The Wicked King (The Folk of the Air #2)

The Cruel Prince (The Folk of the Air #1)

It had been quite a while since I had read The Cruel Prince, but Holly Black did an excellent job of summarizing the main points in her first few chapters of The Wicked King. There was an absolute bloodbath at the end of the last book where many factions made a play for the throne. Jude Duarte, the mortal ward of the Grand General Madoc outsmarted them all by having her foster brother Oak, revealed to be of royal blood, place the blood crown on Cardan’s head, making him High King of Elfhame. Oak is sent away to the mortal world until he comes of age, when Cardan has agreed to abdicate and place the crown on Oak’s head instead.

The Wicked King picks up with Jude playing puppeteer to Cardan’s rule, trying to make everything run smoothly after the attempts on the throne and his agreement to allow her to command him for a year and a day. The Undersea and its queen begin to make an attempt to overthrow the land using Cardan’s only living brother Baeliken, and that sets up this next stage in our journey.

One of the main enjoyments that I get from these books is that we are always operating at a medium level of danger. As we follow Jude through Elfhame the very plants can poison her, any agreement she makes can come back to bite her, and even accepting a gift from someone can place her in their service or at their bidding. She has to be on her guard all the time, and as you read this book you will find that you are holding your breath while you wait for the next danger to jump out of the bushes.

I love how Jude becomes a part of Elfhame. She thinks she has it all figured out. She’s a great fighter, strategist, and bargainer. The Wicked King shows us a Jude that has almost lost all connection with her humanity and uses her knowledge and power as a kind of armor/cloak that she thinks makes her belong. Despite all her scheming though, her humanity cannot be denied, and she must remember that part of herself or be forced to by others who may or may not care for her. (Honestly I’m still confused about who actually has her best interests at heart and whether she’s always been alone, pinging around Elfhame like a lonely pinball.)

I still am not sure if Cardan truly cares for Jude. I don’t know if Cardan is an idiot or a genius. I’m not sure if he wants to be High King or if he actually is going along with Jude’s plan for Oak to become king. Is he a trickster of the highest order or is he flying by the seat of his elven pants? I DON’T KNOW AND IT’S KILLING ME NOT TO KNOW. I hated him in the first book and now I can’t decide if I love him or hate him.

Holly Black is the most devious and wonderful author I think I have ever encountered. The world is lush and complex, the magic is terrifying and tricky, and the people are not to be trusted. You’ll want to trust, you’ll want to believe, but that’s what makes you mortal. So be careful when you venture into this series, because it’s easy to be trapped and in trouble in Elfhame. After this second book my heart is in trouble, because I’m not sure it can survive until the next book arrives.

If you enjoy magic, elves, intrigue, dangerous bargains, and roller coaster ride that comes with the pursuit of power, you will love this series. Go get you some.

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Gingerbread

Gingerbread by Helen Oyeyemi was provided to me as an eARC by Riverhead Books, a division of Penguin Publishing Group, via Edelweiss+ in return for an honest review. Gingerbread is scheduled to release for purchase on March 5, 2019.

I usually don’t review books of which I have experienced less than 30%. Most of the ARCs I am provided with come through to the Kindle, so I’m able to work to hit that threshold. With Gingerbread, I only made it to 9%, but I would like to explain why, and then encourage you to read it.

There are certain kinds of books that are not my cup of tea. Among these are the kinds of books that simply take you through the mundane workings of a suburban family’s day and try to show you the magic hidden within. I cannot stand that kind of stuff. Plus, it links to another kind of story I can’t stand, which is suburban politics or mommy wars. Examples of this are things like battles for PTA president or calling child protective services on someone as payback or HOA meeting pettiness. All of this kind of stuff just misses me, mostly because I think it’s so stupid and meaningless, but also because I can’t relate. If the protagonists own a home and have kids the book is already two circles out from my bulls eye. That’s not to say I won’t read a story about people who own homes or have kids – it’s the story that surrounds that setting that makes or breaks it.

Gingerbread is steeped in this “trying to belong in suburbia” kind of tale and I jut couldn’t get into it. The main character mom brings her famous gingerbread to a PTA meeting as gifts for the other moms and they just leave it there scattered among the chairs when they leave. I have no patience for that kind of cruelty.

Another kind of story that I won’t invest time in is one where someone clings to their family tradition even in the face of trauma or abuse or even just basic disrespect. Gingerbread represents past, present, and future for this family, and its presence in the story is a symbol of how this mom will carry her family’s legacy and traditions into the future in a strong way (spoiler, she’s not doing so hot).

I say all this to say that this simply wasn’t a book I would read because I wouldn’t enjoy it. That is not to say that it was poorly written, or that the story isn’t structured well – it was. If these kinds of stories are your cup of tea, you should absolutely pick up Gingerbread, because you won’t be in better storytelling hands than Helen Oyeyemi, who is at the top of the field for this kind of book.

Just because something isn’t for me doesn’t mean it’s bad. It’s just not for me. Look into the book, read the blurbs and the synopsis and a few reviews, and feel comfortable picking it up. I’m not shooing you away, I’m just letting you know that it wasn’t my cup of tea.

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The Everlasting Rose (The Belles #2)

The Belles (The Belles #1)

The Everlasting Rose was provided to me as a free eARC by Disney Book Group and Freeform Books via NetGalley in return for an honest review. The Everlasting Rose will be released March 5, 2019.

Second books often find themselves in a slump. I’ve learned that this is because the first book is often written without a deadline, put through multiple drafts, and given the chance to become perfect. Second books in a series tend to be under a deadline and under the scrutiny of many, which explains why they often feel bland, rushed, and a bridge to something better.

Not so with The Everlasting Rose.

Camille has escaped the palace and is on the run with the intention of finding the Princess Charlotte and foiling Princess Sophia’s plans to become queen. She runs into the rebel force of Iron Ladies who have chosen to live without beauty treatments and want to help the kingdom move away from them as well. They agree to help Camille and she makes arrangements to crash the coronation and bring Charlotte back to take her rightful place.

This book was everything The Belles wasn’t. People died, there were very real consequences, you can feel that the kingdom is under a cruel (yet beautiful) dictatorship. Camille has to explore what matters most to her so that she can make the right choices and keep her eyes on the top priority, which moves from her new love for Remy, keeping her Belle sisters safe, and murdering the ever-loving daylights out of Sophia. Every time her arcana woke up and she started to choke the life out of someone because she was so angry my vengeful heart just purred (although RIP to a sweet bebe no spoilers).

I enjoyed the read from start to finish. There aren’t a whole lot of surprises, you’re basically getting what you would expect even in the “twists,” but the story is told so well that you won’t mind the predictability. I was unable to unearth whether or not there will be a third book or if this was simply a duology, but The Everlasting Rose ties up nicely at the end while leaving just a few threads out there that another book could build on. If that next book should materialize I think I will be there to read it.

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