Sunday, April 24, 2016

Review: Prince's Gambit by C.S. Pascat

4.5 stars. Spoiler free review.
Okay, if I thought the first book was good, this one absolutely blew my mind. I don't think I've ever been more attached to two completely ridiculously adoring characters as I am with Damen and Laurent.
First things's first: The Writing. Once again, C.S. Pascat did not let me down in terms of such beautiful writing and such wondrous descriptions. When I was reading this book, let me tell you, I felt like I was there. I could see every scene in my head to the point where I was sure that I was one of the soldier's in Laurent's army, watching the storyline unfold (well maybe not, but I like to imagine I was). More importantly, the characters grow with you while you're reading the book. I could see the way that Damen and Laurent's personalities changed and grew in Pascat's writing style, and not only that, but I saw the way that the minor characters each had their own character growth, whether it was small or large, occur throughout the course of the novel.
As for the story, well let me tell you I am in love. The way that Laurent and Damen went into the field together, strategising for a war that neither of them had initially planned on fighting, was just gorgeous. Honestly, I could go on and on about the character development in this novel because of the fact there is just So Much There. Laurent's coldness towards Damen completely transforms, and Damen's initial reactions to Laurent from the first novel completely morph into something that's less about protective animosity and more about true, honest caring. The lengths that these two have changed from Captive Prince has left me in awe still a month after reading the book. If I had the time right now, I'd delve right back into a reread because I want to watch their personalities change and expand once more.
To be fair, once again there were times where I felt the storyline lagged a little bit, which is the only reason that I knock half a star off of this book. Small points during their travels down to Ravenel left me a little bit bored, but the second that I started feeling like there was too much of a lull, things picked right back up. Scenes with Damen and Laurent carefully (or carelessly) eluding danger in towns and their trip into the mountains with an unlikely ally kept me on my toes and helped to drive away some of those sleepy bits of the book.
Overall, I came out of Prince's Gambit feeling two things. The first was OH MY GOD FINALLY and the second was HOLD ON THAT CLIFFHANGER WAIT WHAT????? To me, that's really all you need to know in order to pick this book up, especially if you loved the initial novel. I don't know how else to express just how much I adored this entire series, but most people say the second book is usually not as good as the first, and in this case I entirely disagree. Prince's Gambit was absolutely worth reading, and I'll admit wholeheartedly that King's Rising is too, but that I'll defend in another review. For now, all I have to say is what are you doing still reading this? Go pick up Prince's Gambit!

Review: The Mark of Noba by G.L. Tomas

2 Stars. Spoiler Free Review.
I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. My thoughts are my own.
There's nothing more frustrating than being extremely excited to read a book that has a unique description, only to be let down by the writing style. In the case of The Mark of Noba, that's exactly what I experienced.
When I first heard about this book, I was thrilled to read it. Mystery meets fantasy meets alternate worlds — what could go wrong? The second I read the description of the book, I signed up in hopes of having an amazing adventure and following Sterling and Tetra into their unique worlds. When I received my ebook, I immediately dove in, eager to devour the world of Noba and why Sterling didn't know he was from there, but it was hard to do so.
To be fair, I'm a bit of a stickler of grammar and spelling mistakes, so that was one of the first things I noticed about this book. Words were missing in some sentences, and in others, words that didn't belong were inserted or their suffixes were lost, leaving the sentences difficult to read. This happens in every book, and I understand that because no author is perfect, but it left me frustrated. Every time that I came across a mistake, I was jarred from the plot, something that I wasn't really sure I was following in the first place. That, of course, wasn't the overall deterrent from continuing to bask in Sterling's adventures. What was, however, was the way the author set up the book's POV.
Now I love a good POV switcher. Usually when I read these kinds of novels, my first thought is 'who's going to die?' because there's no way we get to see these intricate minds both make it to the end. In The Mark of Noba, however, it was jarring. The first few chapters start out solely in Sterling's point of view, telling the tale of a teenage boy with a stressful family life, friends who don't always understand him, and a crush that doesn't really see him the same way. That was all well and good. The frustrating part comes when Tetra is introduced to the story. Once Tetra becomes someone that Sterling isn't wondering about, but rather a person in his life, her point of view becomes a main focus of the writing behind the storyline, and that's where it gets confusing. The way that the point of view was jumping back and forth left me confused sometimes, because I would set the book down, pick it back up, and spend twenty minutes trying to figure out who I was reading about based on context clues. By the time I got to a third of the way through the book, I still didn't know exactly why the POV was switching multiple times per chapter, or what the goal behind it was.
In addition to that, the plot moved so slowly that it didn't hold my attention. Usually when I start a book, I can't put it down. I spend hours reading it, trying to delve into the characters' past and the world that they live in so I can soak up everything about the novel, but this one left me wanting. I'd get a few percent further into the book and felt like no time was passing, that nothing interesting was happening, and that left me wondering why I tried to keep reading. As a good friend once told me, life's too short to read books you're not enjoying, so I decided after getting a third of the way through The Mark of Noba that this one's just not for me. Maybe on a rainy day I'll pick it up again and give it another go, but as of right now, I don't think I'll be finishing this book for a long time.
I greatly appreciate the author's willingness to give me the opportunity to read their book, and if you like books with multiple POVs, this might be a great one for you! Sadly it wasn't for me, but who knows. Maybe in the future that will change.

Review: Captive Prince by C.S. Pascat

4.5 Stars. Spoiler free review. 
When I first started this book, I didn't really know what I was getting into. I picked it as a recently-downloaded ebook for an 8 hour train ride back from visiting a friend and figured, what the heck. Why not? Little did I know that I'd quickly go from wondering why I'd picked this book to read to wondering why I would ever pick another book again.

The novel follows the story of Prince Damianos of Akielos after an uprising occurs. He's shipped off to the enemy land of Vere where he's held captive as a slave to the crown prince, Laurent. Damianos, known as Damen in his slave name, has to keep his identity a secret to the lands of Vere, lest he lose his head. That's the general summary, but that definitely isn't what drew me in when I decided to read this book. I'd heard of the book from a friend of mine, who insisted that it was worth the read, and despite the intrigue I found at the summary, had I picked this book up in any other scenario, I don't think that I would have given it the same chance that I did thanks to the recommendation.
In terms of the book itself, I found it a little bit slow at first. Initially when I was reading it, I found myself stopping and wondering if it was worth it, but that doubt was easily wiped away. A lot of the confusion was due to keeping up with all the names and places that the book throws at you early on, but once you start learning how they all connect, it's easy to keep track of them and everything becomes focused on the plot.
My favourite parts of the book are nestled in the dialogue. Laurent's quick, witty words and Damen's biting refusal to play along with the rules of his new home show that there is so much more behind these characters than what meets the eye. Not only are the main characters a treat, but each and every character they interact with has such a distinct personality that they easily reflect the way that humans inherently are. From shy and quiet Erastmus to bold but young Nikandros, the pets of Vere all have their own intricacies to them, and their owners are just as intriguing. There's not a single character that comes to mind that's boring or bland when you read through Captive Prince, and that's exactly what I look for when it comes to novels.
Not only that, but the author's depiction of the scenery of the world is truly amazing. The way C.S. Pascat describes the intricacies of Vere and how they compare to the land of Akelios where Damen hails from is breathtaking, and she uses an immense amount of vocabulary to provide the readers with the best picture possible so you can fully immerse yourself in the book. I found myself losing track of the train that I was on because I was so sure that I was in the palace of Vere, experiencing everything that Damen was.
Everything about this book had me completely hooked on it, and after the first few chapters, I didn't want to put it down. I'd finished the entire thing on the train and started the second one before I'd even arrived home, and trust me, once I was back in my hometown, I didn't want to sleep because all I wanted was to keep reading. If you're looking for an enticing start of a series with witty characters, lush scenery, and a thrilling plot, Captive Prince is definitely the place to start!