My Hot Take on Kingdom of Ash

kingdom of ash book cover

It’s safe to say this was one of my most anticipated reads of the year. As the long-anticipated finale in a 7 book series, my excitement to read this was sky high… so much so that I decided to go to a book event, got myself a signed copy and some other goodies beside- look how pretty!!

(no pics of the actual event sadly cos my camera is really crummy)

All of which begs the question: how could the book possibly live upto all the hype? Well, I’m pleased to say it did in a lot of ways it made me a very happy monkey. Although I won’t pretend it was everything I dreamed it would be (more on that later) I did come away pretty darn satisfied.

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From the beginning, Maas’ writing walked the thin line between decadence and accessibility. In an exquisitely balanced fashion, she drew on her reader’s emotions and went for some gutsy manoeuvres. Each torture scene was measured and well executed. With plenty of tension, the stakes were high, and every tweak of the plot felt like another turn of the thumbscrew.

What I especially appreciated about these scenes was how it allowed for a more intimate view of the villainess. Maeve telling her side of the story was particularly rewarding. While I was left unsure after Empire of Storms why she would abduct, instead of kill, our heroine, it made perfect sense here. The one flaw that this did open up- unfortunately- was that it repeated the reveal for Maeve’s true identity… the same one that was allegedly the vital piece of information we needed to read Tower of Dawn to get.

Now this led to its own set of problems. Suddenly, this whole setup (one which became an entire book I might add) was suddenly redundant, because Aelin had figured it out all on her lonesome. Which, *yay, goodie for her* but sadly this meant a lot of characters lost their purpose. Given that the cast was too large anyway, I wondered why this unnecessary plot point wasn’t trimmed.

It didn’t help that there were a lot of characters I’d lost interest in. As much as I had previously liked Nesryn and Sartaq, they may as well have been cameos in the book, because they added nothing to the story. And, something which came as much as a shock to me as it will to you, was that previous favourites like Lysandra and Aedion no longer held my interest. Part of my falling out of love with them came from the pettiness of their scenes- their fallout felt manufactured and most of their scenes were needless drama that could have been streamlined. But the other issue was that I struggled to care for so many characters once they were reunited with the ones I actually loved- especially if I’d only recently managed a grudging respect for them (*coughs* Chaol *cough cough*). I personally found that some new characters hadn’t earned the amount of attention they received (to be frank: Yrene) while some older characters were given short shrift. It certainly didn’t help that the perspective shifted at regular intervals (something that didn’t happen earlier in the series). At the event, Maas said that this was to frustrate the reader a little… and frustrate me it did. In fact, I found it easier to put the book down because of it.

Nonetheless, there were always characters I was desperate to see more from. Most notably my favourite couples: Lorcan/Elide and Manon/Dorian. For me personally, the Manon and Dorian scenes (together and apart) stole the show. Practically every Manon moment made me *squeal* with glee and every Dorian part made my heart melt. I especially liked the progression of their stories. The scene with Abraxos and Petra was a culmination of *everything* (more so even than the one with the Thirteen- which is also pretty spectacular given that if you’ve read the book you know exactly what I’m talking about). And each of Dorian’s victories was *the best*. Highlight for spoiler: in the whole book, my pity panged most for Dorian seeing his father’s sacrifice. And I loved seeing the explanation for why the king had no name.

True to form, the plot was very exciting. There was a lot mastery in that no scenes were wasted. I can see what Maas meant about not skipping anything out. My one issue was that a lot of these events could have been reordered for a bit more oomph. Especially when it came to the point where the plot hinged: the wyrdkeys. In my opinion, this major showdown happened too early and easily could have been saved to coincide with the final battle. Highlight for spoilery section: It would have been fine to have Maeve see Aelin lose her powers and not have her just mysteriously *know* anyway. I also felt that the betrayal of the gods was shoehorned in to “surprise” the reader that they’d still have to defeat him. I’d have been happy if either Erawan had been blasted into outer space like planned or the gods had lied about being able to get rid of him in the first place.

Still, I did think there was too much going on in the last battle. For me, it would have made sense to put a number of players out of commission and not switch perspective at this crucial stage. Highlight for more spoilers: Elide saving Lorcan could have been early in this battle. Maeve could have consequently been torturing just Rowan, not three people at once. And, as well written as it was, I didn’t have a dog in the Erawan/Yrene fight scene if I’m honest. And as much as I liked Dorian getting his little victories- I’d have had him unconscious for the duration of the fight too. What I did like was Aelin riding in on the Lord of the North was wonderful. I liked that she was heroic as ever, that she retained her swagger and most of all her last words to Maeve. Basically, Aelin, Aelin, Aelin. There was one last flaw and that was that OF COURSE they killed the main villain and all the other enemies *run away*. Because this overused film trope isn’t overused

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After that, the ending was pretty much as expected. Highlight for lots of spoilers Happy happiness with a hint of happy-juice. Complete with that cliché that will piss off many fans of “oh I’m queen now, let’s have democracy”. Not to sound like a miserable bugger, but at the end of a saga like this, I think I could have handled a bit more loss. The thing is, whoever died would have annoyed fans, because let’s face it, the choice would have been between Dorian and Chaol. Now, as a lot of you may know, I’m totally biased, so you may think my choice of Chaol is tinged with that. NOT SO! (okay maybe a little) Hear me out- the reason why I’d have killed him off was because it would have been simultaneously tragic, what with the so much to live for, and yet also would have made sense since he’d reached a full character arc. Whereas Dorian is kind of needed to rule- because his useless brother would hardly be any good in his place, and he hadn’t yet fulfilled his romantic purpose (basically, if there was a half decent alternative ruler and he’d knocked Manon up, I’d have sobbed my little heart out, but agreed it was fair for him to go). So yeah, my main message is kill Chaol (#SorryNotSorry).

Other than that, I was amused to find that Maas was clearly on a Tolkien bender. The witches going to war was an amazing scene- but did anyone else find it reminiscent of “the beacons are lit”? Also “that’s no horn of Morath” felt like the arrival of the Rohirrim. Yet, even with some moments feeling derivative to me, I did like the fact that all the stories- the fae, the witches and the men- all tied into the theme of homecoming. That worked splendidly.

Ultimately, this was a tad too long and there were too many characters I wasn’t fussed about. There were some things I wish had been done slightly differently. That said, despite these kinks, I can’t deny I enjoyed a large proportion of this book. Plus I thought it was a massive improvement on book 5! Like many of the books in this series, it’s not perfect, but it’s certainly a wild ride:

Rating: 4/5 bananas

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So have you read this? Do you plan to? Let me know in the comments!

The Very Best Anti Heroes

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So I’ve been talking quite a bit about who’s the very best at being bad guys lately. And I’ve also chatted about some of my favourite villains before. But do you know what I’ve never done on here? Got into who my favourite anti-heroes are- which is why I made this list! I have quite the lineup for you, so lettttts bring out the contestants:

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Dorian Gray– possibly the quintessential anti-hero. What makes his journey so enticing is that he starts off as little more than a blank slate, yet as the story goes on, his little faults were drawn out and painted onto a horrifying canvass! (which, incidentally, is literally the plot for the book 😉 )

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Doctor Faustus– speaking of the ULTIMATE anti-hero, can we get a round of applause for the original schmuck-that-sold-his-soul-to-the-devil?! Louder- not sure he can hear you in hell…

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Macbeth– we’ve got to get a Shakespearean hero in here somewhere. And man, is Macbeth a killer anti-hero- I mean, he’s literally a killer and he’s not much of a squeaky clean hero (out out damn spot… which was technically said by his wife)

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Galharrow– a newbie, but a goodie, Galharrow may be rough around the edges, but he’s wicked funny and remarkably sympathetic (probably one of the nicer ones on this list).

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Prince Jorg– I was so tempted to fill up this list with *all* the Mark Lawrence characters- because I’m pretty confident he’s the king of anti-heroes at this point- but in the end I decided to just go with Jorg because he really takes the biscuit (and stabs you in the face afterwards).

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Narrator from Notes from Underground– this unnamed narrator is quite the misery guts- eaten up with resentment and anguish, he’d give even Dostoevsky’s Raskolnikov a run for his money- and that’s saying something!

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Robert Wringhim Colwan– before there were any other confessions related books or movies, this guy was doing the dirty. Possibly crazy or enticed by a demon- who can say!?

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The Godfather– so you come to me on the day of little importance to me and you ask me for an anti hero… and I’m gonna point you in the direction of the original godfather- cos he strokes cats in a menacing manner! (not something he actually does in the book, but whatever)

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Kaz Brekker! Yes, his name comes with an explanation point. It’s deliberate.

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Victor Vale– I feel almost mean putting him on this list, cos he’s so misunderstood… but also technically quite bad 😉

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Celaena Sardothien– okay, some of you may say “she’s not an anti-hero”- and yeah, that’s probably true by now, sorta… but she did literally start out as an assassin and was still happily killing people till book 4 (though most of them technically deserved it)

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Jaime Lannister– just about any hero from GOT would do, but honestly, none have had a bigger turnaround than Jaime. I started out loathing this guy- no one could have convinced me at the start that I’d end up praying he doesn’t die!

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Adelina– Adelina has one of my *favourite* character arcs- which I can’t get into cos of spoilers, but it’s sooooo good (read it)

And we’ll stop at thirteen, cos that seems appropriate for Halloween 🙂

So do you agree with my choices? Who are your favourite anti-heroes? Let me know in the comments!

Tower of Dawn Rose Above My Expectations

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Okay, I’m gonna start this review where I would normally end it:

Rating: 4/5 bananas

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Because to be abundantly clear, before I get into the nitty gritty, that I did actually have a lot of fun with this. Not entirely for the right reasons, but oh, we’ll get to that. All in all though, before I get into what I thought about this in depth, I do think this was definitely one of Maas’ better books.

As a spinoff from the Throne of Glass series, I feared it might be a bit of a waste of time. And worse still, this focused on Chaol, who (spoilers for Queen of Shadows) has had his back broken. Let’s be honest, I’ve never been a fan of this self-righteous twerp (I can’t even be bothered to be diplomatic), so a book centring on his mission for allies and a healer didn’t sound appealing.

Initially I thought I was going to be proved right. And this comes back to not liking Chaol, which meant it was a real struggle to get invested. Don’t get me wrong, this is in no way a criticism of the writing– as a character he’s entirely believable- it’s only that the gift of writing realistic characters is a double edged sword and inevitably there will be characters we do not like. Sometimes certain types (the prissy, hypocritical, judgemental kind) rub me the wrong way.  And well, quite simply Chaol does a lot of Chaol like things here– so oh gosh my notes got snarky:

 “He was Lord of Nothing. Lord of Oath-Breakers. Lord of Liars

Me in notes: true- he was a wanker. He literally (spoilers for Queen of Shadows) supported a king possessed by a demonic Valg. Because he’s a schmock.

 “It should have been me. I had always planned for it to be me instead”

Me: ah Chaol’s infamous misplaced guilt. Not the reason he sucks though.

“It was a… rough period for me. Everything I knew was trampled. Everything. And she… I think I placed the blame for a great deal of it upon her. Began to see her as a monster

Me: yeah you were a prejudicial git.

To be fair, there were random parts where he wasn’t even doing anything that I’d blurt that out “yeah but you’re still a shit”. I couldn’t even understand why other characters described him as: “This man, this noble and selfless and remarkable man”. Because he also said things to someone who’d had their family murdered like:

“I knew another woman who lost as much as you. And do you know what she did with it- that loss?… She hunted down the people responsible and obliterated them. What the hell have you bothered to do these years?”

It’s not just that it’s insensitive and cruel- it’s that he has *zero consistency*- especially cos he previously criticised the woman who hunted down her enemies… so what’s his problem?  This is why I don’t like the judgy bastard- he’s always been the worst hypocrite. He’s very good at wounding people, acting morally superior, yet he can’t seem to make up his mind over what is right and wrong. So no, unlike a lot of people, this book didn’t suddenly make me a Chaol convert.

HOWEVER (and I’m sorry it’s taken me this long to get to the positive side) I really liked the other characters. Sartaq in particular was completely gorgeous. I will say, initially whenever I read Nesryn’s name, I thought “who?” Her relationship with Chaol was totally meh and shoehorned in– still highlight for spoiler: I ended up loving her romance with Sartuq, even if it was weird for her to jump ship and to brush the other unnecessary relationship under the rug in order for it to happen.

Since this was set in a new location, I personally felt like there was a lot of infodumping in the opening, which made it tough to get into, but once it got going, there was plenty to keep me entertained. By the end the number of times I’d said “wow” was ridiculous. It was simply so SPECTACULAR my notes devolved into “oohs” and “ahhs”. Plotwise, this also had HUGE implications for the series. There were some predictable moments- for instance, highlight for spoiler: she has a tendency to repeat stories, so it was no surprise when Chaol’s back got broken again,but I really did not see that finale coming. Because, like I said, wow.

Tower of Dawn also overcame a lot of the problems I had with Empire of Storms. Maas toned down the somewhat cringey sexual content. It was still corny, but there was less of it THANK GOODESS. Moreover, the moralising I’d complained of was mostly gone. When it did turn up, the messaging was simple and less cheesy, so I didn’t have a problem with it this time round (in fact, it was pretty quotable). And as always, I appreciated a lot of the writing:

“Her magic had been a pulsing star that flared against the wall that the darkness had crafted between the top of his spine and the rest of it.”

“You must enter where you fear to tread”

All in all, I got a lot out of it than I’d hoped. So have you read this? Do you plan to? And- dare I ask- what do you think about Chaol? Let me know in the comments!

Top Five Divisive Books

So I’ve just got back from the polling station and it was as anti-climactic as ever. But my social media is still a massive battleground…

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Now since politics today is probably the most divisive topic out there (because if you don’t agree with me on everything you’re not a real *insert political affiliation* and you are an *insert insult here*) I thought I’d have a relaxing evening and talk about books that people get *really* up in arms over. These are the books with incredibly INTENSE fan bases and detractors- and my goodness- people have fought tooth and nail over them. So without further ado, this is my list of divisive books:

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1. Harry Potter– ooh er- I’m nervous to even put this on the list- which oddly enough is why I have to include it. Because while many of us book bloggers are proud Potterheads or are friends with them, they are some of the most diehard fans out there. They will not brook even one iota of criticism for their beloved books and saying anything less than “the books are perfection and I want to kiss the feet of the goddess JK” is enough to get you excommunicated from bookish communities… Anyone not with them is a muggle and all that jazz. So yeah, Potterheads, I love ya, but you can be a bit scary!

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2. Twilight– I think a lot of people have grown up about this one, so while there are still Twihards out there, they seem less inclined to stab you with a stake if you don’t happen to like sparkly vampires. But the main reason I included this on the list, is because it sparked the phenomenon of not only going after the non-sparkly-vampire-lovers (what’s the term for that? Normal? 😉 ) but also massive in-fighting. Before it was cool to fight over whether you shipped Gale/Peeta with Katniss Everdeen or Stephan/Damon with Elena, there were hordes of teens running round shouting “Edward!” “Jacob!” at each other. (Also “bite me Edward!”- seriously it was a weird time)

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3. Throne of Glass– so this book was a bit of a phenomenon in that first it was really popular to like it and then it was really popular to criticise- I don’t know if that was just me that noticed that? Either way, you guys know I fell in love with this series cos of the characters, but since it wasn’t instalove for me, I can see both sides of this argument. Either way, the reason it’s on this list is because I have seen plenty of passion when it comes to both its fans and its detractors. Fortunately that hasn’t devolved into anything truly nasty.

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4. The Fault in Our Stars– so back when this blew up, I was into watching a lot of booktube, and yes, naturally the youtube comment sections are the cesspit of humanity, but I think this was the first time I saw people giving out death threats over a book. I get that people love John Green, I’ve been there, but man you don’t have to fight all his battles for him. If a few people don’t like his books, it’s no biggie. He’s still a bestselling author and I’m sure he can handle minor criticism from folks on the internet- just sayin’.

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5. Catcher in the Rye– I had to squeeze at least one classic onto this list. Now I know this gets assigned at schools everywhere in the states, so a huge number of people have read it. What is phenomenal about this book is that *every time* I mention it, I get a chorus of “I love it” “I hate it” in the comments. It has to be one of the most “marmite” books ever- you either love it or you hate it.

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(ok that may have just  been the most British reference ever)

Anyhoo- so do you agree or disagree with these choices? What books do you think are very divisive? Let me know in the comments! And can all the Twihards and Potterheads looking to lynch me get in line in an orderly fashion… 😉

Empire of Storms Was A Tempestuous Read

*Spoiler free for this book- though may be spoilery for series as a whole!*

empire of stormsHello all! In case you don’t already know, I am a *massive* Throne of Glass fan. Naturally I had to read this as soon as possible- and naturally this is going to be a ridiculously gushy post (look away now if you’re not a fan of the series!) So let’s get to the review, shall we?

As I’ve come to expect from Maas, this book was a complete rollercoaster ride. It made me breathless with excitement. Part of that was from the pure thrill of the wickedly woven, complex plot; part of that was from how it made my emotions squirm and scrambled my brain with its sheer awesomeness. But like always, the thing that got to me the most was how much the characters have developed.

I already adore the characters- but every book I just get more and more invested in them. Manon’s story just keeps getting better and better. My beautiful Dorian’s gone a little dark- and I like it. And even Lorcan has become one of my favourites! (Seriously- Maas knows how to work her magic to make me like just about anyone!) A small bonus for me (although a lot of people won’t like me for saying it) was that my least favourite character- Chaol- was not in it. The only downside to that was that there had to be a character criticising Aelin- and for some reason that task had to fall to the adorable Aedion. This was a little annoying, to be honest, because I could see why Maas felt like she needed someone to fill that role, but it felt a little out of character for Aedion, who hero-worshipped Aelin in the last two books, to be the one to do it.

In terms of plot, this one felt a bit like an extended subplot to the main finale. Not that that’s a bad thing- stories advance slowly in all epics and sometimes the subplot can be the most entertaining bit. But one thing I did see coming was the massive cliff-hanger. My friend and I have a theory that all the Throne of Glass books go in pairs- which means there’s a cliff-hanger between books 1 & 2, 3 & 4 and now 5 & 6. And boy was I right- because I am massively stressed out by how it ended.  Honestly- I don’t know how I’m going to make it a year before the last one comes out- what am I gonna do?!?

Rating: 4½/5 bananas

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Alright I think it’s safe to say I am going to have a massive book hangover…. So tell me in the comments how am I going to last a year waiting for the last one to come out? Any tips? (Aside from curling up in a ball and crying)

And are any of you a fan of this series or have read this one? Commiserate with me in the comments!

Assassin’s Blade and Why I Will Go Down With This Ship

assassin's blade*With Spoilers*

Alright, so for everyone that doesn’t know, I am a massive fangirl and *love* the Throne of Glass series. For that reason I’m kind of duty-bound to write this (perhaps superfluous) post about Assassin’s Blade, even if I’ve covered a lot of this ground before and even if I will basically just be discussing ships… lots and lots of ships.

But I just had to discuss this book anyway. Because it was full of surprises! Let’s talk about what I liked, shall we? Firstly, I was impressed with the fact that the stories all connected and it practically read like a single story- even though it was a collection of novellas. Secondly, I liked how Maas kept Celaena’s thoughts veiled, so it was more consistent with her earlier character. But, undoubtedly, the best thing about this was Sam.

Now, at this stage, I know Maas can create great characters and wonderful love interests- but even so, I was taken aback by just how convincing Sam was. He was such a well-drawn, intriguing character- I only wish there was more of him! In fact, I found myself lamenting the fact that he can’t be in the rest of the series. I mean- what??? How could Maas create the *perfect* love interest and then go and take him away? It just seems too cruel.

And he *is* the perfect love interest. Their relationship, of all the relationships in the books, seems the most natural and organic. Honestly, it made me evaluate all the other guys she’s been with. After this, it feels like her current guy is simply with her because they both understand the pain of losing their true love- and not because they are actually right for each other. The guy before that was all wrong for her because he didn’t understand her and was scared of her (and I don’t even like him- there I said it!- although it’s not much of a secret at this stage). And the first guy she’s interested in is clearly all wrong for her (even though I love him). But Sam is just right!!

Now, having read this and seen how perfect it was, I refuse to believe this ship has sailed. Basically, I want Maas to resurrect Sam. If that’s even possible in this universe?!? (Ok it isn’t- but I can dream- right?)

So, at the risk of sounding a little silly, that is why I will go down with this ship- even though Maas has made that ship sink already and it’s lying at the bottom of the ocean like the Titanic. But I refuse to let that stop me- even if I have to go deep sea diving to drag Sam back from the depths of the ocean myself!

Rating: 4/5 bananas

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Anyone else picturing Rose from Titanic right now…

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5 Books That Beat Middle Book Syndrome

After my post yesterday, I decided to do talk more positively about the books that managed to beat middle book syndrome. Actually, these books didn’t just defeat middle book syndrome, cos I’m not gonna include books that were as good as their predecessors (we’d be here all day!). Instead I’m gonna talk about the books that brought something new to the series they belonged to, raised the stakes and just knocked it out of the park! So buckle up and enjoy the ride.

  1. Crown of Midnight

crown of midnightI could easily use this post just to rant and rave about how much I *loved* this series. And, surprisingly, that love did not begin with book 1. Unusually, I started loving this series only after book 2 and then was completely blown away by book 3. Every book since the first one Maas has upped the stakes, made me love the characters more and developed the world in incredible ways! So yeah it’s safe to say this beat middle book syndrome!

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  1. The Novice

the noviceWith the Novice, Trudi Canavan didn’t just build on the first one, she made *everything* so much better. In all honestly, I hadn’t actually enjoyed two thirds of Magician’s Guild- but the last section of the book got me wanting to read more. And I’m so glad it did! Because the second book (and the third) took everything to a whole other level- the characters came to life, the world went from generic to intriguing and the plot was phenomenally gripping. After the slow world-building of the first one, I had not expected to like, let alone love the rest of the series- but somehow Canavan pulled it off, and this is now one of my favourite fantasy series of all time.

  1. Fractured

fracturedThis is a bit more of an unusual one for me to pick. Honestly, I did not think much of Slated– I wasn’t crazy about the idea, the characters and the pacing was all off- so I really don’t get how the sequel managed to impress me. But Fractured was a massive improvement on the series and because of this book I actually became invested in the story. The stakes were higher and the characters were more complex. And unusually for a YA dystopia- I actually liked how it turned out!!

  1. The Rose Society

rose societyThe Young Elites was definitely up there as one of my favourite books of last year- I just loved how dark and unexpected it was. So naturally, I picked up this book with high expectations- and not only did it not disappoint, but it actually built on the success of the first one and made me even more excited about the potential directions this series might take. I loved the twists and turns of the second book even more than the first one! You can read more in my review here.

  1. Cress

cressHaving read the whole series now, I can safely say this one was my favourite! I rated it higher than all the others- and for that reason it had to be on this list! I’m a sucker for cute romances- so I just loved Cress and Thorne’s relationship. Those characters were just gorgeous! Throw in the awesome direction the plot took and the general character development and I was all for it!

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Bonus: Catching Fire

catching fireSome people believe this book is firmly in the Middle Syndrome category- but I disagree- which is one of the main reasons why it had to be in this post. Admittedly, it is really similar to the first one, yet as I said in my last post, it had wonderful character development and really advanced the plot to set up the finale- so it definitely deserves an honorary mention.

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Hope you enjoyed that! Have you read these books? Anyone have any other books that beat middle book syndrome? Let me know in the comments below!