, holy cow, red shirts abounded in this book.

On the plus side, all these bits of barf-inducing gore totally made me spend at least three hours on Wikipedia looking up all the historical bits Kristiana Gregory threw in (Wikipedia confirms them, btw, though I still haven't found that eye worm thing described in quite that way. Oh, and that reminds me, Ms. Gregory, mind explaining to my students why I was gagging in the library?). 

But, hey, what do I expect from a book set in the 1100s? Those were gross times and life was definitely cheap. So points to Kristiana Gregory for keeping it real and packing in a ton of historical details between covert diary stashings (and even managing to combine the two! Flea ridden diaries, yay!). 

And, ya know, I know it was a total diary gimmick, but I SO wanted Eleanor to snoop in her sister's diary. Which is to say, I was getting pretty into these characters and I'll be the first to say I'm shocked because they weren't written with that much depth, but I was still totally invested.

Of course, like all these Royal Diaries books, this one ended right before the good stuff really started. But that's necessary because all the good stuff is hardly fodder for middle grade books. Still, these books serve their purpose better than I would have ever expected.

Bottom line

Packed with historical detail, the Royal Diaries series is an excellent way to read about the early years of great historical figures (years often skipped over in adult books).

Don't expect great depth of characterization or to know the real Eleanor (or any of the historical protagonists in this series) because she's written with the voice of a modern middle grade girl (albeit one expected to do needlepoint and marry for political gain).

But that's ok, because as an introduction to Eleanor's childhood and her world, this book definitely serves its purpose. 

Explanation of rating system: Star Rating Key 

Have you read any books about Eleanor?

Looking for another book like this?
You might like:

 Click on the pictures to go to my reviews.

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