Review: Air Awakens by Elise Kova

★☆☆☆☆

I really tried. I mean I really really really tried to find something good about this.
But it’s a day after and I’m still sitting here like

HOW DOES THIS HAVE A 4+ STAR RATING???

Listen. *deep breath* I am. IN LOVE. With Avatar. It’s one of the biggest influences on my own writing. So whenever I hear of an elemental fantasy I PICK THAT BITCH UP AND READ IT. I read it because I already have a pretty heavy inkling that I’ll love it, but ALSO because I’m writing an elemental fantasy and reading other books in the same vein is a bit like studying. How does the author pull this off? How do they explain this? You know, that kinda thing.

ANYWAYs.

This was a dumpster fire. And I hated it within one chapter. So why did I torture myself through the whole book? Because everyone on this godforsaken website gave this book shining stars and said it was fantastic!!!! Was I reading another book?? Idk man. Air Awakens was basically a bastard lovechild between Avatar/The Phantom of the Opera/Twilight. Yes, Twilight. And you know what? I LIKED Twilight.

[ThoughasanadultIcanlookbackandseeitsflawsitstillretainsitsentertainmentvaluekbye.]

So for starters, the main character, Vhalla, is a Mary Sure to the extreme. She’s got messy hair that omg never cooperates, she’s seemingly plain but actually totally beautiful once she puts on a dress and makeup, and—perhaps the worst part—she has literally three guys fawning over her throughout this entire novel. Three. Separate. Men. You thought love triangles were bad, enter THE LOVE QUADRANGLE.

Vhalla (which my computer keeps trying to correct to “Veal”) finds out the superhotprince (literally nicknamed ‘The Heartbreaker Prince’ by the citizens) has been injured in the war, so she does what us nerdy girls do best: she stays up all night reading, trying to find a cure for the poison in his system. Somehow this Awakens her powers, she’s kidnapped for some reason to The Dark Spooky Tower of the Sorcerers, and she finds out the person she saved was actually the ALSOHOTDARKSPOOKYFIREPRINCE and that’s how the story begins. She spends the entire first 25% of the book saying, “NO I CAN’T BE A SORCERER. IT’S IMPOSSIBLE,” just over and over… for probably about 100 pages.

The next 50% of the book is spent falling in and out of the love quadrangle—she gets asked on a date by her friend Sareem—of course hot dark fire prince sees them and narrows his eyes broodingly; she dances with the Heartbreaker Prince (I’m glad I don’t have to come up with a goofy nickname for him since the author managed that for me) and then sex scandal spreads because she was in his room?; and last but not least, of course, the dark hot fire prince tutors her through letters and finally in person and they fall in ~~instalove~~. I skipped a ton of this because I just couldn’t take it.

Aaaand the last 25% of the book was—gasp—actually decent! For a second, at least. The fight scene was great! Really! It was awesome and we finally got to see some of the “dark” side of the prince, some gritty action, as well as Vhalla’s courage. Unfortunately that was short lived; she got thrown in prison afterward for a crime she didn’t commit, and of course there’s an evil senator guy (whose hatred of Vhalla is never really explained?) and this situation was dragged out for days for some reason.

See, I get it. When I started writing my elemental fantasy I thought, “Wouldn’t it be, like, super cool if I had 4 books and each of them had one of the elements in the title?” Seriously, I considered this… And then I MURDERED MY DARLING. It was a bad idea, and it didn’t need to be done to tell the story, and it just makes the concept more cutesy than anything. So I killed the idea and moved on. Unfortunately this author didn’t, and so she had to stretch the first book out exponentially to make the title (“Air Awakens”) work. It’s ridiculous, it’s kitschy, and it ruined a potentially awesome idea! I really wanted to love this story, but I simply couldn’t because the first book was so incredibly tedious and unnecessary (kind of like this review—cough cough).

Anyway, god, I want to read the next book, because the action scene at the end was pretty great. And I want more of that. What I don’t want to do is pay for a book that ends up being a stretched out account of a bunch of characters flirting. I mean, I can get straight romance if I walk into a mall. I don’t need to pay for that. Idk. I might go for it, because elemental fantasy is my THING Y’ALL. But we’ll see.

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Review: An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir

★★★½


This was un-put-downable.

Screen Shot 2016-08-31 at 8.03.53 AMI love different fantasy. I can’t stand wizards and dragons anymore for some reason. This was certainly different. The worldbuilding is incredible and immersive; set in a desert, with Roman-esque names, an underground resistance movement, prophecies, immortal Augurs who can hear your thoughts, brutal slavery, interesting cultures, face-sucking silver masks, and a school that puts its students through hell to become master weapons. It’s dark as hell but infused with Laia’s enduring hope, and that’s what made this into the classic it’s being touted at.

There’s great character development, too. I started off not liking Laia very much, but she grew into a pretty great character. I wouldn’t say she’s badass, but she’s strong and smart and not afraid to go through horrendous trials to help those she loves.

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The Commandant, Laia, Helene, Elias, and Marcus. Art by Annalise Jensen.

Elias, on the other hand, is my newest book-boyfriend. Oh, how I love those tortured, honorable, hunky souls. And Helene—damn. I absolutely love her. She was by far the most nuanced character in the book.

I’m definitely a Helene/Elias shipper, though, and didn’t really like the insta-love between Elias and Laia (or Keenan and Laia, tbh). This is one of the reasons I didn’t give it 5 stars; there was a lot of insta-love surrounding Laia—who, conveniently, doesn’t know how drop-dead gorgeous she is (ugh). This basically transformed into a love-rhombus, which is so much worse (in my opinion) than a love triangle.

Curmudgeonly bitching aside, this was an awesome book and I’ve already pre-ordered the sequel. If you’re like me and can’t stand love-triangles/parallelograms/etc, still give this book a chance cuz the lovey-dovey parts are easy to gloss over.

I’m pretty terrible at writing reviews when I really like a book—all I can think was “IT WAS AWESOME, OKAY?!” But just know that the hype IS REAL. This is a great book, and I absolutely can’t wait to see where this series goes.