April 5, 2023

FairyLoot Buddy Reads - Reviews #1: Violet Made of Thorns, Belladonna + This Vicious Grace

It’s been about a month since I first posted about how Kristin & I planned to buddy read a few of our FairyLoot special edition books, and I’m proud to report that we’ve already made it halfway through our list! The three titles that we read are Belladonna by Adalyn Grace, This Vicious Grace by Emily Thiede and Violet Made of Thorns by Gina Chen. For once, I can give you a definitive ranking, so you’ll be getting my thoughts on each book starting with my least favorite and working my way up.

VIOLET MADE OF THORNS BY GINA CHEN

My hopes were high for this YA debut, but it fell short of my expectations. I struggled with the plot; it starts off slower than I would like, and a large chunk of the novel passes before things really pick up. I also didn’t feel very connected to the characters, particularly Violet (our morally grey heroine who has built extremely high walls around herself as a form of self-defense) and Cyrus (a prince who deals in artifice and masks and who feels impossible to get to know, especially given we don’t get his perspective). Even so, I can’t deny that Violet and Cyrus’ explosive, often confrontational, relationship dynamic always caught my attention with the raw emotional energy pouring out of their encounters. I also found the themes (especially of power and agency) interesting, as well as the use of (and occasional subversion) of fairytale-inspired elements in the tale. It might not have been entirely my cup of tea, but it’s still objectively a solid and very readable YA debut.

Pub Info: July 26, 2022 by Delacorte Press

BELLADONNA BY ADALYN GRACE

Grim as this sounds, any hints at death magic or Death personified in a book synopsis will immediately grab my attention… which was the case for this book (and is one of the aspects of it I liked best). Truthfully, I’m generally more drawn to quest stories or epic political or battle sagas in my fantasy reads, there’s something appealing about the change of pace this novel offers with its limited setting and small cast murder mystery plot. It took me a couple of chapters, but once I was settled into the narrative, I was hooked! What works very well for this one is the author’s ability to create an atmospheric setting (I seriously had some The Secret Garden vibes, and since that’s a favorite for me, that’s a point in its favor) and interesting lore, both of which work together to entice and haunt the reader into immersing themselves in the tale. I also found the characters and the overall plot easy enough to get invested in, so reading this book was quite enjoyable. I’m curious about how the sequel will play out, though this one could certainly stand on its own if the reader so desires.

Pub Info: August 30, 2022 by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers

THIS VICIOUS GRACE BY EMILY THIEDE

Of the three titles I’ve read so far, this one was the most pleasant surprise (and easily my favorite)! This YA debut does start out feeling like a typical YA fantasy read; it sticks really closely to the details provided in the synopsis and generally gives the reader the feeling that things are going to play out in the expected way (especially if, like me, you’ve read a lot of YA fantasy over the years). But there’s a turning point at which this novel finds its own footing, and the end result is an immersive, gripping tale that I easily flew through. This book has a lot going for it: 1) a great cast of characters (led by main character Alessa, who blossoms beautifully over the course of this novel), 2) excellent dialogue (the banter, wit and one liners were so good), 3) romance (I was absolutely rooting for our couple, and their tension was delicious), and 4) an interesting plot that escalates at a great pace and ends at a point that satisfies the reader but also leaves room for more. All of these elements are really appealing to me personally as a reader, so you can imagine how overjoyed I feel at finding a new YA book that hits the mark. I’m definitely dying to get my hands on the sequel to find out what happens next!

Pub Info: June 28, 2022 by Wednesday Books

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