The Nightjar Series by Deborah Hewitt #BookReview

Thank you to Tor Books for the e-galley of The Rookery.

The Nightjar by Deborah Hewitt book cover

As a child of the 90s, I have been swearing my literary allegiance to Harry Potter for years. Because of this, I have spent a reasonable amount of time chasing the high that reading each of J.K. Rowling’s books gave me when it comes to dark academia and fantasy novels set in Europe. Deborah Hewitt’s Nightjar series has to be the first time in a long while that I’ve gotten really close to that feeling.

Set in between alternate versions of London, Hewitt’s series follows Alice Wyndham, who is plagued by a life-long hallucination of birds. Made to believe that these manifestations are simply her mind’s way of coping with past trauma, Alice tries extra hard to focus on being “normal.” 

Unfortunately for her, this plan falls to pieces when her best friend is involved in a hit-and-run accident. On this day, Crowley, a mysterious visitor from another London better known as The Rookery, shows up to tell Alice that she is an aviarist and in danger.

Photo of Deborah Hewitt
Author, Deborah Hewitt

As an aviarist, Alice’s ability to see someone’s nightjar means that she can identify the person’s “soul” and can pull their secrets from that person’s soul bird at will. This aspect of magical lore is carefully crafted to allow Alice to pull secrets from those around her right when the plot is stalling a bit, and it seems the author is hitting a wall. However, it also helps in giving the world-building of The Rookery a touch of uniqueness that makes Hewitt’s story stand out. The story begins when Alice sets out to find her best friend’s nightjar

The cool thing about The Nightjar series is that it not only uses magic in a way that I’ve never seen before, but it also creates a cozy atmosphere in its alternate setting of The Rookery and its cast of characters. For example, the slow burn romance that percolates between Alice and Crowley is believable and naturally written. Character interactions like this meant that even when nothing happened in Hewitt’s duology, I was engrossed in the characters’ lives and the world Hewitt built.

This ability to be content and at ease in a series that’s full of murder, backstabbing, and mystery can only be chalked up to Hewitt’s ability to tell a well-crafted story. Hewitt goes full out in her plot of murdering cults, long lost children of “purebred” magical bloodlines, and the quest to outrun death. 

The Rookery by Deborah Hewitt book cover

The only problem is that The Rookery, which is the series finale, leaves so many things unfinished. Where I loved the quirkiness of Alice and her “found family” in The Nightjar, the one-liners and banter between her and her friends and side adventures the gang of friends went on in the sequel felt as if it was a plot device by Hewitt to keep readers from noticing that loose ends weren’t being tied up as neatly as they should be. 

In fact, whole plot points get thrown to the wayside in The Rookery. At certain points in the second novel, it almost felt as if Hewitt purposely left out chunks of backstory that were needed to tie her story up. This lack of closure breaks my heart since The Nightjar was a solid opener.

I do want to give major props to Hewitt for her originality, though. For once, I felt that the red herring an author throughout about who was the bad guy in a series was actually good enough that I was flabbergasted when the reveal came out. This is saying something since after years of reading fantasy books, being thrown off by a book or surprised by an original concept is something I have deeply been craving. Because of this, I tip my hat off to Hewitt and would highly recommend this series to others.

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If you have read The Nightjar duology before and are looking for another original fantasy series, I’d recommend the Daevabad trilogy by S.A. Chakraborty.

Like Hewitt, Chakraborty tells the story of a young woman, Nahri, who has her life shaken by the realization that she has magical powers and is a part of another world other than the one she grew up in. The only thing is that the Daevabad Trilogy takes place in a desert setting in the Middle East instead of Europe.

Chakraborty tells her story from three points of view following the main characters Dara, Nahri, and Ali. Dara is a disgraced warrior who has been enslaved for years and ends up trying to right the wrongs of his past throughout the series. Nahri is a con-woman and a healer from Cairo who longs for a family and connection to her past, which she’s forgotten. And Prince Alizayd, who is my favorite character, is the youngest prince of the tyrant King Ghassan of Daevabad.

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Throughout her series, Chakraborty did a fantastic job crafting a world with complex characters and a fascinating magic system. Each of her characters felt like a person you would want to know in real life. And, the overall atmosphere of political intrigue, action-packed scenes, and magical world-building makes it obvious why Netflix has ordered a series based on the Daevabad books.

If you’re a fan of slow-burn reads, the first book, The City of Brass, will draw you in. If you’re like me and prefer up-tempo books, you’re going to really hit your reading stride with the second novel, The Kingdom Of Copper, where Chakraborty starts to lay the foundation for an awesome conclusion in The Empire Of Gold.

Have you all read Hewitt or Chakraborty’s books?

Ruby Red Trilogy Review

I gave this series a solid 5 stars and also added these two books onto my favorite of all times list. 

Ruby Red

The Ruby Red Series by Kerstin Gier took me by surprise. When I initially picked up Ruby Red, the first novel in the series, I was expecting a quaint story about a teenage girl who time traveled and a few historically relevant scenes that made for just another angsty teen fantasy novel. However, what I got was a fun and witty story about a girl named Gwyneth who inherits her family’s “time traveling” gene instead of her cousin, Charlotte who was believed to be the apparent heir for sixteen years. Unlike Gwyneth, Charlotte was thoroughly trained to handle being a time traveler and was initiated into the society’s secrets through private lessons since the time of her birth.

Ill-prepared for her new job Gwyneth makes up the rules as she goes along. From falling in love with her time traveling partner, Gideon, to being introduced to the infamous Count Saint-Germane, leader of the secret time traveling society (who has long been dead), Gwyneth proves that she is not just an accessory to anyone else’s agenda. Instead, she searches for clues in the past and the present with the help of her best friend, Leslie and the ghost and demons who follow her around.

Sapphire Blue

To make matters even more interesting, Gier has stretched the cast of the series across different time periods, which gives the story a Clue like feel. Each characters’ motives come off as suspicious and it seems that Gwyneth can only trust herself, which causes the series’ plot to be full of suspense.

The first book in the series is geared more toward character formation and unraveling who Gwyneth is and what role she plays in the time travelers’ mystery. However, Sapphire Blue has a bit more action than Ruby Red. In this second installment readers get to see Gwyneth travel back in time more and converse with her ancestors, which allows her to obtain more answers to her questions about why she must time travel.

Also, in Sapphire Blue, the love connection between Gwyneth and Gideon becomes more apparent. Gier constructs this weird dynamic between these two characters in her first book and it only gets more complicated as the series goes on. At first, it seems like Gideon likes Gwyneth. Then, it seems like he hates her. THEN, it’s like okay, maybe he does, maybe he doesn’t…in short, his character holds a lot of secrets. None of which, are really revealed until the end of Sapphire Blue.

Gideon’s character seems to be good however, my actual feelings toward him changes continuously throughout the first two books. When he’s first introduced, I just assume that he is a sort of secret bad guy. Later on, it’s revealed that he was mostly raised by the secret society and was unable to 

Emerald Green

actually spend time with other kids besides Charlotte. Therefore, the fact that Gwyneth is his new untrained time traveling sidekick is a little much for him to bear. Yet, he outwardly warms toward her, but still gives multiple hints that he would rather work alone. This places him on the potential bad guy list along with like 50 other people.

This series is definitely one that I would recommend. Sadly, with this new installment comes a new cover design. Gone are the beautiful original jeweled covers and instead, readers will see a dark-haired girl in various colored ball gown standing next to a clock-tower. I am hoping that I can find a copy of the final book with the original cover since these books are translated from German into English.

Happy Reading!

Playing Dress Up: A Book Review On Lola & The Boy Next Door by Stephanie Perkins

I gave this book 3 stars.

You know those books who get raved about by everybody in all of Booktopia and you tell yourself, “I’m going to read this book because it must be fan-tastic if everybody else loves it so much?”….Whelp,  Lola & The Boy Next Door by Stephanie Perkins falls under that category for me.

I chose to read this book before its companion because well, Anna & The French Kiss was checked out at my local library and this was all they had at the time. I went into the book all drummed up and ready to sing its praises afterwards. However,…I was faced with disappointment.

While this book isn’t bad, it’s not technically good either. The characters in this story seemed to me to be ones that were harvested from other YA Fiction and placed smack-dab in the middle of Perkins’ novel. For instance, Lola is a somewhat contrived character who is labeled as the fashionable/artsy daughter of a same-sex male couple. The couple adopted Lola from one of the dad’s drug addicted sister when she was younger and wasn’t ready to raise a child.

Perkins also gives Lola the somewhat obvious aspiration to become a costume designer and formulates Lola’s character to dress up as different “characters” throughout the novel to mark herself as an individual while also showing her creative side. Keeping with this “individual rebel” act, Lola’s boyfriend, Max is delegated the role of the 20-somethin year old rocker who treats everyone else like crap besides Lola (or so it seems in the beginning). From here, we get the return of Cricket, the goofy/smart boy from next door who Lola was previously involved with and the usual sparks start to fly.

 Major Things That Bothered Me About The Book:

1. To me,  Lola and Cricket’s courtship falls flat and the characters also comes off as a tad mismatched. Cricket’s character seems so juvenile while, Lola seems to be this worldly girl who captures everyone’s attention.

2. Lola’s refusal to acknowledge her feelings for Cricket sends her in a relentless circle dance. She goes from not wanting to say how she feels. To hiding her actual feelings from Max and Cricket. Then, when she finally gets to the point where she can’t hide her feelings  anymore, Lola has to confront Max and he breaks her heart and leaves her in ultra-goth mode (which, she vehemently denies being in).

3. By the novel’s end, the only thing left to do is to “tidy up” and write a final romance sequence for Lola and Cricket……but wait!…..Perkins decides to go the extra mile and spice things up by giving Lola a final chance to showcase her clothing designs in the form of Calliope, Cricket’s twin sister who happens to be a figure skater. This chance for Lola to showcase her talent seemed so random in the midst of the story’s ending but, it does give readers the chance to see Lola’s versatility in fashion. Suffice to say, Perkins has Lola rescue the day and then, sends both Cricket and Lola on their blissful way to a ball-like ending with Lola wearing a gown inspired by Marie Antoinette’s fashion and Cricket looking dapper in a regular suit.

Even though I would label this book as a typical YA love story, my biggest gripe with the story was that it didn’t feel authentic. I felt as if I’d read the conversations between Lola and Cricket before and seen the “boy loves girl but, girl’s with another guy” storyline before. Even Lola’s zany outfits just seemed to be pilfered from other books with similar plots. I’m still looking forward to reading Anna & The French Kiss and even Isla & The Happily Ever After but, this book didn’t exactly work me into a frenzy. Yet, If you’re looking for a light, quirky read I’d suggest this book.

Cheers.

With Brothers Like This, Who Needs Boyfriends: A Series Review of The Mortal Instruments by Cassandra Clare

I finished reading the first two books sometime in February 2013.

I gave the City of Bones 5 stars and City of Ashes 4.5 stars. I am currently reading City of Glass.

Sooooooo…this book review is going to be a general review of what I think about the series so far.

Things I Like About The Series:

1. Cassandra Clare’s description of the Shadowhunters’ world is phenomenal. We’re talking kickbutt, over the top action, in-depth mythology, jaw dropping magical realm, coo-koo villains type of good. Clare makes her characters believable if not annoying. I never felt as if she was stretching the reality of her world too far to a point where it was like,”ummmmm…okay if you say so, I guess portals can be opened in the sky and weird crap can reign down on Earth.” Her writing style really makes you feel like this magical world she created exist somewhere.

2. Two words: Magnus. Bane. The way that Clare integrates today’s social issues into her novels didn’t feel preachy nor, unrealistic. I knew that Magnus’s character was a fiercely fashionable warlock and I was totally okay with that. His dialogue in the novel was sarcastic and witty and added life in places where the novel could have easily turned into a constant battle loop. I especially looked forward to hearing what outfit this warlock had thrown together for each random adventure the Shadowhunter crew went on.

3. Clare integrated so many supernatural characters into her novel I couldn’t even keep up. The way she used the creatures (i.e., werewolves, demons, demon hunters, etc.) was fresh and exciting as well. Often times, this genre of YA gets saturated with the same type of storylines and for Clare to pick up these time worn archetypes and dust them off and breathe new life into them left me seriously impressed. I was especially in love with Luke and his ragtag gang of werewolves.

4. The fact that these novels aren’t written from a dystopian point of view sent me into a gleeful dance…seriously how many ways are authors and film directors going to imagine our end? The creation by Clare of a world that is slotted into ours made me pretty excited and interested at what would happen next.

Now…..

Things I AB-SO-LUTE-LY ABHORRED About This Series:

1. How many time can Clary fall in love with her brother or someone who is supposed to be her brother? I seriously need her to be given a portable family tree so that she can know who is and who isn’t her family so she can stop exchanging saliva with her brothers. smh Even if her brothers/psuedo-brothers are extra fwine incest is still disgusting. Clary seriously just needs to find a nice werewolf or vampire and settle down away from the Shadowhunter men….speaking of Clary…

2. Once again…smh…Clary’s character is seriously one of the more annoying female leads that I’ve seen in YA. In the beginning, I was totally rooting for her but somewhere between the second book’s end and the third book’s beginning, I became frustrated with her outside of her above mentioned tendency. It seems to me like Clary suffers from “helpless syndrome,” an affliction that gets handed to pretty female characters who really have no real weight in stories except to be the damsel in distress and get thrown around the story by authors to drive books’ action. Clary’s character needs to be schooled in Shadowhunting 101 or giving training in her new “gift” so that she can be made useful instead of forcing everybody into uncomfortable situations with her helplessness since she needs to be rescued every few chapters.

3. I sometimes feel as if Clare is dragging certain things out and could skim a good 100/200 pages from each novel. There are times when I have to refrain from skipping ahead due to Clare’s longwindedness.

4. Valentine’s character probes a question I’ve always had about men who become evil dictators. At what point in these men’s rise to power do their followers/society not realize…hmmm…this man is a psycho? I swear Valentine’s back story made me skeptical that absolutely NO one saw the telltale signs that this man was fifty shades of cray. Even Jace defends his “father” to a fault causing me to want to shake him and yell, “WAKE-UP!, HE IS CRAAAAAAAZY!”…But, I digress.

Love it or Hate it, Clare’s depiction of life as a shadowhunter is totally making me want to dig into the back of my closet and pull out my black hoodie along with my black converse and ride into the night to hunt demons…ok maybe just ride on over to my local Half Price Bookstore but, still, I totally love this series.

Sidenote: How many city’s are in the Shadowhunter world?