The Kiss of Deception by Mary E. Pearson

The Kiss of Deception by Mary E. PearsonPrincess Lia is being forced to marry against her will. Her parents have secured her a marriage to a prince of another land–a prince she has never even met. As a First Daughter, she is supposed to have the gift of sight, which makes her valuable. However, Lia knows that she does not have the gift and that her parents are lying in order to form an alliance with a different kingdom. Lia refuses to be a political pawn and instead runs away on her wedding day, hiding in a far off village while pretending to be a waitress in an inn. When two mysterious men arrive and appear interested in her, she finds herself torn between the two, not realizing that one is the prince she ran away from and the other an assassin sent to murder her.

This was such a great read! Lia is a smart girl who isn’t the typical princess–she hates doing the normal “girly” princess tasks and instead loves to run around with her brothers. When she finds out that she is expected to marry a stranger and move to a nearby kingdom that she has never been to, she is extremely unhappy. She is not the type to sit and be a docile wife but rather she loves to talk back to her father’s advisers and keeps herself educated. Lia, along with her maid and best friend, Pauline, flees the kingdom, leading her father’s men on many false trails and managing to hide herself away in a distant village.

What was really incredible about this book was the narration style. The majority of the book is told from Lia’s point of view, but every few chapters we get a short chapter told from the prince’s point of view and then from the assassin’s. This enables the reader to get a better idea of the other character’s motives and how they are conflicted once faced with Lia. The prince chases after her to see what kind of girl was bold enough to jilt him at his wedding and nearly cause a war between two kingdoms, and the assassin was sent by his employer from a distant land to kill Lia. However, once he meets her, he finds this more and more difficult to accomplish.

Lia is a very humble character for a princess–she gets a job in an inn and is willing to learn and pull her own weight in order to make her way. She doesn’t expect to be handed anything simply because of who she is and she treats her former maid Pauline as an equal. After spending some time away from home and then hearing from her brother about the war that is brewing, she realizes that running away did not only stop the wedding, but may have started more than she intended. Though she is enjoying her new life, she realizes that she may have to consider returning and facing her responsibilities before it is too late. It grows increasingly difficult to leave, however, because she finds herself gaining the attention of both the prince and the assassin, both of whom are torn between their feelings for her and their own responsibilities.

Overall, The Kiss of Deception was an exciting fantasy read that kept me turning pages. The narration style really made the story, especially with a twist I wasn’t expecting, and I look forward to reading the sequel!

The Kiss of Deception will be released on July 15, 2014 and is the first book in The Remnant Chronicles.

Of Neptune by Anna Banks

Of Neptune by Anna BanksEmma and Galen have decided to get some much needed alone time by taking a road trip. Emma’s grandfather pushes them in the direction of a small town called Neptune, which turns out to be something completely unexpected. In Neptune, Syrena live in harmony with humans and Half-Breeds. Emma begins to realize that she may have another choice for her future and when a Half-Breed named Reed begins to pay her extra attention, Galen is worried that Emma may decide to stay in Neptune forever.

The first book in this series was really good–it was one of the first mermaid YA books I’ve read and it seemed really original and had a great plot. The second book fell pretty flat in my opinion and I nearly gave up on the series after that. However, because I feel compelled to always finish a series (the exception being Lauren Kate’s Fallen series, ugh), I decided that I had to read Of Neptune. I was hoping that it would revive the trilogy for me, but unfortunately it was more like the second book than the first.

The romance between Emma and Galen seemed to die after the first book. I felt like I had little interest in their love story anymore because there didn’t really even seem to be one. Their love story, along with much of the plot of this book, seemed contrived. Emma and Galen seem like they keep trying to force their relationship to be something it’s not, and by going on a road trip it seemed like they were trying to get everything back on track. However, when they find Neptune and realize they both have radically differing opinions on the small town, it just drags them further apart.

Emma and Galen are both extreme in their personalities–Emma is super trusting and so ridiculously naive that sometimes you just want to slap her, and Galen is super overprotective and sometimes channels Edward Cullen. So when they meet a Half-Breed named Reed who invites them back to their town, Galen automatically hates him just because he so much as glances at Emma, and Emma automatically trusts him and agrees to go with him with or without Galen, just because he is a Half-Breed like herself. The guy could still be a murdering psychopath! Who just runs off with someone they meet in the woods? So naturally, Reed creates a rift between Emma and Galen because he obviously has the hots for Emma, which annoys Galen. And what’s even more annoying is that Emma pretends to be unaware of it, and even when Reed is blatant about it she just shrugs it off and ignores it.

The bigger conflict in this book is that technically a town like Neptune where humans and Syrena live together and where Half-Breeds exist at all is illegal by Syrena rules, and since Galen is a Triton royal, he is under obligation to tell his brother, the king. The problem is that Emma loves the town and loves the idea of mermaids and humans living together, so Galen and Emma soon find themselves in the middle of a political struggle. This leads to the even bigger issue surrounding their relationship: they have no idea what they will do when they’re finally mated–will Galen live on land with Emma or will Emma live in the ocean with Galen?

Overall, Of Neptune was kind of a blah ending to the trilogy. Everything was basically wrapped up plot-wise, but much of the book felt contrived and Emma just got more annoying as the series progressed.

Of Neptune was released on May 13, 2014 and is the final book in The Syrena Legacy.

The Winner’s Curse by Marie Rutkoski

The Winner's Curse by Marie RutkoskiKestrel is the general’s daughter in an empire that is constantly seeking out new territories and enslaving those they conquer. As such, she can either join the military, or get married. However, neither option appeals to her. On instinct in the market one day, she bids on a defiant slave and ends up winning, bringing him home unexpectedly. What is even more unexpected is the way she begins to feel about this slave, Arin, who seems to have his own secrets.

This is one of my favorite books from this year so far! There are so many different elements to this story and the way the world is built in this book is phenomenal. Kestrel’s people took over the land that Arin’s people had long inhabited and turned his people into slaves. They actually took over their former homes and claimed them as their own. Since Arin’s people did not have a great military presence they were unable to fight back successfully, and those who were once nobles in their society were forced to become slaves just like the rest.

Kestrel seems to have much more of a moral compass than her father and the rest of the empire. She also is very strong, and not just because her father forced her to train with weapons since she was a child. Her intelligence and wit is what makes her strong, and she is able to out wit almost anyone, even when her life is at stake.

This story is told from both Arin and Kestrel’s perspective, and what this really serves to do is allow the reader to get a glimpse into the secrets Arin is keeping. Therefore, we learn what is really going on before Kestrel does, which makes the story even more interesting. This was definitely a smart narration choice because it kept me biting my nails wondering how Arin was going to reveal the truth to her. Arin himself is a very complex character–he is old enough to remember his previous life before slavery and he is educated enough that he can speak the language of Kestrel’s people, which gives him an advantage. Despite their obvious differences and conflicts, Arin and Kestrel begin to fall for each other, unfortunately at a very inconvenient time.

Overall, The Winner’s Curse was an exciting read that kept me on the edge of my seat. This was definitely one of the best books I’ve read this year so far, and I can’t wait to read the next one in the series!

The Winner’s Curse was released on March 4, 2014 and is the first book in The Winner’s Trilogy.

The Queen’s Choice by Cayla Kluver

The Queen's Choice by Cayla KluverAnya, a Faerie of Chrior, is the niece of the Queen of the Faerie Kingdom. When the Queen tells her that she is dying and that Anya must take her place as Queen, Anya is overwhelmed to say the least. She has no desire to rule, but instead likes to spend her time traveling to and from the human world. However, if Anya doesn’t rule, then the crown will fall to her cousin Illumina, a Faerie who is extremely prejudiced against humans and who will ruin the relationship the Faeries have with the humans. The only option Anya has is to go out into the human world in search of the Queen’s son Zabriel, who ran away two years ago. Anya believes that if she can convince him to come home then the pressure to rule Chrior will be off of her.

I was really excited to read this book. It has a gorgeous cover and the story just sounded so different and interesting. And while I did like the story, I found it hard to get through. This book was over 500 pages. While I’ve read many books longer than that, this was a LONG 500 pages. There were many times throughout the book where I felt the story dragging, and I think probably 100-150 pages could’ve been cut from this book and it would’ve made the pacing better. I really had to push myself to get through this once I hit the halfway mark, and while I will say it did pick up a lot towards the end, it took awhile to get there.

I oscillated between liking and disliking Anya. At first she seems pretty selfish–she wants to go off and find her cousin so that he can rule instead of her. First of all, her aunt obviously though she was the best for the job so maybe she could have at least given it a chance instead of running off. Second, her cousin obviously ran away for a reason, and does she even stop to realize that maybe bringing him back will just make him miserable all over again? No, she is only thinking about her needs and how she has to give up her freedom when she becomes Queen. Also, she has this boyfriend Daric in the Faerie realm who is just supposed to sit around and wait for her to have her fun out in the human world? That’s kind of unfair. But aside from all of this, I will definitely say that she grew a lot throughout the book and became more selfless and understanding of other people.

I really liked the world building in this book and I think that was the only good thing about the length–it allowed Kluver to really show us a lot of the human world. I still would have liked to see more of Chrior though; the book starts off there but Anya quickly leaves and I would say about 90% of the book is spent in the human world after that. The Faerie world seemed really interesting and I’m hoping in future books we get to see more of it.

This book definitely had a great adventure and wasn’t just a fantasy book. There was a lot about political unrest both in the Faerie and human world, and the book had a lot of twists and turns. The ending was not something I expected at all and definitely left a big cliffhanger.

Overall, The Queen’s Choice was an exciting story that dragged slightly because of the length. However, the ending was a big twist and will definitely leave you excited for the next book.

The Queen’s Choice will be released on January 28, 2014.

Defy by Sara B. Larson

Defy by Sara B. LarsonAlexa Hollen is a girl who is forced to disguise herself as a boy in the king’s army after she and her twin brother are orphaned. In Antion, girls who are orphaned are forced to go to the breeding houses, and to avoid this Alexa must cut off her hair and call herself Alex. She has been trained to fight so she easily passes off as a boy and quickly rises through the ranks to become part of the prince’s personal guard. However, when a sorcerer comes to abduct the prince, Alexa is unable to stop him and she and her fellow guard Rylan get abducted as well. When her secret is revealed, it seems that the prince and Rylan may have secrets of their own, and Alexa has to deal with two men vying for her affections along with trying to protect the kingdom.

This was such a great start to this series! Alexa is my favorite type of heroine–brave, fierce, and able to beat a grown man in sword fighting. She becomes the best fighter in the army even though she has suffered so many hardships, and she proves that just girls can fight just as well as boys can. Alexa poses as a boy in order to avoid the breeding house, which was so horrible to read about. Orphan girls are taken into the breeding house where they are basically raped by men in the army and forced to bear children. Those children are then forced to fight in the army if they are boys, and if they are girls they are forced right back into the breeding house. Alexa was fortunate enough to have her fighting skills and her brother’s quick thinking to cut off her hair, but there are so many poor girls who didn’t have that chance and suffer daily in the breeding house.

I enjoyed the love triangle in this book because it wasn’t the only focus of the story and it was obvious pretty early on who Alexa really loved. Both Prince Damian and Rylan admit to having feelings for her once her cover is blown, and this poor girl who has never been allowed to think like a girl is suddenly thrown into a love triangle. I think Alexa’s reaction was very real, and any girl in that situation would definitely be overwhelmed.

I really admired Alexa because she was so determined to carry on. She is constantly thrown into different situations that take her out of her element, but she quickly adjusts and is able to deal with it. After losing her parents and basically losing her identity, she still pushes on and tries to make the best life possible for herself. She also is fiercely loyal to the prince, even though at first she doesn’t believe he deserves her loyalty, and she is willing to throw her life down for his.

Overall, Defy was a fantastic start to a new series! Alexa was a great heroine and I can’t wait to see where the second book takes her!

Defy will be released on January 7, 2014 and is the first book in a series.

Rory by Ciye Cho

Rory by Ciye ChoRory is a cake decorator who gets taken by a demon into the land of Palladino, where ghosts and gargoyles and other creatures live. She is forced to train to be graceful and proper so that she can be auctioned off to a ghost lord. While she goes along with the training in order to survive, she secretly plots to escape Palladino even though she has been told it is impossible.

There were a lot of things I didn’t like about this book but there were also some things that I did. I felt like there really wasn’t enough character development–Rory is thrown into this situation pretty early on in the book and I felt like I couldn’t develop a connection to her character at all. There are flashbacks with random characters thrown in that don’t really make sense–there are two flashbacks with a neighbor boy that she had a crush on but other than that his character has nothing to do with the rest of the story so it seem forced and out of place. Also, Rory’s mother constantly warns her about demons and being out after dark, yet we never find out how her mom even knew about these creatures or why she would suspect that they would come after Rory.

The world building was something that I did like–Cho creates a very vivid world filled with castles and hot air balloons and an array of ghost and creatures. The whole ghost ballerina thing was kind of strange, and I really didn’t get the purpose of the girls having lessons on posture and how to hold a fan when supposedly the ghost lords only want them for their memories, but the whole concept of the story was a very original idea.

Overall, Rory was a bit of a strange book that was lacking in some areas but had great world building and an original story. While it was not really for me, I’m sure others may enjoy it more.

Rory was released on August 10, 2013 and is the first book in The Ghosts of Palladino series.

Of Triton by Anna Banks

Of Triton by Anna BanksWARNING: SPOILERS FOR OF POSEIDON AHEAD

Emma has just discovered that not only is she a Half-Breed, but her mother is a long lost mermaid princess. Emma herself is having trouble coming to terms with her identity because she feels torn between the human world and the world of the Syrena where Galen, the boy she loves, is a prince. When her mother reveals herself to the Syrena world, it nearly starts a war between the two kingdoms of Triton and Poseidon, and forces Emma to figure out where exactly she belongs.

I am a huge mermaid fan, and I’ve been saying forever that there need to be MORE MERMAIDS!! There haven’t been many mermaid stories until recently, and I’m glad to see the increase in the appearance of mermaids in young adult literature. However, while I really loved Of Poseidon, I’m afraid Of TritonĀ really didn’t do it for me.

In the first book it seemed like there were so many sparks between Emma and Galen so I was really excited to see where the second book would take them. However, in the second book it seemed like there were no sparks at all! There were very few times in the book where Emma and Galen were actually together but when they were it was like there was absolutely no chemistry. I found myself really bored with their relationship overall, and I feel like they didn’t really even grow as a couple throughout this book.

Emma herself seemed to be more childish in this book and weirdly kept calling herself out on her own immaturity. I felt like I liked her a lot better in the previous book. The narration of the story also bothered me a bit–Emma’s narration is told in first person and Galen’s is told in third person, which is just a really strange switch that didn’t really make sense to me.

The overall plot was just so-so in my opinion. I found it hard to get through this book and it definitely took me a lot longer to read than I had expected. I think the lack of sparks between the characters and the somewhat blahness of the plot made it hard for this book to really hold my interest.

Overall, Of Triton was a disappointing sequel to Of Poseidon. The sparks have died and the plot made this just seem like a filler book that is leading up to a (hopefully) more exciting third book.

Of Triton was released on May 28, 2013 and is the second book in the Of Poseidon series. The third book, Of Neptune, is expected to be released in 2014.