Hello readers! It’s time for another round of Mini Reviews, where I talk about some of the books I don’t write full length reviews for. This installment, let’s chat about four books: We Set the Dark on Fire, A Question of Holmes, Three Dark Crowns and Four Dead Queens.
We Set the Dark on Fire | Tehlor Kay Mejia
At the Medio School for Girls, distinguished young women are trained for one of two roles in their polarized society. Depending on her specialization, a graduate will one day run a husband’s household or raise his children. Both paths promise a life of comfort and luxury, far from the frequent political uprisings of the lower class.
Daniela Vargas is the school’s top student, but her pedigree is a lie. She must keep the truth hidden or be sent back to the fringes of society… Goodreads
All right, so I went into this with rather high expectations, possibly too high expectations. The premise is definitely interesting and this is an engaging dystopian fantasy with vague resemblances to The Handmaid’s Tale. What was missing was the world-building in my opinion – a pity, since I found it very unique and would have loved to know more. Sure, we get the whole legend about the chosen of the Sun God and so on, but it wasn’t enough to draw me into the story. Even more importantly, I did not feel connected to the characters, not even Daniela, and definitely not the rebellion, again, because there simply isn’t enough background knowledge. That ending however, although the last chapters felt rushed, was marvellously executed and quite the plot twist. It also hints at Daniela’s character going in a more interesting direction, with more of a focus on the rebellion. Overall, it was an fair enough read, and I am still curious about this series, which is why the second book is already on my TBR.
Publishing Date: February 26th, 2019 (Katherine Tegen Books)
A Question of Holmes (Charlotte Holmes #4) | Brittany Cavallaro
Charlotte Holmes and Jamie Watson think they’re finally in the clear. They’ve left Sherringford School – and the Moriartys – behind for a pre-college summer program at Oxford University. A chance to start from scratch and explore dating for the first time, while exploring a new city with all the freedom their program provides. But when they arrive, Charlotte is immediately drawn into a new case … Goodreads
With high school – and all the mess with the Moriartys – behind them, Charlotte and Jamie are spending the summer at Oxford, attending a pre-college program. But where Charlotte Holmes goes, mystery is not far behind, and she is immediately drawn into a new investigation.
Well, that was disappointing. I started this expecting another thrilling ride with Charlotte and Jamie, but instead got a half-hearted mystery and an entire novel that is more or less Charlotte trying to figure out her life post Lucien Moriarty’s arrest. When I finished A Case for Jamie and found out that there was another book, this was pretty much exactly what I was afraid of. A Case for Jamie tied up things pretty well, which basically forced a new plotline. Additionally, this book is entirely from Charlotte’s POV which I didn’t really like as it makes Jamie feel like a side character.
It was however, pretty cool to see a certain someone make a reappearance (and that was more exciting than the entirety of the mystery). Charlotte’s character development was also quite interesting as she tries to figure out what she wants to do in this new life where she no longer has to run and hide. I also really enjoyed the familiar banter and quick wit that I’ve come to expect from this series. Overall, I feel A Question of Holmes would have been better off as a novella or a companion novel, mainly because the first three books set the bar far too high and this does not measure up.
Publishing Date: March 5th, 2019 (Katherine Tegen Books)
Three Dark Crowns (Three Dark Crowns #1) | Kendare Blake
In every generation on the island of Fennbirn, a set of triplets is born—three queens, all equal heirs to the crown and each possessor of a coveted magic. Mirabella is a fierce elemental, able to spark hungry flames or vicious storms at the snap of her fingers. Katharine is a poisoner, one who can ingest the deadliest poisons without so much as a stomachache. Arsinoe, a naturalist, is said to have the ability to bloom the reddest rose and control the fiercest of lions.
But becoming the Queen Crowned isn’t solely a matter of royal birth. Each sister has to fight for it … Goodreads
I’m horribly behind on this series with two more books to read before Five Dark Fates releases later this year. So in an effort to get back into the story, I tried out the audiobook, and it was a really good choice. I didn’t struggle with it nearly as much as the first read. Three Dark Crowns has an interesting and unique premise, but sometimes it feels like there’s just too much happening, too many perspectives and the majority of the novel is learning about the characters – decidedly lacking the scheming sisters and epic action scenes I was hoping for.
However, on the second reread, it’s easier to appreciate the nuances of the story, now that I wasn’t on tenterhooks waiting for a battle. The world-building of the story, the island and its legends, the significance of the ceremonies and of Ascension Year, and most of all, the three queens themselves were all so much more interesting this time around. Overall, still not one of my favourites, but enough to continue with the series. I’m sticking with my original rating for the book as I feel it is still fitting. I do hope however, that the next books in the series are better paced than this one with a more action-packed storyline.
Publishing Date: September 20th, 2016 (HarperTeen)
Four Dead Queens | Astrid Scholte
Seventeen-year-old Keralie Corrington may seem harmless, but she’s, in fact, one of Quadara’s most skilled thieves and a liar. Varin, on the other hand, is an honest, upstanding citizen of Quadara’s most enlightened region, Eonia. He runs afoul of Keralie when she steals a package from him, putting his life in danger. When Varin attempts to retrieve the package, he and Keralie both find themselves entangled in a conspiracy that leaves all four of Quadara’s queens dead… Goodreads
Four Dead Queens follows accomplished street thief Keralie Corrington as on one of her robberies, she intercepts some information that leaves her mired in a conspiracy to kill Quadara’s queens.
I’ve been seeing advance reviews for this all over the place for months now, but for me, it did not live up to the hype. For a standalone, there is way too much content in this. Not to mention the world-building is all over the place. There are some vaguely fantasy-esque elements and a lot of advanced technology all in the same breath before it eventually winds up being a mystery. And with six different perspectives, it gets confusing really quickly. Quadara itself, however, was really intriguing, with the four quadrants each responsible for different professions and aspects of life, and I would have liked to read more about it. I’m still wondering though, how exactly a system would run with such laws in place, that Queens cannot visit their quadrants once crowned and so on. It’s very unrealistic.
As for the characters themselves, I was not very impressed with Keralie. With her personality (downright childish at times) and history, it’s very hard to cheer for her as a heroine. No, the characters I liked the most were the four queens. Their POVs, though few compared to Keralie’s, were really well written and it was especially nice to get a look at their thoughts and past. Once I figured out that the story wasn’t being told in a linear fashion, everything fell into place and it became much easier to follow along.
Either way, Four Dead Queens was an engaging and fast-paced read, quite good for a debut novel. There is definitely no shortage of exciting plot twists and it keeps you guessing for quite some time!
Publishing Date: February 26th, 2019 (G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers)
Have you read any of these books or do you plan to? I’d love to hear your thoughts on them!