Sunday, January 15, 2017

THE BLACK KEY by Amy Ewing

Rating: A-
For too long, Violet and the people of the outer circles of the Lone City have lived in service to the royalty of the Jewel. But now the secret society known as the Black Key is preparing to seize power.

And while Violet knows she is at the center of this rebellion, she has a more personal stake in it—her sister, Hazel, has been taken by the Duchess of the Lake. Now, after fighting so hard to escape the Jewel, Violet must do everything in her power to return to save not only Hazel, but the future of the Lone City.

My thoughts on the book:
As most of you know, I have been in love with this series since The Jewel came out. It started out as a unique view of dystopian worlds, and the second book in the trilogy brought up deeper thoughts and ideas to think about. The Black Key expanded on the themes of colonialism, freedom of choice (and consequences), and classism. This final installment did not disappoint, and Ewing left me with a lot to think about after I finished the book. 

Violet, like most leading characters, grew throughout the course of the trilogy. However, unlike a lot of literature, she was still flawed and still made mistakes, even after she learned to take responsibility for her actions and saw what some choices cost. While I was frustrated with her at times, I really appreciated the fact that she remained a real and relatable character. Through Violet's trials and mistakes, other characters grew as well, including Ash. He wasn't my favorite in this installment, but he at least got more fleshed out and became a strong character in his own right. Lucien and Garnet were my favorites, though I would have liked to have seen a bit more of Garnet's complexity toward the end of this book. I also would have liked to have seen more of how being in the Jewel changed Hazel. I felt like that her growth was a bit rushed since she was such a background character until midway through the 2nd novel, and I think that really didn't do her justice. 

The Black Key started off kind of slow, in my opinion, but by the 4th chapter, things really picked up and I became invested in the story. After that event/Violet's decision, which started the narrative of freedom of choice and consequences, the Violet had trials coming at her from all directions, and it was interesting to see how she navigated each of those. Some of her decisions had dire consequences, and it really helped me see that even though we all can make small "incorrect" decisions from time to time, it's not our fault when something horrific happens because of those choices. Yes, Violet could have made a couple of decisions better, but the outcomes of those choices were a lot harsher than they should have been. I've made some small decisions in my own life that ended terribly bad, and I always beat myself up over that, just like Violet did. But through Ewing's writing, I was able to see that Violet wasn't at fault. The people who took things too far were the ones to blame for the horrific consequences, and that helped me view my own life differently. I love when novels can change the way that I look at things as well. 

In addition to the narrative of choice, there was also a background narrative of colonialism and the prices that are paid for people colonizing an area. As this novel shows, history is written by the winners, and because of that so many people didn't know who or what they were. The royals attempted genocide on the indigenous race, much like the English attempted genocide on America's indigenous peoples, and many colonizers (royals) didn't know that the indigenous race still survived. The terrifying lengths that the royals went to in order to control the indigenous population and get all that they could out of them mirrored how many corporations, and even our own government, treats our very own indigenous population in America. Ewing masterfully weaves these two narratives together and creates a unique and enthralling story about Violet and the history of the Lone City.

Overall, I'd recommend this series to anyone who enjoys unique dystopian and/or fantasy novels. Ewing assumes her readers are intelligent people, and she gives us a lot to think about with this trilogy. Her storytelling is excellent, and while there were some really harsh moments in this book, I feel like I'm a better person for reading it. Ewing has a strong voice, and she definitely has a lot to say about society. I look forward to her next project.

Saturday, January 7, 2017


Rating: A+
In less than a year, Kelsea Glynn has grown from an awkward teenager into a powerful monarch and a visionary leader.

And as she has come into her own as the Queen of the Tearling, she has transformed her realm. But in her quest to end corruption and restore justice, she has made many enemies - chief among them the evil and feared Red Queen, who ordered the armies of Mortmesne to march against the Tear and crush them.

To protect her people from such a devastating invasion, Kelsea did the unthinkable - naming the Mace, the trusted head of her personal guards, Regent in her place, she surrendered herself and her magical sapphires to her enemy. But the Mace will not rest until he and his men rescue their sovereign from her prison in Mortmesne.

So, the endgame has begun and the fate of Queen Kelsea - and the Tearling itself - will be revealed...

With The Fate of the Tearling, Erika Johansen draws her unforgettable story full of magic and adventure to a thrilling close.

My thoughts on the book:
I finished this book a few hours ago, and I'm still stunned. The only way to describe what I'm feeling is mindblown. This novel took me on one hell of a rollercoaster ride, and the ending surprised me. It was a satisfying ending, but wow did it have some hard learned lessons in it. This story was exactly what I needed to read at this point in my life, but I just have so many things spinning around in my head because of it that this review may not make much sense. In short, this is the best fantasy trilogy I've ever read. 

Johansen managed to seamlessly pull off the free indirect discourse point-of-view; I haven't seen someone wield a pen (so to speak) so well since Emma by Jane Austen. I was 100% invested in all the characters, and while I had my favorites, I loved learning so much about each character that we followed throughout the series. Kelsea really impressed me. Her strength was admirable, and her willingness to sacrifice was inspiring. Katie was a fascinating character, one who was also very smart and strong. The narration style varied with each character, which was very well-done on the author's part. The Mace's narration left some mysteries about him because, just like the man, the narration was closed off. Everything about the narrative was flawless. 

It's clear from how much I enjoyed the narration that I felt that the writing was extremely well-done. I haven't read many books that had such a plethora of "big words." Johansen assumes her readers are intelligent, and I enjoyed her descriptions much more because of the vivid language she used. The Tearling and Mort both came alive on the page, and each area had an energy about it that was palpable as I turned the pages. I felt like I was along on the journey with Kelsea and crew, and that made me fully engrossed for the whole 500 pages. The plot twist and the ending shocked me. I mean I was expecting some of it, but how everything ended up really surprised me, and the message that was clear at the end was heartbreakingly beautiful. This book left me feeling inspired, and that doesn't happen often anymore. 

Overall, I'd recommend this book and trilogy to anyone who is looking for something a bit different in the fantasy realm. This is no run-of-the-mill fantasy novel. This series will make you think and evaluate your own life, and that's a good thing. Well done, Ms. Johansen.