“Shadow and Bone” by Leigh Bardugo: Book VS. TV adaptation

Because of the way I was introduced to this book, I thought it fair to do a comparison of the TV show (which I saw first) and the YA book it was based off of.

Before I get into the review though, I’d like to reiterate my thoughts on TV/Movie adaptations of books. I love adaptations; I love to see what another persons view of the media is – costumes, sets, actors. Yes, I even love the changes they make – to a degree. This is how I feel about it – if the adaptation stays true to the heart of the book, then change away! Writing and Visual media are drastically different, and not just in a “well d’uh” way. Writing can delve into the depth of thought and the depth of scenery, it can point out the ominous signs and the glitter in a characters eye. With TV and Movie, you have to SHOW that, and unless you have a non-stop narrator there’s no inner thought. If you zoom into someone’s face to show emotion, will everyone watching perceive the emotion the same? Will they understand the depth of the scene if they don’t have the character’s monologue? So, there are always a lot of changes to show the things that a book can perfectly explain to you. Not to mention shows are limited to what is physically possible and safely possible. Is their budget big enough to get that nice sweeping shot? Can they be in the proper locations? Is an actor or stunt double willing to be blown up?

Another big edit that I’m usually pretty happy about is travel. How many books have chapters and chapters of characters traveling from one point to another? Game of Thrones (especially the first book, dear lord), Lord of the Rings Trilogy (let’s be real, the first book was 80% walking), just to name a few. But when long scenes are cut out, important dialogue has to be shuffled. Scenes get blended, other scenes get made up, and that’s fine. I forget who the interview was with, but they said the changes made were for the book fans, so they could enjoy it like the first time viewers. So they couldn’t predict every scene and every outcome, and I appreciate that. I admit, some scenes that are added are dumb (IMO) but they do add twists.

Let’s start with the most difficult thing for the show runner to adapt – Shadow and Bone is all from the main characters perspective. In this adaptation you lose Alina’s thoughts on everything, her knowledge, her feelings towards people and scenarios – so they have to figure a way to show these things. Because of that some of her history is lost and her true feelings (yes, she has a crush on Mal – and has forever, but she hates his snoring).

Alina Starkov, in the book, is explained as pale as soured milk, plain looking, with mousey hair. But generally Caucasian. The actress that plays her, Jessie-Mei Li, is Half-Chinese. Through reading the book, I noticed some similarities in Bardugo’s lands, and our own. The people known as the Shu remind me greatly of China, so in the show they made Alina a Shu orphan. I read an article when the show was about to premiere that they wanted to add in that edge, because of everything that was happening in our own lives, they wanted to reflect it. Many shows do that, basically to show how idiotic the situation is. So many times in the show Alina has to deal with ignorance and racism (I did personally feel bad about this because she was already dealing with the pandemic Anti-Asian bullshit. She spoke up a lot about Anti-Hate, and in the show they made her deal with comments on her “Shu eyes” and things like that).

The story actually follows the book incredibly close. Alina Starkov, just one of hundreds of orphans made by the thing called the fold. There is a dark rip in the middle of their continent (world?) filled with horrifying creatures. People still need to travel, life has to continue, so for hundreds of years they have been driving ships across sand and through the fold. How is that possible? By people known as Grisha. Grisha (some nations call they witches and kill them) harness the “small sciences” and can cast and control certain elements. You have the ones that can throw fire, the ones that can create wind (and can cause a squall big enough to blow a full size ship through pure darkness), but then there are ones that can stop your heart and can control your mind. Alina, at least in the beginning of the book, is a simple map maker in the local army. One of her fellow orphans, Mal, is a tracker in the army as well. The two grew up together and have spent every moment together. When Alina could trust no one and felt exiled and alone, there was always Mal.

In one of their postings, the two groups were sent across the fold. They needed to map extra places, especially with War brewing between the two nations. As you can imagine, everything goes horribly wrong and the ship is over run by these monsters, the Volcra. Mal is brutally injured and as Alina is snatched out of his arms a bright light comes from within her.

Our dear Alina is a Grisha – and a special one known as a Sun Summoner. Basically, the only Grisha in the world with the ability to destroy the Shadow Fold. All children are tested as children under the Darkling’s orders (he’s more or less the ruler of the Grisha) and if proven to be Grisha, are brought to him to be trained. Because Alina didn’t want to be separated from Mal, she subconsciously pushed her powers down – in the show because that’s something hard to show visually, she slices her hand to distract herself.

The show cuts out a lot of the travel that Alina and Mal take, but for the most part they follow the same plot path.

I don’t want to give away too many spoilers if you haven’t indulged in this series but otherwise the only BIG change is a character in the book only known as “The Darkling” is given a name.

I loved the show, to be honest I’ve watched is probably half a dozen times. Alina is not a strong character, so in both the book and the show she has to work hard. The book is given more time to show her personal growth and the learning curve – the show we basically get a training montage and move on. The book feels like it takes place over several months, where the show feels like a week. That kind of speeds up relationships and events and some of it gets a little muddled. I love watching characters grow and change and learn, I hate the trend of super-human females who are perfect from the get-go (looking at you live-action Mulan). Woman are humans too, no one is born perfect, we all fuck up and have to learn. That is also what makes an endearing character. Alina is thrown into a world she knows nothing about and has to learn a lot of hard lessons.

Before I forget, a HUGE change between the book and the series is another book in the Grishaverse known as the Six of Crows. They are not in Shadow and Bone, but the writers of the show weaved a completely new story into it. They called it the “prequel” to Six of crows so it doesn’t really change either book storylines drastically. Events were tweaked to include the Crows and it worked with the S&B plot. An example – in the book, the King has a big party with entertainers and all the nobility to show off the Grisha and the brand new Sun Summoner, spoiler events happen and Alina sneaks away into the entertainers wagons as they leave the castle. For the show, they have the Crows infiltrate the entertainers so they can get into that party to try and kidnap Alina. As we follow their plan, one goes awry and kills a handmaid bespelled to look like Alina, while the others get in and get as close to her as they can before the Darkling whisks her away and foils their specially laid out plan. While outside manning their escape vehicle, a Crow notices Alina sneak out and hop into the trunk on the back. Obviously these scenes are different, but in the end they go to the same place – Aline escaping the castle. In the show she then escapes the Crows and heads into a city, once again perfectly matching up with the book storyline. It’s shockingly well done.

As usual though, I recommend both watching the show and reading the book. The book rounds Alina out a little more, and shows a different view of the same scenes. It’s a well written and interesting book and I get upset when I have to put it down and go to bed.

Shadow and Bone is a Trilogy, so it will be interesting to see what the show does when it catches up, and the Six of Crows is so far only 2 books I believe? But they are both part of a series known as the Grishaverse. You damn well know that once I’m done the S&B series I’m getting the Six of Crows, I actually enjoyed their characters and heists more than Alina’s story.

“Serpentine” by Laurell K Hamilton

This is her newest book in the Anita Blake series, by now we are over 20 books in so it seems redundant to say spoilers? I did a general review of the series waaaaaaaay back in the day so if you want to read that first, go ahead. I know, “why review a book so deep in a series without reviewing every book beforehand?” First – I started reading Anita Blake loooooong before I even met my co-writer Asteria (who will be back eventually, the apocalypse sucks and she works in a Hospital), so the memory of those early books is pretty much gone. Second – It’s the apocalypse and STUFF in general is just hard to come by. So, unfortunately, I’ll be reviewing like, 5 authors. I updated my Kobo and lost the ability to upload books onto it. I can only get books through the company that bought Kobo. So I have no way of reading a bunch of books that were sent to me. I keep meaning to look for an ereader for my phone or tablet, but neither of those things connect to my computer so I still don’t know how I’d get them onto those devices. So yeah, you get reviews for whatever books I have around the house.

That out of the way I have some super sad news. I think …I think …I think I’m falling out of love with the Anita Blake series. I’ve always loved the fast paced murder mystery with a heavy heaping of supernatural, and Anita’s sharp wit, determination, and the fact she isn’t really like your standard heroine. Little warning is she never shies away from sexuality. It’s not a taboo, they talk about poly relationships and how those work, most of the characters are LGBTQ, so it’s nice to see all of these topics approached without taboo or shame (well, for the most part, it is sometimes brought up to create BS tension).

But now …Hamilton always has a few duds, books that maybe didn’t have a great idea to begin with but, hey, publishers right? But this one …the book is HUGE (well, 400+ pages isn’t truly huge but bigger than a vast majority of her books), and I was literally 200 pages in and turned to my Husband and went “Nothing is happening …200 pages and nothing has happened!” How the hell do you have a plot about PEOPLE’S LIMBS LITERALLY TURNING INTO SNAKES and in 200 pages nothing has happened?

I’ve always had my complaints about her writing. You all know how much I HATE Girl-hate, it’s 2021, time to grow out of that 90s BS. But I also complain about the fact Anita feels the need to explain everything, even if she has a thought about something, she immediately turns it into a 5 page explanation (even when the two sentence explanation works). This books seemed to take everything I hate about the series, and just leans into it. 200 pages and Anita had changed scenes twice because every step she takes they have to stop and talk about emotional things, someone gets pissed, and they have to explain more. I wanted to count, but I didn’t think of it until half way through but I need to count every time Anita says some variant of “what did you just say?” In a page and a half she had said it 4 times, creating conflict that wasn’t there and leading to more emotional talking. Talking about emotions is great, the fact Hamilton has Anita openly talking about therapy, and the fact EVERYONE, doesn’t matter their age, race, whatever, goes to therapy. I love that. But she doesn’t need to stop and have a 2 chapter emotional talk when Anita is trying to have sex with her partners.

Sex. Speaking of. Spoilers? Anita, through everything she has been through with Jean-Claude, has become a succubus. She is still TECHNICALLY human, not vampire, so she doesn’t feed on blood, but sexual energy. So she needs to have someone around all the time that she can have sex with. It’s called the “Ardeur” (I think I spelled that right?) and if she does not feed it she starts draining her animals to call. An animal to call is a Were-Beast that is psychically linked to their Master Vampire, and since Anita is kind of a Vampire she gets an animal too. Most Vampires have ONE animal breed, but Anita has them all. Anita sits on the fringe of Mary Sue, but even though she is naturally powerful she has had to FIGHT for everything. So I will give her that.

One of the big drama’s in this book is Anita isn’t having enough sex with her lovers and they are becoming jealous of her work. I see this a lot, hell, in my own life. It makes me so mad, people work to have a better life, food, a roof, and some work to help other people. My husband is out of town for 2 months to cut trees along the rail line so trains have better vision at crossings (meaning they can see if people are there). I complained in the whole “I’ll miss you” thing, but I didn’t stop him, I wasn’t truly mad at him, just selfishly sad cause I miss him. But some of the guys he works with have partners that bitch and complain and give them ultimatums when they have to leave for work or do extra work (one guy has to be home every other weekend or else he loses rights to his kids). I literally don’t understand. So the fact this ended up in the book just pissed me off (cause the book already contained nothing but all the things I hate about the series). Nathaniel is pissy, Micah is pissy, Jean-Claude is barely in it. It’s childish. I think that’s what bothers me the most – every situation is approached with a childish attitude. Every person approaches a situation with “it’s my way or the highway and if I don’t get my way I will throw a tantrum”. It’s tiring to read.

Let’s move onto my favorite topic …Girl Hate. The Irony of this book is Anita quotes feminism things and talks about equality and whatever, yet EVERY SINGLE WOMAN in these books is a raging bitch only out to steal Anita’s men. Literally that’s their only purpose (even her female guards hate her). They are all rude and cruel to Anita even if they don’t know her. And as soon as they find out the attractive men are dating Anita, they do everything they can to steal them. Only to prove how much these men love Anita, of course. But Jesus Christ, it is an old method of building tension and frankly, pardon my language, I’m fucking tired of it. Women are already portrayed horribly in the media (the amount of catty bitchy women in media vs the amount of actually catty bitchy women in real life is VASTLY different, like 100 – 1), we don’t need a female author to perpetuate this shit in the guise of making her Protagonist better. There are other ways to do it, so just fucking stop.

With that off my chest (my husband could hear my grumbling every night and asked “This is going to be a really angry review isn’t it?” he knows me too well), onto the actual story.

Micah, out of town on a Were-Beast job (he runs a coalition to assist Were-Beasts), calls Anita for help. He can’t find an answer and the family he is trying to help finally allowed him to seek outside assistance. They are not were-snakes, the family believes there is some kind of curse placed on them. When they get older (triggered by puberty kind of thing), limbs will randomly erupt into a nest of snakes. Micah showed Anita pictures of people with snake clusters sticking out of sleeves, or legs. Not a typical lycanthrope. They don’t bond with those snakes the way a Were bonds with their animal, they don’t control the change, but if the snakes are cut off the arm will grow back, like a Were-Beast. They are pulled in with the task of finding the root and curing this apparent “curse”.

Now for my next problem. Most of these books are Crime first, Anita bullshit second …but this books flips it. Edward (AKA: Ted Forrester) is getting married and everyone is invited. It also happens to be in the same area as the snake curse family so it was perfect. The beginning of the book was getting ready to head for the wedding, and then the wedding and hotel where the Girl Hate can run rampant.

And more random plots crammed into the end of the book (her last Merry Gentry book did the same)! A girl goes missing, Edwards step-son gets stabbed with a fountain pen, and suddenly Anita’s crew is looking suspicious and dangerous.

I hate how much this book bothered me, she is one of my favorite authors. Before I could ignore this stuff because it was overshadowed by the really cool mystery. This book flipped it, and like I said, highlighted everything I hated about the books. It’s hard to ignore it and skim through when that’s all there is.

I also learned I missed a book before hand so there are a few things they bring up that I don’t understand. One good thing about the series is you CAN miss a book because she explains everything so well (sometimes too well) and each story is kind of it’s own element, so you can enjoy the story even if you don’t know the history of the characters. That’s the only thing you’ll miss, is the growth of the characters and why Anita is so powerful.

There is character growth …sort of. Anita mentions her therapy and trying to conquer her anger and learning to talk more, which is awesome, so there is that. Other characters grow and change in response to Anita’s growth.

Unfortunately, I can’t think of anything else I liked about this book. I will still keep reading Laurell K Hamilton because I do adore her, but if I get too many of these I might not be able to go on. I did not enjoy reading this. There were a few parts that got really good and felt like more of the first books, but that vast majority of it was a drag to get through. And when my partner can hear me grumbling about it, you know it’s bad.

“Blood Lines” by Tanya Huff

This week is book three in the Blood Ties series. I do believe I mentioned last time (or in an Instagram post?) that my books are getting LOW, so you will be getting series relatively back-to-back. Well, wouldn’t you believe that 2 days after I started this book my Husband took me to a bookstore for my birthday (masks and social distancing, and I usually leave my house once a week for my doctors and that’s it …so that was a special thing for my birthday). So now I will have a few different titles, but sadly all parts of series I have started. Most of the books I was looking for weren’t in, and with the pandemic I don’t like being in buildings for long periods of time or touching things.

Back to the task, book?, at hand. Continuing on with Vicki’s story as she is brought in by her old police partner (and semi-romantic partner) Mike Celluci after he is forcefully removed from a strange case. The case being a sarcophagus that was found over seas. The British museums didn’t want some random “empty” sarcophagus because they were already overworked with vaults of artifacts they would never have time to analyze. So the artifact made it’s way here to the Royal Ontario Museum, more casually known as the ROM.

We went there a few years ago and sadly missed the Egyptian Exhibit, this was obviously MANY years after the book came out, but I still found it kind of funny. We also missed the Viking exhibit as well for that matter …and they had Canadian actors from the show on their final day, which my husband couldn’t get time off for us to go see. Sigh.

Inside this oddly marked and still sealed sarcophagus was a completely intact, and incredibly odd mummy.

Here is where the police come in. A janitor and the doctor that brought the mummy over were found dead, and suddenly no one remembers that there was a mummy at all. Chalking up the deaths to “heart attacks”, the police are pulled off the case. But since Celluci’s recent indoctrination into the supernatural, he isn’t willing to take the case at face value.

What would a thousands-year-old mummy want with Toronto? And why has Henry (yep, he’s in this too) been having dreams about sunrise since the mummy showed up?

Quick fun read, definitely a product of it’s time while being progressive (I was alive in the 90s, this book is progressive!). Being from the area it’s fun to hear places and streets I’m familiar with, most books in this genre take place in the states so I have nothing to go off of. This series is great if you’re looking for a supernatural mystery series with a kick ass, and disabled, female lead.

“Shadow Kiss” by Richelle Mead

I know, I don’t usually post series this close together but the book situation in my house is a little dire. So you may be getting similar books back to back for a little while.

So, yes, I’ve been reading Vampire Academy practically back to back. Book three, “Shadow Kiss” continues on the story of Rose and Lissa, and their relationships and diving further into what being “shadow-kissed” means. A bit of a spoiler if you haven’t read the reviews or the books, but when the girls were younger, Lissa’s entire family was killed in a car crash. Rose was also in that car crash, and died. But Lissa, in the midst of panic and despair, brought her back from the dead. This created a bond between the girls, more than “friends”. Rose can slip in and out of Lissa’s mind, she can sense her emotions and energy, and in this book, she learns that she can pull out the depression from Lissa that Spirit magic creates. The girls do more research in this book, about Lord Vladimir and his guardian Anna. Anna drew out Vladimir’s “insanity” after every time he used spirit, and it drove her to commit suicide. This series doesn’t shy away from depression, suicide, and therapy. I will give it credit for that.

While that is a sub-plot of the book that has so far been carried through the first three books, it is not the main story. After the last book with Moroi and Dhampir wanting to fight together against the Strigoi, that has continued through the students creating a division of power. Rose noticed that some students were showing up covered in wounds, and refusing to explain how a third degree burn came from falling down the stairs.

With this new threat from among the student body, the Guardians final test where they shadow a Moroi while senior Guardians pretend to be Strigoi and “attack” the Moroi, the trial of Lissa’s Uncle (and the “bad guy” from book 1), and lastly Rose seeing ghosts, the book is constantly moving.

While I do enjoy these books, this one hit the ick factor for me a little too hard. In the bast two books, Rose was developing a crush and somewhat of a relationship with her much older Guardian Trainer Dimitri. She’s 17 (on the verge of turning 18 – but still), and he’s about 25 or so? So in legal terms, that’s statutory rape, which was even brought up during the trial (Victor trying to throw shade just to mess with Rose and Dimitri). I understand the point of it, this idea is in every piece of media ever. The guy falling in love with her for her “maturity” and whatever, doesn’t make it less icky. In this book they finally have sex and realize they want a relationship, and he’s in love with her, blah-blah …it’s also called grooming. And still icky. I’m probably part of a minority that has an issue with this, but a little while ago in the twittersphere many people (especially artists I adore) were talking about how superiors coerced them into relationships, they talked about the manipulation and grooming that happened in all these fields, and how commonplace it is. Even some YouTubers I enjoyed were revealed to be groomers. So I have no tolerance for that kind of thing. It really soured me for the book so while I enjoyed the story, I couldn’t forgive it for that.

The series is still a great quick brainless read if like me, you can’t resist a decently written vampire story.

“Frost Bite” by Richelle Mead

As you can imagine, I’m running low on books, so some series might be posted closer to one another, and since an update borked my ereader I’m limited to what books I have on hand.

That, just so happened to be this series. I did review the first one not too long ago, so while this review won’t contain too many spoilers, it might be easiest to read the first review before this (unless you’ve already read the book).

The book continues on with Rose and Lissa, as Rose is preparing for her Guardian test. Her trainer Dimitri is taking her to a cabin in the woods to meet with another Guardian. But once they get there, things become a little off. Steps with no salt? Snow with no footprints? Dimitri makes Rose stay at the car while he goes to investigate, finding the front door slightly ajar. Not one to listen, Rose sneaks around the back of the house and finds the back door smashed. Within it a blood bath. An entire family had been killed by Strigoi, and it looked like they were using human help.

The Moroi panic, they are being hunted effectively, and with human help they aren’t even safe in the day light hours. The school is the safest place, until families panic and want everyone under the same roof where they can put up wards and be protected by Guardians. So naturally, rich people went to a ski resort.

I haven’t been sleeping well lately so I managed to blow through the book in three days. It’s a fun quick read as Rose antagonizes over her crush on Dimitri, and her jealousy of Lissa’s boyfriend as she spends more time with him than with Rose.

Sometimes Rose pisses me off, her pettiness, immaturity, ego, and poor decision making skills. But then I remembered, she’s 17. At 17 your hormones are still everywhere, brain chemistry is all over the place, and most people are still trying to figure themselves out, never mind figuring out the world. We were all that way once, and I think a lot of people my age and upwards forget that. That’s why there’s so many “Teenagers are stupid and here’s why-” articles. Even though the “why” is usually wrong, the fact is there. Teenagers are stupid. And this book shows that. Rose makes rash, stupid decisions that hurt people and put people in danger. Her stakes might be higher for those childish mistakes, but the truth is, she’s a teenager. She’s not an adult written as a teen to look down on other teens, she’s right in the thick of what is means to be a teenager figuring out the world. And once I figured this out for myself, her decisions weren’t stupid anymore, her reactions and pettiness, she was just being a teenager with the world piled on her shoulders.

Like I said earlier, it’s a quick fun read about an actually interesting vampire society. So naturally, my kryptonite, but this series is a lot better than I was expecting.

“Blood Trail” by Tanya Huff

This is the second book in the series, and I did review the first one. The way this series seems to be written, it’s much like other authors I have read (Jim Butcher, Laurell K Hamilton, etc) in how each book is it’s own story and you can literally pick up any book and know what’s happening, but there are small character growths and changes you may not catch.

Carrying on from the first, Henry (local vampire) calls Vicki for a favor, he has friends in need. He forgot to tell her that his friends were Werewolves. Two of their older relatives had been killed, in their fur-forms. So it was a little hard for them to go to the police for a dead Aunt that was honestly a human at one point, we swear officer! So, they called in Vicki. With her growing blindness (which is what forced her off the Toronto police department, she has no peripheral vision or night vision) she is reliant on Henry to do most of the night time leg work. They determine the wolves were shot from 500yards, at night, while moving. Not once, but twice. One hell of a shot that only an Olympian Gold could make.

This story was weird for me because Vicki isn’t in Toronto, she’s actually been employed by people who live just outside the city I live in. So she is mentioning landmarks I know personally. Hell, she mentioned a landmark that I have been going to the past few years for a Convention! While we were out driving the other day I mentioned to my husband a restaurant that was brought up, but since the book was published in ’92, everything has probably changed. It had changed, but my husbands family is from here so he recognized the name and actually showed me where it used to be. So I was literally driving the same route as these characters. Most books I read take place in the states or somewhere imaginary so I know the cities exist and how cities generally work, but it’s never been so close as to be actually walking in their metaphorical footsteps (or tire tracks in this case).

These types of books are my guilty pleasure, as you have probably seen if you follow our blog. Supernatural murder mystery, faeries, and vampires are my guilty pleasures.

So this book hits two out of the three, and it’s a local author which makes it even better!

This book has an out of time sense because Vicki makes a few comments about racism/sexism in the police and justice departments and almost 20 years later those words still fit. There were a few moments like that, where words from 20 years ago fit today, and they really shouldn’t – cause they weren’t nice words.

I loved the series, it’s exciting from the get go and is actually decently written. Huff only carries the mystery through the beginning, and in the last book and this one, the rest of the time you are split between Vicki/Henry, and the bad guy. You get to see their side of what’s happening, their plans, their thoughts, and it kind of builds the stress because you can see our heroes walking into a trap because you watched the bad guy build it. Or the frustration and stress when Vicki takes the bad guy off her suspect list because she is judging based on superficial traits.

If you love this genre, I recommend it, I even recommend the show! Early 00’s garbage, but fun garbage!

“Vampire Academy” by Richelle Mead

When I started getting into vampires it was back in the beginning of the 90s, where vampires were monsters. Literally, I wrote a story when I was 5 (I think, I was in the 4 – 6 range) about hunting vampires (you’re damn straight my mom got a phone call from worried teachers). From there, in my high school days, I got a little more into vampires outside of “standard monsters” when I started reading Anne Rice. The next trend in vampires was vampires in High School, and that’s about when I noped the f*ck out.

Unfortunately, I can never stay away from my favorite monsters turned romantic interest and will sometimes pick up a high school vampires story. One such series, is Vampire Academy. I saw it when I worked at the book store, but after reading Twilight (only half of my own free will, the other half I had nothing else to read and someone I worked with made me borrow them) and the house of Night (only the first book, I couldn’t kill enough brain cells to read the second one) I no longer wanted to dally in high school vampires.

Fast forward to today when …I’m running out of things to read and a friend made me borrow them. Yeah, there’s a trend. But, I will say this right now …this book is not half bad. I wasn’t sure what to expect since it is a super popular series, but genuinely enjoying it was not what I was prepared for.

Mead builds a world where it’s not just your typical Vampires vs Humans thing. There are different branches of Vampires (and a whole biological thing about how they breed – instead of just “vampires go wheee”); the Moroi which are your standard “Vampires”, and the Dhampir – half-vampires. Now, some hardcores like myself might go “you can’t have HALF a dead thing!” but that is where Mead changes the narrative. Moroi and Dhampir are LIVING Vampires. They are a species instead of a disease. But the third type of vampire is more like the kind we are familiar with. Known as Strigoi, they are “dead” vampires …and can be created several ways. When a Moroi kills a person and takes their blood, or if someone is bitten and turned. Moroi and Dhampir can both become Strigoi. They are faster, stronger, and have a natural drive to hunt and kill Moroi. Which is the basis for their entire society. Dhampir are important to the Moroi because they are the ones who become Guardians. They are fast and strong, and with their human genes don’t have a lot of the downfalls (like light sensitivity) of Moroi. Moroi are also willowy and small, not always great for defending against larger predators. But they have a symbiotic relationship because Dhampir are created from Moroi, and the Moroi need Dhampir to survive the Strigoi.

This leads to the ACADEMY part of it. Moroi and Dhampir children are sent to the same schools, to learn together, but Dhampir children obviously have special classes where they learn to be Guardians. The story follows Rose and Lissa, Dhampir and Moroi. In the beginning the girls are out on their own, pretending to be high school students living on campus. Up until a pack of Guardians finds them and brings them back. The girls had escaped the Academy, which was nearly impossible, and had hidden themselves away. But Rose refused to tell why she had spirited the vampire princess away.

It is slowly revealed that the girls have a special connection, one deeper than Guardian and Royal. That connection is what spurred Rose to take Lissa away – and something a little deeper. Rose can feel Lissa’s emotions, and when she concentrates, she can slip into Lissa’s head and see everything she sees. Lissa is also special in her own way – Moroi can use magic, but they are strictly elemental magic users. Except Lissa. Everyone thinks she is just a late bloomer, having not found an elemental affinity, but instead, she can heal and she can use her compulsion on other vampires.

The story revolves around Rose trying to find out what is happening between her and Lissa, since there are only a few cases of either ability in their entire history (one being St. Vladimir himself), and trying to learn her place as a Guardian.

Like I said, I actually enjoyed this book. It was still 90% high school vampire fluff but once you look past the tropes and stereotypes, it was a fun quick read!

“The Enchantment Emporium” by Tanya Huff

I’m going to start this out by saying I actually LIKE Tanya Huff. I started her Blood Ties series and really enjoyed it. So, this review may not be in the best light. But I DO like her!

Also, a little secret of mine. When I do reviews 9 times out of 10 I haven’t actually finished the book. I usually have about 1/4, or less, of the book left to read, but I have enough knowledge about the book to write a review …I don’t reveal the endings anyway. So, that was my first problem with the book. I would have reviewed it last week but by the ending of the book I was STILL confused about a lot of things. I kept hoping more would be revealed …no such luck.

The book opens with about 50 pages of “Aunties”, a grandfather with horns, some kind of ritual …all of which have nothing to do with the actual story. I could literally have skipped the first 50 – 60 pages and not lost any of the story. But, the way it was written, I felt like I had missed a whole series of books. It was enough that I actually looked it up, SEVERAL times, to make sure this was truly book ONE of a series. I even DOUBLE CHECKED before writing this review, and looked into her other books in case the characters were introduced in another series. Nope, this is in fact book one.

50 pages of too many names aside (she literally throws like 20 characters at you), the actual story is about Allie Gale, witch from a long line of witches. She receives a letter from her Grandmother, your standard “if you’re reading this I’m dead” letter, but in it she leaves Allie her house and Antique store. The Gale family is from outside of Toronto (locals!), but her Gran was out in Calgary. Most Gale women never traveled far from their family home, so their Gran was an oddity …something they referred to as “wild” (no, I don’t know what that means.). To figure out what happens (and because she had been laid off from the ROM – Royal Ontario Museum) she packs up and heads to the store. No one believed her Gran was truly dead, so Allie was sent to find out what really happened to her.

At the store, she meets one of the patrons, a homeless and meek Leprechaun named “Joe”. She hires him to help with the store, and in the middle of trying to inventory her Grandmothers store (kind of an antique store, a flea market, and a magical item emporium) a reporter enters, wanting to know about the store and the items within.

The story grows to include sorcerers, dragons, and magical assassins.

Before I get into what bothered me about the story, I will say it was a good read. Well written, doesn’t fall into too many stereotypes, and a fun fast paced read. Her characters are all endearing and it’s actually fun to read about their interactions.

Well, here we go, on to what bothered the hell out of me. From what I have fathered, the Gale’s are a large family led by what everyone calls the “Aunties”, and right off the bat Huff throws a dozen or so Aunties at you, as well as cousins, siblings, and parents. She set up that they were a magical family but because I had no knowledge of this family or story, it went way over my head. It really made me feel like I had missed a book – or three. I gave the story the benefit of the doubt, hoping that it would explain all these terms they kept throwing at me. First circle, Aunties, second circle, why the men have horns, men “choosing” …and so on.

Still, the story itself was fun and I rather liked Allie and her cousin Charlie. I think the Gale men have to “choose” a mate, and the options are usually other cousins. Something to do with the women being attracted to power. And for some reason they had to keep Allie away from her brother David when power was flying (it was starting to sound like a ‘keep them separated so we don’t have weird brother-sister sex’ thing, but since nothing was explained, I have no idea). Allie falling for someone meant she moved into second circle, but people who haven’t chosen are third circle and the Aunties were first circle. No, I don’t know what any of that means.

When Graham, the reporter, was introduced I thought GREAT! here is the perfect vessel for the audience to learn about what the hell all those terms mean. Because clearly Graham wouldn’t know, and with him falling in love with Allie he would want to learn. Nope. Every question he asked was met with “Family stuff” as the response. No! This is the perfect way to teach the audience. Some things were revealed through Graham, but it only lead to more questions. Like why the men have horns! There was a throw-away line near almost the end of the book about the Witches ancestors potentially breeding with the horned god, so I guess that explains the horn thing?

I enjoyed the book, I really did, and I will probably look into the rest of the series. But I wish she explained more about the family. I had SO many questions, and I’m really good at reading between the lines, but this book didn’t even give me that. Hopefully the later books will explain more about the family, instead of treating us like we are already inside the authors head.

“Dragon Wytch” by Yasmine Galenorn

This is actually book 4 in the Otherworld/Sisters of the Moon series, of which I have not read any of the previous. Unfortunately, there is a lot I don’t understand, but for the most part the book explains itself so even though I don’t have the back story to the characters or plots or anything, I can still figure out what’s happening and why.

Putting the current world situation aside, most of my books come second hand. So that doesn’t always mean accurate numbers. All of my Galenorn books come that way so I end up with like book 4 and 7 in a series and spend the rest of the time trying to piece them together. I like her writing, but I also find it really boring. It’s a weird mix. But either way, it’s definitely a fluff read – turn your brain off and just enjoy it. It is your standard typical supernatural romance, lots of hot women, double that in hot men, action scenes to pad out the romantic ones …that kind of thing. But that doesn’t mean it’s BAD, it’s just nothing super incredible. But like I said, I still read it.

Because I’m starting 4 books in, the plot of the book came across a little cluster-fucked. Camille and her sisters, all half-fae (and one’s a vampire, another is a werecat thing …) but living Earth side. Camille, while leaving work, came across a unicorn being attacked by some other creatures. This starts the adventure of trying to help the unicorn find a missing pixie that was carrying the fabled crystal horn of a black unicorn, which they need to stop the hordes of demons sent in by the Demon Lord Shadow Wing. But they have also learned there are portals popping up between Earth side and Otherworld that are not being guarded, so errant fae and critters of all kind, are coming into Earth side unchecked.

Because Fae and other creatures are no longer hidden, the world had to change to accommodate that. Camille and her sisters work with a local police division to protect everyone and keep order. Sometimes that means taking out Trolls.

Galenorn’s writing isn’t as quick-paced and fun as some other authors in the genre, but she spends a lot of time on the relationship between the sisters and their growing household. One thing I will give Galenorn credit for is she doesn’t use girl-hate as a plot device. The sisters get along no matter what, defend and support each other at all times. No cattiness beyond normal sibling banter, at least in this book. It’s nice to see.

This is a take it or leave it book, if you love the genre and are looking for a quick fun read, this is it.

The Magicians vs Harry Potter

I noticed the Magicians back when I worked in the book store (I did do a review for the first book if you were curious about that before getting into this review), but the covers were bland and what everyone told me about just made it sound like Harry Potter version 2.0. So, I passed on it. Next came the show, and any new TV show that is moderately supernatural, I will try once. I watched the first episode and it was Harry Potter 2.0 but with sex. Months later when I gave the show a second try, I realized several episodes in that it was NOT Harry Potter.

Yes, they are both about magical schools that are hidden in the real world with cool ways to disguise themselves and work the system. They have “houses” the students are separated into. The houses in Harry Potter are based on personality traits, the houses in The Magicians are based on magic type. And they have their own cabins and rooms with other kids of their discipline. So in this aspect they are very similar. Even the schools are similar; Brakebills vs Hogwarts. Magical teachers, dangerous subjects, and magic based sports.

That’s about where the similarities end. Harry Potter was aimed at younger readers, and the characters -while wonderfully flawed, were still aimed at that young audience and reflected that. The Magicians, not so much. It’s characters are much darker (and I do believe a fair bit older, like late-teens), a little bit more relatable, and stuff happens with and to them that would have had Hogwarts shut down and under some kind of investigation. Like, Malfoy being turned into a ferret was a horrible thing, Quinn and company being turned into geese and foxes was just part of the curriculum.

Speaking of that curriculum, the magic systems in the two shows are wildly different. I compared Harry Potter to Harry Dresden, and their magic systems were dramatically different …The Magicians magic is closer to Harry Dresden magic, but also kind of it’s own thing. Instead of wands and pseudo-latin, it’s incantations and complicated hand movements. Plus, magic has “types” unlike either of the Harry’s where magic is magic. For example, Hermione can do any spell you throw at her, but her Magicians counterpart, Alice, specializes in a type of magic that bends light. She can go invisible and burn things down just by bending the light around her. Things like that.

When I started the first book of The Magicians, I could see character correlations, Quinn is Harry, Alice is Hermione …etcetera, etcetera. But, they basically take those characters and push them to the extreme. Harry is the chosen one, pretty good at what he does, not popular but no UNpopular …Quinn on the other hand: depressed, suicidal, in and out of mental institutions, no friends, makes no friends (even when he does make friends he feels more like he’s on the fringe of them), subpar at magic, and has no specialty in magic (in the show his specialty was “fixing small objects”, but as far as I’ve read in the series he doesn’t have a specialty). Hermione, super smart, gifted, kind, great family, kind of a dork …Alice, dear Alice, comes from a dysfunctional family, brother went insane on magic and died, she’s a bit stuck up because she knows she’s smarter and better than everyone, mousey, angry, kind of a dick. So in a way, the characters in Magicians felt more …real. I could relate to Quinn SO HARD to the point I cried a lot, hell, I cried in the TV show! I enjoyed Harry Potter, but I didn’t relate to anyone.

Both series are amazing, and on one hand I’m sad I didn’t read The Magicians earlier, but at the same time, I think I can appreciate it more now. Both series are amazing, but The Magicians is a little more heavy handed and weird …really weird. I would not recommend The Magicians for young readers, but I would recommend Harry Potter for all ages. Harry Potter seems to create an understanding of the world, media, external things like that, whereas The Magicians seems to focus on the internals like grief, depression, loneliness, so they are both important for different reasons. For a well rounded view, I recommend reading both series!