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The Iron Trial and The Copper Gauntlet (Magisterium 1 & 2) by Holly Black and Cassandra Clare

51k9ftuidnl-_sy344_bo1204203200_ The Iron Trial

In a great middle grade modern fantasy adventure, Callum Hunt has been warned all his life of the dangers of the Magisterium and witches and wizards–despite the fact that he is one, as is his father. Callum is required to compete in the Iron Trial for the privilege of being accepted into the Magisterium, an underground school for mages. Stubborn and reckless, he attempts to fail his exam and does so spectacularly. It comes as a great surprise when the well-respected Master Rufus takes him on as a student, along with Tamara, a smart girl with a rich family who expects her to excel, and Aaron, a gifted orphan with a hidden power. Callum, who has a physical deformity, has never had friends before, and he has never felt accepted anywhere. Now, at the Magisterium, a place he expected to hate, he…actually likes? He even has stowed away a chaos wolf puppy, an animal anyone else would have killed. But everything isn’t all roses and rainbows. Callum has trouble controlling his magic, he discovers his father wants his magic taken away, and always lands into a mess of trouble when he doesn’t follow the rules. Together, Tamara, Aaron and Callum must work on their magic, become a team, and then maybe Callum might survive the year at the Magisterium.

*spoilers below*

91amJrnICGL The Copper Gauntlet

Note: I obtained this book as a free Advanced Reader’s Copy. Some details may be changed in the final version.

In this sequel, Callum had just learned of his supposed true identity; that he was actually supposed to be reborn as the Enemy of Death. Callum doesn’t know what to do with the knowledge. He is home for the summer, and his father is acting weirder than usual. One day he comes home to find his wolf, Havoc, missing. After searching frantically, he finds him chained in the basement with notes about ripping the heart from a chaos creature on his father’s desk and manacles on the wall. Call begins to suspect his father knows of his secret and is trying to kill him and Havoc. He runs away to his friend Tamara’s house, only to discover that Aaron has been living with her for the summer, having been previously outed as a Makar, the only known controller of chaos magic since the Enemy. When they return to the Magisterium, Callum really begins to feel the weight of his secret. If anyone finds out at the Magisterium, they will kill him immediately! When he learns that someone has stolen the Copper Gauntlet, a magical artifact known to control or harm Makars, he believes his father is behind it and manages to talk Tamara and Aaron into helping him track him down, knowing his father will be killed by the other mages if they find him first. In the process, his nemesis Jasper gets in the way and is forced along too. Their party of five embarks on a journey to save Call’s father, but as they get closer to their goal, the stakes rise until Call must choose between life or perhaps his own death…

This is a total Harry Potter read-a-like, but it carries its own unique charm, particularly for middle grade readers. Endless similarities could be drawn, and even some flavor of Clare’s other Shadowhunter world can be found here, but let’s not waste time on that. Callum himself is quirky and not much of a “Chosen One” like his friend Aaron. This is a fun, easy, clean read which twists expectations and will satisfy a few reluctant readers or those just introducing themselves into teen books. It’s also engaging, and rushes headlong into adventure. Older readers may find themselves less interested with the gamut of fantasy tropes (or stereotypes) and the younger characters. Still, it could be a lesser version of Harry Potter for a new generation…novembre-2014-anteprima-magisterium-di-cassan-L-bvHoDF

 
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Posted by on October 20, 2015 in Fantasy, Young Adult/Teen

 

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The Raven Boys & The Dream Thieves by Maggie Stiefvater

If you have not read any books by Maggie Stiefvater, WHAT have you been doing?!

Also author of: Mercy Falls Wolves (Shiver, Linger, and Forever), Ballad and Lament, The Scorpio Races.

The Raven BoysThe Raven Boys

Blue Sargent has been warned for years by her psychic mother and her psychic half-aunts that when she kissed her true love that he would die. Since her mom and aunts were uncannily right about other things, she knew it was true. When she meets a spirit on St. Mark’s Eve, the night of recording the dead for the coming year, Blue believes she’s either killed him or he’s her true love. His name is Gansey, and he’s a raven boy from Aglionby Academy nearby.

Gansey is on a quest to find a long-buried Welsh king, Glendower, because this king is magic, buried along a magical ley line in Henrietta, VA. He is joined by his three friends, Adam, Ronan and Noah. Adam hunts for the king because he wants to lift himself out of poverty and obscurity. He wants to be an equal with Gansey and Ronan, only stubbornly through his own efforts. Possibly the most mysterious of the group, Ronan keeps many secrets. His father was killed and Ronan found the body. Since then, he has been a completely different person than the one Gansey used to know. Ronan is frequently hostile and angry, but possesses a strong attachment to his friends and a newly discovered baby bird. Noah is the quietest of the group, but his hunches are always spot-on. Their search for Glendower takes them to visit psychics, Blue’s mother and her best friends, to see if they can tell anything about the magic. When their cards are read, Blue’s card keeps turning up, and her life is now irrevocably entwined with that of the raven boys.

However, someone else is searching for the ley line and Glendower, and that means its a race to see who will discover it first…

 

Obviously, there are spoilers below, but not many. 🙂

 

dreamthievesThe Dream Thieves

With the ley line woken, it seems that the search for Glendower should get easier. However, Adam is still dealing with the consequences of his sacrifice for Cabeswater, and weirdly enough, the ley line seems unstable. Power outages keep occurring in Henrietta and Noah keeps disappearing. Ronan begins to learn about his powers as a Greywaren and the consequences that come with it: night terrors and men hunting him. Blue has her own issues, mainly confronting her feelings for Adam and Gansey and dealing with her mother’s new romance with Mr. Gray. Hidden secrets come to light, and they are plagued by Gansey’s Aglionby archenemy, Kavinsky, who is withholding some key knowledge of his own. Everyone seems to be falling apart around Gansey, and he needs all of them to work together if he is to stabilize the ley line and get to his king.

In this second book, the reader will notice the narrator shift from mainly Blue to mainly Ronan, while giving almost all the main characters time to be narrator, including the newly added Gray Man, the hit man hired to find the Greywaren. Also, while containing plenty of action, this book resolves many of the conflicts brought up in The Raven Boys, and also invites each of the main characters to resolve their personal conflicts before they can team up again to attempt to find Glendower.

 

If I can remember correctly, I’ve now read all of Maggie’s books. While these aren’t my absolute favorite of hers (that’s undoubtedly The Scorpio Races), they are still awesome reads. This series seems possessed of that same unknowable and inconceivable magic found in Ballad and Lament except of a different flavor. Rather than being unreachable and incomprehensible, the magic here somewhat follows logic and reason, but is distinctly Welsh and still mysterious. One of the most beautiful things in these books is the fresh descriptions and writing style. I can’t get enough of it! Unfortunately, there’s no mention of book 3 as of yet (keep watching her blog!). Look for her companion book to the Shiver trilogy, Sinner, out in July 2014.

Enjoy your New Year’s Eve! See you in 2014!

Kara

 
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Posted by on December 31, 2013 in Fantasy, Young Adult/Teen

 

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The Bitter Kingdom by Rae Carson

bitterkingdomThe Bitter Kingdom

The final book in The Girl of Fire and Thorns trilogy, The Bitter Kingdom begins as Queen Elisa must travel (with a select few) to rescue Hector, her Captain of the Guard and new fiancé, from the Inviernos. Her country is being torn apart from civil war due to the greedy machinations of Count Eduardo and General Luz-Manuel, and threatened from the outside by Invierne. Rescuing Hector is not only a means to saving her love, but it would strengthen her throne by nullifying the threat of civil war. Her journey is not just for political and romantic gains; instead, she learns more about herself as a person, as a ruler, and as an instrument of God through the Godstone she bears.

All in all, it is a fantastic end to such a great series! I’ll be looking forward to more works by Rae Carson in the future!

 
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Posted by on October 1, 2013 in Fantasy, Romance, Young Adult/Teen

 

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Wicked Lovely series by Melissa Marr

So while I love to read fantasy, I rarely encounter what I consider to be really excellent and likeable/believable tales about faery. Sure, I’ve read Holly Black’s faery novels: Tithe, Valiant, and Ironside. Her books take a modern girl who is actually a faery child that was switched with a human child and describes how she lives among iron in the human world. (I just didn’t like these because of their content.) I’ve also read Maggie Stiefvater’s Ballad and Lament, both of which are great but are more otherworldly and have very Gaelic/Scottish influences. They would be wonderful reads for around Halloween time.

Melissa Marr’s Wicked Lovely series is not along the same lines. I think she takes a more classic approach to tales of faery queens and faery courts and makes them seem almost timeless with their passing influences to our human/mortal world. She really takes you deep into the faery realms and faery politics, but she also does a great job of making the faeries relatable to humans, having close resemblances to human emotions, feelings, and desires. If you have read or liked the medieval tales of faeries, like A Midsummer Night’s Dream or Edmund Spenser’s The Faery Queen, this is so much more up your alley. (If you have no idea what I’m talking about, you can just pretend you didn’t read that and continue to the reviews.)

wicked lovelyWicked Lovely

Aislinn believes she is just a regular teenage girl. Only she can see faeries. Her grandmother has taught her that if the faeries know she can see them, terrible things will happen. Aislinn must not attract their attention at any cost. This isn’t a problem until Aislinn meets Donia and Keenan, who present themselves as regular mortals interested in getting to know her.

Keenan is the Summer King, ruler of one of the four courts of faery who is held in thrall by his mother, Beira, the Winter Queen and Irial, the King of the Dark Court. His father, the former Summer King, was murdered centuries ago by Beira, and the Summer Court is helpless to stop the power of the Winter Court unless Keenan finds his missing Summer Queen. For centuries he has looked and looked, wooing many mortal girls to find his true queen. The mortal girls who love him must take a test, either become Summer Girls and part of Keenan’s court but fail the test to determine whether she is a the Summer Queen or become the Winter Girl, doomed to be a pawn of the Winter Queen, scorn Keenan and discourage his future mortal paramours, and be in perpetual icy pain until the next unfortunate Winter Girl. Donia is the current Winter Girl and though she loves Keenan, she must dance and play the game as all faeries must. She must attempt to drive Keenan away from Aislinn, because even she feels that this girl is different, as does the evil Beira.

But Aislinn wants nothing to do with any faery. She only wants peace and to continue being with her best friend, Seth. But once Keenan has marked her, she is on the path to becoming faery, whether she wills or no. With Seth’s help, Aislinn finds out Keenan’s identity, but not before she is targeted by Beira and has attracted the attention of innumerable faeries. Aislinn has a choice to make and already she has much to lose…

ink exchangeInk Exchange

As the second book opens, we follow Leslie, one of Aislinn’s best friends who’s been abused and had a hard life, with a mother who abandoned her, a father who drinks and beats her while not providing anything by way of living, and a brother who uses her as payment for drugs and tries to drug her. Leslie is tough and used to providing for and protecting herself from her family. With so much pain and struggle in her life, she wants a tattoo that represents all the hardships she’s been through yet still shows she’s beautiful and strong. She doesn’t know, but the tattoo she chooses draws her closer to the realms of faery.

She doesn’t know Aislinn is the Summer Queen and Keenan is the Summer King. She is even fascinated with Aislinn’s friend Keenan’s “uncle” Niall (pronounced NIGH-ALL), who is also a faery. Niall is just as fascinated with her, but so is another powerful faery. Irial, the Dark King finds Leslie to be mesmerizing and instructs an associate of his Dark Court, Rabbit to allow ink exchanges, blood transfers that will give the Dark Court power by tying them to mortals to be used as magical power food. Leslie unknowingly picks the perfect tattoo, a tattoo that will bind her to Irial and enslave her within the twisted pleasures of the Dark Court. Leslie has a choice to make. Will she depend on herself and possibly die from her choices or will she turn to Niall and Aislinn for help?

fragile-eternity

Fragile Eternity

With the growing imbalance among the courts of faery, Seth feels his mortality and vulnerability more than ever. He’s the boyfriend of the Summer Queen (Aislinn), the friend of the Winter Queen (Donia), the almost brother to the Dark King (Niall), and the rival of the Summer King (Keenan). At any minute, any one of them could accidentally kill him and create war between their courts. Seth, because he loves Aislinn, pursues a quest to become faery which leads him to the High Court, ruled by Sorcha, the faery embodiment of Truth and Reason who also controls the entire existence of Faerie. Sorcha’s antithesis and sister, Bananach, is the embodiment of War who constantly works to destroy the faery courts and create chaos among the worlds of faery and mortal. When Bananach brings Seth to Sorcha, desiring to kill him or manipulate her sister, Sorcha chooses instead to give Seth the option to become faerie, and not just any faery, but one powerful enough to withstand the struggles within the courts. All of these secrets, however, are kept from Aislinn. When she finds out Seth has left, she assumes he has left her and their love, creating more discord and more potential for chaos. Life, love, and peace are all so fragile that they can be broken so very easily…

radiant shadowsRadiant Shadows

In another break from the saga that is Aislinn, Seth, and Keenan, this book features Ani. Ani is the half-mortal daughter of the Gabriel, the leader of the Hounds, the Dark Court’s band of hunters. Gabriel’s (for every leader of the Hounds becomes either Gabriel or Gabriela) are not supposed to sire children with mortals, so Ani’s very existence is forbidden, not to mention the existence of her half-brother, Rabbit, and sister, Tish. The High Queen, Sorcha, decreed that Ani was to be killed, the act carried out by her “brother” Devlin. When Devlin turns to follow his Queen’s orders, his friend, Rae, asks him to grant her a third and final wish–to spare Ani. This act changes Devlin’s future forever, and Rae knows it.

Ani, however, has drawn the attention of Devlin’s and Sorcha’s sister, Bananach, which is not a good thing. Bananach wants to create as much discord and chaos as possible so that she can start a war against her sister. She confronts Ani and commands her to kill Seth or Niall or her own life is forfeit. Devlin cannot just stand aside as his two sisters fight over the Hound girl. He steps in to throw his lot with Ani’s, changing the course of Faerie forever. Will they survive against all Logic (Sorcha) and avoid being the pawn of War (Bananach)?

darkest_mercy

Darkest Mercy

The series ends with Darkest Mercy. The leader of the Death Fey walk the streets of Huntsdale. Bloodshed and death are imminent. Irial hangs on the edge of life, Niall is driven mad, Keenan is missing, and Bananach is tirelessly plotting for more ruin. At least Faerie is stable, with Devlin and Ani ruling the Shadow Court and balancing Sorcha and the High Court. But Seth is not out of danger yet, and Aislinn and Donia are not faring well either. In this final installment of the Wicked Lovely series, all conflicts come out into the open and it isn’t clear who will triumph in the end…

 

All in all, this was a pretty great series! Happy reading!

 
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Posted by on July 2, 2013 in Fantasy, Romance, Young Adult/Teen

 

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Magic or Madness trilogy by Justine Larbalestier

I’m not quite sure what I was expecting when I picked up this series, but I sure did not get what I expected. This is absolutely not a book along the lines of “You’re a wizard, Harry,” so don’t go thinking this has any resemblance to Harry Potter. Far from it. I’ve read other books about magic where the reader is swept along with the excitement of learning and wielding powerful magic, and this series isn’t that either. This is more along the lines of, “I’m an ordinary person, but I have a disease that will kill me–Magic.” Pardon my saying this, but like having something that cannot be replenished, i.e. virginity or a females capability of reproduction, or even just your own lifespan and the . Something absolutely finite that once lost is gone forever. (No Pride and Prejudice pun intended.) Just so you’re warned about the idea that this creates of magic, go ahead and read if you’re still interested. It’s certainly a more scientific or possibly realistic manipulation of magic than has commonly been used. I rather get the idea of the Star Wars equivalent of midi-chlorians if you could somehow lose or destroy those midi-chlorians when you were using your Jedi powers…I’m rambling. Enough of that, back to the review.

 

magic or madnessMagic or Madness

In the Magic or Madness series by Justine Larbalestier, fifteen-year-old Reason Cansino’s world has just toppled upside down, almost literally. All her life she’s been running from her grandmother, Esmeralda, because of her evil magic, but when her mother, Serafina, gets taken to a mental hospital, Reason is left with the only family she’s ever known and feared. Her mother used to tell her terrible tales of Esmeralda’s bloodthirsty and pagan ways, and Reason is determined to run away. Her plan has one catch, however, because when she opens the back door expecting a hot Sydney summer in Australia, she falls into winter in New York City. She has no choice but to believe in magic.

In New York, she is rescued by JT, another girl with magic who has been waiting for Reason. JT has ulterior motives for rescuing Reason, but comes to like her despite her appearance of frailty and innocence. Can they both escape the clutches of JT’s master and figure out this magic thing before it’s too late?

 

magic lessonsMagic Lessons

In Magic Lessons, Reason, JT, and Tom have come to live with Esmeralda, who’s promised to be trustworthy. But something terrifying, a golem, breaks through the door from New York City, it starts Reason on a path that she cannot escape. While Reason gets pulled back to New York by the golem (whom we assume is sent by the despicable Jason Blake, her grandfather), JT and Tom are left in Australia to figure out how to keep the golem back and how to stop JT from dying, because she’s used up so much of her magic. Reason, not knowing what else to do when she is in such danger, calls JT’s brother Danny, whom she can’t help but have a crush on. But this choice has way more consequences than she is prepared for because she is magically manipulated into a physical relationship with Danny that results in pregnancy (remember, she’s only fifteen!). However, this is exactly what the terrifying golem wants. Reason has to figure out why something that seems so evil and harmful to her could actually be protecting her from something even greater…

 

magicschildccoverMagic’s Child

Reason’s back in Australia and everyone knows about her pregnancy. But Reason is more than just changing with the process of becoming a mother. She’s taken strange magic from the golem-man, the Other Cansino, and now she’s more powerful than anyone. The magic is changing her and will destroy her, destroy her family from the greed of magic, and destroy the future of her child. Nothing seems simple as Reason watches the machinations of those she loves and would love to protect quickly devour her. Reason must make some very hard choices, even if it means going against one’s own family.

 

 

I found this series just hard for my brain to wrap around, mostly because of the heavy focus on science and mathematics. Also, I could NOT get over how it was simply “okay” for yet another fifteen-year-old to just be manipulated into getting pregnant like her mother and grandmother before her. I took a very strong disliking to this series for those plot developments. Why? Because the implication is there that the magic forced them together physically, without love, without any relationship whatsoever, to automatically subject that physical encounter with a viable pregnancy and then force our heroine into a series of decisions that most fifteen year olds could not make alone, even without being pregnant. It just…didn’t seem to suspend reality for me. I feel pretty positive that I would’ve very much disliked this series as a teenager, but that shouldn’t matter to any of you. Anyone else have another opinion? Obviously, I wouldn’t recommend buying this series right off the bat. Take a look at other reviews on Goodreads or Amazon to see if this is something you might like.

As always, if you like something, don’t ever let anyone sway your opinion. 🙂 Happy reading!

 

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