Review: Thorn Queen (Dark Swan book 2)

Thorn Queen (Dark Swan, #2) Thorn Queen by Richelle Mead

4 of 5 stars

I dove eagerly into Thorn Queen as soon as I finished reading Storm Born. Richelle Mead is a straight-forward writer and an excellent story-teller. Her descriptions of the other world and supporting characters made it incredibly easy to relate to Eugenie Markham, the main character. (Yes, that’s the main character’s name. I hated it at first, and I still cringe sometimes when I read it.)

So much happened around the main plot in Thorn Queen that it wasn’t until I was halfway through the apex of the storyline that I realized that that was what the book was about. The relationship and internal character angst distracted me from seeing that there was an ever larger conflict and mystery to be solved by the main character.

The last quarter of the book sped by quickly because everything was so tense that I couldn’t put it down till things were resolved. There was action scene after action scene, and then after that, it was a bedroom action scene. I literally finished the book while waiting for a light to change on the street because I was walking while reading. That’s how hard it is to put down.

Even though when I started this series, I thought I’d have trouble believing a story about a woman who spends half her time in the real world and half her time in some other dimension fairy world, it actually works. Towards the end of this book, I started thinking of the fairy world as more permanent and real than the human world that Eugenie also inhabited.

Thorn Queen has enough lead up into the story for people who never read the first book in the series, but I highly suggest reading the first book to just get the emotional baggage and background of all the characters. It makes the interactions in this book all the more worthwhile. Although the plot was decent and the mystery not bad, what I really liked about Thorn Queen was the way characters related and hated each other. It was like fast-paced, magical, soap opera.

SPOILERS AFTER THE JUMP
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Review: Storm Born (Dark Swan book 1)

Storm Born (Dark Swan, #1) Storm Born by Richelle Mead

4 of 5 stars
I discovered urban fantasy after reading the Sookie Stackhouse series and then reading Felicia Day’s post about the genre. But after reading a book in the Anita Blake, Vampire Hunter series and not liking it, I wondered if maybe that genre just wasn’t for me. Luckily, I gave it another try and started Storm Born, the first book in the Dark Swan series.

Storm Born stars Eugenie Markham, a typical 26 year old girl with typical 26 year old girl problems, but with an atypical job — she’s a shaman. She banishes fairies, spirits, and various other-worldly creatures from her world as a profession. When I first read that description, I was highly skeptical. It sounded like bad fan-fiction.

But I have to say, now I’m hooked. Richelle Mead writes an easy to read introduction to the series. Her characters, even the fairies (called gentry in these novels) are believable in their interactions and their dialogue flows naturally and even comically in some parts. Best of all, there’s a lot of timely humor and self-referential jokes with regards to the fantasy series. It’s hard not to like a book that makes fun of the genre it belongs to.

Unfortunately, it’s not all good. Some parts were rough to read, and not rough in a good way like the steamy love scenes Eugenie partakes in. Without going into spoilers, when Eugenie Markham learns the truth of her profession the explanation about why she never thought about it was so corny and such a cop out that I almost put the book down. The plot device used is about as unbelievably coincidental as the amnesiac protagonist in role playing games. I’m glad I continued to read the book since the events that followed made up for it, but I’m still a bit miffed that the title of this book was such a spoiler.

Even though I was apprehensive about the book in the beginning, all doubts melted away after I got to the last page. The book makes urban fantasy believable without making the story seem too realistic or explaining too many things away. For me, a fantasy book is good if when I get to the last page, I wish that something like what I just read could really happen.

A Storm of Swords (A Song of Ice and Fire)

5112sqppypl_sl160_A Storm of Swords continues George R. R. Martin’s epic series in full force. I liked the first book of the series because it introduced me to the rich world of Westeros. The second book, A Clash of Kings introduced more characters, but it’s this book, the third, which really brings everything and everyone together. The first two books felt epic while I read them thanks to the twisting, turning subplots as well as political drama, but they’re nothing compared to A Storm of Swords.

Reading this third book re-emphasized one important aspect of Martin’s writing: no one is safe. There were times where I wanted to throw the book down in frustration and just close the cover completely because so many of the characters I was rooting for were dying. Don’t come reading these books if you want a happy go-lucky ending.

Martin does an incredible job of setting up an incredible battle to come as well as tying together some loose strings to keep me satisfied, but there was also a lot of religious back and forth which I’m usually not a fan of. The Lord of Light versus the Lord of Darkness is an obvious parallel to Christianity. The northmen who worship the “old gods” could very well be another name for Pagans. I hope Martin doesn’t take the coward’s way out and have the Lord of Light triumph over the seven gods and the old gods and all the other gods in the end. So far, he’s been doing a decent job of portraying heroes and villains of all sides so let’s hope he sticks to it.

One of the best things that can be said about this third book is the characterization. I began feeling compassion or at least understanding for a lot of the characters whom I thought of as villains in the first book. By no means do they become heroic or anything so drastic, but character motivations come through in a natural and convincing manner thanks to the way Martin writes. It’s true that many more people seem to be varying shades of gray in this book, but there are still those who are quite obviously good or evil.

The only bad thing about this novel is that it’s so long and dense with drama that I had to take a break from reading it after some parts. The treachery, deaths, and general conflicts in the book never get tiresome, but I felt too tense sometimes — thus the break. This is definitely something I’m going to be keeping on my shelves for many more re-reads.