First line: I decided that Orion needed to die after the second time he saved my life.
Summary: The Scholomance is a school for wizards. However, this is not your ordinary school. There are no teachers, monsters lurk around every corner and allies are more important than friends. El has spent her years here trying to stay alive, literally. And even though she has extraordinary powers she has to keep them in check otherwise she could destroy the school and everyone in it. With her reputation as a dark wizard and her grumpy attitude she has never made any friends but that all changes when Orion Lake decides to save her life, again.
My Thoughts: This book was crazy! The first few chapters had so much information, world building and magic system in it that it nearly overwhelmed me but I stuck with it. It was worth it! There are many books that are trying to be like Harry Potter but this takes it to another level. Monsters creep out of every nook and cranny. The school is forever changing. Fellow students may try to ally themselves with you or kill you. No teachers or even any adults are in the school. And graduation is a life or death situation.
Everything about this book was different and exciting. I loved the ending. It was thrilling and fast paced. I wish it didn’t have to end but it gave such a good cliffhanger that I am eagerly anticipating the next book. It cannot come soon enough!
FYI: Lots of death, violence and magic.
Spinning Silver by Naomi Novik
First line: The real story isn’t half as pretty as the one you’ve heard.
Summary: When Miryem takes over her father’s money lending business she excels at it. She has a talent for making silver into gold. Slowly bringing her family out of poverty, she garners a reputation but it may not be as all she thought it would be. She draws the attention of the Staryk king, a creature of ice and cold who preys on the people of Vysnia.
Highlights: This book is beautiful! It has classic fairy tale themes, Rumpelstiltskin, and the feeling of a Russian folktale. I wish that I had read this in the dead of winter because it is very atmospheric. The story is dark and rich. So much detail and story is packed into it that it takes a while to digest. This is not a summery beach read but one that needs to be savored.
There are at least six points of view throughout the plot and each character has a symbol to represent them. It is a nice touch to separate the narratives. Each character brings their own voice and thoughts to the story. Miryem is the moneylender’s daughter who is stolen away by the Staryk king. Wanda, the servant girl, gives us a peak into the prejudices of the village folk but also the wonder of girl who has been given a chance to better herself. Her younger brother, Stepon, is the innocent who watches and does not completely understand what is happening around him. Irina, the daughter of a duke, has been forgotten and neglected until her father hatches a plan to ensnare the Tsar and therefore putting her in danger. The young tsar, Mirnatius, has a dark secret. And finally Magreta, the nurse who raised Irina and is determined to keep her young charge safe.
With so many plot lines intertwining you would think it would get confusing but it does not. They all come together and conclude the story. The last few chapters are fast paced and the perfect way to end. Be prepared to spend time with these characters in this world. It is a hearty read but worth it.
The Staryk was a tale for a winter’s night.
Lowlights: I love the detail of the story and the characters. Every few chapters though felt a little longer than they needed to be. I am a fan of short chapters so when one stretched on for 50+ pages it took me a little longer to get through.
FYI: Read Uprooted by Naomi Novik. It is fantastic! It is a retelling of Beauty and the Beast which is my favorite fairy tale.