Tag Archives: sarah j. maas

ARC: Mageborn by Jessica Thorne

Thank you to NetGalley and Bookouture for sending me a free advanced reader copy of this book for an honest review. Mageborn debuted February 18th.

Jessica Thorne’s book The Queen’s Wing blew me away last year; I fell in love with its characters, its science-fantasy feel, and the can’t-look-away plot. So when I saw that Thorne has a new series out, I immediately hit the request button on NetGalley. Mageborn was an all right read for me, but I don’t think that it measures up to Thorne’s other series, unfortunately. In all honesty, I do think that because I’ve read the other series and know Thorne’s potential, this knowledge kept me from fully falling in love with Mageborn.

The premise is pretty interesting–a woman who tracks down rogue magic users is given an assignment that puts her in close contact with the heir to the throne. There’s a lot of your standard fantasy tropes: court intrigue, prejudice against those with magical abilities, shaky or repressed memories, brewing rebellion. I saw some people on Goodreads complaining about the Graceling and Sarah J. Maas comps–I don’t see much of SJM in Mageborn, but I was reminded of Graceling throughout, especially because of the jumbled memory thread of the plot. The problem is that Graceling did it much better. It’s been a while since I read the trilogy, but it sticks pretty heavily in my mind, and I’m not sure if Mageborn will. I enjoyed it while I was reading, but there wasn’t one thing that stuck out to me as setting the book above other fantasy.

There’s another thing that I debated mentioning, but I’m just going to go ahead and say it: there are too many fragmented and repetitive sentences in this book for my taste. I don’t remember Thorne’s other series relying on these stylistic choices so much, or perhaps the intense plot of that series made it so that I didn’t notice. I noticed it here, though, a lot; it feels like you can’t go two sentences without a fragment or repetition. For example:

She didn’t pull away and for that he was grateful. Stupidly grateful.

Or this one, which takes the repetition to a ridiculous level:

“Tell him… tell him I didn’t want this. I didn’t want any of this.”

“He knows, pet,” said Simona. “Divinities protect and defend you, he knows.”

Did you count? That’s tell him, I didn’t want… this, and he knows, all repeated in the span of twenty-six words. Don’t get me wrong; repetition can be a powerful tool for writers to place emphasis on something, but you can’t go a page in Mageborn without seeing Thorne leaning on these writing tricks. It got old for me fast, sadly, in the same way that SJM’s writing can wear on a person.

Essentially, I had decent fun reading this book, but it didn’t leave me with a deep impression. Maybe I’ll pick up the next in series, but mostly I’ll be hoping for a third in Thorne’s other series, since there are still a lot of plot threads left to explore there.

Books I want to read but don’t want to read

My writer friend told me last year that the TBR is where books go to die.

I pooh-poohed it at the time, but there’s a certain kind of demented truth to that statement, isn’t there? I know all y’all reading this have a TBR a mile long; I definitely do. And I have such good intentions, but somehow there are books on there that I know will sadly never get picked for their turn in the spotlight.

Ah, well. Such is the life of an avid reader; books take a long time to get through, and it’s just difficult to get to everything. So when I got tagged for this tag, I knew I wouldn’t have a difficult time coming up with my answers. 😛 Thanks to Sophie for tagging me–I had such a fun time putting this post together!

The Rules:

  • Link back to the original tag (this post, and Jami!)
  • Complete the questions with books you want to have read but don’t want to read
  • Tag some people at the end to do the tag next

A book that you feel you need to read because everyone talks about it

I felt like I couldn’t go anywhere last year without hearing somebody talking about this book. It has all sorts of elements that you’d think I’d enjoy–a sister relationship (duh), serial killers (double duh), and an interesting setting. I’m just not entirely convinced I’ll love it for some reason; something about it gives off the “trying too hard” vibe? Like this is a book screaming, Please love me! Or maybe that’s just me? I really should just give it a go, especially because it’s so short.

Speaking of length…

A book that’s really long

I love this series, but I’ve been feeling SJM’d out for a while, so this book continues to languish unread on my TBR shelf. (Actually, come to think of it, it’s in the back of my car. I took it to work to start reading it on my lunch break, then got intimidated by the length, so now it’s taken up permanent residence in the back seat.)

Maybe by the end of 2020. Hnghhhhhhh.

A book you’ve owned / had on your TBR for too long

I first learned about Adam Nevill because he penned the novel that later became the awesome movie The Ritual. And I’ve never read anything by him, but this book sounds so cool! The cover’s great! I love cult stuff! So why has this stayed on my TBR for years and years? There is literally no logical explanation.

A book that is ‘required’ reading (eg, school text, really popular classic – something you feel obligated to read!)

Here’s my shameful admission: I rented this from the library last year as a Halloween read, then I got intimidated by the preface because I couldn’t make any sense of it and I DNF’d the whole book. Because of a preface that is maybe four hundred words long. Perhaps the point of the preface is that it doesn’t make sense, or perhaps I was just kinda dumb that day. (My worst fear is that I’ll pick up this book again, only to discover that I am still that dumb.)

So this book scares me, even though literally everyone loves it. On the topic of books that scare me…

A book that intimidates you

Everyone loves it, and it’s so long, and the sequels are so long. And my sister said I have to read it, so I guess I gotta, but at the same time I am just soooooo unwilling to add an enormous trilogy to my list.

A book that you think might be slow

It’s 769 pages, and it’s historical fiction with a horror thread. Those first two bits make me want to run screaming in the other direction, but the last bit makes me want to give it a go, especially because I love arctic horror (The Thing, et cetera).

But it just seems like it would be such a slow read, so I just keep this one tucked away in the back of my mind for later.

A book you need to be in the right mood for

I really wanted to pick this up after I listened to an interview with the author, but I think it’s going to be a really atmospheric, introspective read. I need just the right gloomy, lazy day to read this, and that mood hasn’t presented itself to me, so for now I’ll keep it on my TBR.

A book you’re unsure if you will like

My husband and I recently watched the first Conan movie, fully with the expectation that it probably hadn’t aged well, and it was awesome. I mean, I seriously loved it, so I got really interested to read the fiction that inspired the whole Conan universe. But I’m having similar doubts about whether the Conan stories will hold up; I guess I won’t know until I pick this up.

I tag everybody, as usual, but also these very special people! Apologies if you guys have already been tagged–sometimes it’s hard to tell!

I’m so curious to know what books you guys really want to read, but just… haven’t. What’s keeping you from starting? We’re all in this together, guys. 😀

House of Earth and Blood by Sarah J. Maas: First Impressions

I was super excited to get an email from Netgalley a couple days ago with an invitation to read a five-chapter excerpt of SJM’s new series. I’ve been a fan of SJM since she was posting the first draft of the Throne of Glass series on Fictionpress circa 2004ish, so of course I was interested in this new series.

The first chapter was rough for me, I’ll admit. While I was reading, I was having visions of writing some clickbaitey title for this post: I read an excerpt of SJM’s new series and it was… okay… Here’s the thing: Maas tends to write in a very samey way. A lot of readers won’t notice it, but she loves characters that “swagger” or “stalk” into a room, and she loves discussing the sharp “tang” of blood. (I could give lots more examples, but these three are the ones that really spring to mind, and all of these pop up in the excerpt.) I think that tendency in her writing isn’t so apparent in SJM’s earlier books, perhaps because she had more time to write them, but I suspect that the book-a-year trend, combined with the long length of her books, makes it so that her most recent books blur together for me prose- and tone-wise.

But I also don’t think this is just a SJM thing, but a me thing. As a writer myself, I’ve been actively developing and honing my craft for the past five years, and my tastes have changed. I’m not huge on pages of snarky dialogue anymore, which SJM tends to sprinkle liberally throughout her books. I also have pretty strong opinions on adjective, adverb, and dialogue tag use, opinions that I do now find at odds with SJM’s writing–but just because another author writes differently than I do, it doesn’t mean their work sucks. So I think part of what had me raising my eyebrows while reading the first chapter of House of Earth and Blood was due to me being a different reader than I used to be.

I liked the later chapters, though. I do anticipate I’ll pick up this book and finish it, though perhaps I’ll wait until I’ve finished up the Throne of Glass series. (I still have the last one to get through.) The book has some really interesting worldbuilding: a modern, urban fantasy-like feel set in another universe with angels, fae, witches, and everything in between. It’s three stars for me at the outset, and I’m curious to see how the rest of the book turns out.

I’m also curious to hear your thoughts on whether you like your favorite authors’ books to feel “samey.” Do you mind if an author’s books all feel very similar to each other? Do you notice when an author uses the same words and phrases frequently throughout their work, and does that bother you? Let me know what you think!