Double Review: Strange Alchemy & Queen of Attolia

Here we have two different books: a detailed, political fantasy sequel and an ARC about the mystery of Roanoke Island. For The Queen of Attolia, I knew that I would enjoy the new audio version by Steve West. But I wasn’t prepared for my feelings to come after finishing it. The ARC showed a promising plot, since the Roanoke mystery is a very intruging American legend to this day. These are listed in the chronological order that I finished them 🙂

The Queen of Attolia (Queen’s Thief #2)

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2017 new cover pulled from Goodreads

Genre: YA Fantasy

Publication Date: 2000 (original date), May 16 2017 (updated audio book)

Narrator: Steve West

Listening Time: 9 hrs, 34 mins

 

 

 

 

 

 

Synopsis: When Eugenides realized that his country Eddis is going to war with Attolia and Sounis, with the Mede also in the background, he starts to realize that things aren’t as they seem and the unforeseen circumstances will change everything.

This review will be brief because: 1) I still can’t get my words together and 2) You CANNOT read this without reading the first one (no spoilers). I listened to the first book The Thief back in April, and while the original narrator was a snore-fest, I feel like I was too harsh on that first book. I’ve had a change of heart and giving it a new rating of 3.75 stars. But a few of my co-workers begged me to try the sequel, assuring me that I would love it even more. Where they right? ABSOLUTELY! If there’s ever been a sequel that’s knocked me senseless after finishing it, it’s this one.

Narration: Right off the bat, I trust Steve West with every single audio book I’ve heard him do. He brings such life into this book when the original narrator failed to even bring that. He IS Eugendies to me now. He’s snarky, angry, confused, afraid and uncertain of what’s to come. His voice easily slips into emotions like betrayal, anger, fear and deception with no pause. Steve West is one narrator that deserves all the praise for his work. Not only do I recommend this version over the old one, but I think you’ll get more out of these new audio books than the physical copies. I was compelled whenever I put my headphones to let West tell me a story.

Characters: The reason why this sequel is SO successful is that it’s in third person POV. You don’t only follow Gen, but also the queens of Attolia and Eddis and a mysterious character known as the Mede. The looming war and fraying alliances feel real and huge. The dreads builds as you await to see what happens as everything escalates. But for me, Eugendies is one of my all time favorite characters now. The amount of stuff he goes through in this book molds him into a person that’s a true hero. He’s snarky, strong, smart and adapts to his situations. I also loved loved the Queen of Attolia. You do not mess with this woman. She is the role model for all YA female characters. Now I see why this series has such a devoted fan base. There are NO tropes attached to these characters. Gen isn’t just a “sassy” character. Attolia isn’t just “the cruel ruler.” Turner lets her characters blossom into their own and they all are deceptive, smart and conniving.

Writing: So after listening to this audio book, I’ve come to a realization. Why don’t authors take more time to develop their story telling skills and writing craft. This book came 4 years after the first novel. The time that Turner took to bring this story the life it has truly shows. She has no cliches in her writing style. She does not give you everything like most YA authors seem to always do. She gives the bare essentials and lets you figure everything else out, which is how I think stories need to be told. She is a woman who knows how to shock, surprise and take through a sharp roller coaster of a story. If you’re sick of the current trends in YA, pick up these books to give you the refreshing feeling you’re looking for. The feelings I felt at the last 10 minutes of the audio book are the most intense I have felt with any book. Ever.

Content: As of the first two books, this series is very clean. Violence is limited to some sword fights and chase scenes. Profanity is very mild and sparse. No sexual content. This is perfect for teens to read, as well as adults looking for a series that’s a fantastic story. Recommended 13 and up.

Rating: 

 

Mini Review: Strange Alchemy by Gwenda Bond

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Cover pulled from Goodreads

Genre: YA Mystery/Paranormal

Publication Date: August 1, 2017

Format: ARC PDF

 

 

 

 

 

*I received this ARC from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. Per request of the publisher, no quotes from the book will be used. All thoughts are my own.*

Goodreads Synopsis: When 114 people suddenly disappear from the island in present day, it seems history is repeating itself—and an unlikely pair of seventeen-year-olds might be the only hope of bringing the missing back. Miranda Blackwood, a member of one of island’s most infamous families, and Grant Rawling, the sherrif’s son, who has demons and secrets of his own, find themselves at the center of the mystery. As the unlikely pair works to uncover the secrets of the new Lost Colony, they must dodge everyone from the authorities to long-dead alchemists as they race against time to save their family and friends before they too are gone for good.

This upcoming release is a re imagining of Bond’s first novel Blackwood which was released back in 2012 and is a paranormal take on the mystery of Roanoke Island. Since I liked learning about this American legend in Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter. So when I saw this ARC on NetGalley, I snatched it to see how this author would interpret this legend.

Pros

  • Idea: The idea of having a paranormal element surround the mystery of the Roanoke people disappearing is cool. While it’s not new, the way it’s introduced in the beginning showed potential. There’s also spirits of the island that are trapped and Grant, our male lead, is the only person who can see them.
  • Spirits/Format: The way the spirits that Grant can hear and see is introduced in a good way. During an intense situation, they finally spring back into his life and help him guide our characters to the real problem. The italics of when the spirits spoke helped to show when they were talking which helped. There were also short and vague sentences which didn’t give much away. That built the secret well in the beginning.

Cons:

  • Characters: Since this is a dual perspective story, Miranda and Grant sounded way too similar to have a unique voice. While this isn’t the awful level that was Allegiant, it still didn’t seem like enough effort was put into making them sound different. They both had the “I’m quirky” personality which is a trope I’m getting tired of really quick. I also didn’t connect to them either. Miranda didn’t show the signs of real loss after having a major revelation told to her. She just went through the normal motions and weird thought process without giving herself a moment to grieve. She felt fake when it came to that loss. There was also no chemistry between Grant and Miranda at all. It felt empty when they started falling for each other. They could’ve been simple allies to achieve their goal and it would’ve been more effective.
  • Pacing: The middle of this book was very difficult. I ended up skimming huge chunks to see the final resolution of the book. It could’ve been trimmed by about 75-80 pages to get to the meat of the story later on. The middle was just useless inner monologues from the two leads and not moving the plot along. It also had that kind of ending where it was over within a chapter, which didn’t feel very satisfying.
  • Writing: I struggled with the author’s writing style. While this is a revised version of her debut novel, it didn’t feel polished to me. For example, there is a side character whose name gets changed during a conversation. They say the person’s name properly as they go to meet with him. But during the conversation, as well as 80% of the rest of the book, the character went by a different name, both from the author and characters. That created confusion when mentioning this person in passing. There were also grammatical choices that were very jarring and amateurish to describe things. The way the teenagers talked doesn’t reflect the current trends that teenagers follow and talk about. Instead, it felt very dated and silly. The author also states in the “Author’s Note” that she changed the structure of law enforcement for this novel. This was a major red flag for me. That tells me that things were deliberately changed in order to make everything easy for the characters to have access too. This offered little to no challenge and growth for the characters. This made adult enforcement officials say inappropriate and stupid things to say, which gave a negative influence on law enforcement.

Content: Aside from the occasional “f” word and brief violence, this book is good for younger readers to read. For those who don’t read a lot of fantasy and prefer mysteries with a slight paranormal twist, this is a solid recommendation. Recommended: 14 and up.

Overall: I was sadly disappointed by this book. I almost DNF’d it twice while reading it. It didn’t add tell the Roanoke story in a new or refreshing way. With hollow characters, juvenile writing and rough middle section, I don’t recommend this to people who read a lot of YA or paranormal books. Rather, I would see much younger teenagers liking this book. But for me, I was unimpressed.

Rating: 

Have you read any of these books? Have you read the Queen’s Thief series? If so, I really want to know which book is your favorite. I can’t recommend the  2017 audio books enough. Thanks for stopping by and have a great day 🙂

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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