Raybearer is a West-African inspired fantasy novel, and I cannot believe it’s a debut. I’m so impressed by the writing, world-building, mythology, and magic system. If I read this a few months earlier I would have loved it even more, but in the last month I’ve started transitioning to the adult genre and YA hasn’t really grabbed me. However, I did enjoy this. I look forward to reading the next book(s), and I highly recommend this!
Things I like
the writing is phenomenal
world-building, mythology, magic
asexual and bisexual rep
dynamic in the counsel is fascinating
the cover is gorgeous, and I saw somewhere that it features fabrics/patterns from the different nations in the book, which is so cool!
didn’t feel very connected to the characters- the internal narration was mostly dedicated to the plot, and I would have liked to hear more about the characters’ feelings
I got major polyamorous vibes from the council, and I wanted to see more of it, but hopefully in the next book it will be explored more when the characters are older
Midnight Sun by Stephenie Meyer
DNFed at 21%
I wasn’t going to read Midnight Sun, but the hype totally drew me in. I mostly blame it on Twilight Tik Tok. So I tried, and it was just so bad. If it was a shorter book I might have been able to soldier through, but it’s over 650 pages and I just couldn’t do it. We’ve just moved beyond the need for the ‘girl is so beautiful but doesn’t know it’ and ‘she’s not like other girls’ tropes. It would be interesting if this was modernized a little bit, with some old tropes thrown out, but I get that’s not really possible when you’re just telling the same story from years ago from a different POV.
The 13 by M.M. Perry
DNFed at 11%
I was drawn to this because it reminded me of Unearthed by Amie Kaufman and Megan Spooner, which I loved. Unfortunately, the beginning didn’t grab my attention. I read some reviews that said it got better, but I just didn’t want to put in the time to see if that was true. The main reason why I DNFed this is because of the dialogue. There are sentences like, “we’re max compat, yeah” and it just pulled me straight out of the story. There was so much lingo thrown around that wasn’t explained, so I had no idea what was going on.
Famine, the third book in The Four Horsemen series, is one of my most anticipated releases of 2020, and it did not disappoint! The Four Horsemen series is set in a not-too-distant apocalyptic future on Earth. The Four Horsemen, Pestilence, War, Famine, and Death have come to Earth to end humanity.
My thoughts (spoiler free):Famine is a worthy third book in The Four Horsemen series. The main character Ana subverts and pushes back against stereotypes in such a refreshing way that we need to see more of. The characters are complex- they struggle, they breakdown, they fight back, making them relatable and likable. The plot will shock you and leave you wanting more.
My Rating: 5/5
Now, for the long, spoilery version of my thoughts. If you hate spoilers, beware!
The first two books in the series, Pestilence and War, had a plot that was very similar. The main character meets/is kidnapped by the horseman, eventually they develop feelings for each other and their relationship progresses, and finally after struggling with his purpose, the horseman gives it up and they go on with lives. I enjoyed this plot template, but I admit reading it three times could become a drag. However, after starting Famine I quickly realized that this book was going to break away from the previously established template.
At the beginning of Famine, Ana, our main character, and Famine already have a history, and as a result their relationship and feelings towards each other are more complicated and developed. This immediately created a dynamic between Ana and Famine that was very enjoyable to read. It humanized Famine right from the get go. In the first two books, it takes almost the whole novel to fully develop the horsemen’s humanity, but with Famine we see it from the beginning.
Speaking of Famine, he was surprisingly hilarious and he seemed like the most human of all the horsemen. When he’s anxious he taps his fingers, and he also mindless hums and whistles to himself when he’s doing something. Famine is also by far the most emotionally evolved horsemen. He cries and has mental breakdowns, and it is so refreshing reading about multifaceted characters. He isn’t good or bad- he’s somewhere in that gray area in the middle. One moment that made me laugh out loud is wen Ana kicks Famine the groin, and he “let’s out a painted grunt, releasing me to cup himself.” I laughed because it’s such a human moment happening between a deity-like figure and a normal human woman. It also doesn’t hurt that he’s absolutely gorgeous.
Now on to our heroine- Ana de Silva. Laura Thalassa writes a female protagonist like no other. They push back against stereotypes in such a refreshing way. At the beginning of the novel, Ana works at a bordella, or brothel, and she totally owns it. She doesn’t let anyone shame her for her work or what she’s had to do to survive. Her comebacks when people do try to shame her are absolutely hilarious and made me laugh out loud. Laura Thalassa also writes the most nuanced emotions into her characters. I book like this could easily go down the Stockholm Syndrome route, but she she always manages to stay away from it in the most natural way. For example, at the beginning of the novel when Famine and Ana reunite for the first time in years, Ana wants Famine to remember her. As a reader, I was thinking why on Earth would she want him to remember her? But then Laura Thalassa gives us a look into Ana’s inner dialogue and it all makes sense- she’s trying to assuage her own guilt about the past and justify her past actions. That’s such a human thing to feel- we all try to justify our past actions and rationalize what we’ve done. This all serves to make Ana an incredibly relatable and strong protagonist.
About halfway through Famine I was very pleasantly surprised with what I was reading. Famine is written markedly different from Pestilence and War, and his relationship with Ana was so fun to read about. So there should be no issues, right? Wrong. I noticed about 80 percent into the book that things were going too well. The first two books followed the pattern of the horsemen and protagonist developing a relationship, having small fights that eventually lead to some influential moment that causes the horsemen to change his ways, and then after that it’s good. The climax usually came about 80 percent of the way into the book. Back to reading Famine, I got to 90 percent done and nothing bad had happened yet! Every reader knows that feeling when you’re reading, and you’re close to the end but sh*t hasn’t hit the fan yet. Well boy, did it hit the fan in the last forty pages. Long story short, Death comes to kill Ana, but Famine makes a deal with him. In order to save her, he has to resume his purpose. But then Ana, being the incredible woman she is, stabs Death. And then we end with the most exciting cliffhanger ever: “we’re going to get my brothers. It’s time this ended, once and for all.” There is nothing, and I repeat nothing, I want more than Sara, Miriam, and Ana together. Sara will be older, and her kids will be grown up, and it will just be so fantastic.
Needless to say, I enjoyed Famine tremendously. It gave us so many little fun moments, like finding out Famine and War interacted on Earth, and learning we will see the horsemen together in the final book. It also left me with so many questions, like who saved Ana the first time? If it was Death, then why would he try to kill her later? What changed. Personally I love when books leave me with unanswered questions, and I will be anxiously awaiting the publication of Death.
It’s no secret Cassandra Clare’s Shadowhunter Chronicles are some of my favorite books of all time. I love the characters and their journeys, and with each new series I’m even more impressed with the world and the way Clare has managed to weave all these characters together over the course of five series. I can reread these books for all of eternity. Which is why it is my shame that I hadn’t read Queen of Air and Darkness two years after its release. I am also yet to read Chain of Gold, but it’s only been a couple of months so I’m letting myself off the hook.
At the beginning of 2020 I was prepared for another abysmal reading year. In 2019 I read less than 20 books, which compared to previous years when I was reading upwards of 50, is pretty bad. I attribute this to school, working full time, mental health, and just not being in the right headspace. But then a global pandemic hit and suddenly I wasn’t working. All of a sudden my ability to read came flying back, and I decided to reread, or read for the first time, every single book in the Shadowhunter Chronicles. I also decided to chronicle my reading journey here. So after rereading The Mortal instruments, The Bane Chronicles, Tales from the Shadowhunter Academy, and the first two books in The Dark Artifices, it was finally time to read Queen of Air and Darkness for the first time.
QoAaD is a monster of a book at over 900 pages, and I admit I was worried that I would feel like it dragged on. Looking back, I should have known better because I’ve never had this issue with a Cassandra Clare book (excluding her anthologies). The plot moved along nicely, and I never felt like things were unnecessarily slow. Seriously, I was able to read QoAaD in three days, and I wouldn’t have been able to do that if I wasn’t intrigued and invested.
As always I loved Emma’s and Julian’s tortured romance. It’s Cassandra Clare’s specialty and she just does it so well. Even though I love Emma and Julian, I actually found myself loving the supporting characters even more. Diana, Christina, Mark, Kieran, Ty, Kit, and even Dru just grew on me so much. I enjoyed every single point-of-view, and usually I have a hard time reading books with multiple POVs. I also really love the diversity in this book. This is the first book I think I’ve ever read with polyamory rep. That being said, I can’t compare QoAaD to anything else, but I really enjoyed the way it was written and I’d love to see more of it in books. QoAaD also features Diana, a trans woman, and she’s one of my all time favorite characters, and I hope we get to see more of her in future books. Diana and Gwyn are perfection and one of my favorite couples in the Shadowhunter World. Kit’s and Ty’s relationship was also one of my favorite parts. I was so torn up at them being separated at the end, I hope they find their way back to each other.
While I’m admitting my deepest darkest secrets and telling you all what books I haven’t read, I must also admit that I am terrible at staying away from spoilers. I I read basically every Shadowhunter-wiki page there was on Thule before I read the book, and I was super worried about how this concept would play out. Obviously the wiki articles aren’t the greatest source of information. If you’ve already read a book, they’re a good refresher but if you haven’t they definitely don’t give you the full picture. I didn’t see how this storyline could play out authentically and make sense, but I’m glad I was wrong. It’s worked in seamlessly to the plot, and I didn’t get pulled out of the story while the characters were in Thule. It was so fun to see some of my old favorite characters in an alternate universe. I wonder if Thule and alternate timelines are a one-off in the Shadowhunter world, or if we will get to revisit Thule, or a different dimension with alternate characters, in the future.
The final battle wasn’t my favorite battle in the Shadowhunter Chronicles. While the concept of Thule worked for me, I wasn’t as huge a fan of the way the True Nephilim were written. It makes sense that that is the parabatai curse, but I felt like Emma and Julian as True Nephilim were just standing there for too long not doing anything. They should have been destroying more or they should have started dying quicker, in my opinion. It just felt like it took too long for Dru and everyone to get down to them, and while they were all rallying things should have gone way worse. But for the sake of the story everything had to work out, so Emma and Julian just waited around as True Nephilim for the rest of the Blackthorns to get it together to save them.
Random thought: it’s really weird to me when friends call each other sweetheart, and I noticed it in Lord of Shadows and QoAaD. Emma and Christina call each other sweetheart, and it just about the only thing that pulls me from the story.
I’m unsure how I feel about the ending. I’m excited for the next series to come out, but I don’t know how I feel about the villains. If you’ve read QoAaD you know that at the end, the Thule version of Jace shows up with Ash and says he wants Clary. It’s just… we’ve already had this villain and motivation. In The Mortal Instruments Jace was controlled by Sebastian, so we’ve already had an evil Jace as a semi-villain. A huge motivator for Sebastian doing what he was doing was to get to Clary and have Clary. I’m just worried that this plot will seem redundant, but I’m do have a tremendous amount of faith in Cassandra Clare because she hasn’t let me down yet, and I always end up loving whatever she writes into the Shadowhunter world.
After finally finishing The Dark Artifices, I’m so happy with how this series wrapped up. I’m both content and excited to see what happens next.
I always enjoy The Bane Chronicles much more than I think I will- I managed to finish this in one day. I really enjoy Magnus, Ragnor, and Catarina as characters, and I love their dynamic as friends.
My favorite stories are “The Course of True Love (And First Dates)”, “What to Buy the Shadowhunter Who Has Everything”, “The Last Stand of the New York Institute”, and “Saving Raphael Santiago.” I love the stories with Alec. I can’t wait to finally read The Red Scrolls of Magic so I can see more of their relationship. Raphael’s sacrifice in City of Heavenly Fire is so much more meaningful after reading about the beginning of his and Magnus’ relationship. “The Last Stand of the New York Institute” is so good because I hate it so much, if that makes sense. It’s truly revolting the things that the Circle did, and I can’t believe that Luke, Jocelyn, Robert, and Maryse were all a part of it. It really clouds my liking of their characters. In The Mortal Instruments, it’s never explicitly described what the Circle did. I wish it had been described, because I think it would have made Valentine a much scarier villain.
Tales from the Shadowhunter Academy
Rating: 2 out of 5.
I blew through TBC in one day, and my reading experience couldn’t be any different for TFTSA. I have struggled to get into this- I wish every story was a little shorter. Part of the reason I think I’m having such a hard time engaging in these stories is that Simon’s character seems pretty different from The Mortal Instruments. I don’t know if this is because half his memories are gone, or if it’s because Clare is writing with three other co-authors, or if they’re purposefully trying to make him much funnier. He just doesn’t seem as charming or naturally funny, but that could be because so much of his humor in TMI involved bouncing off and interacting with the other characters. The whole “shadowhunters-vs-dregs” plot is so frustrating, but that’s shadowhunters for you.
Ok, so almost three months later I finally finished this book. It was a STRUGGLE. First, what I decidedly don’t like. The characters just seem so off to me. Simon’s humor is so forced, and for me, his appeal came from his easy and witty humor. The writers just took it so far into the next level that he did not seem funny to me. Also Isabelle just drives me insane in this book. I love her character in every other book she’s in, but this one almost completely destroys her for me. Isabelle even says at one point that Simon has completely changed her and turned her into a sappy, lovestruck girl, and I just don’t think anyone could do that to Isabelle. Her arc in this book seems so forced and very off-line from her arcs in the rest of the books.
The plots are also a weak point for me. When Simon and Clary are drugged my Magnus to make them figure out they need to be parabatai- it just lost me. There was an explanation for why it needed to happen, but it seemed like a poor explanation and did not line up with the characters past actions and motivations.
Finally, what bothered me the most is the fact that (almost) EVERY character is described as having brown skin. Jace, who is just a tan white dude, whose skin is usually described as “golden,” because of course it is- is described as having “brown” skin. Jem, who is half Chinese, is also described as having “brown” skin. There’s a lot of dialogue out there about how writers won’t describe Black characters as having Black skin- they will use weird descriptions like “chocolate colored skin that’s glowy,” or something like that. But then white and Asian characters are described as having brown skin? Definitely don’t understand, and also I think it’s lazy writing.
Perhaps the only saving grace of this book is Malec- and I don’t even know if his story can raise the rating for me. Magnus’ and Alec’s story “Born to Endless Night” is by far my favorite. I also enjoyed “Pale Kings and Princes.” None of the other stories really stood out to me.
City of Lost Souls is definitely tied with City of Heavenly Fire for my favorite book in the series. The plot is great and the character development is equally fantastic. Sometimes I forget why Jonathan Morgenstern is such a scary villain, but then I reread this book and I remember. He is just plain evil, and the dynamic between him and Clary is so intriguing.
As I said in my last review of the first four books, I got tired pretty quickly of New York as the setting, so part of the reason I enjoy CoLS so much is because it takes place in a magically traveling townhouse. This might sound far out, but Cassandra Clare writes it in a way that makes it totally believable and plausible. I love getting to travel all around Europe in this book.
Character-wise this novel also just really did it for me. I love Alec and Magnus’ struggles, as well as the progression of Simon and Izzy’s relationship. Clary has grown by leaps and bounds since the first three books, and her character is so much more enjoyable for me to read. In addition to Clary’s character, another vast improvement I saw was the writing of the fight scenes. I thought they were so much more engaging than in previous books, and really captivated and thrilled me.
City of Heavenly Fire
Rating: 5 out of 5.
This is by far the longest book of the series, but it never drags. Edom is such an intriguing setting, and all the characters really grew while there. While in Edom, I felt like we finally got to see Alec and Jace act like parabatai. In previous books it was always established that the two were parabatai, but I felt like we never really got to see the intensity or depth of their relationship. It kind of came out of nowhere, but it makes sense because the longer Cassandra Clare writes in the Shadow World, the more details she will uncover.
Simon was definitely one of my favorites in this book, and I definitely look forward to rereading Tales form the Shadowhunter Academy. Alec also really gets the chance to shine in this book. The Blackthorn’s storyline is so heartbreaking, and it really shows the children’s strength.
I have no qualms with how this series is wrapped up. At the end, I love getting to see Jem and Tessa together, and I love how all the characters arc were wrapped up, but at the same time they were all set up for future stories.
I love reading new books, but I love rereading my favorite books just as much. It might be my terrible memory, but I always forget little details, and sometimes major ones, and when I reread a book it’s almost like I’m reading it again for the first time. One of the book series I reread the most is The Mortal Instruments, or anything by Cassandra Clare. In fact, I read it so much that I told myself I was not going to reread any Cassandra Clare book this year. This became a problem when Queen of Air and Darkness came out, because my terrible memory made me forget most of what happened in Lady Midnight and Lord of Shadows. I tried reading Queen of Air and Darkness, but I just couldn’t get as into it because I knew I was forgetting so much of the story. Then by chance I browsed through my goodreads account and discovered that I actually haven’t read The Mortal Instruments series since 2016. I had no idea it’s been four years since I read one of my favorite series, so I decided to reread every book in the Shadowhunter Chronicles. I’ve read every book in the Shadowhunter Chronicles except Ghosts of the Shadow Market, Queen of Air and Darkness, Chain of Gold, and The Red Scrolls of Magic, so I’m excited to use this reread as a chance to finally get to these.
City of Bones
Rating: 5 out of 5.
I definitely feel the most nostalgic when I read City of Bones. Cassie Clare does such a good job introducing us to the Shadow World and immediately making me care about the characters. The banter in this book is so good, especially between Simon and Jace- it always makes me smile. I noticed that during this reread I found Clary slightly annoying. I forgot that I felt this way towards her, but I think in 2016 the last time I read this book I felt the same way. It probably has to do with the fact that I’m getting older, and Clary is written as a really stubborn sixteen-year-old girl. I think the angle Cassie Clare was going for is that Clary is so blinded by her love for her family and friends and her desire to save them that she doesn’t consider the consequences. I totally think this is a valid angle, but I feel like sometimes the lines got blurred between just being rude and being rude/abrasive for the sake of the people she loves.
City of Ashes
Rating: 4 out of 5.
One aspect that majorly weirded me out in City of Ashes is the incest. I know it’s a super old scandal and it’s been talked about a lot, but it definitely bothered me this reread. I don’t think it really mattered that much to me when I first read these books. I think it’s because I knew they would end up together and not related, and also because when I first read this series the first five books were already out, so I was able to read the books back to back.
This is really the first book where hints and connections start getting dropped about all the different bloodlines, which did get me excited for the rest of the books.
The major setting for The Mortal Instruments is New York. It’s basically another character. I’ve never felt this before, but by the time I finished City of Ashes I was kind of sick of New York. I think this is because now that I’ve read most of The Dark Artifices, and I knew what was coming in City of Glass and later books, I was just really looking forward to getting to read about Idris, the Faerie Court, Los Angeles, and all the other places we visit. Finally my last gripe, if Jace would just talk about his problems so much could be avoided! I still love him, but he definitely annoyed me at parts. I actually ended up lowering my rating to four stars because after reading City of Glass, I realized I did not enjoy this book as much as others in the series.
City of Glass
Rating: 5 out of 5.
I love City of Glass because finally we go to Idris and get to see more of the Clave and meet characters like Amatis and the Penhallows. Clary at the beginning still drove me pretty crazy, and I was glad when Luke, and even Amatis, finally gave her some parental-like guidance.
Valentine definitely bored me and I was glad to see him go. I think Sebastian is definitely more interesting, and I think his beliefs and methods are just a little more plausible to me as a villain. I just never really understood Valentines’ beliefs, which might have been the point because he’s basically got very Hitler-esque tactics.
I really love the ending because it wraps up so nicely. It’s really easy to see how this was originally intended to be a trilogy.
City of Fallen Angels
Rating: 4 out of 5.
This has a really slow beginning for me. I didn’t get excited until the last 75 pages. There’s a couple reasons this felt slow to me. First, we’re back in New York, which just makes me miss Idris. Second, because the last book wrapped up so nicely, this book is almost like a second first book. The plot had to be reestablished. This was also very heavily character based and not plot based, and part of what I love about Cassie Clare books are the major plot twists, so City of Fallen Angels just lacked a lot of that excitement for me.
I did enjoy this because I saw so much growth in Clary. She seems worlds more mature, which definitely makes sense given everything she’s gone through. I also really enjoyed getting to read more about Maia and getting introduced to Jordan.