Emerging From Shadows: A “King of Scars” Book Review

Emerging From Shadows: A “King of Scars” Book Review

 

First off, before you budge your eyes an iota further…

SPOILERS GALORE. THERE WILL BE SPOILERS GALORE. IF YOU HAVEN’T FINISHED KoS OR THE ORIGINAL TRILOGY, THOU. SHALT. NOT. PASS. 

Anyways.

(And before you fellow Grisha nuts go further on this article, check out the minor edits I made at the bottom of my last Grishaverse post! 😉 )

I know, I know, it HAS been a while. But between stuff, and getting a new job, I finally got my Illumicrate KoS box a couple weeks ago, and, let me tell you, that live video unboxing was simply glorious. And, due to nerves, I positively could not wait to delve into King of freaking Scars. Regardless of it being a “special limited edition” (It’s a book. Books are meant to be read. End of discussion.). I holed up myself in my room-cave like the hermit I am, made myself a blanket-fort out of chairs, extra blankets, my bed, dresser, desk, and clothespins. And holed myself inside with pillows, plushies of both Nik and the Darkling, chocolate, and of course MY PRECIOUS.

It should strike you by now that I’m no noob when it comes to this. (I mean, been anticipating this book, let alone the SERIES, for a year or so!)

I finished KoS in a mere two days.

And again, in case the first warning did not sink in, there WILL BE SPOILERS  for it down below. Because REASONS.

Anyways. Ahem. *clears throat*

What Needed Work/Improvement, etc. in KoS:

  1. The whole political thingy. My acquaintance, Dani, thought Nik did not care about politics, unlike in R&R. My reaction? “Uh, EXCUSE ME, have you READ S&S? HALF of that was political, Alina doing politics with Nikolai!” We only get a glimpse of Nik’s political life and thoughts in the originals; KoS was much more in-depth about it (understandably so– he is basically a charismatic politician, a king). It was so much more deeply grounded in politics, I actually lost train of thought, at times— Nik is THAT brilliant when it comes to politics (whereas, Alina– she’s kind of a noob, lol.). I understood why Leigh did that, but it was trickier for me to follow, even though I did take PoliSci recently, my last semester in college. And where’s the backstory on the foul Nik poetry she promised us??? *chants* FOUL. NIK. POETRY. FOUL. NIK. POETRY.

2. The whole Saint thing. OK, so so-called “saints,” are actually real? And still living? AND you just kinda randomly plop some black-but-invisible castle WITH AN ACTUAL DRAGGO in the middle of the barren Fold to house them? I really, really don’t get that at all. Like, there was no real explanation for it, was just kinda sudden, unexpected (not all unexpected things are bad, but given no explanation for this, it kinda was), and random for me.

confused

 

What I LOVED about KoS (least to most):

  1. The deeper insight to some characters’ backstories. We learn Nik is actually secretly insecure (very ENTP, might I add), often hiding behind a show of charisma and bravado, which was only hinted at in the original trilogy. (He also admitted to having a bit of feeling towards Alina, so we know that almost-kiss was NOT fake. We see a glimpse of this insecurity when he squirms uncomfortably at Alina initially calling his personality-shifting, “creepy.”) We find Zoya has some similar insecurities, but, contrary to what many men think of her, she does not have a hidden, “soft side.” However, she does have a strong sense of loyalty, duty, and justice, which drives her moral compass, and is something to admire. (I mean, at the beginning of the book she stands up to Vol-Nik and protects a lil kid against him, even giving the kid a few extra coins to keep silent about what he saw– VERY much an ESTJ’s Inferior Fi.) Additionally, I love the development between her and Nik. They are both used to charming (Nik) or physically attracting (Zoya) anyone they want, but with each other, it’s like a constant bantersome tug-of-war. They help each other, they want each other, but circumstances and other factors prevent them from getting what they REALLY want. I can’t help but think of that innocuous phrase by Zoya when discussing Nik back in Ruin and Rising, “I would make a magnificent queen.” I never would have thought of that as foreshadowing, but apparently so…

ZoyaandNik

2. The Cult of the Starless Saint. Admittedly, yes, I am a Christian. Admittedly, yes, it did bother me at Bardugo’s improper usage of the term “saints,” and what it actually means (it actually refers to Christians in general), while she emphasized a kind of martyrdom saint-worship in some of her books. (Guessing in her book, saints are good people who’re blessed miracle-workers and/or Grisha to be idolized…) But, if I was not a Christian (HAHAHAHAHAHA), and if this were an actual thing, I think, quite honestly, this would be one “saint cult,” I’d be TEMPTED to join (note: not ACTUALLY join, xD)– the Cult of the Starless one. Remember when, back in the SaB Trilogy, there was a Sun Summoner cult? Well, a parallel cult’s popped up here; they want to make THE DARKLING into an official, miracle-working saint. Nope. Not kidding. And their base is the former Unsea, where he first tampered with merzost, creating a literal place of darkness because HE TRIED TO GIVE HIMSELF MOROZOVA’S AMPLIFIERS. Hurrah. (LOL.) Truth be told, I’m actually theorizing that such a following was likely inspired by Darkling fangirls, at least in part. Even though I was unable to actually make the KoS tour, I would obsessively watch the FierceReads and Leigh’s Instagram Story snippets for even just a glimpse of what it was like. In one of the Q&A, it was entirely fan questions for Leigh to answer, which I loved; one of the questions videotaped that she answered was, “Did you ever picture a different ending for the Darkling [at the end of R&R]?” Her reply? “*awkward look* He was always gonna bite it, soooo… Next?” However, this leads into the next “I Loved KoS” point beautifully, becaaaaauuuuusssseee, as we ALL remember from the famous quote from Siege and Storm…

DarknessNeverDies

That’s right, y’all.

3. I. WAS. RIGHT. I cannot express enough how many times I theorized about this. About all the breadcrumbs Leigh left us– Baghra explicitly stating that the Darkling was an expert at faking his death and rising again, Leigh saying that there were a lot of uncertainties at the end of R&R (including certain deaths that were not necessarily forever), the Darkling making a prequel casual appearance as the half-brother of one of Leigh’s MCs from TLoT (HIS SYMBOL OUTRIGHT APPEARS ON SEVERAL PAGES), Leigh stating in another, more private interview, to answer the question of him faking his death at the end of R&R, just like Alina did, she would quote Nikolai and say, “When people say “impossible,” they usually mean, “improbable.”” (Btw, Leigh REFERENCED said interview at the end of the book by HAVING Nikolai say that!) Added to the fact that Leigh specifically directs our attentions TO the point when Alina takes notice of the Darkling’s corpse, wondering who tended it, who neatly combed his hair back, etc, before the pyre is set alight. Like the Zoya quote above, I do not believe she would lead us astray with a meaningless, innocuous gesture in her books. Additionally, I thought there was a connection with the shadow-beast inside Nikolai– because when the Darkling seemingly perished, Nik turned from beast back to man more permanently (for the time being), and the Fold was somewhat restored. But in KoS, he starts to SWITCH BETWEEN being a man and being a beast; I knew that much before I started reading, and thought, “If the Darkling DIED and Nik became a man again, but Nik is now starting to slowly turn back into a shadow beastie, there MUST be some connection with REVIVING the Darkling!” Some of my friends thought I was crazy. Some of them thought he wanted to die, because he was alone in the world, Alina no longer had her powers (and thus, was no longer like him), and because Baghra speculated that most Grisha of great power chose to end their own lives, because they would keep living with no end, while many friends and family members would die of old age. One rubbed this in my face, and another disowned the original trilogy in part because of his death. But still, I held out hope.

And guess what? That hope, towards the end and AT the end of KoS, was rewarded, tenfold.

I’m not going to say how, or why, or what happens. Just that I really, really, really, REALLY can’t wait for book 2. Even though, throughout KoS, Leigh tried to dampen my glee for his grand return with (albeit truthful) awful remarks and reminders from various characters on all the cruelty and damage the Darkling inflicted on them (Genya, Zoya and Nik were a couple of these); Nik even remembers him as being, “petty.”

But I will say this: At the end of KoS, it almost felt like one big, “happy” reunion of nearly the entire cast of the SaB trilogy (minus Alina and Mal-ware. Naturally.). I was basically rejoicing and fangirling. HARD. CORE.

TeamDarkling

If you’ve read King of Scars and been keeping up with the Grishaverse, what were some of your fave things about this story? What do you think could have been improved or clarified? 

Oh, and here’s a little something extra for y’all that consistently made me think of KoS… In more than one way. 😉

_________________________________

Image Credits:

https://www.goodreads.com/blog/show/1506-romance-week-2019?int=romanceweek_eb

https://tenor.com/search/confused-gifs

 

https://thegrishaverse.fandom.com/wiki/Nikolai_Lantsov

Advertisements

An Underworld Excursion: A “Rothana” review

An Underworld Excursion: A “Rothana” review

Hi, guys!

So, I initially planned on doing this a couple of days ago.

But, as we know, life, even for a Planner-type (J types tend to be more plan-oriented), can toss unexpected things in your direction.

So after getting off my Grisha high from this week (no jurda parem required– and trust me, I was on Cloud 9), I naturally crashed like a plane onto a landing strip with no one to guide it in, and plunged into a mood of gloom and despair (which will continue to remain until this Saturday). We’ve reached January, that’s the first step with King of Scars. Step no. 2 consists of waiting til the 20’s part of the month, then, finally… THE 29th!!!! (For those unaware, that is the KoS release date. Not that I’m getting my copy then– already preordered two copies, in two different KoS boxes, so they’ll take a bit longer to arrive. I know, I know, I need serious help… )

But I’m getting off topic here; this isn’t the only reason I started this post. You see, as an official Author Bugger (read: I pester authors. If I’m blessed enough, they actually do respond. Which has surprisingly been fairly frequent, haha… It’s a matter of asking/saying the right things, and interacting appropriately 😉 ), I don’t JUST bother Leigh Bardugo, I bother multiple authors, indie and NYT bestseller alike– and, as mentioned previously, I both befriended and bug author buddy Sarah Delena White (who I would love to have on here again for a one-on-one interview…) a great deal, especially this past year, about her newest book in the Star-Fae Trilogy, Rothana. I was honored enough to receive an ARC and even a vague mention at her acknowledgements of being one of the “impatient readers” (LOL!), as well as a signed preordered copy from her (with a beautiful message from my favorite Star-Fae 😉 ). That being said, I almost liked Rothana better than Halayda, so I’m going to go into a somewhat detailed (and slightly spoilery– be warned) and unorthodoxish description of what I loved and what could have been improved.

*SPOILERS AHEAD– PERUSE AT YOUR OWN RISK*

What I LOVED:

  1. The backstories are more in-depth. I can’t go into great detail, mind, because MAJOR spoilers, BUT I will say that almost everyone’s backstories are explored in further detail– even those you may not expect. 😉 Not everyone is who they APPEAR to be, for multiple characters. It was a lot of fun, seeing Sylvie, Casimir, and Diza all interact that way. There’s a huge theme of FAMILY in this book, and I love it dearly. I particularly squealed very, very hard at all the Dizamir interactions…. 😉 😉
  2. SECRET CONSPIRACIES!!! We ALL love ’em, and there’s a pretty huge one close to the middle-endish section. Secret rebellions. Secret possible bad guys. A part at the end that will literally have you at the edge of your seat, like, “Oh. No. They’re walking stright into *SPOILERS*. CAN’T THEY SEE THEY’LL–” Everything. Just… EVERYTHING.
  3. MORE AWESOME STAR-FAE— SIDIKA GETS A BF?! (Kinda. LOL.) We learn more about the Star-Fae, and a newer addition to the cast particularly intrigues me… that “mysterious stranger”…. hahahaha…. 😉 Let’s just say I’ve been awaiting an INFJ-INTJ pairing for too long!

samclaflin

Sam Claflin, who Sarah would probably pick to play the “mysterious stranger”

What could’ve been improved:

  1. The beginning set-up could’ve been a bit less predictable. Granted, I don’t think that Sarah INTENDED it that way, but still, it’s a recurring pattern– characters go to a festival, one royal, one “commoner.” Something bad/tragic happens, and Taylan and Sylvie are wrenched away from each other. Taylan broods in his moodiness; Sylvie goes into self-pity mode and both need to kinda be slapped into some sense. Sylvie meets a dark creature/character who most find frightening but she finds to be sweet; she helps them, which helps her get back to/find Taylan. Reunited with their pals, they defeat the bad guy (temporarily). I mean, sometimes it’s told in a different way, but the pattern’s pretty consistent. Here’s to hoping book 3 will break the mold! *clinks glass*

SylvieandTaylan

Sylvie and Taylan, wife and husband, holding each other. 

2. The whole monarch switcheroo thing was confusing, and could have been explained better. First, Sylvie’s the queen. She goes through almost literal h-e-double toothpicks to receive it, unintentionally (not literal h-e-double toothpicks in Halayda, but she and Taylan DO in Rothana). Then, suddenly, at the beginning of Rothana, she’s not. ZAD eventually becomes monarch, because apparently Faerie is fickle and incredibly moody on who the crap sits on that golden– and greatly coveted– throne. I was just pretty confused in general about that, and unless it’s like GoT (which I neither watch nor have read), it probably could’ve been explained better.

3. Lack of aesthetic scenes.  Just a more minor complaint– I feel like Halayda had more aesthetic scenes, including Wellspring, Casimir’s golden garden, Sirugan’s cloud, Taylan’s palace/enchanted wood nearby, Sylvie’s home for abandoned, half-fae orphans, the Blood City place thingy, etc. The only really aesthetic scene I can recall in Rothana is the area where Sylvie’s in the underworld and soon after meets *SPOILERS* in said area. I do think the underworld was described well, and a bit more of the College of Alchemy, but that was probably it. That being said, there was more character building via backstories, so that compensated somewhat for the lack of vibrant, well-detailed places.

 

LivforGod’s Rating: 4 out of 5 stars. Character development was beautiful and more poignant in this second installment, more chuckles, and loved certain bonding moments and/or interactions. This was definitely the highlight of the book, along with the secret conspiracy stuff. 😉 However, there were a few things that could have been clarified a touch more, or seemed too rushed at times.

Nevertheless, it still sits in the leagues of one of my top five fave series, and I eagerly await the third installment!

 

_______________________________________

Pic creds:

https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/a-life-in-the-day-sam-claflin-9bsthv26z

Sylvie and Taylan

https://jmhackman.com/2018/11/30/the-theme-of-rothana-sarah-delana-white/

 

Netflix and Nichevo’ya: Ruination or Rejuvenation?

Netflix and Nichevo’ya: Ruination or Rejuvenation?

Today, you’re getting a special on me, guys. A two-for-one blogging day special, in fact.

So, in my last post, I talked a bit about how I’d discuss my feelings and fears about the news that the Grishaverse was getting its own Netflix series.  Granted, I think it is good enough, beyond good enough, to be set on screen. But as it is tied for THE top of the top of my fave series of ALL time, I have seriously high expectations for this thing; in fact, when I first got wind of the news (regrettably, right before my work shift started), the excited adrenaline rush everyone else was currently experiencing (some continue to experience it) faded faster for me, because I started worrying my little perfectionistic head over the moon about stuff, shooting my anxiety up tenfold at work, and probably making me seem a bit… tenser. (I mean, I spent an hour alone worried over who they would pick for the Darkling… xD)

In fairness to Grisha Queen Leigh, via her newsletter, I’ve seen she put a LOT of time, effort, and thought into this decision, has had many (probably worse) offers she could’ve taken. But she was told to go with her gut, and go with her gut she did indeed (convincing me further that she is an Intuitive, but another rabbit trail for another day). Netflix is renown for their (fairly accurate) film adaptations, and are not responsible (I don’t think, anyways) for the Maximum Ride film adaptation, which I initially feared (they ARE responsible for the adaptation of, To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before). It helps that they will be producing multiple episodes of the series, encompassing the Shadow and Bone Trilogy, the Six of Crows duology, and even bits of The Language of Thorns. (REALLY hoping Ulla and the Darkling will get together!)

So, you might be wondering, why exactly am I worried still? Good producers, Leigh’s on the team as an Executive Producer of the show, multiple episodes, more time to divulge precious details… what’s the problem?

A couple of problems, actually.

Problem number one was I was a bit confused by Leigh’s newsletter email– are they making only 8 eps, 8 eps per season (and one season per book..?), or… what? It was a bit vague, so the confusion worried me a lot. (She did, however, reassure us that they would not smash up the timelines, not badly if at all)

I was also worried which details and snark would be included, and which might be excluded. I’m terrified they’ll leave a little, important detail that was in the book outside of the series. I’m scared of who they’ll cast for the characters (please, no Twilight guys or Sean O’Pry for the Darkling…), and get facial, eye or hair details wrong. This is incredibly easy to do, for both things– the Harry Potter movies were somewhat accurate, character-appearance-wise, but details-wise, left out a SLEW of things. Dobby and Kreacher are briefly touched on, for instance, but no mention of elf rights or poor, sad little Winky. The opposite is a bit true in The Hunger Games movies– they chose a 30-something actress to portray a 16 year-old, but stuck to the majority of details and plotline in the books. The Divergent series, in movie form, violated both of these– Tris is described as blonde-haired AND KINDA PLAIN (then we get the very physically attractive Shailene Woodley. Because Hollywood.). The first movie in and of itself is fine, but so much detail of Insurgent and Allegiant is drastically altered from the books– likely to please the fans. This irks me to no uncertain bounds. There is a certain integrity even in entertainment, certain boundaries that shouldn’t be crossed, and drastic alteration from the book or the story’s moral of the story are two of them. Mind, these are also not personal criticisms against actors and actresses who act well, I’m simply pointing out they might not be the best fit for that character. 

Lastly, I am terrified that this is either going to end up like the infamous, The Last Airbender (a movie adaptation of ATLA, one that we do not speak of), and/or newbies who have not read the books and only want to watch the movies/series will delve in with little idea of what they’re watching. Worst of all, I’m terrified of it somehow, some way, going bad and the movie/TV/Netflix ONLY people like it, praise it, and are still clueless about the books. My perfectionist reader brain would be ringing like OFF THE HOOK if that were the case. I can only hope (and pray) that both it and the newer, live action series version of Avatar: The Last Airbender (out Fall 2019) do their originals supreme justice when both hit Netflix officially.

To sum: I want to believe in this, I think it has a LOT of potential to be good, to be REALLY good, but am terrified because of the above reasons. I am scared filmmakers and scriptwriters are going to try to mess with Leigh’s story, majorly, in a bad way. My consolation is that Leigh used to work in the film/movie make-up biz, so she kinda already has a gist of how it should go. I can only pray this all comes out in an awesome bundle of awesome way.

prayergif

 

Later edit: I heard, a couple weeks ago, that both  Leigh and Netflix Director Eric H. (don’t ask me to spell his last name off the top of my head…) actually clarified that it is not a mini-mini series of ONLY eight episodes for the ENTIRE series, but SEVERAL seasons, a season PER BOOK, and EIGHT EPISODES PER SEASON. Do the math, if each ep runs from approximately a half hour to roughly an hour each, then hopefully… ALL THE GLORIOUS DETAIL WILL BE INCLUDED!!! *rejoicing resounds*

In short, I take back SOME of what I said, earlier. 😉

_______________________________

Pic/GIF creds:

Prayer GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

http://www.grishaverse.com/extras/grishaverse-downloads/

 

“The Purification Era” series: A Cleansing of Modern YA

“The Purification Era” series: A Cleansing of Modern YA

Hey, guys!

Yes, I meant it when I said I would start reviewing things more. To make it easier on myself (and probably on you), I’ll review series, or at least, chunks of series, a bit at a time, so less reading for you, less writing (but equal fangirling!) for me, overall, less time-consuming. Sound good? Good.

Lately, I’ve been reading a LOT of really, really good stuff. And when I say, “good stuff,” I don’t mean the popular, “on trend,” super publicized junk. *Some* (though certainly not all) of which gets a lot more attention than the story, world-building, crappy characters, etc, actually deserve.

Which breaks my heart, because I now know at LEAST three (maybe soon to be four!) either indie or self-pubbed authors. We’re not talking your average, run-of-the-mill, throw something, anything, onto CreateSpace and make a few bucks off Amazon. No. We’re talking writers whose word-smithing skills parallel the Suave Sabaa Tahir, the Brilliant Bardugo, the Amazing Amie Kaufman, the Magical Marie Lu. Easily.

Then why, might you be wondering, are these fantastical, equally talented authors often kept hidden in the dark? Simple: They are self- or indie-pubbed.

(Keep in mind, again, I do not do this for just any indie-or-self-pubbed. Only the ones who are very professional, and that I deem truly worthy. Not every self-or-indie-pubbed author I know will get advertised and recommended by me. That being said, I’ve extremely high standards, and am very, VERY picky!)

I view this as an incredibly unfair advantage to them, and think they deserve every bit as much love and attention as their more well-known counterparts. A few of these lovely authors include Janeen Ippolito (also head of Uncommon Universes Press), Sarah Delena White, and, more recently, Angie Grigaliunas. Janeen is more well-known in her territory for an interesting mix of supernatural, fantasy, steampunk, some snarky romance, and occasionally shifters (i.e., especially dragon-shifters, unicorn-shifters, and a cat-dragon, who will soon get a major say in another anthology 😉 ); Sarah, while incorporating fantasy and steampunk as well, seems to prefer traditional fae lore, along with traditional (and very chivalrous) romance; lastly, Angie’s style.

Angie’s is a nice, heady blend of fantasy, medieval dystopia, and some VERY snarky (but utterly adorable and fangirl-worthy) romance. Her writing is similar to that of Sabaa’s and even Veronica Roth’s, with drops of Bardugo here and there (especially when it comes to the MEN! *whistles*). I just wrapped up reading the first two books in her “Purification Era Series,” and the series was SO GOOD it mounted the top of my Fave YA List (Note: I need to make a post on fave YA series, and why)— beating the Shadow and Bone Trilogy by only a hair breadth. Which is HUGE, because not just ANY author can do that (although Marie Lu, Amie Kaufman, Janeen and Sarah all come dangerously close).

So, I am here to explain why.

And instead of giving a pros and cons like normal, I will just go on a mini-rant of things I liked, loved, and thought could be improved. Fair? Fair.

*MAJOR SPOILERS AHEAD– READ AT YOUR OWN RISK*

First off, will say this: I do not recommend any of the YA series I read to anyone younger than 15. Tops. The Illuminae Files and this in particular, I do not recommend to anyone younger than 16 (if they are VERY mentally and emotionally mature– I know, so many teens think they are, but not all are. Trust me. Been there not too long ago, myself.) to 17, bare MINIMUM. (But I’ll get into why in just a bit.) There are just some things I’d rather not have young minds witnessing/picturing, before they reach a state of maturity. (Just as you normally wouldn’t let a five to twelve year old watch a slasher horror flick. Common sense. You don’t want to scar the poor kids for life or anything, right?)

I’m told there are a total of six-eight books, roughly, in this series, and while so far only two have been published, they are. Utterly. And. Jaw-droppingly. Superb. As in, for the most part, I cannot gush over these books enough. Here’s why:

*cue monkey on steroid noises off in the distance*

*clears throat to sound more professional, because that’s what proper reviewers do* Annnnyyywwaaaayyysss, I meant to say that, the world-building skills and character relationship skills in these books are just AMAZING. A. Maz. Ing. You have a complex political system of apparent protectors/oppressors (depends on whose side you view the situation from!), a stirring rebellion, combining some aspects from AEITA, The Giver, and the Shadow and Bone Trilogy alllll rolled into one fabulous package. Here’s what I absolutely adored about the series:

The issues it dealt with. I give her kudos for tackling what she did. Most book series wouldn’t go too in-depth with topics like sisterly love and protection (think similar to Frozen), an abusive parent, or overcoming personal struggles in order to even have a healthy relationship (more on that in a moment). Angie is not interested, for the most part, in fulfilling the character stereotypes. She is not interested in love triangles, or typical “weak to strong female” characters, “100% bad boy characters,” etc. Everyone has depth and meaning, complexity. Layers and layers of COMPLEXITY. I cannot harp enough on allll the YA series I’ve read where certain characters fall short of realism in that department; they may be the average guy or girl next door, but that is legit it. You don’t learn much of their hobbies, habits, fears, dreams for the future, worldviews, what it means to them to truly be human and be ALIVE. Most YA barely scratches this surface, and ends up disappointing me a bit in this area (the main exceptions being The Illuminae Files and The Shadow and Bone Trilogy). I loved how the characters were layered in this series. Different characters saw different sides to each other, brought OUT different sides to each other, challenged one another with questions like that.

And it was utterly terrific. 

The personal romantic struggle and the MEN! PHEW!!! OK, granted, I was warned in advance that Hul men were all super-genius, witty hotties, with secret lil soft sides. And, as we ALL know, THOSE are the kind of guys I end up falling for (in fiction, anyways). Initially, it took me some time for the Huls to grow on me, but I eventually added a certain INTJ Hul to my “NT Type List” (more on that in a different post– MBTI thing), along with the rebel leader, Sorek, who could EASILY give Nikolai Lantsov a run for his money, and have a battle of wits, with all the snark he’s shown us. In fact, if you loved the Nikolai snark in the Grishaverse, you will ADORE Sorek (although, I will guarantee you will hate him at first. But give him PLENTY of time– he grows on you. Like Nik, he tends to persona-shift to suit the needs of the circumstance, and, also like Nik, is also an ENTP!). I was HOWLING at all his playful (and often very flirtatious!) banter with Rabreah 90% of the time. Just splitting at the SEAMS laughing. While the other, more popular YA reads may have given me the occasional fangirly smirk, giggle, or laugh, none have made me outright laugh for AGES on end like Sorek does. And this book’s genre isn’t even comedy! 🙂 The other guy, Masrekah (who ironically reminds me of the Darkling a LOT… read and see why!), isn’t as outright WITTY persay, but has a very dry and sarcastic sense of humor, nontheless. He’s very calm, intelligent, calculated, and SEEMS cold… but you find out, like ALL good INTJs, that underneath that exoskeleton, there’s some well-guarded soft mushiness. (Especially for a particular young lady, whose name I shan’t reveal) This made me squeal in delight as much as Sorek’s interactions with Rab did.

All Imma say is: Quelling. Horseback riding scenes. That is all. xD 😀

And the romantic STRUGGLES. Again, we are not talking the stereotypical, often-used “romance triangle/rectangle/whatever shape is “in” ” nowadays. We’re talking a female MC, Rabreah, who has been sexually threatened, and who has an ardent fear of men (i.e., gets defensive when they get close or look at/touch her, thinks men are the dung of the earth, etc.). She has to physically, emotionally, and mentally JUMP OVER THAT HURDLE if she wants a relationship with So-and-So, a desire that comes into conflict frequently with said fear, so she’s constantly denying her attraction (but we ALL know otherwise 😉 😉 ). As for her little sister, Ariliah, well, Ari’s almost entangled in a deadly and dreaded romance triangle trope. Key word: Almost. Like many YA female protags, she’s a bit confused about who she wants, and initially, who would be best for her (and definitely vice versa). But unlike many, many, MANY female protags who heart-breakingly string guys along (looking at you, Katniss Everdeen, Bella Swan, Laia of Serra, etc…), playing both sides of the field, Ari doesn’t look at it that way for longer than maybe a few chapters, and makes her decision of who she wants to be with. I mean, I’ve read other whole books (and a half or more!) that take like half the series or longer to get that stuff all sorted out. It’s very tedious to me, unnecessary “soap opera drama”. Find a guy, a good guy, stick with him, move on. Ari, even as an INFP like Alina Starkov, knows what’s up and has a good bit of common sense with this whole situation. (Which is one of the many reasons I love my sweet lil cinnamon roll! T_T )

Grey “bad” guys. I remember once reading something Leigh Bardugo said, about not everyone being straight-up good and evil, one or the other– we’re all a mix of both. And for a while, as a Christian, I was unsure whether to agree or disagree (more in a future post!). But here, I would definitely say agree, and that it is portrayed in SEVERAL characters VERY realistically. Rab is kind-hearted, smart, and passionate, yet secretly seems to fear her passion for justice will turn her into something like her abusive mother. Sorek has to pretend to be one of his enemies in order to blend in and spy properly– even if that means doing questionable things. Masrekah reads, “grey and mysterious” ALL over, and even little Ari has her moments. This only adds a layer of complexity to Angie’s characters, a layer many characters in many YA novels would not touch.

The world-building. Angie excelled at this, and it was often the little things. The different, foreign lands, how the names and sounds of names were different, country to country. Different cultures. Itzalin and their story, their cultures. Fascinating.

Overall, if there was one or two things I would advise Angie to improve on, I’d say, add more detail and clarification, here and there. I had a tough time initially picturing the itzalin because of this (and for future readers, no, they do NOT resemble werewolves!). Some of the unclarified stuff tripped me up, a smidge. There was also one or two moments of convenience, where things *just happened* to be in play that way, but thankfully, those situations were relatively few and far between.

 

I give this series, so far, a 4.5 out of 5. 🙂 Way to go, Angie! Can’t wait to read the next installments!

Want to check out this fabulous series? Click here for more:

____________________________________

Image Credit: https://www.amazon.com/Quelling-Young-Dystopian-Fantasy-Purification-ebook/dp/B07CVT9D6S

 

 

Sparks Fly in “An Ember in the Ashes”

Sparks Fly in “An Ember in the Ashes”

(First off, I’ll say a big “Thank you” and “You’re welcome,” to Ms. Brittany from Instagram– loyal “Emberling” and Elias’s biggest devotee. I would not have read this without your avid persistence and dedication in trying to convince others and myself to do so. The “You’re welcome” is because I think you would greatly appreciate the topic of this post, if nothing else. 🙂 )

Ahem…. With that being said, I actually have some free time on hand tonight. *looks shocked* See, THIS is what happens when I actually get all my priorities straight and put work BEFORE pleasure!!! (LOL) Anyways, I thought I’d kick off the evening with maybe a couple of book reviews, including Marissa Meyer’s Renegades, Janeen Ippolito’s Lawless, C.S. Lewis’s The Screwtape Letters, and, but of course, Ms. Sabaa Tahir’s An Ember in the Ashes (I mean, come on, you’ve seen how much fun this woman is on IG! She literally takes stories of talking veggies, various– but fortunately not inappropriate– articles of clothing, and stuffed animals!!! Yes, I actually started following her BEFORE I read her books, haha).

So, without further ado, I give to you all….

MY REVIEW OF AN EMBER IN THE ASHES!!!!

*WARNING! SPOILER ZONE! PROCEED WITH CAUTION AND AT YOUR OWN RISK IF YOU HAVE NOT READ*

Overall gist: Pretty good. Wouldn’t say it’s my absolute FAVORITE (the Shadow and Bone Trilogy is pretty high up there, though), but still pretty good. Lots of Roman-esque moments, even mentions of how brutal they were back then. So, while I am not at all a fan of the gruesome gore, I can appreciate how realistic she was with portraying this war-ridden, militia-obsessed world. (Then there’s people like Elias and Laia– pronounced Leia??– who want rid of the tyranny. Yah! VIVE LA REVOLUCCION!!!) Anywho….

As always, I’m going to start with the negatives to get them done and outta the way… (Britt, if you are reading this, you *might* wanna skip down to the positives. I’m saying this as your friend. Because when I critique ANY book, even if it’s a FAVE, I will go HARD on it. I’m a “tough grader,” in short, and WILL nit-pick, even pet peeves. That is all. 🙂 )

  1. The high rape culture. I get that it’s big, and that this culture is (very sadly) built at least partly off of it (brothels everywhere… slaves being abused… 😥 ), but no need to show just how graphic it is. It’s sufficient to know that so-and-so was taken advantage of, or almost taken advantage of, and that we need to DO something about it. I’m not saying we should brush it aside/pretend it does not happen/doesn’t exist. I’m saying we do something about without being super-graphic and go into most detail of what said rapist does (to be fair, she does restrain some things, though).
  2. The wrong kind of “romantic vibes.” Granted, to be fair, Elias Veturius is no Marcus. He’s noble and willing to go the extra mile for someone who really needs it, and his first instinct, at the beginning, is to flee all the horror (can’t say I blame him for that, either… especially if MY Momma Dearest was like that…). It is actually because of this that he stays… Or, more specifically, he stays for LAIA. To help LAIA. (Among other reasons, of course, but that seems to be the main one.) But Laia… Honestly, I feel like there was SO much general confusion between love and lust, desire and genuine agape, that it was NOT OK. Lust, see, is only bodily oriented. While Elias at least respected Laia for her fierceness and determination to be free, as well as Helene for being his bestie, he still lusted after them both. Hard. Same goes for Laia; Augur Cain even says that while she longs after Kaanan with her heart, she longs after Elias with her body. Do you see what I’m saying here? It’s starting to become a lust infestation, which are a HUGE turn-off to me. (TBH, I see this with a LOT of secular YA books, and it saddens me deeply *cough* John Green and Twilight*cough*… So no, not just AEITA. But that doesn’t make AEITA a-OK.) However, this is not to say that the RIGHT kind of romantic vibes do not show up, ever; in fact, they are much more apparent towards the end of the book. I will get to that shortly, don’t worry, Britt. In fairness, I do respect the fact that while the characters DO lust, they actually exhibit great self-restraint, which I both admire and respect. It doesn’t make lusting alright, but it does show that boundaries and limits are good to have in place, in case you are tempted. Which leads me to…
  3. The whole love triangle/rectangle/etc. thingy. Yes, I know some people say this is not a thing. IT IS. Yes, the plot was  great, and I liked the whole rebellion conspiracy thing (more later), I just kept getting slammed with wave after wave of, “Oh, you didn’t know Helene liked you, Elias?” Elias: *inwardly* “Oh crap, she likes me?? What do I do, she’s my BESTIE, not my girlfriend, but, on the other hand, she IS hot, but, on the OTHER hand…. LAIA!!!” Laia is in a similar predicament; as mentioned before, she immediately “falls for” Elias, and gradually starts to fall for young and wise rebel Kaanan. And THEN we have the doubly evil creeper and pervert Marcus, who is both a murderer and rapist, who lusts after BOTH women. (See, people, this be WHY I have issues with… Well, never mind. Not about me. Back to the BOOK review.)Do you see my issue yet? It’s really mind jarring how easily jealousy stirs up between all these characters too, naturally, since all of this is going on. It’s almost too much. In all honesty, I would probably be content if Tahir just took Kaanan out of Laia’s “love” equation, because it’s already puh-ritty messy.But maybe that’s just me.
  4. The Augurs. Yes, I like how they are sage-like. Yes, I like how they are prophetic and hold people in line, if need be. No, I do not like how they read animal entrails; I find it obscene and deeply disturbing (for obvious reasons). No, I do not like how they are seemly omniscient, by little mind-read-y powers alone. I think there needs to be more to it than that. I want to know who’s side they’re on, etc. Of course, I am probably going to find that out as I continue to read the series, right, Tahir?

 

Annnndddd, onto the positives!

(If you disregarded my previous warning and read the top part first anyway, Britt, I give you leave to go and punch a punching bag before returning to read this.)

  1. The dialogue and character growth. For what she lacked in describing the setting, Tahir definitely made up for it with both of these. Laia and Elias kinda have parallel growths, side-by-side, actually. Laia is initially deemed cowardly, too afraid to stand up for herself or her brother, but she grows bolder. Bold enough to spy on Elias’s tyrant of a biological Mother for the Resistance. Bold enough to endure excruciating torture for the sake of springing her brother from prison, even if she knows, deep, deep down, they can never go back to living their old life the same way again. Elias, on the other hand, is tempted and tested and taunted. He is constantly warned that he will become a murderous monster if he does not follow through with the Augurs’ wishes. Granted, he still sheds plenty of blood (and, very sadly, some of it HAS to be his friends… #HungerGamesForTheWin), but he still, in a manner of speaking, hangs onto his soul. I think that was one romantic aspect I did like between Laia and Elias, is that they started to appreciate and love each other for their PERSONHOOD, not simply BODILY. Laia gives Elias a beautiful little moment when she talks about his soul being free, and he does likewise with his Mother, before he is led out to be executed. In fact, that was probably one of my favorite parts: The free-soul speech. The fact that he was ready, and even willing, to die. Not a lot of people can say that, and I applaud Tahir for it.
  2. The mythology. It is deep and well played out. For spiritual purposes alone, I love the fact that Tahir had the whole, “You didn’t believe in them, because you logically thought, “Nah, something that powerful/magical/spiritual couldn’t possibly exist because it defies XYZ…”… Well, guess what? YOU WERE WRONG, IN YOUR FAAACCCEEEE!!!” It was a very intriguing play, even if most of the spiritual being they’ve encountered so far are pretty much the evil ones. It makes me wonder if they are GOING to encounter any GOOD ones, too…
  3. The Resistance Conspiracy. One of the main reasons I kept page-turning… And what can I say? ALL THE HUNGER GAMES RELATED STUFF!!!! I mean, granted, it’s probably just me seeing connections. But between the friend-based bloodbath, both getting inspiration from Roman time periods (and the Colosseum, no less), AND the fact that the Resistance also has a leader that looks to be suspiciously like President Coin? Like a person who would make one heck of a dictatorial power-play the instance they were on the head honcho’s throne?

Incredibles1

*cough* Ahem… ANYWAYS….

Overall, again, I thought the story was good (negative lust and rape stuff aside). I liked the character growth, the backstories were interesting, and the whole conspiracy was enough to keep me reading. I also liked the perspective switching; Tahir pulled this off spectacularly. As in, “Oh no! Person A is alone with Person B, and Person C’s coming! He/she is gonna see Persons A and B together and think *********”

My rating, overall: 3.5.

My Rating Scale:

0= Horrible, don’t bother

1=Poor

1.5=So-so

2=Meh, not too bad

2.5=OK

3=Good, but not enough

3.5= Very good, but some stuff bothered me

4= Great, but could use some final tweaking

4.5=GREAT, pretty polished writing

5= AWESOME, I COULDN’T PUT IT DOWN FOR DAYS

 

___________________________________

 

Image Credits:

The Incredibles GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/An_Ember_in_the_Ashes

 

“The Last Jedi”– And a Multitude of Fangirling

“The Last Jedi”– And a Multitude of Fangirling

OK, first off… apologies for the lack of posts. Between senior seminar, finals, other homework, then FINALLY being off on break for some SERIOUS, MUCH-NEEDED INTROVERSION— Well, you get the picture.

December, this year, for the most part, is my happy month, guys. For four reasons: 1., Christmas (the obvious), 2., I got yet another 3.8; 3., I AM GOING TO ISRAEL IN LESS THAN A WEEK!!!!! And 4., The Last Jedi. 

(Don’t worry; you guys will get pictures galore when I’m back– maybe even a post or two, seeing as how I’ll be chronicling my travels in a physical journal the whole time 😉  But anyways)

So, as you guys know, I am a MAJOR, major, major “Star Wars” geekette. I have a purple lightsaber in my closet as we speak (light-up, too– though, I STILL WANT MY INDIGO LIGHTSABER!!!! ARRRRGGGGHHH), glued to every single episode of Rebels that’s ever been out, as well as some “Rebels Recon” (and most of “Clone Wars”), am in possession of most of the Complete Star Wars Visual Dictionaries (I am planning on buying The Last Jedi one soon), and became so recently appalled at my youngest cousins (ages 10-15) NEVER HAVING SEEN STAR WARS BEFORE, I made SURE to give them the chance to have some mandatory viewings before Episode VIII.

Which brings me to….

The EPISODE VIII REVIEW. (dun dun dun duuuuuunnn…)

WARNING! SPOILERS AHEAD! IF YOU HAVE NOT WATCHED THE LAST JEDI, YOU SHOULD not READ ANY FURTHER! THIS IS YOUR FINAL WARNING!!!

In brief, for the most part…

I. Loved. It.

OK, maybe “love” is a bit strong: I would say, “really, really liked” is probably more accurate. But in actuality, Episode VIII is probably one of my fave SW Eps.

Sure, there were some dumb things with Poe and the whole mutiny thing, but the Rey’s training, Rey and Kylo, and the awesome SW animal things totally made up for that. Those things made Episode VIII worthy of my love (yes, at the risk of me sounding like Lusamine 😛 ). And, all things considered, the number 8 IS one of my two fave numbers, so I gotta say, no pressure or anything, Johnson— putting up high expectations out there, but for the most part, they were met.

So, here we go! As always, we’ll go with the criticisms first, then end with positive closures:

CONS:

  1. The whole Poe Mutiny thing. It was just kinda stagnant for me, and made it more like an episode of “Rebels” than an actual legit SW movie. Didn’t really move for me. Same with Rose and Finn’s mission, it didn’t feel as genuine as the mission with operation Starkiller base shutdown (aka remake of Ep. IV) in The Force Awakens. Then I ended up being confused of who to root for when Leia became conscious and outright STUNNED Poe for his mutiny. Which side is the “good guy” side here?
  2.  Rey being too repetitive, when meeting Luke. She starts to sound like a broken record at times, continually relaying Leia’s message of hope and urging him to join the Resistance,  instead of just answering his own questions half the time. It made her sound less realistic, and more like one of MY “pamphlet-y” characters. This isn’t good, because Rey is normally such a great, strong, sassy character. She’s more than a recording playback of hope, Johnson. You already had that throwback of Leia’s recording via Artoo to nail that one on the head.

Rey1

3. Why DID Luke Skywalker pull something of an Obi-Wan on us? Rather  than fully face something he believed he triggered, Luke doesn’t show up to confront his fears and face them himself; he sends only an apparition of himself. He owns up, but doesn’t show up. This cowardly behavior is reflected in his initial refusal to teach Rey anything about the Force: He’s afraid of creating or triggering another Kylo. It’s this reason that he says he’s seen that kind of power once before, and while it didn’t frighten him into sense then, it did now. However, this fear leads to him not really resolving his problems, only running away and hiding from them. He literally was so dejected about the whole stupid thing being his fault that he went off to end the Jedi Order by dying, alone, on secluded Ach-To. He didn’t even fully die– just vanished into the Force, like Obi. And Obi at least had the decency to help Luke fight Vader and rescue Leia. Why did Luke do that? The world may never know, but it seems slightly cowardly to me.

Luke2

PROS:

  1. The new critters. Oh. My. Gosh. This film is living proof that there are really cool and cute creatures in the SW universe, not just Hutts. Or Nexus. Or Acklays. Or… Well, you get the gist. In Episode VIII, we get the Vulptices (ice foxes). Those cool, beautiful creatures that Rose and Finn need to ride to get to safety, that look like they’re part horse, part kangaroo, part something else. And, MOST IMPORTANTLY….

PORGS!!!!!

porg

#Chewieapproves

We first spy these little penguin-like guys on Ach-To, and later, we learn (with much dismay), that Chewie has been ROASTING THEM OVER AN OPEN FIRE FOR SUSTENANCE. Three poor little porgs look up at him like, “What are you doing?” making him growl, and they scurry off; one brave lil porg remains, looks up at him with huge, watery, eyes, and gives a tiny, pitiful little cry like, “Budddddyyyy…. Why are you eating my buddy?” and Chewbacca ROARS a bit to scare that one off, and thus ease his conscience. We later see him having made amends with the adorable beings, however, by taking them on the Falcon to hitch a ride for kicks.

I want a plushie porg, and I want it now. And unfortunately, the cheapest I can find are on Amazon for no lower than $52. WIM. T_T Why me???

2. Rey’s Jedi Training. Rey finally starts on the path to what she is destined to be, and will be the ultimate tide-turner for the story as a whole. In fact, I feel like the whole story of the three new movies is a major telling of HER story. She, not Finn or Poe, is the true protagonist, or the major protag. Because, if you think on it– in The Force Awakens, the Force has literally been awakened in her; she learns that she’s Force-sensitive. In The Last Jedi, she is literally the last, singular, Jedi at the end of the film, as well as according to Luke. I feel like the film titles alone dictate her destiny, or at least what happens to her specifically in each film. I can hardly wait to see what happens to her in the final installment!

3. THE WHOLE DYNAMIC BETWEEN REY AND KYLO. I could literally go on for pages about this (seriously, someone shut me up if I start fangirling too much here). One major motif I noticed even in the trailers ( and thought about a LOT while watching the movie) and found thoroughly fascinating was the whole idea of them being a LITERAL balance of good and evil, light and dark. Kylo’s “dark” but struggles with resisting the light; Rey has the opposite problem: She’s fighting for “good,” but is somehow called by the “evil,” and finds it surprisingly difficult to resist. While I could write a little sermon-post on this interesting topic, on how it relates to human nature as a whole (and perhaps someday I will…), now is not ideal; however, this does affect their relationship a great deal. Thanks to a certain individual’s interference, the two interact a lot more and actually get to know each other better. While Rey initially thinks Kylo’s a monster (as implied in Ep. VII), she gradually warms to the fact that he’s only fallen, only twisted (“twisted” in this sense meaning that he is a warped version of initial good) because of a sad backstory, and eventually comes to believe he needs her help in returning to the light. However, we eventually see that Kylo has the mirror sentiment of her; he believes her own ideals are “twisted,” and senses her own inner conflict, and believes he can help her in turning to the dark side. There is a returning familiarity with these scenes as they grow more and more comfortable with each other’s presence, that reminds me strongly of the Darkling coming to visit Alina numerous times, via corporeal apparitions, in Siege and Storm. And maybe it’s just me, but I think because he gets to know her, because he can relate to her inner struggle, that he might even be ATTRACTED to her. Sound far-fetched? Well, in one vision episode, he appears to her SHIRTLESS (obviously intentional) and she, somewhat embarrassed, asks him to put something on, clearly flustered (he doesn’t). Later, when in Snoke’s throne room, and on our way to Snoke’s room in the elevator, we see several direct parallels:

Kylo’s conversation with Rey in the elevator mirrors a similar one Darth Vader had with Luke Skywalker, also in an elevator, when Skywalker comes to redeem him– Vader also wished to turn his son to the Dark Side.

Kylo’s act of killing Snoke and sparing Rey mirrors Vader’s albeit more selfless act of killing Hideous– sorry, SIDEOUS– to spare Luke’s life.

Kylo literally offering Rey the chance to rule alongside him. Not beneath him, not just to JOIN him, but ALONGSIDE HIM. This parallels Vader TWICE: When Vader told Luke they could rule the galaxy side-by-side, as father and son, and when Vader made that same offer to Padme Amidala, albeit in a slightly more romance-oriented sense.

I believe that Kylo meant more of the latter here, even saying that while most saw Rey only as nothing, a lowly scavenger at best, he knew she was something special, and meant much more than that to him. Again, I get a very Darkling-and-Alina vibe here, which is probably why half my body and mind is screaming, “JOIN HIM, YOU FOOL” (because, what can I say, still suffering from a loss of Darklina shippings…), the rest saying, “Oh, you know she’ll only resist.” And yup, sure enough, she does. She tries once to get him to the Resistance’s side, major fail (don’t do that to a passionate guy; he’ll take that as dissing his passions). Even after she has rebuffed him, though, this doesn’t stop him from calling out to her one. Final. Time. At the very end, before she leaves with the Resistance. And it’s heart-wrenching, because of the look she gives him before the door shuts, severing their connection. It’s a look I imagine Alina giving the Darkling, but even she was more sympathetic.

joinme

4. The Yoda cameo. Because seeing old friends is always a pleasant surprise for nostalgic old geezer fans like myself (and even older).

Shipping-wise: Initially, I shipped Finn and Rey, but now I’m thinking of Rey and Kylo a LOT more (namely because sucker for sympathetic villains.). And now considering events in the new film, I gotta say I’m also leaning towards shipping Rose and Finn, too. Because reasons. 😉

Anyways, though this film had a few bugs to work out, and a couple unanswered questions, I do want a couple things to happen:

I want another animated series, similar to Clone Wars and Rebels, only this time, set RIGHT AFTER this film. So, similar to Rebels in some manner, but I want to see Finn and Rose’s, as well as Kylo and Rey’s, relationship bud and blossom. This stuff takes time, more time than could ever be conveyed super realistically in a single film (unless you count the whole, “time day skip” thingy, but we aren’t gonna count that). I want Rey to talk to Yoda’s, Luke’s and Obi-Wan’s ghosts. I want to see her training more. I want her training younglings, the future of the Jedi. I want more Kylo Ren temptations. (I don’t know if I would’ve resisted, if I were her, or not…) GOSH DANGIT GUYS, I WANT IT ALL!!!!!

I do want the final installment to have answers to my questions, including why Luke chickened out, is Rey going to cave (got a feeling that answer is “no,”), is Kylo going to slowly about face and start to turn to the Light Side, why did Chewie stop eating porgs (other than their unadulterated cuteness), and so much more.

My final rating: 4 outta 5 stars. Sooooo close, Johnson; just a BIT more!!!

 

___________________________

Image Credits:

http://www.insidethemagic.net/2017/10/top-5-jaw-dropping-moments-star-wars-last-jedi-trailer/

https://www.inverse.com/article/37276-star-wars-last-jedi-trailer-porgs-twitter

https://techcrunch.com/gallery/heres-the-new-star-wars-the-last-jedi-trailer-as-scene-by-scene-gifs-to-tear-apart/

https://www.engadget.com/2017/04/14/star-wars-the-last-jedi-trailer/

Exclusive Interview with “Halayda” author, Sarah Delena White!!!

Exclusive Interview with “Halayda” author, Sarah Delena White!!!

OK, first, again, apologies to you guys for not touching base as much as I should’ve… But then, I might not have been able to surprise you with something truly wonderful!

This summer, as I’ve previously mentioned, I read and got addicted to indie author Sarah Delena White’s first book of her Star Fae Trilogy, Halayda. (I will include a blurb at the bottom, for all those interested. I will say this, though: Fae meets alchemy meets steampunk. Meets the classic, “good vs. evil”. Hehehe.) I’ve actually had the pleasure to get to know Sarah personally via Facebook, and bonded a great deal, amidst several good-natured, and sometimes comical, conversations. She informed me that book 2 is coming out soon, this spring, in fact. I asked if, to help build hype and satisfy some of our curiosity, she’d be so kind as to agree to an interview– and she agreed!!!

I AM SO FREAKING PUMPED, GUYS!!!

Anyways… Ahem *clears throat* Let’s get this show on the road!

 

L4G: Thanks soooo much for joining us today, Sarah! It’s really quite the honor to be having this interview; it seems super surreal….I know a lot of readers and Bookstagrammers are rather unfamiliar with you and your writing, so we’ll start off there. First off, how did you get started in your writing business?

SDW: I never intended to be a writer, believe it or not. I’ve always enjoyed creating stories and worlds, but I didn’t prioritize writing until I was in my mid-twenties. I started writing while living and working overseas as a way of processing my experiences. I came to realize the profound power of storytelling and spent the next few years honing my craft and working on various projects. I always wrote fantasy, though. I love the power of speculative fiction to put the real world in a new perspective.

L4G: That’s awesome! I have to agree, I love how fantasy puts a novel (see what I did there?) spin on reality, and am a big fantasy reader and writer, myself. Speaking of which, I know a lot of people who are interested in writing, particularly fiction (and not just myself!). What pro tips can you give for future, aspiring authors?

SDW: 1. Always keep writing, and don’t be afraid to try new things. Before Halayda, I left a trail of half-finished stories in a range of genres. I had to keep trying different ideas and creating different worlds before I hit on something that deeply resonated with me and that I loved enough to commit to for the long run. 2. Don’t be boring! This piece of advice was given to me by one of my editors, Janeen Ippolito, and it changed my whole perspective on storytelling. I used to think I had to plow through the “boring parts” of a story so I could eventually get to the “interesting parts.” The result was some very uninteresting stories! When I started writing Halayda, I chose to make every scene an “interesting part,” realizing that if I wasn’t interested in writing something, people probably wouldn’t be interested in reading it.

L4G: Those are definitely words to live by… All you writers out there, take notes! 😉 I know I’m personally guilty of leaving stories half-finished, sometimes due to duller parts, until recently… But that’s another tale for another day. 🙂 Since, going by your Facebook and Instagram, we already know you love ballads and fae stuff, but… What SPECIFICALLY inspired you to create the world and characters of  Halayda and the Star-Fae Trilogy

SDW: Halayda was sparked by a dream in which I got dragonfly wings thanks to a crazy scientist’s experiment. The dream lingered in my mind after I woke up, and within a few hours Sylvie and Taylan came to life and started to tell me their story. I originally intended the book to be a superhero story, but I quickly realized that the concept wasn’t unique enough and needed other elements to make it sparkle. Since I love genre mashups, I combined fae mythology and steampunk with some of my favorite superhero tropes, and the world of Kyure was born.

L4G: What?! No way, I had a story world that was invented via a dream, too! OK, this is CRAZY *high-fives* OK, OK, Livia, stay focused… stay focused… In Halayda, there are a few things that are very symbolic, the Dragonfly wings and Dragonfly abilities being one of them. Maybe the Humanities and my English-y classes are getting to me with symbols and themes, but I need to ask: What made you choose the specific image of not just WINGS, but DRAGONFLY wings to symbolize and mark out Faerie’s Savior? 

SDW: While most of the symbolism in Halayda was deliberate, the dragonfly wings started as an unintentional symbol (or perhaps a subconscious one). I originally chose them because they were an element of the original dream and I liked the aesthetic. As I delved deeper into Sylvie’s significance and role while drafting the book, I realized that dragonfly wings were a perfect fit for many reasons. Dragonflies often symbolize renewal, as well as change leading to deeper maturity and self-realization, and this is perfect for Sylvie’s journey in Halayda.

L4G: Well, I guess that makes sense. I mean, sometimes dreams just have so much powerful imagery, you can’t help but include some of it… And the fact that it turned out to be something so much more… THAT’S what I call a “God-incidence”! Alright, since I promised my good friend Jarrett I’d ask a question or two regarding specific characters in your story, the Wild Hunt… (Sorry, Casimir– I PROMISE you’ll get a WHOLE interview to express your glorious self next time!!) He wants to know, how do the leaders of the Wild Hunt get chosen (by age, seniority, family/clan, descent, etc.)?

SDW: The leaders of the Wild Hunt claim their positions through a combination of seniority and fighting ability. The older, more powerful members of the Hunt will often fight to assert their dominance and try to claim a higher rank in the pack. Iberek became the chief hound shifter about two hundred years before Halayda takes place, winning a fight against multiple challengers. He is the oldest living member of the Wild Hunt, and very few Hunters are bold enough to question his authority.

L4G: I’m sure Jarrett’ll be pleased to know that fascinating tidbit about his fave character. He also wants to know, just how animal ARE the Wild Hunt– as in, are they mainly human/fae with animalistic traits, or is it vice versa?

SDW: Good question! It’s always interesting to see how authors handle this aspect of their Shifter characters. In this case, the hound and cat shifters of the Wild Hunt are primarily fae, but they prefer a more primitive life than the elemental faeries. While certain aspects of their culture resemble a wolf pack, they don’t view themselves as animals at all.

L4G: That’s very interesting! I thought that way myself, but Jarrett asks a lot of intriguing questions I never would’ve thought of, myself… I gotta hand it to him. Anyways, let’s wrap this up! 🙂 So happy we could get together to do this! Hopefully we can get together to do this again sometime in the future! Just one more question: Any clues as to what book 2’s going to have in store for us– a blurb, or even title-wise? Because there were noticeable changes on your Pinterest, hahaha….

SDW: I don’t have a blurb or a final title yet, but keep an eye out for that this winter, along with the official cover reveal! Here are a few clues about book 2, though:

-It is partly inspired by the Greek myth of Hades and Persephone.
-You’ll get to see more of the mortal (steampunk) world).
-Everyone has a secret, and nothing is quite as it seems. 😉
 
Thanks so much for having me on your blog, Olivia!

 

Thank YOU, Sarah!!! This was a lot of fun, and hopefully we can do it again in anticipation for book 3!!!

 

Interested in the Star Fae Trilogy? Here’s more!

Halayda blurb:

“Betrayed by a trusted mentor, Sylvie Imanthiya hides on the fringes of society, caring for half-fae orphans and trading her alchemical creations on the black market. She lives for the one night each season when she can see her dearest friend—a man whose destiny is far above hers.

King Taylan Ashkalabek knows better than to exchange halayda vows with a mortal. Even their friendship is a risk; love is an impossible dream. Then a brutal alchemical attack poisons his realm, unearthing a dark power within him—and leaving Sylvie with the ancient mark of Faerie’s savior.

Manifesting unpredictable abilities and aided by allies with their own secrets, Sylvie and Taylan journey into the wilds of Faerie to heal the damage and confront Casimir, an invincible star-fae determined to claim the realm as his own. But only their enemy knows Sylvie’s true capabilities—and Taylan’s weaknesses—and how to use them in his vicious schemes.

Her fate is life. His fate is death. With Faerie in the balance, Sylvie and Taylan must stand together before reality as they know it is destroyed.”

Find out more in this dramatic clash of fates and destinies in her first book of the trilogy, now!

https://uncommonuniverses.com/books/halayda/

______________________________________

About the Author:

Sarah Delena White

Sarah is a vagabond on a never-ending quest for truth, beauty, and really good lattes. She has degrees in Intercultural Studies and Teaching English as a Second Language, and loves to explore the connections between fantastic stories – both modern and ancient – and the cultures that invent them. When she’s not writing or editing, she can be found making jewelry, singing Irish ballads, and working a variety of odd jobs. She occasionally remembers to eat and sleep, because those things are apparently important. She also loves chickens.

SarahDWhite

Image Creds: Facebook, Pinterest, and Instagram