March 13, 2019

Abbreviations #81: Circle of Shadows, City of Brass + The Iron King

I’m a little irked by the fact that I had written a pretty decent rundown of my initial thoughts on Circle of Shadows on Goodreads, but that original review has disappeared into the aether since. It expressed the mixed feelings I have about this new YA series starter so well, but I’ll try to do those feelings equal justice in this mini-review. Oh, where to begin? Circle of Shadows is about Sora and Daemon, both of whom are taigas that are dedicated to serving and protecting their kingdom that discover that there is a plot brewing to assassinate the empress and place a new ruler on the throne. 

The premise sounds straight out of an anime that I’d be interested in and I was so eager to finally read it. But alas, though I finished it, I find that I’m disappointed overall. It wasn’t so much the plot (which was interesting, even with the recognizable YA fantasy tropes), nor was it the world (which was interesting enough, if a touch underdeveloped). It was, unfortunately, the characters themselves that really decided my opinion on the novel. I’ve always said that characters are my dealbreaker when it comes to stories, and because I was unimpressed with Sora, Daemon and their friends unable to fully invest in them, I didn’t like Circle of Shadows as much as I’d hoped. (Also, the romantic element in this story? Not my favorite.) Will I continue the series? I don’t know. I’m mildly curious, since the plot picked up in the latter fourth and ended on an intriguing note. But, as of right now, Circle of Shadows was just okay (and I’m personally very disappointed).

Circle of Shadows by Evelyn Skye | Series: Circle of Shadows #1 | Publisher: Balzer + Bray | Publication Date: January 22, 2019 | Source: e-galley downloaded from Edelweiss (Thanks!)

The City of Brass is a dual perspective fantasy novel that follows our main characters Nahri and Ali. Nahri is a con woman who doesn’t believe in magic, up until the day she accidentally summons a djinn warrior to her side. Upon discovering the fantastical world of her childhood stories is real, Nahri is forced to flee Cairo to seek refuge (and answers) in the legendary city of Daevabad. Ali, on the other hand, is a prince of Daevabad who has trained all his life to be his brother’s Qaid (commander) after he ascends to the throne. But Ali has been struggling to reconcile his beliefs with his reality and all the careful politics he must deal with. When their paths cross, Nahri and Ali will both soon discover that other people can surprise you, court politics can be dangerous and magic unpredictable.

My interest in The City of Brass was initially piqued in 2017 when I first heard Shannon Chakraborty speak on a panel and describe her novel, but it took me a little over a year to finally pick up this novel and read it. I was initially worried I would struggle to get into the story (since I still have it in my head that adult fantasies are harder for me to get into), but I really had no trouble at all slipping into this story from the very beginning. The author did a wonderful job making her world and her characters accessible to the reader, even if you’re not as familiar with the landscape and lore of the setting (like me). While I didn’t necessarily click with the characters until I was about two-thirds through the novel, the plot certainly kept me going. Chakraborty combined a physical journey/quest type tale with one of court intrigue and political machinations, and the result was a plot-driven novel that was successful in keeping me interested to see how it would all play out up until the very last page. I’m truly glad Kristin picked this one out for me to read earlier in the year, and I’m definitely looking forward to seeing what happens in The Kingdom of Copper (particularly after the way it ends).

The City of Brass by S.A. Chakraborty | Series: The Daevabad Trilogy #1 | Publisher: Harper Voyager | Publication Date: November 14, 2017 | Source: Owned the Kindle book

Meghan Chase’s world is turned upside down on her sixteenth birthday when she discovers that the fey (and other mythical beings) are real and learns that her younger brother has been kidnapped and replaced with a changeling. The only way to get him back? Find Ethan in the world of the fey and bring him home herself. But Meghan doesn’t count on finding herself part of a quest to defeat a great evil, learning more about her true connection to the fey or making new connections with those she encounters along the way…

I had heard about The Iron King years ago when it was popular among the online book community but skipped out on reading it because I wasn’t into fey at the time. Boy, how that has changed since then! Because Rachel has always adored it and encouraged further by having it be our first pick for the unofficial book club that she, DJ, Kristin and I are doing, I finally picked it up to read last month. I enjoyed it! It was fun to meet these characters I’d only ever heard about from other folks, though I do think that they were underdeveloped and that prevented me from being invested in them. (I will say that I do love two of the secondary characters – Grim and Puck! Both are delightful in different ways.) It was even better to be able find that the plot itself was engaging and took some unexpected turns (and I’m still convinced it would make an excellent anime), which was the highlight of experiencing this story for the first time. I do wish that the relationships (especially the romance) were more developed, and I also found the writing itself to be clunky at times. Overall though, it was an entertaining series starter, and I’m looking forward to checking out the rest of the series.

The Iron King by Julie Kagawa | Series: The Iron Fey #1 | Publisher: Harlequin Teen | Publication Date: January 19, 2010 | Source: Owned the paperback


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