Review of “The Unwanteds” series, by Lisa McMann

two children fleeing from a winged giant cat

 

“The Unwanteds” was a very entertaining series, and I had a fun time reading the books.

Alex lives in Quill, a land that hates and fears creativity of any kind. On a specific day every year, Quillens celebrate the Purge. The Purge is a holiday that separates out the thirteen-year olds of their country, picking out the Wanteds (the people designated to be the future leaders of Quill and who have some life in them), the Necessaries (the people to keep the population of Quill alive and are drab and lifeless), and the Unwanteds (the creative people who will be sent to their death. I know, morbid, right?).

Alex, unfortunately, is deemed Unwanted, whereas his identical twin brother, Aaron, is a Wanted. Alex is sent away to be killed, to the place where they end the Unwanteds, the Death Farm, but miraculously, he doesn’t die! He is sent to a magical world called Artimé by the Death Farmer, a mage named Marcus Today.

Alex befriends other Unwanteds named Lani, Samheed, and Meghan, and together they make dicoveries, learn magic, and go on adventures.

Rating: 4/5 stars. The issues I found with this series were that 1) it was too romantic (at least for me, but if you like romance you’d love it), 2) the battle scenes (especially the one in the last book) were way too long, and 3) I found that the plot line got a little bit repetitive in the final books. Other than that, it was good. This series was great, but I’m hard to please when it comes to books.

Ages: 12-15

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The Seven Deadly Sins(Season 1and 2): TV Show Review

Cover image features characters from the show The Seven Deadly Sins

The Seven Deadly Sins is about the country of Britannia in what seems to be set during the middle ages. The princess, Elizabeth stumbles upon the Boar Hat Tavern after running away from the kingdom. She ran away because the Holy Knights, who are the “supposed” guardians of Liones (kingdom in Britannia), attempt to overthrow the king. Elizabeth’s quest is the find the Seven Deadly Sins, the group that went rogue and murdered tons of Holy Knights in Liones only ten years ago. In the Boar Hat, Elizabeth finds Sir Meliodas, the captain and most powerful of the Sins. Little do they know that, the leaders of the Holy Knights Dreyfus and Hendrickson are attempting to bring back the legendary demon race by tricking failed Holy Knights into drinking Demon Blood. This not only makes them stronger but if their hate grows too strong, they will become a demon as well. Therefore, Meliodas, Elizabeth and the Seven Deadly Sins must take back Liones, the kingdom that framed them for a crime they didn’t commit, before the Grand Holy Knights can summon the demon race and end humanity.

Pros: This anime had a great story, which not only included great plot twists but also had loveable characters and a great sense of humor that anyone could adore.

Cons: Even though the story was fantastic, there are almost too many plot twists to keep up with.

Rating: 9/10

The Cruel Prince, by Holly Black

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The Cruel Prince, written by Holly Black, is a modern fantasy and a first book in the duology. The second book, The Wicked King, was recently released. It follows Jude, who along with her twin sister Taryn and her half-sister Vivienne, was taken to the fairy world by Vivienne’s true father.

This book was very highly anticipated, and people either loved it or hated it. I personally liked it. My favorite element was the school that Jude attended with the other fey her age; it gave a unique twist on a fantasy story that made it different from the others. Jude as a character was aggressive and impulsive, but I didn’t mind. I found myself thrilled when she kept fighting the bullying of Prince Cardan and his trio.

A problem many people seem to bring up is the romance between Jude and a certain character. In my opinion, there wasn’t a romance at all. At the end of the book the character confesses how he can’t stop thinking about her and then they kiss but for no reason? There wasn’t any reason for them to and they didn’t seem to enjoy it nor did they talk about it again so that was very strange. From what my friends and I can tell, there is no relationship between them because Jude doesn’t like him still and she betrayed him at the end, losing his trust and likely any romance they might have had.

I liked how the story brought out my emotions. I felt exhilarated while Jude argued with Cardan, sad when Jude complained about being mortal, and angry when betrayals occur. I loved how the mortal world was mixed in and how they would travel between realms, which added to the uniqueness of the novel. I did not like how the fey are as they are in every book: so incredibly perfect and beautiful that mortals can’t begin to compare. I don’t understand why this matters so much when writing about the fey, but it needs to end. This book would have been so much better if the world were expanded. How big is the realm? Is it only as small as the map in the beginning? If so, the author should have no trouble going in depth into all the places. I feel as though this depth would have made the story leave a more lasting effect on me. The writing style was very nice and easy to read, and the imagery was wonderful.

I would rate The Cruel Prince 8/10 dragons, for the unique twist on fey stories and the emotions it brought from me.

Tower of Dawn, by Sarah J. Maas

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Tower of Dawn, by Sarah J. Maas, is the sixth book in the seven-book series (not including the novella) Throne of Glass. I would suggest not reading this review if you plan on reading the series because it may give away important details. The book strays from our protagonist, Aelin Galathynius and instead focuses on Chaol Westfall, who in the previous book suffered a paralyzing injury that sent him off to Antica, in the Southern Continent. Once there, Chaol works with healer Yrene Towers to heal his injuries and recruit the Antica military in aiding the war effort against Maeve.

Most everyone was weary heading into this book. Chaol is one of the supporting characters who has been in the series since its inception, although certain events led to Aelin distancing herself from him, thus making the reader not care about him as much as they used to. I was surprised by Maas’ choice of making the novel from Chaol’s point of view, but as it was the seventh book, and I had to read it. It started off extremely slow because the reader was trying to understand Chaol again and find reasons to care about him. Around a hundred pages in, the book starts to pick up and became impossible to put down. Maas made a wonderful decision by making Chaol the protagonist because he was the one character that I felt I didn’t have a strong connection to, and by making this novel, Maas was able to make the readers like him again. It also gave important background to crucial characters such as Yrene and why the Antica kingdom decided to help the war effort.

Most people don’t read the Novella, The Assassin’s Blade, because they think they don’t need to, but I would highly suggest reading it before Tower of Dawn because you will get further background on Yrene and her interactions with Aelin and it’s a very fun book overall. Yrene is an incredibly lovable character, and her relationship with Chaol started off rough but evolved interestingly. I don’t quite understand what was going on between Nesryn and Chaol because I couldn’t remember from the last book, but they had a very strange relationship. The chapters from Nesryn’s point of view only got interesting in the last couple hundred pages, unfortunately. She’s a wonderful character but in the first 400 pages, she didn’t do much.

There was a lot of representation in race and sexuality in this book, which I know a lot of people have been waiting for. The whole Southern Continent is full of darker skinned characters and one of the princess’ is in a relationship with a woman. In her other books, there tends to be a lot of graphic scenes, but this one didn’t have many. There is little representation in body type, which is extremely annoying considering even the strong women who train vigorously every day still have no visible muscles and curvy waists, which doesn’t anatomically make sense considering how strong they are.
What I didn’t like was how Chaol’s personality changed. When I look way back to Throne of Glass and Crown of Midnight, I remembered him not so much the whiny, tough, and brooding man he is here. Unless I remember him wrong, his personality upset me a bit and just reminded me of a more watered-down Rowan Whitethorn. You might think this was because of character development, but the character felt almost foreign to me, which isn’t a good thing.

I feel as though, as usual, Maas could have cut down a hundred pages, because there were so many parts that seemed unnecessary. I feel as though she could have spent more time developing the world. I’m not sure if we will get to see the Southern Continent again, but the kingdom and the whole southern part of the continent have been left unexplored.

I would rate Tower of Dawn 7/10 dragons simply for my love of the series and the new developments. Negative dragons for the slow first 150 pages.

Review of “The Keeper of the Lost Cities” series, by Shannon Messenger

Book cover for "Keeper of the Lost Cities." A young woman and a young man are clinging onto either side of the top of a metal tower, which is topped by a lit lamp.

“The Keeper of the Lost Cities” is not a super well known series, at least among the people at my school, but I found all of the seven books (so far) to be very enjoyable.

Sophie has a big secret. She can read minds. Starting when she was five, she could hear everyone’s thoughts.

Also, she is an unusually smart girl. She is in college and sticks out like a sore thumb among her classmates. She also feels like she doesn’t fit in among her family, being a skinny, blonde-haired, brown-eyed girl in a family of overweight, brown-haired, green-eyed people.

In an instant, Sophie is ripped away from the life she knew when a mysterious, handsome elf named Fitz finds her and tells her that she is not a human but an elf, like him. Sophie is forced to leave behind her family and join the world of elves.

(Just so you know, elves in this series are not North Pole elves or “Lord of the Rings” elves. They are pretty much humans, but they can live for thousands of years, and they stop aging at twenty.)

Once Sophie has joined the community of elves, she notices that something strange is going on. One day, she accidentally finds out about something called Project Moonlark, but nobody will tell her what it is.

What is Project Moonlark? Will Sophie ever belong in the elven or human worlds? Find out by reading “The Keeper of the Lost Cities” series.

Rating: 5/5 stars! It is one of the best series I’ve read.

Ages: 11-15

The Awakening

Ice cracked over the top of water

Part 1

There was no warning when they started to take us away from our families. They said we were special, now I know that was just a glorified way of saying that we were freaks and are too dangerous to keep in society. They split us by our abilities. The Furies who could manipulate fire, the Groundshakers who could manipulate earth, the Cyclones who can manipulate air, and the Glaciers who can manipulate water. I am a Glacier, or at least that is what I pretend to be. I was taken when I was twelve.

 

It was the middle of the night. I had been having this dream of a girl on a hill. Only that hill seemed fresh, like it wasn’t there two seconds ago. You could see the dirt mound with no grass on it. The girl had an aura about her as if she had just risen the mound all by herself in a matter of seconds. With a flick of her hand she rose off the ground and the hill ignited in flames. As the image got closer and her face got clearer, I realized it was me on the hill. I was the one with that tremendous power. And that is when it all changed, her face contorted in fear, like she had just awoken from a trance and whipped her head around, looking for something. Her eyes landed on a river and she seemed to command the water because a deluge of water was pointed straight at the hill.

I woke up with a start because a loud creaking and then a bang sounded through my house. Water was pouring from everywhere. From the ceiling, from the floor, from the walls. Everywhere. My parents came rushing in asking if I was okay. The expression on there face was like they already knew what happened, what I did –before I even told them.

My dad left the room saying that he was going to call the plumber, the expression on his face was distant, cold even. My mother was talking to me as if I was a stray animal, gentle but wary.

Another ten minutes went by before I heard it. Before I heard the sound of my front door slam open, squeaky boots rushing up the stairs and the surprisingly gentle knock on my bedroom door.

“Why is the plumber knocking at my door mom?” I say confusedly.

“Um, they aren’t plumbers,” she explained with the same voice, like I’m a caged animal, ready to lash out at any moment.

“Who are they?”

. “They–

My mom was cut off by another knock, this one a little less gentle. My mom rose from my bed and padded her way through my flooded floor and opened my door for the men. They were wearing yellow hazmat suits with shiny black boots. I couldn’t figure out why they where here, none of is were sick.

“Nobody is sick Mom? Why are they here?” I started to feel panicked.

“Yes you are honey, but it is okay we are going to get you help though. These men are going to take you to a facility where they can get rid of your…… specialities,” then she turned and said something I couldn’ t hear to the men and they walked towards me.

I had heard of kids with special abilities who got taken away from their families, but I never thought I would be one of them. Most cases they were forcefully taken from their families, I never once heard of their parents simply giving them up.

I feel cold gloved hands gripping my arms and lifting me off my bed. I struggled against their hold but it was futile. They were stronger than me and I would not be able to break free.

“Mommy, Daddy please don’t do this! I-I-I’ll be good! If I did anything, I’m so, so, so, so sorry! Just please, don’t send me away! No, let me go! Let me go! Please–!” my pleading was cut off by a gloved hand over my mouth.

I tried to bite it, bit the glove was too thick and did nothing to injurE the man. I was just rushed into this non-descript van faster. I tried to summon the power I felt earlier when I burst the pipes, but nothing came. Nothing happened. I didn’t feel powerful, I just felt empty. They must have injected me with something because everything went black.

 

It has been seven years here at Hammond and I cannot get their faces out of my mind. The look of utter righteousness makes me sick, but I can never hate them because after all they are my parents. Even though they condemned me to this hell, I still love them. I still miss them.

Ash Princess, by Laura Sebastian

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Ash Princess, written by Laura Sebastian, is the first in a trilogy. It follows Princess Theodosia, who is a prisoner of the Kalovaxian court after her home kingdom of Astrea was invaded. From the beginning, Ash Princess was an unoriginal, cliché-filled fantasy. There were certain elements I enjoyed, which I’ll discuss after I list the bad.

A few days before I read Ash Princess, I read a book called Amber & Dusk by Lyra Selene, which I’ll be reviewing soon. When I think back to Ash Princess, I find myself mixing both books together, which isn’t a good thing because the goal is to write an original book, especially in an industry where the majority of YA fantasy tends to surround a strong female lead in a kingdom and trying to defeat the ruler. You could compare the plot to almost any young adult fantasy book because it follows the same layout. One of the largest similarities I found was when Theodosia was being whipped, she repeated her full name over and over, which was almost exactly what happened in the Throne of Glass series by Sarah J. Maas, a much more popular series. As a young adult writer, I would assume the first thing you would do would be read the most popular books in the genre you’re writing so you can try and be as original as possible. This author either read the books and decided that the similarity wasn’t too close, or she never read them and just so happened to write a very similar scene. This really stuck out to me because the Throne of Glass series is eight books long (including the novella), therefore being reminded of a specific scene is not a good thing.

The author chose to include a love triangle in this book, and not a subtle kind like in Throne of Glass, by Sarah J. Maas, or Shatter Me, by Tahereh Mafi. The subtle ones are when there are two characters that the main character finds attractive, but she only focuses on one at a certain time, which makes it seem like less of a love triangle, hence, less frustrating. In this book. Theodosia chose to be romantically involved with them both at the same time. She would kiss one and then kiss the other, which angered me and made me dislike the lead character more. To continue, the romances moved much too fast for the time the characters spent together. The only relationship that was believable was the friendship between Theodosia and Crescentia, a girl who has her sights set on marrying the crown prince. Their friendship is believable and developed naturally throughout the book.

This story would have been saved had the male characters been developed more. She had a strange relationship with a boy from her childhood who managed to survive the mass murder of her people and showed up in the palace with a small rebel team. His name was Blaise, which I had to look back at the book to find despite him being the main love interest (I think?) in the book. They hardly had any time to flesh out a romance or relationship of any kind, therefore the reader had to rely on a relationship they had built ten years prior, which isn’t believable because people change and grow a lot in that time.

My favorite character was the crown Prince Søren, who really got beat up throughout the book physically and emotionally. He showed real emotion, which was good, but I found myself wanting to read the whole book from his perspective, which would have been a much more interesting and original book.

I did enjoy how diverse the cast was; the main character is from Astrea where everyone has darker skin. There were some similarities with history, and I think she tried to make connections to slavery but there wasn’t much of a point to it as the idea wasn’t fleshed out. The plot twist was something I saw coming and I found myself groaning in wait for the characters to execute their plans.

If you don’t mind the similarities to other books (maybe you haven’t read much YA fantasy), I would still suggest you skip this series and find another. I would rate this book 4/10 dragons and I will not be reading the sequel.