The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern | 5/5

“A breathtaking feat of imagination, a flight of fancy that pulls you in and wraps you up in its spell.” The Times

“Dazzling,” Independent on Sunday

“Enchanting,” Guardian

Overview:

As someone with a degree in creative writing, it is extremely hard for me to become immersed in and truly enjoy a book. Too often I’m caught up by poorly constructed sentences, plot holes, clichés, stereotypes, problematic behaviour, representation, and tropes, predictability; etc. (It’s honestly ruined the reading experience. 10/10 would not recommend.) The Night Circus, however, enraptured me from the first page.

With its unique structure of a second person narration surrounding you with the crackle of flames, the smell of popcorn, the taste of caramel apples, interwoven between two alternating storylines, it is so easy to get lost in the world that Morgenstern created.

The fantastical elements of the circus and the characters, of this world, were so organic, that, rather than fantasy, it almost read like magic realism. While I preferred the main story line of Celia and Marco, each of the characters were beautifully etched to life, along with every scene, every description, and so I didn’t get bored when the timeline shifted.

The sheer imagination and depth that went into this narrative is mind boggling. This is the kind of novel that both reminds me of why I want to be a writer, and why I probably never will be. I honestly can’t believe that it hasn’t received more critical acclaim.

Though I have seen the novel criticised for its slow pace, I would argue that the dreamlike trance it creates is part of it’s charm. The narrative spans decades, and it feels as if we are there for each one, as much a part of the circus as the characters we follow.

My only possible critique is that the book isn’t long enough and the ending dissatisfying, because I was not ready to let go when it finished. This would now have to be one of my favourite books of all time. I can’t wait for Morgenstern to write something else, and can only pray that it will be just as wonderful.

(Continue reading for a more in depth review, but beware spoilers.)

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Windwitch by Susan Dennard | 3.5/5

“A cake stuffed full of your favourite treats.” Robin Hobb

“Truthwitch is an instant new classic. It reminded me of why I started reading fantasy in the first place.” Sarah J. Maas

“Dynamic storytelling and a fully imagined magical world.” Publishers Weekly

 

Disclaimer: This review is in no way written in malice or intending to offend, it is purely my opinion, and if it differs from yours that does not mean that your own opinion or enjoyment is invalid.

Overview:

True to my word, I did pick up the second novel in the Witchlands series, and I was neither disappointed or surprised, just, initially, apathetic. It took me three attempts to read this book, as each time I picked it up I ended in a state of annoyance, frustration and confusion. The series seems to have the unique quality of the style being too fast paced, and yet, nothing seems to happen. Despite this, however, I did power through one Saturday afternoon, and once I hit half way I was finally absorbed by the narrative.

I still found the world building lacking, which of course is the main reason I struggled with my immersion into the story. As well of this, many of the questions I had by the end of Truthwitch were still not answered by the end of Windwitch. The concept of cleaving is still irritatingly vague, the Carawen monks and the cahr awen are still not fully explained, and the Nomatsi people are still left underdeveloped.

In regards to the characters, I experienced a complete one-eighty. In Truthwitch, I enjoyed Safi and Merik. In Windwitch, I could not stand them, and whenever in their perspective I ached to get through the segment and return to Iseult and Aeduan, the two characters that I previously found dull. The introduction of Vivia’s perspective (Merik’s sister), I very much enjoyed. She had an excellent character arc, which I found some of the other characters, mainly Safi, lacked. Additionally, like in Truthwitch, I found that Windwitch mentioned a lot of characters, ones not even part of the main narrative, that I was constantly confused as to what, and who, the main characters were talking about. The multiple point of view structure also left me wondering whose story this really is.

Again, the writing style and structure of the novel I had no problem with, except for the fact that it somehow lacks clarity. However, I did find the structure of the plot repetitive (for further explanation, head to the spoiler section of the review), and not very driven. This series is very much motivated by characterisation and not action or plot.

Overall, just like Truthwitch, I found Windwitch a slow narrative that held no interest until half way, when the plot and action started to kick into gear. Though the novel started out weak, for me it ended strong, mostly through my interest in the further development of Iseult and Aeduan, both as individuals, and as friends (and perhaps more?). So, I will be reading the next installment, but again I am left hoping that the next book holds the answers, the depth, that the current novels are missing.

(Continue reading for a more in depth review, but beware spoilers.)

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Stealing Snow by Danielle Paige | 1/5

“Worlds collide and hearts melt in this first novel in an icily glamorous and epic new series.”

Overview:  

I don’t even know where to start with this one. Honestly, it was a bit of a mess. The beautiful cover is what drew me to this book, minimalistic and shiny, but as soon as I read the blurb on the back I was hesitant. I knew this book had the potential to be either amazing or absolutely awful.

What I was expecting (or rather hoping for) was a modern adaption of Hans Christian Anderson’s The Snow Queen mixed with the haunting tone and unreliable narrator of the Mara Dyer series. What I got was the most butchered fairytale retelling I’ve ever read, with hints of Snow White, The Snow Queen and even Alice Through The Looking Glass. Honestly, I don’t even think Paige knew what she was going for here.

I found the world unbelievable, the plot both ridiculous and fast paced, the female protagonist extremely irritating, and the plot twist at the end ludicrous. The writing was fine, though there wasn’t a uniqueness of writing style, which did make it a tad boring. The dialogue was stilted and awkward, it didn’t feel natural or authentic to speech, and the voices of the characters were all very similar.

The novel was also riffled with problematic aspects, such as the trivialisation of mental health and misrepresentation of a psychiatric hospital; a potentially abusive relationship, with the female protagonist internalising the blame for mistreatment; and male characters who feel entitled to a girls affection and persist even after being rejected, and then of course the girl falling for it, mistaking manipulation for romance.

But despite the fact that I spent most of the time with my eyes rolled back into my head, laughing with disbelief; by the end of the novel I was looking for a sequel, burning with the curiosity of where this train wreck was headed. I must be a masochist.

(Continue reading for a more in depth review, but beware spoilers.) Trigger Warning: Mental Illness.

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Truthwitch by Susan Dennard | 3/5

“This book will delight you.” Robin Hobb

“Richly drawn characters, and dazzling intrigue… Do not miss out!” Sarah J Maas

“Magic, romance, and non stop action that will leave you breathless.” Maria V Snyder

Overview:

To be honest I had high expectations for this book, and I am aware that they were completely unfair, as I went in comparing it to Sarah J Maas’ novels. This is mainly because I know that Maas and Dennard are friends, and also because Maas’ novels are the best fantasy novels – the best YA novels, even – that I have read in a long time. Unfortunately, Truthwitch did not reach these expectations, or, for me, hold to any of the promises advertised on the cover. While I was deeply interested in the premise – I have a soft spot for witches – I felt that it wasn’t executed as well as it could be.

While the world that Dennard has created seems to be diverse, thought-out and interesting, the pacing in which Dennard chose to reveal information about this world and the characters, I found to be very unbalanced. I can see that she was aiming for intrigue in order to draw in the reader, to keep us turning the pages desperate for the answers, but I ended up finishing the novel feeling as if most of my questions had not been answered, and this left me more frustrated than charmed. The pacing of the plot was also odd, as while there was constant action in the story, I still felt as if nothing had really happened until a good quarter or so through the book.

I also found the characters, while they tried to be strong, active female protagonists, rather flat. Though I liked Safi and Merik’s personalities, and adored the friendships represented by Safi and Iseult, and Merik and Kullen, I still felt disconnected from them, and the other characters and their stories; particularly Iseult’s. For some reason I just didn’t care. This left me even more frustrated, as I could see the potential for fantastic, dynamic and interesting characters that leap off the page and grab you, if only they were fleshed out a little more.

The prose itself, sentence structure, writing style, and dialogue I liked and found to be a much better standard than many YA novels.

Overall, I while I enjoyed parts of this book, I found it to be frustrating and boring at times. However, this wasn’t enough to put my off the series totally, and I have purchased the sequel. Here’s hoping the world and character’s flesh out more as the Witchlands series continues.

(Continue reading for a more in depth review, but beware spoilers.)

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