Monday, January 26, 2015

ARC Review: I'll Meet You There by Heather Demetrios

Title: I'll Meet You There

Author: Heather Demetrios

Rating: 4.5 Stars

Release Date: February 3rd, 2015

When it comes to Heather Demetrios, I've come to expect that my expectations will be blown out of the water. It doesn't matter just how outrageously excited I may be for her novels to release and, believe me, even the hype can't ruin the feeling of finishing a Demetrios novel--that click when it feels as if a small part of the world--and yourself, in the process--is repaired,without even realizing it needed fixing. I'll Meet You There is not only a profoundly realistic, human tale; it's one that transcends boundaries, particularly those invisible ones the YA genre feels all-too-trapped in.

I'll Meet You There is slow to start and open to end--just the way I like it. In fact, the magnitude of this novel is at a low simmer when you first begin to read until, suddenly, you're embroiled in the tension; it crept on you. Skylar and Josh, the protagonists of this tale, are, from the surface, far from "likable" people. And, as Demtrios builds the fictional town of Creek View, it isn't difficult to see why. The women of Creek View typically find themselves pregnant at seventeen, living and raising their children on a trailer park only to see history repeat itself, generation after generation. Skylar, though, has one foot out of Creek View already and after the three hot, sticky summer months, she'll be in art school, determined to never look back. When her mother loses her job, however, and spirals into depression, it seems as if Skylar is forced to plant both feet firmly back into Creek View, despite the fact that it's the last thing she wants to do. Josh, on the other hand, left Creek View--and returned, only this time, only with one leg. After joining the Marines, his ticket out of Creek View, Josh changed--drastically. No longer the drunk womanizer who curses and plays pranks, war has left Josh hurting. Although he quickly falls back into his old ways, the unexpected friendship he strikes with Skylar reveals that there is far more to him than his persona may suggest.

Demetrios has a way with words, one that leaves you feeling. Just feeling. About everything. From the despair that settles over Skylar's shoulders as she contemplates a life stuck in Creek View to the horrors of war that play behind Josh's eyelids every time he blinks, it's impossible to crack open the spine of this story without endangering your heart to fictional characters in the best possible way. Skylar and Josh's romance is slow to develop, as it should be with two such opposite, angry, and deeply pained protagonists. What makes Skylar and Josh so perfect for one another is the fact that they take the time to see beneath the veneer, have the patience to wait until the time is right, and are willing to lend the ear needed to peel off the paint. Yet, their slow transition from acquaintances to friends to more is interspersed with dialogue, banter, jokes, and fights. Neither Skylar nor Josh are perfect and their flaws are apparent, bleeding through every page, but it is those very same qualities which render them such poignant characters.

Moreover, despite their flaws, they are both characters who straddle the line between "likable" and "unlikable," proving that there's so much more to them than just black-and-white. Skylar is strong-willed and ambitious, but those qualities also emphasize her weaker moments where her loyalty seems to shift towards selfishness versus selflessness. Josh, too, with his moments of guilt and helplessness shows, all too clearly, that there is substance to him beyond his past actions but that his future is tied up with his past, particularly Afghanistan, and moving on means moving past not only his perceptions of himself but those of others as well. Despite the fact that I've grown up in a town that's the antithesis to Creek View, despite the fact that I've always seen my mother as a pillar of strength and inspiration and never as a burden or disappointment, despite the fact that I've never known the struggles of war; despite all that, I still felt deeply for these characters and connected with them on a purely personal level.

What's more, I'll Meet You There  has a stellar cast of secondary characters whose personalities, goals, hopes, and dreams are far removed from that of either Skylar or Josh. Dylan, for instance, Skylar's best friend, won't be leaving Creek View and at one point in the novel, she completely calls Skylar out for acting as if staying back is the lesser option. Dylan and Skylar's friendship is rock solid but I think it's also demonstrative of so many close friendships in high school where college means that one person in a former duo is going farther. It happened to me--I'm the one who left in my friend group--and, much like Skylar, I admit to being ecstatic at the choice to leave my hometown. But, that doesn't quite make us better people and I love that Dylan's perspective grounds Skylar, making her appreciate the options she has without looking down upon the existence others have chosen to live.

I'll Meet You There is told primarily from Skylar's perspective but there were a few chapters told from Josh's POV and, though Demetrios excels at capturing the male voice and distinguishing Josh's narrative from that of Skylar's, I didn't find every insight into his mind to be completely necessary. I felt as if Demetrios gained traction with Josh's perspective as the novel wore on and, by the end, I really loved being in his mind and felt closer to him as a result but, like all good things in this novel, it took awhile. I'll Meet You There is only Demetrios's sophomore contemporary piece and, with only three books under her belt, she writes like a seasoned author; confident, willing to take risks, and able to gauge the direction that the genre she writes in needs to go. Each one of her novels have been original and enticing, filled with characters I can get behind and a style of prose so impressive I wish to imitate it myself. Needless to say, with I'll Meet You There Demetrios as only secured her spot as one of my favorite authors and, no matter what she chooses to write next, I know that I will both buy, and love, it.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Review: Mortal Heart by Robin LaFevers

Title: Mortal Heart (His Fair Assassin, #3) 

Author: Robin LaFevers

Rating: 3 Stars

To be frank, I don't have much to say about Mortal Heart. It's a satisfactory ending to LaFevers debut trilogy--and wraps up all the loose ends nicely--but as far as being Annith's story, I felt it lacking. Perhaps it's simply because Annith isn't as strong a force to be reckoned with as Sybella. It's not that Annith isn't a formidable assassin--because she is--and her force of will is to be respected as she struggles to find the truth within her beloved abbey. Yet, she doesn't possess Sybella or Ismae's dark past which makes their stories compelling from the start itself and though it takes awhile for Annith's tale to find its footing, it continues to lose traction over time, not gain. I love Annith as a protagonist but the journey she undertakes in Mortal Heart pales in comparison to the stakes in both the previous novels. Moreover, the romance did absolutely nothing for me except to make me cringe a time or two and question--a lot--why there couldn't have been anyone else for Annith.

I feel as if Mortal Heart is a tricky novel, being the final installment in this trilogy, and LaFevers succeeds in many ways. Not only does the plot line that began in Grave Mercy reach fruition, but we are able to see our three heroines united, changed, and happier than they were when we first met them. Unlike the last two novels, Mortal Heart doesn't revolve around an assassination or a piece of the plot; it's where the entire story converges into one. Thus, Annith isn't the sole starring character at hand. Though we follow her journey, there are other compelling, strong women at play who--and this just may be my personal love of Sybella--at times undermined Annith's casting into the spotlight.

Additionally, though the romance isn't--and shouldn't be--a deciding factor in the enjoyment of a novel, I wasn't on board with this love story at any point and after Sybella and Beast's tale, felt vastly disappointed with this one. Frankly speaking, I didn't feel as if Annith needed romance. She's such a compelling and strong heroine, one whose loyalties to her sisters and friendships with them makes up so much of her being, that to have that replaced with a romance didn't hold the same weight or resonance for me as it likely should have. Plus, the romances of Ismae and Sybella, held side-by-side with Annith's lack of romance at first and then, later, her romantic interest, only made me feel as if Annith was desperate for the love Ismae and Sybella had found and needed a man to complete her as her sisters did. I have never felt that way about the romances in this series until this odd dichotomy.

Mortal Heart brings up shocking revelations and I have no doubt that die-hard fans of this series will adore this final installment. As someone who didn't plan to continue the series after Grave Mercy--something about that book simply did not tick with me--yet fell in love with Dark Triumph, this final installment falls somewhere in the middle. Not nearly as good as Dark Triumph but far more satisfactory than Grave Mercy. LaFevers trilogy is a beloved one among many and though it doesn't rank among my favorites by far, I love these heroines and everything they stand for. Thus, I do not hesitate to recommend forth this series, flaws and all.

Monday, January 19, 2015

ARC Review: Once Upon a Rose by Laura Florand

Title: Once Upon a Rose (La Vie en Roses, #1) 

Author: Laura Florand

Rating: 4 Stars

Release Date: February 3rd, 2015

I've been savoring this one. Once Upon a Rose, the start to a new and all-too-beautiful romance series set in the South of France, nearly begged to be read carefully. Each page a petal, thick and heavy with the perfume of roses; meant to be wafted, not inhaled.

Because I just didn't want this book to end. Florand's Amour et Chocolat series ranks among my favorite, ever, so of course I cracked open the spine of Once Upon a Rose with sky-high expectations. Florand's prose can move me to tears, affect me with emotion of the acutest kind, and render me hopelessly in love. I thought, after five full-length novels, three novellas, and two short stories that I knew the intricate ins-and-outs of Florand's writing style and ability. After all, she had covered such a wide range and scope of characters, love stories, and depth within her debut series. But I was wrong. 

What I hadn't known was that Florand's prose has the ability to make me grin like a lovesick fool, giggle like a young schoolgirl, and squeal at the absolute adorable-ness on the page. As an avid reader of Florand's, I'd come across sexy, arrogant chefs; ambitious, motivated, and passionate. But few things delight quite the same way that a strong, rugged, and handsome French countryman who blushes does. 

Layla Dubois is a rockstar. After winning a Grammy for her debut album, Layla--known as "Belle" to her fans--has hit a wall. Unable to find the inspiration she needs to write another album, Layla leaves Paris and journeys to the South of France to find the countryside home that has recently become part of her inheritance. It turns out that Layla's cottage is a part of a rose valley owned by Matthieu Rosier. When we first meet Matt, it is his thirtieth birthday party and the adorable man is drunk and absolutely besotted with Layla, who he affectionately calls "Boucles." It's an encounter that will leave Matt utterly embarrassed the next morning, when his shyness takes over and renders him grunting grumpily in contrast to the chatter of the previous night. 

But it's all just so cute. I wanted to read and re-read every interaction between Layla and Matt; I wanted to savor it and prolong it and live in their world for as long as I could. Because Matt, despite the tough act, is all gooey on the inside. And I love that. I just have to share one of my favorite scenes because it captures the essence of these two characters so perfectly and it was the precise moment I fell insanely in love with their love:

"What do you want now?” Matt growled at her, tightening his arms around himself.
“I only need directions!” Layla snapped back at him. “I can’t believe how unhelpful you people are being!”
Matt blinked. He slid the oddest glance toward the other men, almost—vulnerable? “They couldn’t give you directions?”
Tristan shook his head woefully. “Even Damien,” he said sadly, “proved unequal to the task.”
Matt stared at them for a moment. And then his sunburn seemed to get worse than ever, and he rubbed his chest, as if it felt strange to him. Clearing his throat, a rough growl of sound, he took her map from her. “Where do you need to go?”
“I’ve been lost enough around here, thank you,” Layla said. “I don’t need you to get me lost some more, just to punish me for inheriting a house.”
Matt scowled at the map. “Where do you need to go?” he growled again.
Tristan coughed a little into his hand. “Ahem, Matt. People skills!” he stage-whispered. 
Matt glared at him.
“He’s really a nice guy,” Tristan told her out loud, cheerfully, as if Matt wasn’t even listening. “No, I swear.”
Matt transferred his glare back to the map.
Again, Layla fought the urge to just lay her hand against his chest. It was a really hot chest, that probably explained it. She kept imagining all that growly tension relaxing away from him in surprise. And then what would he be like? That cute, enthusiastic, uncontained man he had been drunk?
“Where?” Matt insisted. He cleared his throat again. And then managed to get words out that were still rough, but considerably quieter. “Where do you need to go?” he repeated, carefully.
“I don’t even know where I am.”
“You’re in the Rosier valley,” Matt said blankly and put a callused finger to her map. “Here.”


His gruff voice elaborated as he wrote: “A three-story house with blue shutters will be on your left. It has lace curtains. If not, if it’s a house with blue shutters and roses climbing up the walls but no curtains, you’ve taken the wrong exit. There’s a little bar two buildings farther down, with a faded red awning. Be careful, there’s a pale orange tabby cat that likes to lie right in the middle of the road there, and he will not move. You have to stop the car and pick him up and carry him to the garden of the little house with the jasmine climbing up the green gate. That’s where he belongs. Then you—”
Layla watched his square hand around the pen, his big body bent over the hood of her car as he wrote. His bare back curved and she stalwartly fought the need to reach out and see if it was as smooth as it looked. As warm. To see if his voice would grow more or less gruff when he was being petted.
He knew a particular cat might be sleeping in the middle of the road on her route. And he stopped and picked it up. He made sure she stopped and picked it up.
From this angle, his face was in shade and the sunburn didn’t look as bad, his skin less ruddy under the matte tones. Her head tilted.
It wasn’t sunburn, was it? Sunburn didn’t subside like that.
This big, growling man had been blushing.
“You’re way better than a smartphone,” she said wonderingly. 
Actually he was more like a…guitar. Someone she wanted to run her fingers over to see what sounds she could pull out. 
He made a sound of acknowledgement that was pretty darn close to a grunt.
She grinned. Definitely a bass guitar. “And you have a much better voice. Do you think I could record you giving the directions instead?” Except, of course, she didn’t have a phone to record with. If she wanted to hear that rough bass talking to her again while he blushed, she’d just have to figure out a way to keep getting him to do it.
A musician had to, you know, coax her instruments into making the sounds she wanted sometimes.
She bit back a grin.
He stopped writing and turned his head just enough to look at her. The color started to mount back into his cheeks again.
Her smile started to escape her efforts to restrain it. “Do you need help with your sunscreen?”
That stern upper lip relaxed its pressure on the full lower one. He stared at her, frozen. 
Her smile deepened. Whether it was the pure fun of flirting in French—a language that had, after all, been refined for centuries to that purpose—or the vulnerable blush on someone that big and rough and growling, this whole moment was developing a delicious zing. 
“You’re pretty cute, you know that?” she tested softly.
The streak over those strong cheekbones turned ruddy bronze. He looked back at her journal, and the pencil lead broke. He stared at it, apparently not having a clue what to do with himself.

See what I mean? An absolute teddy bear if there was one. But Once Upon a Rose is so much more than the developed love story between Matt and Layla. As the inheritor of so much land, Matt is burdened with living in rose valley and caring for her roses constantly. While his cousins travel the world and date gorgeous women, Matt's first love has always been the land he is rightfully heir to. From Matt's perspective, nothing is in black-and-white. Matt recognizes that his cousins yearn for the land Matt owns--and Matt is proud to be the sole inheritor of the Rosier valley and he selfishly loves his roses--but he also envies his cousins for the freedom they possess for, unlike him, they are not tied down to the land of their ancestors. Matt's relationship with his cousins is complex, however, for in brief glimpses we are able to see that his cousins care deeply for Matt and, contrary to what he may believe, they aren't looking for weaknesses in his character to exploit so that they can take his inheritance away from him. We see time and time again that Matt's cousins are there for him and, eventually, Matt, too, comes to realize that there are more options in front of him than he believes, if only he would open himself up to others and allow them to help. 

Layla, too, undergoes her own journey of growth over the course of the novel but it is Matt's character who has stuck with me, long after my languid read of Once Upon a Rose. At its core, this is a story of two people who, by finding love, find that they have room in their hearts for so much more than they imagined. It's about finding the courage to be brave enough to accept change, invite help, and alter your entire world-view. In addition to the Rosier cousins, there are a handful of other vibrant secondary characters who make this novel that much more special and, as always, the cameo appearances and mentions of characters who we've met in previous novellas and short stories is such a delight. Once Upon a Rose, though different from the Amour et Chocolat books, still possesses a hero and heroine who are equally matched, who bring out the best in one another, and who share a riveting passion--whether it be for chocolate or roses, believe me, they're both just as romantic, sensual, and swoon-worthy as the other. I am still unable to adequately express just how deeply I feel for this novel; it's soft, sweet, and oh-so-very hug-able. Between Parisian chocolatiers and Southern countrymen, I'm going to have a difficult time deciding where to stop first when I eventually visit France to find my future husband! ;)

Friday, January 16, 2015

Review: Golden Son by Pierce Brown

Title: Golden Son (Red Rising, #2) 

Author: Pierce Brown 

Rating: 4.5 Stars

Note: This review is spoiler-free for Red Rising and Golden Son. However, if you are new to this series I recommend reading my review of Red Rising first as it sets up the scope of this world and provides background information about the general plot which this review does not. (You can read my review of Red Rising here.)

I have a LOT to say about Golden Son,--it's just one of those books--but to start with...

1. I experienced HIGH levels of stress while reading Golden Son. Making me care that much for your characters is not cool, Pierce Brown.
2. Um, what was that ending? A joke? Because I'm not laughing... I'M CRYING.

Now that that's off my chest I can honestly admit that Golden Son is a sequel that rivals the brilliance of Red Rising and transcends it. While it is still prone to bouts of dramatism, Golden Son amps up the political stakes in this intergalactic world and spares no qualms about destroying, torturing, and killing off every one of your favorite characters. If you thought this was Young Adult, think again. Golden Son begins two years after the events of Red Rising and Darrow, our protagonist, is no mere boy. At twenty-years-old he has come a long way from the sixteen-year-old Red he started out as. Moreover, his time in Gold society has altered his perceptions of the world he lives in. Even in Red Rising, Darrow resisted seeing the world in gray. He wanted to hate Golds and their power; he wanted to fight for Reds and nothing else. By the end of Red Rising, Darrow was forced to grudgingly admit that the world was not quite as black-and-white as he had hoped. In Golden Son, though, he finally understands that this war he's fighting isn't about Red vs. Gold; it's so much more.

In comparison to its predecessor, Golden Son feels more volatile. Darrow is no longer confined and with the entire universe at his disposal, his task seems far more impossible than it ever did before. Brown weaves political power plays alongside epic war battle a la Game of Thrones and every time I think I've got it all figured out, he throws in a curve ball and changes up the game yet again. There isn't a moment to breathe in Golden Son. If Darrow isn't plotting war, engaging in war, or dreaming about war then he's himself; a Red, stripped away of the facade he displays to the world. Although some may argue that the strength of these novels lie in the quickly-paced plot lines which move forward with purpose, I would argue that Brown's true talent shines through in the more quiet, introspective scenes. It isn't often that readers are given a chance to look into the mind of a male narrator but Darrow is a flawed hero that, had I lived in Brown's fictional universe, I'd give my life for.

What I find most remarkable about this series is the fact that Brown has seamlessly created a world of great political divide, strife with violence, yet the humanizing moments are what ultimately linger. Golden Son expands on its cast from Red Rising and though I struggled to remember who was whose son or daughter, the larger host of characters only amplify Darrow's struggles. Whether it be an increasing host of enemies or just the friends Darrow is forced to alienate as he hides the truth of his lineage, Darrow battles his loneliness time and time again. Eo remains a constant in his thoughts; both an inspiration and a guiding compass. Nevertheless, it is her memory which ultimately forces his isolation too. Although Darrow is widely known in the Gold community for his brute strength and battle skill, the Sons of Ares have had little contact with him and the burden of what he has agreed to do is now felt, two long years later. Throughout Golden Son Darrow comes to the realization that, cheesy as it may sound, the truth will set him free. Unless he trusts those around him, they will not linger long enough for him to rely on later.

Golden Son is interspersed with chapters that consist solely of conversation between Darrow and a close friend of his. Those chapters, squeezed between the politics and battles, utterly charmed me. Just as Darrow won over allies, he won me over too. Golden Son emphasizes just how difficult friendships can be: how fickle and fleeting; how we don't realize their worth until they're gone. In his war against Gold, Darrow needs as much back-up and support as he can find. Moreover, if Darrow can convince those around him that lower colors deserve the equality that Gold enjoy, then Darrow is that much closer to changing the world. Slowly, but steadily, Golden Son transforms Darrow's purpose to an even greater one. While Darrow may have started out wanting revenge against Gold, now he recognizes that it isn't Gold who must burn but their society.

Brown writes three-dimensional, flawed characters. No one within these pages is perfect and their imperfections are what make them downright human. I was already attached a decent number of characters from Red Rising but I fell for even more of them in Golden Son. As an author who uses death as a purposeful stab to the heart, I bled while reading Golden Son. Ultimately, it's one big stress fest; wondering who will be the next to die, anticipating who will betray Darrow, trying to figure out the political machinations ahead of time. And yet, that's what makes Golden Son such a thrill to read. Flipping each page more and more quickly in an effort to discover what happens is part of the experience.

One of the most stressful aspects to this novel, though, was the romance. Darrow and Mustang share hints of a love story in Red Rising but in Golden Son, with Mustang in such a pivotal role, their push-and-pull dynamic comes to a head. I know I said it in my review of Red Rising, but Darrow is a feminist male narrator. He respects Mustang, trusts her to make her own decisions, and understands that her strengths are different from his and, as such, she just may be one step ahead of where he is in the game of Gold politics. Mustang is one of my favorite characters precisely because she understands the political situation, seizes the upper hand, and does whatever is necessary to gain it. Unlike so many strong female characters whose purpose molds them into villains, however, she maintains a strong moral compass and winds up bettering everyone at their own game. When it comes to Darrow, though, she refuses to be with someone who continues to hold part of himself back and, despite the fact that their friendship is grounded in equality and their partnership balances out, the possibility of a true relationship remains in question. Mustang and Eo are such strong forces in Darrow's life; women who propel him to be better and convince him that he doesn't need to resort to the depravity of his enemies. Thus, despite the fact that the romance in these novels is so minimal, the romantic interests themselves are integral to creating Darrow.

At one point in the novel, Darrow acknowledges that it is all women who have molded and shaped him to become the person he is. Whether it be his mother who made him the man Eo fell in love with, or Eo who gave him the power to transcend and become the man Mustang fell for, or Mustang who pushed him to be the man others followed. In a world of war and mayhem, dominated by men, the influence of femininity is not forgotten which I, as a female reader, appreciate. What's more, there's a scene in Golden Son where Darrow simply starts crying and the fact that it simultaneously breaks down gender stereotypes while humanizing our protagonist deserves praise, indeed. With Golden Son, Brown has created a rich, heart-felt novel, more science fiction than dystopian, with characters who both maim and inspire. Not only compulsively readable, but also brimming endlessly with themes, messages, and underlying nuances I won't even pretend to be smart enough to pick up, this is not a trilogy to be missed. Knock down The Hunger Games from your shelves if you have to make room for this; it's worth it ten-fold.

Monday, January 12, 2015

ARC Review: The Mime Order by Samantha Shannon

Title: The Mime Order (The Bone Season, #2) 

Author: Samantha Shannon 

Rating: 3.5 Stars

Release Date: January 27th, 2015 

So much of the thrill within a fantasy novel lies in the sequestered magic, so firmly hidden, yet present. Whether it be Narnia or Hogwarts, these mythical realms are out of sight of typical human sight and all the more magical as a result. As readers, we don't want to read about the Pevensie siblings in London, going about their day-to-day lives and reminiscing about their time in Narnia. We don't want to think of Harry, sitting in 4 Privet Drive during the long, sticky summer and dreaming of Hogwarts. I know I, for one, don't want to be subject to the inner monologue of, say, Lucy Pevensie, as she debates spilling the truth about Narnia despite knowing no one will believe her.

It seems Samantha Shannon hasn't quite got this memo, though. 

The Mime Order begins with an extremely tedious start. For the first half of the novel, Paige struggles to mend the broken bridges with her mime lord, Jaxon, all while debating how best to reveal the truth about the Rephaim to other voyants in such a way that they will not only believe her, but they will also share her passion for action. It's slow. It's boring. It's unexciting. The Bone Season sets up a fascinating realm all while throwing its protagonist, and subsequently the reader, into the midst of the action. Now, in The Mime Order, we are forced to take a step back. 

Typically, I'm all for the contemplative moments within a novel or series. I love the slower, more reflective parts. But not when it's written like The Mime Order. To me, the first half of Shannon's sophomore novel reads like an extended version of what is meant to be a brief look into Paige's inner struggles. We, as readers, should be given a lens into the world Paige left--and is now returning to--and, in better understanding where she has come from perhaps we can better understand her as well. Yet, my understanding of the relationships Paige sustains with those around her is minimal in this first-half and everything, from the long dialogues with side characters I wasn't invested in to the multiple ideas Paige considered and rejected and considered and rejected were simply exhausting. I wanted a brief run-down of the important events and then I wanted to get to the real meat of the story. Perhaps, if this series wasn't a seven-book deal already, we wouldn't have been subjected to such a disappointing start to The Mime Order. 

Thankfully, the novel picks up--considerably--during its second half as the tensions outlined in the first half finally come to a head and Paige is finally acting instead of merely thinking all the time. Though its disastrous first half ensures that The Mime Order is a far cry from the brilliance of The Bone Season, the excellence of its second half nearly makes up for it. Nearly.

One of the best aspects to The Mime Order is also a part of the novel I've been complaining about--its set-up. The Mime Order begins to take the revolution within Oxford in The Bone Season to the wider world of voyants in London. As such, it is very much a set-up novel but, by the end, you're left wanting to know how the events outlined will unfurl and play out. The relationship at the core of this novel is, I feel, that between Paige and Jaxon. In The Bone Season, Paige discovers that Jaxon is cruel and willing to go to great lengths in wielding his power. The last thing Paige wants, after returning to London, is to fall prisoner to Jaxon. But Paige has no power unless she is Jaxon's dreamwalker. It puts her in a precarious situation and their exchanges are all very cat-and-mouse, full of underlying political undertones that are chilling, to say the least.

The manner in which their relationship progresses, changes, and comes to a head by the end of The Mime Order is fascinating. Another absolutely thrilling aspect to this sequel is the introduction of yet another villain--one who aims to cause chaos amongst the voyants. Since he features more prominently during the second-half, I will refrain from saying much more but will depart with these few words: prepare to be terrified. I really love how The Mime Order builds up the sense of fear, tension, and danger over the course of the novel. The last few chapters are the most intriguing, by far, so to see all those emotions finally reach a peak is rewarding (though, mark my words, it's also frustrating since we have to wait another YEAR to see what Paige does next).

What I didn't expect to find much of within The Mime Order was romance. After all, this is a seven-book series; we can't conclude the romantic arc that quickly. Yet, Warden makes his appearance sooner than you'd think and his interactions with Paige are as fraught with sexual tension and wanting as you'd dream of. I loved their dialogue, the backstory Warden provided to build upon Shannon's intricate world-building, and am even more excited than before to see how their love story develops over the course of the series. Granted, there are plenty of hurdles that lie before this couple and the romance lies very much in the back-burner of this series. But, that being said, it's a huge component to why I adore these books. Warden and Paige are a perfect match; they challenge each other without putting one another down. They're both strong personalities and, coming from different races with a difficult history, their road to romance is paved with distrust but, if I had to put my money on any couple combating those odds, it's them.

Despite the fact that The Mime Order picks up considerably and puts this series in an absolutely fascinating position by the end, I remain a disappointed fan of this novel. It wasn't an easy or enjoyable read in the least and though it is necessary for the arc of the series, I almost wish there was a condensed summary I could have read instead. Nevertheless, here's to hoping fans of The Bone Season find this far more intriguing than I do and that its sequel, whenever it may release, recaptures the magic the first novel in this series possessed.