December 20, 2019

Abbreviations #95

In an effort to get back on track with my book reviews and start 2020 with a cleaner slate, I'm sharing as many of them as possible before the year ends! The books featured in today's round-up are all first books in series that I owned and finally got around to reading.

I finally read A Darker Shade of Magic, friends (and all credit for it finally happening goes to my friend Lili)! Like all V.E. Schwab novels that I’ve read up until now, this one has a solid premise: an individual who is one of the very few people who can hop between four different Londons must now track down an artifact that was stolen from him to prevent the end of the world as he knows it and ends up finding a new ally along the way. I enjoyed deep diving into the world of four Londons, as well as seeing the magic system in action – it really transported me as I read. I’m also pleased to finally meet some well-known characters, including clever Kell, sassy Lila and mysterious Holland. But the plot is truly what cemented my feelings for the book! I was hooked right from the start, and it was pretty much impossible for me to stop reading (so much so that I switched to audio so I could continue reading at work). While I do feel like the plot and characters echo familiarly (as they’re likely to be recognizable in other stories too), it didn’t deter my enjoyment. The only reservation I had, and the reason that I ended up not being able to give this book a full five stars, is that I didn’t 100% love the writing style Schwab employed in this story. But A Darker Shade of Magic was a fun, entertaining read, and guaranteed my desire to continue the series. [A Darker Shade of Magic was published on February 24, 2015 by Tor Books.]

I picked up The Last Wish to read for two reasons: 1) Macky has played The Wild Hunt and I thought the gameplay and characters were so interesting and 2) Kristin absolutely loved it and has been dying for me to read it since she finished it. While this isn’t technically the first novel in the Witcher series, I’ve been advised that this short story collection is the place to start – and I’d have to agree. It’s a great dip into the world of Witcher, as readers will have the benefit of getting to meet most of the main cast of this story (with a specific focus on Geralt, of course, as he does happen to be our lead and he’s absolutely delightful to read from) and the sorts of creatures that reside in this world. Additionally, this short story collection (as well as the one that follows it) highlights Geralt and his experiences in the present-day, even as it uses familiar fairytale set-ups to share flashbacks to things he’s already gone through. Readers will learn about witchers, and the world they live in, and the role they play, and it will certainly whet your appetite for the rest of Geralt’s story. Sapkowski gives readers just enough to make sense of the world and the placement of the characters in it, but also leaves you wanting more… at least if you’re me (or Macky). I’d highly recommend checking this one out, as its an excellent starting point whether you’re diving into it as a total Witcher newbie or if you have any experience tied to the games. [The Last Wish was published on December 14, 2008 by Orbit.]

The Lies of Locke Lamora is the first book in the Gentleman Bastards series. It is also a book that I knew I was going to enjoy, but I didn’t expect to love it as much as I did! Locke Lamora is the leader of a group of thieves and conmen, most of whom were raised together. They make a more-than-decent living by pulling off a variety of high-stakes cons on rich marks, and their latest venture should keep them set for a good, long time. But when the Gray King starts stirring up the gangs, gang leaders and government of Camorr, Locke finds himself drawn into a messy situation where he must figure out a way to save all their skins and still run a successful con. Now, I’ll admit that I thought the very beginning of this story was rough. But if you, like me, wind up really loving Locke (who is my particular type – a clever, witty rogue who always finds a way out of things, occasionally with help), then it’ll aid you in understanding how he’s become who he is. Apart from Locke, and his found family in the Gentleman Bastards, this novel also contains other things I love: cons, heists, disguises, thievery, clever wordplay, unexpected turns. There is a lot going on in this story, even though it all occurs over a short period of time. While others may find it overwhelming or cluttered, I thought it made the entire novel feel fast-paced and exciting! After all, it’s just shenanigans upon shenanigans, where carefully crafted plans fall apart and everything needs to be worked out on the fly, and that always serves to entertain me. I really liked this series starter a lot, and I’m certainly looking forward to reading the next book. [The Lies of Locke Lamora was published on June 27, 2006 by Spectra.]

Red Sister is about Nona, a young girl who finds herself at the Convent of Sweet Mercy. The students at this convent are all in training to become capable assassins, who can embrace the path they choose once they are of age. It covers her earliest years of study, including the friends and enemies she encounters and her daily routines, but it also shows glimpses of what lies ahead as the series goes on. I wasn’t expecting to be such a fantasy light read, honestly. It captures the spirit of many other fantasies I’ve read with similar plot formulas, though nothing about it ended up feeling particularly unique and I did run into an issue with the uneven pacing. But it still ended up being a solid read overall, though it remains up in the air if I will ever truly commit to continuing this series. [Red Sister was published on April 4, 2017 by Ace Books.]

Serpent & Dove is a novel that I went into with very high expectations. This book is about a witch (Louise) and a witch hunter (Reid) who, due to a series of circumstances, find themselves in an arranged marriage. As Louise struggles to keep her identity a secret and investigate the witch hunters, and Reid continues his work as a witch hunter, the two find themselves coming to an unexpected (and not unwelcome) understanding that might just result in true romance blossoming. But will they be able to work around the secrets they’re both keeping or will that knowledge force them apart when it comes to light? Overall, this is a fun read! It took me about a third of the book to get really hooked (though I did like Lou from the start, since she’s a firecracker of a character), but it proceeded to entertain me (and, admittedly, give me a few moments to swoon over). Unfortunately, because it spends a lot of time exploring the growing relationship between Lou and Reid, it didn’t have as much action or magic as I would have personally liked with this set-up (especially in the middle, where there is a bit of a lull). While it failed to win me over completely, I still thought it was good and will be curious to see how things play out in the sequel. [Serpent & Dove was published on September 3, 2019 by Harper Teen.]

I will never stop saying that Kings of the Wyld is basically like reading a bard’s account of a Dungeons & Dragon game where all the players keep rolling natural 1s or natural 20s (and Macky has verified this assessment after reading it too). This novel is about a retired band of mercenaries, who get back together in order to help one of their own out and all the crazy shenanigans that ensue along the way. While the first couple of chapters lean in to being set-ups and the writing isn’t necessarily my favorite when it comes to fantasy reads, I ended up getting so swept up in this tale and having fun along the way! It was just pure entertainment to witness everything these characters went through and overcame while they were on mission, and I both laughed and gasped as I read this. I flew through this one so quickly considering how long it is, and I enjoyed it so much that it automatically earned a spot on my recommendations list! Can’t wait to pick up the companion sequel Bloody Rose in 2020. [Kings of the Wyld was published on February 21, 2017 by Orbit.]

The Devouring Gray was a real surprise hit with me, and I’m so pleased to be able to say that! In the small town of Four Paths, there are Founder Families whose members all have magical abilities that help protect their town from the encroaching Gray. This novel particularly focuses on three teens: Violet (who discovers her bloodline abilities after she and her mom move back to town), Justin (the town golden boy who hasn’t manifested any abilities at all) and Harper (who wants to get back at the people who deserted her when her ceremony went wrong). When the Gray starts becoming a bigger threat, these three (along with a few more folks) will have to team up and figure out a solution. I was admittedly skeptical before I started this one because it sounded so much like a CW show (and I’m not always a fan of those), but I decided to give it a shot because I knew Kristin loved it so much and I wanted something spooky for October. While it does have a bit of a rough start, it develops into a really cool story with compelling lore (pertaining to the magic, how to evoke it and how people respond to it) that I just could not stop listening to. (Yes, to clarify, I listened to the audiobook! The narrator was good at bringing the story to life.) Herman’s writing is the perfect kind of fluid to tell this story, building up the characters and their individual histories and choices so well. There were certainly recognizable tropes, but Herman lends this tale a color all its own with the details and I really appreciated that. In case you hadn’t picked up on it yet, I really liked this story and plan to continue with the series for sure! [The Devouring Gray was published on April 2, 2019 by Disney-Hyperion.]

I’d seen Artemis Fowl on bookshelves before, but I only picked it up this year! I’m not the specific target audience for this series, but I actually think that the story is super fun at any age. The story revolves around two main characters: Artemis Fowl (boy genius, super rich and clever with his schemes, including the one where he takes a faerie hostage to get some faerie gold) and Holly Short (a faerie who works for the L.E.P. Recon unit to help cover up any Fair Folk incidents in the human world). It’s an outlandish series of events that take place, but it’s so entertaining. Colfer does a bang-up job taking familiar character tropes and plot devices, as well as faerie lore, and tying them all together. The plot is definitely compelling, but it’s the characters that really made this story for me! I really liked this series starter, and can’t wait to continue with the next book. (I listened to this on audio, and it was delightful!) [Artemis Fowl was published on May 1, 2001 by Disney-Hyperion.]


  1. I love so many of the books on this list! I'm so glad you read A Darker Shade of Magic, The Last Wish and The Devouring Gray! And I'm glad we got to buddy read Kings of the Wyld! I'm trying to get Andrew to read it in January!


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