The Reluctant Queen – Sarah Beth Durst

13c702ff354aef7596c53316f41434f414f4141This is the second books in the Queens of Renthia series. Delaina has come to the throne as the last survivor of all the heirs in Aratay. And while she is young and should have many years ahead of her to reign, she finds she has contracted the False Death. When she has spells, the Spirits of Aratay believe her to be dead, and it is only the power of the queen that keeps them from harming the people of Aratay, so she of all people cannot afford to be ill. Delaina sets her healers to find a cure, and her champions to find new heirs.

Finding heirs is a problem though – all of the experienced candidates were killed, except Delaina. Her champion, Ven, decides that he must pursue an alternate route to find a new candidate – look for women with power who never came to the academies. That’s how he finds Naelin. She’s probably more powerful than Delaina, but after watching her mother die when she summoned too many spirits to handle, she’s afraid to use her power. But she’s going to need to, because the queen of a neighboring kingdom has decided to invade Aratay, and Delaina can’t defend them alone.

I’m not sure quite sure what I thought about this book. I like the first one better. This one has a few too many elements in it that I can’t decide if they work or not. I think I need to read the third book before I’ll be able to say if this one worked or not.

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Long May She Reign – Ellen Emerson White

5c844cb38268a91593859395841434f414f4141This is the fourth book in a series about the daughter of the first woman president. I received the first one as a gift in middle school, and read the other two quite a while ago. It took me a while to track this fourth one down (and it was written quite a while after the first ones – the differences in the cultural references are funny).

In the third book, Meg was kidnapped by terrorists. When they left her alone, handcuffed in a cave, she smashed her hand to get free, and did manage to find her way back to civilization in time to be saved. (I swear, this is way less melodramatic than it summarizes as.) In this book, she’s back to DC, and everyone – her parents, her two brothers, the staffers they’re close to, and definitely Meg – is still very traumatized. This book is all them putting the pieces back together again, and it’s pretty well done.

What I liked is that everyone is pretty screwed up by this, and no one wants to talk about it. The things that are going on feel very real. Meg also still decides to go to her first year of college (second semester at least), at Williams College. This works on so many levels – first college experiences, having to work trauma recovery into that. Having to work in the fact that her mother is the first female present, and the very real fact that Meg’s starting realize she may want to study politics is also fun. So this book may sound like it could be pretty melodramatic, but it really works without taking itself too seriously. I hadn’t read the other books in the series recently, but I’m reminded why I like them (enough that I do still have them).

Siege and Storm – Leigh Bardugo

c8d9d5f0224999659675a727141434f414f4141Alina and Mal have tried to run from the Darkling, but he finds them, and brings them back to Ravka. But the Darkling isn’t aware that his allies are not all that they seem, and the privateer he has hired to bring them back to Ravka instead saves Alina and Mal for his own ends.

And so it is that Alina finds herself back in Os Alta, now in charge of all the Grisha, needing to plan how to defend them and the King from the inevitable day that the Darkling will return. She’s more sure of her power, and now has heard of a way she might be able to increase it, but that power is putting her at odds with Mal, and leading her down a path she isn’t sure she really wants to follow.

This is a good middle book – you can’t say it’s really that full of action, but it definitely sets up what should be a good ending to this trilogy.

Mastiff – Tamora Pierce

11f742d42cc79cb593171426151434f414f4141This the final book of the Beka Cooper books, and it’s a doozy. She and her partner are summoned with some haste to the Summer Palace, where they find that half of the servants and guards there have been slaughtered, and the young prince has been kidnapped. Beka promises the frantic queen that she will find her little boy.

They’re joined by a mage named Farmer, and a lady knight, and begin a trek into the wilds of Tortall, tracking the prince. It’s a journey unlike any other that Beka has ever been on, and it will test her and her friends like nothing before. For a YA book, this one goes fairly dark, which is a good service to the story – all of the politics surrounding this kidnapping are deadly serious, and are dealt with very accordingly. It’s really good book – a fitting end to Beka’s tale.

Between Two Thorns – Emma Newman

0a017993d1236bc59712f686d41434f414f4141Cathy has fled her abusive family, but there’s a twist- her family lives in the Nether –between the regular world and the world of the Fae, and the families there serve the Fae. Cathy would rather live in the real world, where she won’t have an arranged marriage, and can live her own life. Unfortunately, her family’s patron has tracked her down, and it’s back to the Nether she goes, and finds herself surrounded by intrigue.

I feel like I wanted a little more back story here. I’m not really sure what the Nether families are about, and it makes what goes on in this book a bit confusing. We’re supposed to care about Cathy being forced to go back there, and there are a few hints that we should, but not quite enough for real concern. I can only hope things get a little better in the rest of the series, but I’m also not sure I’m in a hurry to seek those out.

Bloodhound – Tamora Pierce

547830b09aaf15d592f4f765741434f414f4141It’s funny – the author notes in the acknowledgements that she wasn’t sure a book about counterfeiting was going to be that interesting, but I have not read a book that had me quite on the edge of my seat as this one did in a while.

Beka Cooper’s no longer a trainee in the Provost’s Guard, but she’s been having trouble holding onto a permanent partner. After losing yet another one, she’s back with Goodwin and Tunstall, who were her training partners. She also accidently acquires a scent hound named Achoo. All this just in time for altered silver coins to start showing up in Corus. She and Goodwin are sent to Port Caynn to investigate.

This is in many ways a growing story for Beka – she’s on her own to a degree in a strange town, with new responsibilities. And the counterfeiting plot works really well – it’s actually incredibly action packed. I really enjoyed this book – read it as quickly as I could so I could see what was going to happen next.

Voices – Ursula K. Le Guin

e8213b69db62b6d593141795567434f414f4141This is the second book in the Annals of the Western Shore. The first was Gifts – featuring Orrec and Gry. They figure heavily into this story as well, but it’s more Memer’s story.

Memer is a siege brat in the city of Ansul – daughter of a woman of the city and one of the Ald soldiers that conquered them seventeen years ago. But even more than that, her mother was a member of the house of Galva, and they hold a secret. Ald invaded the city because their god hates the written word, and Ansul was the most learned city on the Western Shore. They destroyed all the books, or so they thought. Deep in the house of Galva is a hidden room full of books, and Memer is one of only two people alive who can access it.

Orrec and Gry come into this city seeking those books, not knowing that they’re in a city ready to shake off their oppressors, and they just need a spark to procede. This is some heavy stuff for a young adult book, but so beautifully done. I need to stop being surprised how much I love Le Guin’s work when I read it – I love it everytime. It should be no surprise at this point.