Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Double Bloody Review: Frostblood by Elly Blake and RoseBlood by A.G. Howard

There's a theme to today's double review! Both have blood in the title, both have magical doodads and whatsits, and both release today! Alas, I only liked one of them. But the one I did I loved a whole lot, so it's not a total wash!

Frostblood by Elly Blake
Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes and Noble | The Book Depository
Series: Frostblood Saga #1
Release date: January 10th, 2016
Publisher: Little, Brown
Length: 400 pages
Source: print ARC from BEA16
Rating: It's not reinventing the wheel, but damn did I love reading that

Seventeen-year-old Ruby is a fireblood who must hide her powers of heat and flame from the cruel frostblood ruling class that wants to destroy all that are left of her kind. So when her mother is killed for protecting her and rebel frostbloods demand her help to kill their rampaging king, she agrees. But Ruby's powers are unpredictable, and she's not sure she's willing to let the rebels and an infuriating (yet irresistible) young man called Arcus use her as their weapon.

All she wants is revenge, but before they can take action, Ruby is captured and forced to take part in the king's tournaments that pit fireblood prisoners against frostblood champions. Now she has only one chance to destroy the maniacal ruler who has taken everything from her and from the icy young man she has come to love.

Fast-paced and compelling, Frostblood is the first in a page-turning new young adult three-book series about a world where flame and ice are mortal enemies—but together create a power that could change everything.

Ahhhh! Total slump-buster in the best way. The only reason it's not getting full marks it's because it's not exactly reinventing the fantasy wheel, the pacing is on the quick side (which is also its biggest strength in a way), and a few niggly quibbly bits (including a total lack of diversity). But overall, I LOVED this book. PLUS SHIP. I'm such a cheap date. Honestly, the background could be cardboard and I wouldn't care (well, not much) if i shipped the ship hard enough, and Arcus MY ICY CHURLISH ARCUS + hotheaded stubborn Ruby = <333333

Ruby is a Fireblood in a world ruled by Frostbloods, so this is NO BUENO. Firebloods are sent to die in arenas for the amusement of the Frostblood king, so Ruby's kept her unruly magic under wraps. Until, of course, the day she doesn't and all hell breaks loose and she's thrown in prison. 

LET IT GO RUBY except don't you might kill everyone oops

But then she is SPRUNG and offered a chance to do what she wants most: KILL THE FROSTBLOOD KING. But of course there's a tweeeest and a handsome Frostblood dude she may or may not hate who may or may not hate her and it's all very fraught in just the way I like.

The writing in Frostblood, after a kind of typical-fantasy opening chapter, is deft and quick. I felt immediately comfortable. The plot is intense and emotional and the pacing never lags. I adored Ruby, with all her snark and vengeance and good-heartedness. I usually like my fantasy world-building so rich is basically drowns you, but here I didn't mind that it wasn't Tolkien-appendix-level of intricate and deep. It served the wickedness of the plot--seriously, this thing is brutally breakneck--and its wonderful intensity, not to mention Ruby's brashness and fire. I was totally sucked in. 

Ruby's a wonderfully snarky thing here for nobody's shit and often getting into huge heaps of trouble because of her temper.

Plus, SHIP. SUPER BANTERSHIP. HATE TO LOVE BANTERSHIP.. Magicks. The lure of daaaaaaaaarkness (how heroic is our heroine??). A maybe-twist on the Chosen One trope which is basically my FAVORITE THING. Beasties and blood. Fighting and failing. Thrones and fire and frost all good fantasy things. There are Red Queen-esque elements, though in a fully high fantasy setting. Plus FIYAH

This book is fierce, and not in a Tyra banks way, but in a blood and snow and shadow kind of way. I've been so disappointed by most of the new fantasies I've read this year, but this zinging read restored my faith! Again, it's not really bringing anything new to the fantasy table, and I predicted most if not all of the surprises, but I was so invested and truly loved the characters. Highly recommend!

So endeth the positive portion of this blog post.

RoseBlood by A.G. Howard
Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes and Noble | The Book Depository
Series: One was enough
Release date: January 10th, 2016
Publisher: Amulet (Abrams)
Length: 432 pages
Source: print ARC from the publisher (I'm sorry, publisher)
Rating: RoseBloody awful
(I couldn't resist) (this is why I'm sorry)

In this modern day spin on Leroux’s gothic tale of unrequited love turned to madness, seventeen-year-old Rune Germain has a mysterious affliction linked to her operatic talent, and a horrifying mistake she’s trying to hide. Hoping creative direction will help her, Rune’s mother sends her to a French arts conservatory for her senior year, located in an opera house rumored to have ties to The Phantom of the Opera.

At RoseBlood, Rune secretly befriends the masked Thorn—an elusive violinist who not only guides her musical transformation through dreams that seem more real than reality itself, but somehow knows who she is behind her own masks. As the two discover an otherworldly connection and a soul-deep romance blossoms, Thorn’s dark agenda comes to light and he’s forced to make a deadly choice: lead Rune to her destruction, or face the wrath of the phantom who has haunted the opera house for a century, and is the only father he’s ever known.

He'd never seen the girl's face in their subconscious interactions....but he'd glimpsed her eyes many times--a bright, electrified green with widened pupils when they were filled with song, reflections of her heart chakra.

She was dewy-eyed enchantment shrouded within her white aura of innocence and wonder--lost and confused.

That sense of peace and comfort swells to a rush of adrenaline, as hand in hand, I mentally climb with my partner onto some ancient, omniscient plateau, view our likenesses from the summit, prepared to swan dive with him into the cosmos.

Look, I liked Splintered quite a lot when I read it. And it's clear I'm going to be the black sheep on this one, so obviously RoseBlood is going to float a lot of people's boats, and more power to them. If you like quotes like the ones above, I'm not here to stop you. Enjoy what you enjoy.

But I think this book is completely ridiculous.

Overwrought, overwritten, overblown, hilarious garbage. It's nonsense to the nth degree. It's paranormal romance on the wildest drugs dredged in comically emo, grandiose imagery and plodding pacing, including absolute mountains of internal monologue. Every action takes 15 pages of clunky prose to accomplish. There was a crack-y, hilaribad quality that kept me turning the pages in the beginning, but this really is a chore to get through. It's just so damn MUCH.

The lily is not so much gilded as gilded, bedazzled, enameled, drizzled in chocolate, and scattered with diamond sprinkles. The lily, she is dead, the poor thing. Drowned in tragic backstory and tragically beautiful heroes and TERRIBLE Romani representation and absolutely hilarious (highlight for spoiler) psychic vampires. PSYCHIC VAMPIRES. THEY'RE PSYCHIC VAMPIRES!!!! do you know how HILARIOUS it is to hear people casually refer to themselves as psychic vampires???

So, Rune is our...heroine. type. thing. And she's being sent to RoseBlood academy, a music academy in the French countryside with an absolutely ridiculous name no French human being would ever choose. Rune is CURSED, by, as she routinely tells us, "her cursed g*psy blood". 

*small break to snarl like a cat* 

She has the voice of an angel, but singing leaves her feeling physically drained and ill. The voice controls her, and she can't control when it bursts out of her. Our heroine is, of course, the most beautiful of beautifuls:

People say (my mom) and I could pass for sisters. We share her ivory complexion, the tiny freckles spattered across the bridge of her nose, the wide green eyes inside a framework of thick lashes, and her hair--black as a raven's wing. The only difference is, I inherited my curls from a father whose laughter I still hear when I dance in rain puddles. Whose face I still see in the water's reflection, as if he's beside me.

Rune, unfortunately, not only really beautiful and really boring. I can't really tell you any personal qualities she has besides her voice and her total lack of stranger danger. Also she knits. Also she's an ivory-skinned green eyed girl with "cursed" "g*psy" blood and a mad "g*psy" grandmother who tried to kILL HER and ugh maybe grandma's got the right idea idk (though I'd way rather someone did away with creeptastic Thorn and bloODY ERIK O.G. not Original Ganster but that's a rant for later)

Honestly, Rune's grief for her dad and one teeny moment with her mom were the only things in the whole book that made me feel a thing, except for Rune's human friends who really should have been what the book is about. But alas, it's not. It's about soul mates, and being beautiful, and tragic backstories, and IMAGERY. Every room, every garden, every rose, every garment, and every ceiling is described not so much lavishly as laboriously. Look, by page 250, I just don't care what the science teacher's room looks like, or just how gothic the chandelier is. I know it's gothic, because you've alreayd told me 40 times that this place is a gothic opera house of gothicy gothicness.

Then, of course, there's Thorn, our phantom. Ish. Thing. He lurks in the bowels of this ridiculous opera house school in the middle of nowhere. He has a tragic backstory FOR THE AGES and wears a half Phantom mask to cover his face...even though he is, naturellement, the most beautiful of beautifuls but he doesn't believe outer gifts are important.

(Erik) often compared Thorn's appearance--defined dark brows above piercing, wide-set brown eyes, high cheekbones; a straight nose above plump lips shapely enough to be a woman's; square, cleft chin; and defined musculature--to the heroes in the mythological tomes Thorn liked to read.

He's also Rune's truest (creepiest) love 5eva. Why? They just ARE. IT'S IN THE COSMOS. YOU WOULDN'T UNDERSTAND.

"Twin souls always come full circle, as natural and ineludible (is this a word) as the migration of birds or the alignment of planets. All of this has been set into motion in the past by our spirit, for our bodies to discover in the present. Now, at last, we're here."

"We’re destined to be lovers, Rune."

Oh, my, isn't that convenient! Girls, if a dude who lurks in the vents of your school creeps out of the shadows and tells you you are destined to be lovers, kick him in his "twin souls".

Every time someone said the name Rune I could only think of the character from Gilmore Girls, which sort of ruined the romantic effect a bit.

You are my angel of music.

I have so many questions that have nothing to do with the romance or the awful, too-complicated--to-explain mythology. Like, who would open an opera house in the middle of the country? Opera houses can only survive if they have people who go to them regularly, which is usually why they are in CITIES.

Who would name a musical conservatory academy in France RoseBlood? Why is RoseBlood one word? Why would it only be for American teenagers? Why don't these American teenagers ever study music at this music academy?

Why are the good characters all stunningly beautiful, while anyone deformed or "broken" is pathetic and tragic and dark and evil? Why would Erik, aka Opera Ghost, sign his initials O.G. when he is French and would therefore be Le Fantôme de l'Opéra aka his initials would not be OG oh sweet Moses???

WHYYYYYYYYYYYYY was the word "g*psy", which is a slur for people of Romani ancestry, of which our fair (literally, bien sur) heroine is, used OVER AND OVER AND OVER?? Why is Sunny, the only character I liked besides Jax, forced to talk like the absolute biggest Southern cliche, dropping "ain't" left and right?

"Look, I may be a country girl, but I can play a cello like I was born in the orchestra pit of the London Symphony. Ma says I have the mind of a progeny (sic, but I'm assuming/hoping it's an ARC error) and the tongue of a heck-o-billy. My uncle's an oil tycoon. He made sure I was taught proper grammar before he'd pay for my tuition, but I sometimes slip off the wagon a smidge."

Then there was the writing, which sooooo did not work for me. I remember liking the writing and the imagery in Splintered, but RoseBlood (argh I hate typing that so much) went off the rails. Every sentence is needlessly convoluted. What should be a simple phrase is turned into a tortured lengthy sentence over and over and it's just exhausting. Nobody can simply have a feeling, or get out of a car, or say an accusation.

The accusation resonated on silvery notes, rising like a creature with wings, fluttering gracefully over to Thorn and tugging with its audible beak at the secrets he held caged behind his ribs.

how does an ACCUSATION have an AUDIBLE BEAK?? And then there's another point where Erik has a "hedonistic voice". That's just not...what does that mean??

And then sometimes the writing is just patently ridiculous.

The notes sluice through the nucleus of my being

His lips part and our tongues meet, lighting up my insides with voltaic pulses of emotions, auras that burst in my mind on explosions of color flavored with caramel, midnight flowers, and singed spices--dark, tempestuous, and succulent.

And then some things were just...creepy

Their kind was descended from hunters...renowned for infiltrating darkened bedrooms and wearing the breath of sleeping women like pearls upon their flesh, hijacking their dreams and seducing their bodies and spirits--feeding off their passion, need, and fear.

"like pearls upon their flesh"? What in the name of soul mate heart chakra does that mean?

I'm feeling kind of bad, so I'll list three things I did like: 1) Jax and Sunny. Rune's friends could have turned this whole book around, if only there'd been more focus on them and less on Rune wandering the gardens feeeeling thing, Thorn's HILARIOUSLY AWFUL pov chapters, or their magical sparkly bond to end all bonds. 2) Diable the cat. 3) That thing with the toe socks was cute. Way cute than "blah blah you're my mirror soul I shall bed thee on a sheet of roses my sweet songbird"

Anyway, this is hideously long (just like this book, which despite all its madness is massively boring), and basically, I'd have to spoil the entire plot to fully impress on you how completely cracked out it is. THE NIGHTCLUB. The appropriative-ness of the auras and heart chakras. The ridiculous soul mates. The feeble, convenient plot that goes FULL BOIL INSANITY as everything but the kitchen sink is chucked into it and then just kind of peters off. Highlight for spoiler: THE PSYCHIC VAMPIRES OH GOD I CAN'T STOP LAUGHING It's a mess of cliches, infodumping, logic fails, and melodrama. I'm sad, because like I said, I did love Splintered. But I'm honestly shocked that this book made it out of the gate. I don't know what happened.

A shame, because a Phantom of the Opera retelling could be a really cool thing. But honestly, this isn't even a retelling. It's a whacked out sequel with an absurd premise, and to me, it didn't work on any level beside the cover, which is gorgeous.



  1. I ALMOST want to read RoseBlood simply because it sounds so hilaribad...but I know I shouldn't because I'll probably want to chuck the book across the room haha. I just can't with some of those quotes. Frostblood sounds good though, I'll probably check that one out!


  2. Literal LOL at the Rune reference!!

  3. You're not the first bad review that I've read for RoseBlood which is a shame. You've probably already read it, but Metal and Wishes by Sarah Fine is actually a very good phantom retelling. In fact, it's one of my father duologies in recent years. Frost Blood looks interesting. I think I might give it a try, even though I'm really picky about my YA fantasies.

    1. I LOVED Of Metal and Wishes! Very good at the Phantom aspects (mainly that, while sympathetic, the phantom in that book was still a BIG HUGE CREEPER)

      FrostBlood is to be read if you like shipping and these kinds of tropes and characters. It's not a very original fantasy but if you like those things it's definitely a fun one.

  4. I freaking loved Frostblood! I totally agree with all your points about it not adding much to the fantasy table, but I will read all of the books for Arcus and Ruby.

    What a shame about RoseBlood. I love Phantom of the Opera but I don't love convoluted writing, slurs, and being beaten with the whole "beauty is good" thing.

    1. YAY ANOTHER FROSTBLOOD FAN! *high fives* Rubarcus (Arcuby?) for LIFE

      Very rarely do I say DON'T READ THIS BOOK but yeah. Don't read this book.

  5. Ahahaha!! I love your GIFS so hard. Even if I'm still holding out a teensy bit of hope that Roseblood will be a good read. I really enjoyed A.G. Howard's "Architect of Song" last year, but it tended to go off into that super-flowery make you scratch your head descriptions.

    1. Godspeed, my friend.

      The weird thing is I've also enjoyed her books! Well, mostly Splintered, really, but this one totally went off the rails. i dont even know.

  6. I really, really, really need to read Frostblood!! It sounds really fun, and I'm always in the market for a fun fantasy with a ship that I can board ;)


Note: comments on posts older than 90 days are automatically moderated, so they won't show up here immediately. Thanks for commenting! :)