If you’re not watching The 100, I do forgive you. It is a CW show, after all. (I don’t know why, but I can’t take the CW seriously! It doesn’t seem to matter how many of their shows I watch and love!) However, if you are unfamiliar with the show, this post is a PSA for you specifically.
Before I get too into it, I’d like to say that though I am aware of the book that inspired the show (thanks, Kass Morgan!), for my purposes, know that everything here refers exclusively to the TV series. And, with that series, there is a lot to get into. But, first and foremost, the main character, Clarke Griffin.
While the concept of a temporally-bound reading challenge is one I find very alluring, actually finishing one is a success I’ve never personally experienced. This year, in an effort to prioritize both reading and sustainable self-care, I’m working on setting myself some more manageable, bite-sized challenges.
If you’re interested in joining me, here’s what I propose: a three-book seasonal reading challenge to usher in the spring. The more I think about it, the more I’m not only excited about the selections I’ve made, but also about the real possibility that this is a challenge I can and will finish. I want to imbue these next few months and reads with as much meaning and springtime symbolism as I can, and I’ve devised these challenge parameters with that goal in mind. Follow along for the three challenges (one per month of spring) I’ve set for myself and the books I’m thinking about reading to fulfill them.
[Image Description: A black background behind an illustration of a gold pentacle design interlaced with leaves and flowers. A white banner along the bottom reads, “Spring equinox.”] Source: Pinterest
Wild Beauty by Anna-Marie McLemone folds readers into a world of magic, flowers, romance, and danger. First, I would like to acknowledge this beautiful cover, the one pictured here is an OwlCrate exclusive cover, but the version you can dig up in bookstores is also beautiful. I will not hold back on gardening puns, and I will not apologize! I was worried the story wouldn’t live up the magic of this cover, but thankfully it did. With notes of Practical Magic and Chocolat, we’re pulled into a world with five female cousins, and three generations of mothers, grandmothers, great aunts, and aunts-all who can grow hundreds of thousands of flowers based on their namesake. Which sounds fantastic and they probably all smell really good. But there’s a catch, a few catches actually- if they ever try to leave their home, La Padera, they will die. And if they love a man hard enough, he will eventually disappear. This becomes a problem when all five cousins, fall in love with a girl. What will happen to her? And what of the mysterious boy who appeared in La Padera with no memory of his perhaps sinful past? As a life-long reader of mysteries, I am hard to surprise, but Wild Beauty surprised me, IN THE BEST WAY. Lush writing and full of metaphors and magic and little painted wooden horses.
The Gentlemen’s Guide to Vice and Virtue by Mackenzi Lee beautifully illustrates a twist to the historical friends-to-lovers romance. Our protagonist, Henry “Monty” Montague, is a roguish and charming, high-society English lad who is deeply in love with his best friend, Percy—whose gentle nature serves as a fantastic catalyst to Monty’s bravado. Monty’s stern sister, Felicity, also reluctantly tags along on their grand tour of Europe, and uses her book smarts and savage one-liners to survive everything from parties to pirates. Although Monty is thoughtless and selfish, it’s impossible not to love him. His voice and perspective are perfect for fans of British humor—dry and sarcastic but still ridiculously entertaining.
Ah, the transportive joy of reading. It is frequent geek girl companion, and one of my favorite topics in the whole world.
Many geeky people use the new year as a time to set reading goals, make lists, visit bookstores and libraries, and decide how many books they can cram into their brain before the ball drops on another year.
Although I’ve never been the kind to set a physical book goal, I love to journey into new realms of reading, filling my mind and my bookshelf with undiscovered worlds and new pockets of thought, feeling, and idea.
Choosing what to read next is similar to journeying through the wild west: limitless paths with distractions, surprises, and discoveries around every corner. While this “shoot-from-the-hip” style certainly keeps things interesting, it doesn’t make for very intentional explorations of genres, authors, or themes.
As a writer, and a fictional writer at that, reading takes up a great deal of my time. I love perusing the shelves at the local bookstore, searching for new books to add to my library. In celebration of a fresh start as we welcome 2017, I set a fairly lofty goal for myself: to read at least one book per week, aside from the arsenal I already read in professional pursuits. I set this resolution in order to force myself to rethink how I utilize my downtime. Whether it’s a more thoughtful memoir by someone I admire, an educational anthology that’ll help inform my work, or an epic fantasy for pure leisure, I want to make sure that I’m actively enriching my mind with a good book.
For those of you who share my love of reading, and have set similar goals for yourselves, I’ve come with an author recommendation that is bound to keep your reading time well occupied.
Last summer I was introduced to the world of Sarah J. Maas. I was immediately enamored with her work, and read everything that she had published (at the time) in the span of one month. To date, Maas has written two stellar young adult series that are ongoing, currently totaling in eight novels, that are bound to interest readers young and old — she’s easily become one of my favorite modern authors. I even included her debut novel, Throne of Glass, as a part of our 2016 Holiday Gift Guide out of admiration.
A manifesto of sorts, I’m going to do my darndest to tell you why these books are absolutely fabulous, and worthy of a good read (all spoiler free!):
Both series take place within the same meta-universe, and are high fantasy “epics” about some pretty stellar girls doing some pretty stellar things. Throne of Glass, which currently sports six novels (one of which is a little collection of short stories that take place before the events of the first novel), and A Court of Thorns and Roses, which currently has two. Both series are scheduled to wrap up this year, with spin-off novels of the latter, ACOTAR, in the future works. That’s over 3,500 pages of material to blast through.
I’m not alone when I say I’ve had a hard few weeks. Things have felt slightly broken, shook askew, tilted into fantasy mayhem. I’m trying to take the long view, trying to steel myself for a fight, but sometimes some of the best uses of our time is taking a step back and looking through different eyes.
I’m a big reader, so in the days since the election I’ve been trying to understand things through fiction. So here’s a small list of inspiring and thought-provoking books I’ve been dwelling on.
October is our favorite month of the year! Why? Because that’s when GeekGirlCon is on, of course! But there are also plenty of other awesome geeky events on throughout the month; be sure to check them out here:
I first heard of the Guardian Princesses via Black Girl Nerds. With birthdays and gift-giving holidays coming up, and nieces and nephews of the targeted age range for these books, I knew these were books I needed to check out and share.
As is typical of much of the fantasy genre, one issue with Elvenbane is the lack of diversity in the humans presented. While Mercedes Lackey is known for books with homosexual and bisexual characters all the Elvenblood pairings appear to be heterosexual, and it continues through Elvenborn. Everyone also pairs up with people within their own identity: humans with humans, elves with elves, dragon with dragon, and Wizard with Wizard, with one notable exception. Everyone’s gender identity is that assigned to them at birth. And until Elvenblood, every Elf is fair (and stays that way) and every human is white.
In Elvenbane, we were introduced to a group of traders under the control of the elves that I thought were people of color, but in the end, I was left unsure. In Elvenblood, we are introduced to very dark skinned people. These are free folk, nomads who resisted the yolk of the elves and fled to the south when the Elves came. Elvenblood shows them moving back to the north to find grazing for their herds, searching for precious iron, and possible contact with long-ago allies. Unfortunately, the enigma of these people and their roots breaks me out of the story.
In Elvenbane, the location of Prince Dyran’s estate is given as being on the edge of the Mojave Desert. For those unfamiliar, the Mojave Desert is in the southwest U.S. – on the border between California and Nevada. We are led to believe that the elven estates are massive, taking up huge tracts of land and located very far part. But no mention of them reaching across the ocean is made. So it becomes a little confusing about how the elves have enslaved the human race, but not all the human race, and the elves do have borders to their land, but I also find it hard to believe that the humans on other continents would not intervene for hundreds of years to find out what is going on on another continent.
I struggled with the geography of this series through the entirety of it. I believe the forest on the edge of Lord Cheynar’s estate are those of the Pacific Northwest that qualify as temperate rainforests due to all the rain described in the books. The lack of description of bodies of water makes this a little hard to swallow, but is the best I can determine.
In Elvenbane, it is mentioned that the elves wiped out all remnants of human civilization so it is impossible to know when the elves came through from their world to this one. It could have been Biblical times, medieval times, or current times. However, the division of racial diversity implies a time when we believed races were more divided geographically. That time precedes white men settling North America, so having exclusively white slaves near the the Mojave Desert seems unlikely.
The people of color also fall into the typical fantasy treatment of being tribesmen. I looked for a critique of the treatment of people of color in the Halfblood chronicles, but I found none. If someone knows of one, please comment. Or, if someone would like to write one, I’ll send you the three books in exchange for your guest post (following our guidelines) here on GeekGirlCon. (Email adrienne at geekgirlcon dot com.)
Book 2, Elvenblood, was a little slower to get through and took nearly a month. Actually, it took me several weeks to read the first 100 pages and then I raced through the remaining 250. The book is shorter than Elvenbane at about 350 pages compared to 566. Elvenblood is also challenging because it starts out with a new set of characters. By the end of Elvenbane, we have a reasonably sized cast of characters, and one dives into Elvenblood to read more about them. However, we re-meet Sheyrena, her mother, and Myre, and are introduced to Sheyrena’s brother Lorryn. It takes 61 pages in the mass market paperback pass before we even get back to Lashana. I have a 60-page rule: if a book is not sufficiently engaging in the first 60 pages, I don’t force myself to finish it. Sadly, Elevenblood barely makes it through my rule. The story presented in those first 60 pages does not fully engage me, but your mileage may vary. In Elvenbane, the plight of Wizards and humans is sufficiently focused that starting out book 2 with the story of a fullblood Elf, her mother and father, and her halfblood brother, along with the distasteful Myre, is rather off-putting. And I didn’t find the story being presented as attention-grabbing as the beginning of Elvenbane. I persisted because I had enjoyed Elvenbane so much and Elvenblood was beginning to show its potential.
Like Elvenblood, Elvenborn deviates from our main cast of characters at the beginning, introducing us to another elven family – one that has human servants and not slaves (but I’m really not sure how much different this is because it isn’t well described.) We stay with this family for 145 pages of the 382-page hardcover edition of the third book in the series..
While Elvenblood had a brother and sister who shared the limelight, Elvenborn disappoints because it has a male main character. Why did Elvenborn have a male main character after effectively using female main characters previously in the series? These authors both had often written female main characters in other series, so this switch feels wrong to me.
In Elvenbane, the characters get fairly well developed. The characters introduced in Elvenblood are not as well developed and those who continue on from Elvenbane do not get much more development. In Elvenborn, the main character, Kyrtian, gets a lot of character development. However, Lorryn, one of the main characters from Elvenbane, almost gets typical female treatment, seemingly having been introduced only to become the romantic interest for Shana, the original lead. I don’t actually have a problem with this, although I prefer to have good character development for as many characters as possible in books I read.
Like Elvenbane, in Elvenblood the quest and character development are the majority of the story. The conflict comes late in the novel and is short; the denouement basically leaving you hanging and ready for the next novel. Elvenborn differs only in that the main conflict is resolved with little conflict, but rather with political maneuvering fairly early in the book. This smoothly transitions the book to what appears to be the focus for the next books in the chronicles.
I like all the mystery and potential theories this could go to. This is why a fourth book was so eagerly awaited and fans of the series were hoping for it. We have the inevitable human slave rebellion on earth, the enigma of the magic-sucking constructs that kill, the fleeing Elves that didn’t make it (I have a theory about the Elves and those contraptions that is not the conclusion drawn by the story’s occupants), Triana’s potential storyline, and the thing that came through the Portal from Evelon and took her. Is that thing what the Elvenlords of Evelon became after all this time? Is it something new? And, of course, the opening of the Portal from either side means there could be a war between Earth and Evelon later on in the chronicles.
Despite the issues I’ve described in these two reviews, I am again excited for any follow-up chronicles in this series.