Books

Review: Henchgirl by Rita Stradling

HenchgirlHenchgirl by Rita Stradling
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The children of dragons and humans, the dracons, control eighty percent of the world’s governments. Humans worldwide are either subservient or prey. On the small vacation island of Mabi, humans call for war.

Sixteen year old Dakota Kekoa lives a double life. By day, she pretends to be a human to infiltrate Mabi Academy, a ‘human’s only’ high-school. At night, she works as a henchman for her draconic mafia family, utilizing her ability to steal and manipulate emotions.

Dakota’s life is not ideal but it is manageable, until the rich and famous half-dragon, Wyvern Manderson, shows up and starts sabotaging Dakota’s missions. And for some bewildering reason, he is always angry at her.

Within days of Wyvern’s arrival, Dakota is suspended from future missions and in desperate need of money. When Wyvern offers to hire Dakota to find his kidnapped human half-sister, she accepts despite knowing she’ll have to spend all day, every day, with Wyvern and his gigantic ego. This is not just any mission though; she is diving head first into the escalating conflict between humans and dracons. As more girls disappear and some are discovered dead, Dakota realizes her first honorable mission may also be her last.

I received an e-copy of this book via NetGalley – my first book from there! My views and opinions of the book are my own, and I received no compensation for my honest review.

Henchgirl is a fantasy/YA novel, and the first book in the Dakota Kekoa series. I hadn’t read anything by Rita Stradling before, but the description about dragons (who doesn’t love dragons?!) and the gorgeous island-themed cover made me want to dive right in.

The story follows a 16 year old dracon girl, Dakota Kekoa, who works for her Grandfather as something of a collections agent. She is part dragon (as are most of her family) but her ability is particularly useful as she can manipulate souls. I hadn’t ever seen that in a book before so it was an interesting plot point!

She uses her ability to be able to remove emotions from people, or add them, for example adding fear into someone she’s trying to intimidate for her Grandfather, or removing doubt from someone to make a deal. Her gift has it’s limitations and I enjoyed seeing how Dakota dealt with those and how her family had worked to make the most of even the negative aspects of her ability.

The novel is set in the fictional islands of Mabi (which were very clearly based on Hawaii) and I really enjoyed reading about somewhere different from the usual states/cities you see in fantasy/YA novels. The cover (shown above) is also a gorgeous representation of this, however that’s the paperback cover. The ebook cover seems to have been a little whitewashed – Dakota often talks about her darker skin tone, dark eyes and hair, yet the ebook cover has a very pale white girl with light brown hair – I’m not sure why the beautiful island cover isn’t used for both versions.

That aside, I really enjoyed reading this book! The dragon “history” was unusual and interesting. For example: dragons can’t stay on the earth’s surface for long because it’s too cold for them, they live far underground near the earth’s core. There are a lot of strengths with full dragons, and part-dragons, but also a number of weaknesses and I enjoyed that balance.

Dakota is a character who I think will develop more as the series progresses. I kept having to remind myself that she was only 16 because she got a little annoying at times with her thoughts or reactions. Especially when you team it with the fact she’d been working as a henchgirl for her Grandfather for several years, yet she didn’t seem prepared at all for taking/following orders or making logical conclusions over some situations (no spoilers). But as I said, she is only 16 so reminding myself of that helped a little to ease the frustrations.

Wyvern is a character I also want to see more of. He’s interesting but has a lot of negatives – he’s the pushy/dominating/controlling kind of man I don’t find attractive at all nor want to read about. But his character does seem to be changing and “learning” as he goes, so I’m actually really interested to see where his character ends up.  Hopefully it will be a case of him changing the way he does things because he realises women aren’t objects, and not just him changing only to please one girl.

The romance elements got heavier and heavier through the book. At first the story was a fun fantasy read, but ended up feeling more like a romance novel. So I’m keeping my fingers crossed that the romance doesn’t become the main story – I want to read more about the girl with the interesting talent, and her siblings (who also have talents of their own), and learn more about the dragons, with the romance as a subplot not the main plot.

There were quite a few open ended plot points that I hope get answered in the next book. Specifically about Dakota’s father, something that was given to her at the end of the book (no spoilers), and why Wyvern is how he is (and why her Grandfather knows). Hopefully these get more weight to them than the romance.

The pace of the novel is a bit slow at times – I felt a couple of scenes were padding that weren’t really needed and the main plot became a back story. For trying to save someone’s life, and rescue someone in possible mortal danger, they sure do have a lot of fancy dinners and not seeming to care about saving lives until after the dinner has ended. But the plot does move at a nice pace for the most part and kept me guessing at a couple of things, which is always fun!

I definitely enjoyed the book 🙂 It was a fairly quick read and a world I definitely want to read more of. I’m keeping my fingers crossed the series stays on the fantasy track and doesn’t become mainly romance.

Rating: 4/5

I received this ebook via NetGalley. The opinions are my own and I received no compensation for my honest review.
I am an Amazon Associate: they pay me a small commission if you use my link.

Books

Review: Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard

redQueen

I’ve been looking forward to reading Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard. All of the book bloggers, and booktubers, have been talking about it so highly, and as I picked it up to read I began to worry it wouldn’t live up to my expectations. I needn’t have worried.

I really enjoyed this book! The world building is great, the characters are interesting, and the story moves with a great balance of fast and slow pacing. Not everything is perfect – the science behind some things made the logical part of my brain shudder, but it’s a fantasy book and nothing was so outlandish to shock me out of the story.

The main character, Mare, is part of the lower level of society – the red bloods. They are normal humans without any powers. The higher society – the overlords, really – are silver bloods (literally) and the elite classes of the world. They each have different powers, such as being able to manipulate fire, water, or turn invisible.

Mare’s world is turned upside down when she finds out she, a normal red blood girl, has a power of her own. The book delves into what this means for society and how it would shake up the current class dynamics. It made me think “what would I do in that situation?” a lot, and the plot develops in a very real-world way.

I liked Mare as a character, though she did frustrate me at times. But I kept reminding myself that she is only 17, and the book shows us that she hasn’t had much of an education. The other main characters include Maven and Cal, two of the silver elite class who are half-brothers. They stand alone well as different characters (not just one brother repeated twice) and I enjoyed the interactions between them and with Mare.

There were a couple of frustrations that seem to pop up in a few books lately. Such as someone being charged with something they didn’t do, and when everyone turns against them they don’t just say a simple one line to clear their name (I won’t say what sentence they could be here, because of spoilers). They just stay quiet and internally wonder “if only I could do something”. In this book their silence moves the story along to the next big scene, but it felt more like we were being forced to the next big scene when one sentence could have so easily changed things. It felt as though the character was suddenly being very slow in their thinking, which didn’t mesh with the way the character had been developed so far.

There were a couple of inconsistencies…or at least they read as inconsistencies but one of them could possibly be developed/answered in further world building in other books. The first inconsistency was that Mare talks about being quick on her feet and able to move around people well without bumping into them, but she slips on a stone floor (and says something about not having good feet for that), and later struggles to dance because her feet aren’t suited to it. The other inconsistency, which I think might be expanded upon later, was that powers are an ability to manipulate external things, not to come from within – which makes sense but got me wondering about the people who could heal themselves (but not others), the ones who can turn invisible, or the person who turned themselves to stone – those all read as internal manipulation, which goes against what the author had already taught us about powers. I hope these get answered or expanded upon in later books as I’d love to see more of that development! 🙂

Minor frustrations aside, I thought the characters were well rounded and the story was very interesting. I liked that there wasn’t such a clear line between good and evil in each person – the good characters weren’t always good, for example. It made the world feel very believable because of that, as people aren’t just one clear cut thing in real life.

There are a few plot twists and turns. The “big one” I figured out very early on in the book, but even knowing what was coming I really enjoyed this book! I loved the world building and definitely want to read more – I’ll be picking up the next book as soon as I can.

Rating: 4/5

Amazon | Book Depository

I purchased this book with my own money, and received no compensation for my honest review.
I am a Book Depository and Amazon affiliate, and I receive a small commission if you use my link.

Books

Book Review: Magic Strikes by Ilona Andrews

Magic Strikes
by Ilona Andrews
Genre: Dark fantasy
Published: March 2009
Amazon
Book Depository

Back of the book blurb:
When magic strikes and Atlanta goes to pieces, it’s a job for Kate Daniels…

Drafted into working for the Order of Merciful Aid, mercenary Kate Daniels has more paranormal problems than she knows what to do with these days. And in Atlanta, where magic comes and goes like the tide, that’s saying a lot.

But when Kate’s werewolf friend Derek is discovered nearly dead, she finds herself with a personal stake and a while new level of problem. As her investigations lead her to the Midnight Games – the invitation-only, no-holds-barred, ultimate preternatural fighting tournament – she uncovers a dark plot that may forever alter the face of Atlanta’s shapeshifting community…

My review:
I only discovered Ilona Andrews’ Kate Daniels series about a year ago but they hooked me fast. This is book three in the series and is just as strong as the first two.

The world that Kate Daniels lives in has enough “normal” every day markers for you to be able to picture what is being talked about (streets in Atlanta, etc). But the alterations that have come about due to the magic and tech waves are a fantastic change and they draw you even deeper into the story with each revelation. If you haven’t read any of this series, then definitely start with book one, Magic Bites, so that you can fully emerge yourself in this fantastically interesting world that Ilona Andrews has created.

This book focuses on the relationship between Kate Daniels and the shapeshifters, even though that is seemingly a secondary storyline to the goings on in the Midnight Games. I love the way that the story didn’t get overrun with fight scenes, even in a book all about fights. The descriptions and narrative held strong and I literally couldn’t put the book down until I finished it!

The fight scenes were so well detailed that you knew exactly where and what everyone was doing and the overall plot moved with perfect pace – nothing dragged and nothing felt too rushed either. Her relationship with Curran also comes into play in this book and his character is one of my absolute favourites! The two of them together in any situation is just such an interesting read – sometimes fun, sometimes serious, but always enjoyable to learn more about. Just as the world itself, and their roles in it, is so fascinating to delve into.

I enjoy the way there are light hearted moments to mix in with the serious elements, and each character is so very individual that you feel personal attachments to each of them in a different way. Kate Daniels is a very likable character and her actions, and motivations, are not only interesting to read but they draw you deeper into the story with her.

Overall, this book was a fantastic read; an excellent addition to an already strong series and I cannot wait to read the next one 🙂

Rating: 5/5

Amazon | Book Depository

I purchased this book with my own money, and received no compensation for my honest review.
I am a Book Depository and Amazon affiliate, and I receive a small commission if you use my link.