book review

{Mini Reviews} The Fantasy Edition

Sorcery of Thorns by Margaret Rogerson

All sorcerers are evil. Elisabeth has known that as long as she has known anything. Raised as a foundling in one of Austermeer’s Great Libraries, Elisabeth has grown up among the tools of sorcery—magical grimoires that whisper on shelves and rattle beneath iron chains. If provoked, they transform into grotesque monsters of ink and leather. She hopes to become a warden, charged with protecting the kingdom from their power.

Then an act of sabotage releases the library’s most dangerous grimoire. Elisabeth’s desperate intervention implicates her in the crime, and she is torn from her home to face justice in the capital. With no one to turn to but her sworn enemy, the sorcerer Nathaniel Thorn, and his mysterious demonic servant, she finds herself entangled in a centuries-old conspiracy. Not only could the Great Libraries go up in flames, but the world along with them.

As her alliance with Nathaniel grows stronger, Elisabeth starts to question everything she’s been taught—about sorcerers, about the libraries she loves, even about herself. For Elisabeth has a power she has never guessed, and a future she could never have imagined.

Sorcery of Thorns will go down in history as one of my biggest disappointments of 2019. I can’t even properly rant about it, because it wasn’t totally awful, just painfully, horribly mediocre, and sometimes that’s worse. Prior to its publication I’d convinced myself I’d adore this. I really enjoyed the author’s debut, and most of the reviews I saw for Sorcery were incredibly positive, making me believe this would be one of the best books of 2019. Alas, I was misled, and now I’m sad. *cries*

There’s nothing overly wrong with this novel, but there’s nothing overly right either. With its 500+ pages it’s a bit longer than your typical Young Adult fantasy, which is why I expected top-notch world-building, characters and, well, everything to be detailed and complex. What I got was a half-cooked – albeit interesting – world, two main characters who painfully reminded me of, well, hundreds I’ve read about before, and a plot that left a lot to be desired.

On top of that, even the parts that were good left a bitter taste in my mouth. In theory, I should have loved the romance, but it felt badly executed and empty after the first half. The complex relationship between Silas and Nathaniel was another great thing, but I wished we’d have gotten more there, as well. The writing was lovely… up to a point where it started to drag, and it couldn’t keep my attention anymore.

I’m just so… disheartened by this? I want to believe that standalone fantasy can be epic – and I’ve seen it done before – but I’ve been disappointed by so many at this point, and I’m more and more starting to believe that (in most cases) it’s better to read fantasy series than standalones. If you have any great standalone fantasy recs hit me with them?

final rating: three potted plants!
The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin

This is the way the world ends. Again.

Three terrible things happen in a single day. Essun, a woman living an ordinary life in a small town, comes home to find that her husband has brutally murdered their son and kidnapped their daughter. Meanwhile, mighty Sanze — the world-spanning empire whose innovations have been civilization’s bedrock for a thousand years — collapses as most of its citizens are murdered to serve a madman’s vengeance. And worst of all, across the heart of the vast continent known as the Stillness, a great red rift has been been torn into the heart of the earth, spewing ash enough to darken the sky for years. Or centuries.

Now Essun must pursue the wreckage of her family through a deadly, dying land. Without sunlight, clean water, or arable land, and with limited stockpiles of supplies, there will be war all across the Stillness: a battle royale of nations not for power or territory, but simply for the basic resources necessary to get through the long dark night. Essun does not care if the world falls apart around her. She’ll break it herself, if she must, to save her daughter.

It took me a bit of time to get into The Fifth Season, but when that happened I was hooked. Jemisin is an incredible writer; the scenes she presents are vivid and life-like, even if her fantasy world is a tad confusing at first. (Pro tip: check the appendix at the end of the book, I didn’t know it was there at first. *face palm*)

I put no blame on Jemisin for me being confused – some confusion is bound to ensure at the beginning of high fantasy novels, especially when the world is so dense, so full of unique details. It seems to me that Jemisin has thought of everything, and in doing so she’s created one of the best, most fascinating worlds I’ve ever read about. We don’t know everything yet, and neither do the characters, but the way the plot is built and the way we’re learning new things is incredibly well thought out.

Speaking of the characters, Jemisin does a fantastic job of conveying their emotions, of making them seem like real humans, as opposed to people on the page. There’s a, for lack of better world, twist in the novel I didn’t see coming, and it devastated me. I love these characters – their faults and morally gray deeds included.

final rating: five potted plants!

Let’s chat!

Have you read these novels? Do you agree, or disagree with me? What’s the latest fantasy novel you liked/disliked?

18 thoughts on “{Mini Reviews} The Fantasy Edition

  1. I totally read this post for the review of The Fifth Season as that book has been on my shelf forever and I’ve never managed to get past the first couple of pages. Thanks for the appendix tip as well, I hate when you begin reading a book and discover that until the very end when you don’t need it anymore!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I think you should def give it another try – it’s a slower book, but it’s worth reading 1000% imo. I’m currently reading the second in the series, and it’s excellent as well. 🙂 Also, yes – I only realized there was an appendix when I was already starting to figure out the meaning of the expressions, smh.

      Like

  2. I’m seeing so many different things about Sorcery of Thorns. Some people love it and some people really don’t. I have a copy that came in an OwlCrate so I will end up giving it a go but I will be wary. I mean, I am almost always wary but it’s good not to go in expecting to adore things because more often than not that turns out really badly, haha.

    If you haven’t already I highly recommend reading Jemisin’s Inheritance Trilogy! I absolutely adored it and it is SO AMAZING. I really want to read more of her books!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Ah, so sad that Sorcery of Thorns didn’t work for you! It’s one of my favorites of the year. But I do see that it’s a little cliche—I just love that the author included tropes, but imo, did them right!!
    I can’t wait to read The Fifth Season! It sounds epic & like nothing I’ve ever read before! I’m so glad that you enjoyed this one 💗💗

    Liked by 1 person

  4. The Fifth Season trilogy is amazing! I remember reading the first one and being completely confused and also the second person narrative was quite off-putting at first. I wasn’t used to it; but once everything starts coming together I was like HOW?! such terrific storytelling

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Oh dear, Sorcery of Thorns is one that I own and is actually going to be one of my early 2020 reads! I am so sorry that it managed to disappoint you so much 😦 I had high hopes because I loved Rogerson’s debut novel, but the reviews have come in polarising and I have lowered my expectations a bit. Fifth Season is one I am still debating over, but after that review I think I am going to go ahead and add it to my to read list.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I hope you’ll still love Sorcery of Thorns – I think if you go into it expecting an enjoyable trope-y fantasy, you’ll enjoy it. It wasn’t bad, but it let me down, because I expected some SUPER-UNIQUE. 😦 I highly rec The Fifth Season, especially if you enjoy complex, slower high fantasy novels.

      Liked by 1 person

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