The Wrath & the Dawn

These last reviews I’ve posted have been read in chronological order (I started with The Cruel Prince, went to Everless, and finished with The Wrath & the Dawn) and have increased in likability too.

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The Wrath & the Dawn by Renée Ahdieh
Published by Speak on (reprint edition) April 5th, 2016
Genres: Romance, Power, Identity, Family, Royalty, Supernatural, Feministic
Pages: 432
Source: Amazon // Goodreads // Barnes and Noble

Final Review:  4.5 out of 5 ★★★★☆


I hesitate to just go ahead and give this book five out of five and I’m not really sure where the hesitation comes from. To put it plainly, I enjoyed this book much more than certain others I’ve read lately, so wouldn’t this warrant a full five stars? I’ll begin by categorizing this book–or at least attempting to.

It would be hard to say that this book is YA. It’s not not YA, but it’s also not really YA. I’ll explain. The romance aspects of it seem a little cheeky and young-ish (in the sense that sex scenes aren’t drawn out, there aren’t any blatant “adult” topics, etc.), but then at the same time, it just doesn’t seem to fit that category for me. There aren’t really any super supernatural aspects that would make me think of the common fantastical YA, but I suppose, regardless of plot, the content does sort of remind me of Sara J. Maas’ work (yet again! Why do I compare everything to her? Ugh I love you, Sara) so perhaps, after all, it does fit in a YA shelf.

The best part of this book, while obvious, is the protagonist. I know this sounds simple, but really sometimes I hate the protagonist and wish he/she were written differently. But Shahrzad (or Shazi) is exceptional.

“It’s never been a question of who is going to let me behave a certain way; it’s alwasy been a question of who is going to stop me” (page 99).

She reminds me of an Asian rendition of Juliet, of course in the way that I read Juliet. She is super strong-willed, somewhat loyal to her family, but more so loyal to herself, and ultimately is determined. Shazi has volunteered to marry the boy-king who murders his new bride every sunrise. Why would she set out for a suicide mission? Because her best friend was chosen to become a bride and then was subsequently murdered the next morning and Shazi is out for revenge. Of course, nothing in the romance world is ever that easy and what if Shazi begins to develop feelings for the boy-king, Khalid? He spares her for many mornings in a row and their relationship deepens and blooms. But if Shazi is supposed to be a flower, she is a rose with many thorns. She does not take kindly to be treated traditionally and is openly “disobedient” towards her patriarch. She shoots bow and arrow, walks through the palace where she isn’t welcomed, and makes her presence known. She is a full affront to the traditional wifely duties and I love her for it. I want to be her when I grow up.

What some people might not like is (SPOILERS!) she does fall in love with Khalid. Can this really be a feministic text if the women falls for the man? OF COURSE! Sometimes, I believe that we forget that women can be both: Strong and dissident, but also in love. Those two don’t need to be separate and just because she develops feeling for Khalid, does not mean her strong and overbearing personality disappears, in fact, this is probably why Khalid loves her right back. She is the holder of their relationship, whether Khalid believes it or not.

Furthermore, the text discusses love in such different matters than I’ve generally seen in YA. By submitting herself to the will and marriage to Khalid, Shazi leaves behind her family and childhood friend, Tariq, who loves her deeply as well (Shazi is so great, she has two awesome dudes vying for her time). But besides that, Tariq and Shazi have to deal with the different version of love that arises:

“It is not a difficult question. It is a very simple one. The difficulty lies in the answer. Why do you love her?” (page 295).

The way I love my current boyfriend is not the same as how I loved my past boyfriend or the one before that. It’s not the same as I love my best friend or the hot dude on my favorite basketball team. And instead of simplifying love into one umbrella category (romance at its finest), Ahdieh forces us to look at love at different angles and question our own definitions of love and I think that this is something special that sets this book apart.

Overall? If you want a feisty, female protagonist but also a heartfelt romance, The Wrath & the Dawn is definitely for you. I will be picking up the sequel at some point, once I finish more of my TBR pile.

Kill Shakespeare, Vol 1: A Sea of Troubles

During an off day, my boyfriend and I went to The Strand in NYC and I didn’t pick anything up–which is definitely odd for me as an avid book lover and writer of this blog, but I just wasn’t feeling commotion. After The Strand, we walked next door to Forbidden Planet, a huge comic book store right next door to The Strand. Normally, I’m not a comic book person–no particular reason, just that it isn’t my favorite way of reading, but my boyfriend loves comic books so we stopped in. Once again, nothing wasn’t striking my fancy, but right when we were about to leave, he pulled this comic out and I knew I had to buy this.

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Kill Shakespeare Book 1 by Conor McCreery and Anthony Del Col, illustrated by Andy Belanger
Published by IDW Publishing; 59143rd edition on November 9th, 2010
Genres: Shakespeare, Comic Book, Historical Fiction, Literature
Pages: 148
Source: Amazon // Goodreads // Barnes and Noble

Final Review: 4 out of 5 ★★★★☆


So there isn’t much to say about this book in a literary sense, other than it being fun, which is pretty much enough for me. To start, I’ll just preface that the storyline is definitely incorrect in Shakespearean terms, but, once again, that doesn’t matter at all to have a fun story. Imagine if all of Shakespeare’s plays were within the same realm, and had happened at the same time (which is impossible since all the kings couldn’t have been king at the same time). We begin with Hamlet whose story begins at the end of his play, meaning his father is dead and he has killed Polonius but still does not know who murdered his father. He leaves Denmark upset and brooding–much the Hamlet way–and when he arrives in England, he is intercepted by King Richard III who calls Hamlet The Shadow King. Richard has proposed that he will resurrect Hamlet’s father from the dead (with the help of the three witches we see in the beginning of Macbeth), if Hamlet succeeds over the supposed wizard, William Shakespeare, whose power lies in his magical quill that Hamlet must steal so Richard can wield that power. Yes, the actual Will Shakespeare is a character in this story and there are two sets of people: those who believe he is their god and claim his name is holy, and those who want his power.

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So far, in Book 1, our heroes are Juliet, who lead the revolution against Richard and his men with the help of Othello, and Hamlet alongside Falstaff. The villains are obviously Richard III as well as Lady Macbeth and Iago. These characters are pitted against each other in the battle of control. The story is not set in modern day, which I prefer because then the style of speech is more accurate, such as how Juliet is suspicious of Hamlet truly being the Shadow King, she says: “He will cut a finer figure than what you have brought to us,” which is obviously a fancier way of saying, this can not possibly be the true Shadow King of myths. Furthermore, even though the timeline is impossible, the creators do try to stay true to each character’s strengths and weakness–in a traditional sense that is. For example, when Richard III and Lady Macbeth are conspiring, Richard’s man warns: “I hope thou doth not trust that one too closely. Her teeth are sharp in her mouth.” I would perhaps read Lady Macbeth slightly different, but as a standard reading, she is pretty spot on. Falstaff is a womanizer and plumpy drunk, Juliet is strong-willed and headstrong, Iago is cunning, and Richard III is crippled and an egomaniac.

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The art style, an obvious component of any comic book, is pretty standard. I would have liked to see some more whimsical illustrations, which is much more my cup of tea when it comes to comics, but the classic style allows for the focus to be on everything happening–words included–not just the art. There are also odd instances when instead of reading frame-by-frame down the page and then onto the next, you read across both pages and then down, across both pages, and down again. This threw me off multiple times and I found myself reading information that wasn’t chronological. Maybe this is a more common thing than I thought, but every comic I’ve read previous hasn’t done that, so be prepared. Regardless of the sometimes confusing layout, my next point is on the hilarious puns, which totally make up for it. For some people, the Shakespeare imagery might be lost, but for me, someone who has been reading and studying the Bard’s works for over five years now, this stuff kills. The characters say things like “Then be true to thine own self” (originally said in Hamlet by Polonius) and “Call it what you will” (the extended part of Twelfth Night‘s title). I’m not going to list every instance, but you get the idea.

Overall, this comic is a good time. The first volume is a lot of setting up so I’m not really sure what happens or is going to happen in the volumes to come, but I can update this post once I read more. If you’re a literary nerd like me and enjoy seeing Shakespeare’s characters outside of their original works, then definitely give this work a go.

Shakespeare the myth? Or Shakespeare the false hope?

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Jackaby

This is an old book! I’m not sure why no one has told me to read it, seeing as it has two sequels and it’s really good, but alas, I had to find it on my own and I’m glad I did.

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Jackaby by William Ritter
Published by Algonquin Young Readers on August 25th 2014
Genres: Fantasy, Thriller, Historical Fiction, Romance, Friendship, Mystery
Pages: 304
Source: Amazon // Goodreads // Barnes and Nobles

Final Review: 4 out of 5 ★★★★☆


The quote on the front of the book, by the Chicago Tribune, somewhat accurately sums up this book: “Sherlock Holmes crossed with Buffy the Vampire Slayer”–I’m not sure I see the Buffy part, other than banishing demons, but certainly the Sherlock Holmes part. Particularly because Jackaby himself is quite quirky and odd, much like Sherlock or the eleventh Doctor.

The story follows immigrant Abigail Rook, who, coming from England, is searching for a job that can pay her enough so she can live, and seeing as it’s 1893, finding a place to sleep at night in the warmth is important. She stumbles upon an advertisement for Jackaby, an assistant in his investigative service, and the rest is the book. What really drives readers in is the mystery entwined with fantasy to the point that it seems real: there is some sort of demon on the loose, killing victims for their blood (oh here’s the vampire reference). Abigail, never having heard of any of this before, is of course bewildered but stays strong, thinking the murders are a mere sick joke.

What makes this book different however, which is important because the similarities to Sherlock Holmes are quite striking, is the charming demeanor of everyone but Jackaby. Of course he’s going to be odd, carrying around tons of random objects in his pockets, drinking potions that allow him to see through walls and what not–all of this is almost expected seeing as it is a piece of fantasy writing. However, having Abigail be a strong and smart woman–she wanted to be a paleontologist!–instead of necessarily a damsel in distress (she does have her few moments though, since we all do!) makes for an interesting pair. Ritter also could have made Abigail and Jackaby love interests to each other, and refreshingly so, he didn’t. Instead, there are certainly underlying backstory regarding Jackaby’s past, as well as Abigail’s, that keeps the reader turning the pages.

Furthermore, the non-lead characters, such as the ghost roommate, Jenny and the strange ghost-seer Hatun, are potentially more intriguing and just as influential as Jackaby. Women are important in Jackaby’s life, in fact all the female characters, save for a few classic strumpets who hate Abigail for not being more proper, are linked to the fantastical realm and are sought after by Jackaby. Hatun, for example, is described as:

see[ing] a different world than [Abigail] or [Jackaby], a far more frightening one, full of far more terrible dangers, and still she chooses to be the hero whom that world needs. She has saved this town and its people from countless monsters countless times. That the battles are usually in her head does not lessen the bravery of it. The hardest battles always are (104).

Hatun may be called the crazy lady that takes care of an invisible troll to the towns folk, but to Jackaby, she is truly necessary in solving this case. Jenny, the ghost roommate, makes Abigail feel more at home, being the one to talk her down when the magical realm becomes too much her to handle, and allows her to steal the clothes Jenny can no longer wear (since she’s a ghost). Miss. O’Connor and Mrs. Morrigan are, as well, crucial to the murder investigation. And, of course, Abigail, being another set of eyes for Jackaby at all times. Ritter may unconsciously or consciously alerting the readers that no man can ever truly do anything on their own, and when they do, in the case of the bad guy (no spoilers here!), they will undoubtedly get caught by a woman.

At first, I was really hoping this story would be an historical, fantastical twist on the classic Jack the Ripper open case. Jack the Ripper being some sort of fantastical, demon-like creature, that instead of stealing organs to do god knows what with, is either eating them or using them for something else, much like the strange creature Abigail and Jackaby face here. Then, Jackaby, being able to see things that no one else can, would understand that he is simply a misunderstood demon and needs to be sent forth from our world–that’s how I would have wrote this story and maybe in one of the sequels, the story continues (I wouldn’t know, I haven’t looked at them yet).

Please give this book a chance, given its age, if you’re interested in something fun and quirky to read. Jackaby is laughable and the character relationships are deep. I haven’t decided if I’m going to pick up the next two books, more because I have so many books to read already and less because I don’t want to. Jackaby doesn’t necessarily end on a cliff hanger, but it certainly does end with the reader interested in learning more about the dynamic duo.

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