Review of The Shadow Hour by Melissa Grey

theshadowhourThe Shadow Hour
By: Melissa Grey
Release Date: July 12th 2016
Publisher: Delacorte Press
Format: Print ARC
Source: Convention

My Rating:
star

Summary:
A battle has been won. But the war has only just begun.

Everything in Echo’s life changed in a blinding flash when she learned the startling truth: she is the firebird, the creature of light that is said to bring peace.

The firebird has come into the world, but it has not come alone. Every action has an equal and opposite reaction, and Echo can feel a great and terrible darkness rising in the distance. Cosmic forces threaten to tear the world apart.

Echo has already lost her home, her family, and her boyfriend. Now, as the firebird, her path is filled with even greater dangers than the ones she’s already overcome.

She knows the Dragon Prince will not fall without a fight.

Echo must decide: can she wield the power of her true nature—or will it prove too strong for her, and burn what’s left of her world to the ground?

Welcome to the shadow hour.

My Thoughts:
I really enjoyed The Girl at Midnight last year so I was thrilled to be able to pick up a copy of this follow-up at TLA. I think that overall this was a good sequel though the beginning of the book did have slower pacing. As things picked up though, I became immersed and very invested as to what was going on with the story. I think it left off wonderfully for the third book.

I chose not to reread the first book so that could be why when I started this one I wasn’t as invested. It didn’t take too long though for me to get back into the characters and start rooting for Echo. Things aren’t simple for her at all since she is now the Firebird and the subject of prophecy. I think Grey approached her character incredibly well and gave her strength yet self doubt as to what lay before her. I think her struggles were very realistic and the pressure she felt was well done. I loved that she dealt with uncertainty and wasn’t fully able to rely on what she should be capable of. She doubted her own nature and what being the firebird meant for her and those around her. I can’t imagine the pressure of knowing that others are in danger by your mere presence.

I really enjoy the side characters in these books and the building up of relationships between all of them. The dialog was strong and I could feel character chemistry for the most part. I was very intrigued with the sister/brother relationship between the Dragon Prince and Caius. The little bits of their history we see and the struggles they have being on opposite sides really resonated with me.

Jasper was such a great sense of humor and relief from some of the more serious parts of the book. He was so incredibly likeable once again. Of course his dialog with Dorian was amazing and these two characters bring out the best in one another.

As far as the storyline goes I do think this book had a bit of the ‘second book syndrome’ but I do think it is well worth the read. It progressed the story well (especially the last bit) and has set things up for an amazing finish.

theshadowhourIG

Final Thoughts:
I don’t feel that The Shadow Hour was as strong as the first book but I do think it progressed the storyline and characters very well. I loved reading the struggles Echo had having so much pressure on her being the firebird. Once again Caius was a favorite of mine and I’m excited to see what will happen in book 3.

Blog Tour: The Girl at Midnight by Melissa Grey- Interview

Melissa Grey’s debut novel The Girl at Midnight released a couple of weeks ago and has been widely anticipated and buzzed about.  I’ve had the joy of reading it already and found it to be such a fun read with so many elements I adore in urban fantasy.

Beyond Melissa’s talent for writing she is also an incredibly skilled artist- she creates the most beautiful nail art inspired by books. I had the pleasure of asking her about her book as well as her art.

About the Book

GirlatMidnightCoverBeneath the streets of New York City live the Avicen, an ancient race of people with feathers for hair and magic running through their veins. Age-old enchantments keep them hidden from humans. All but one. Echo is a runaway pickpocket who survives by selling stolen treasures on the black market, and the Avicen are the only family she’s ever known.

Echo is clever and daring, and at times she can be brash, but above all else she’s fiercely loyal. So when a centuries-old war crests on the borders of her home, she decides it’s time to act.

Legend has it that there is a way to end the conflict once and for all: find the Firebird, a mythical entity believed to possess power the likes of which the world has never seen. It will be no easy task, though if life as a thief has taught Echo anything, it’s how to hunt down what she wants . . . and how to take it.

But some jobs aren’t as straightforward as they seem. And this one might just set the world on fire.

Available now from Delacorte Press

Interview

Thank you Melissa for taking the time to answer my questions.

In The Girl at Midnight magic is present in the everyday world though just out of the reach of most people. This gives the reader the feeling that if they look close enough they might glimpse some magic in their own lives. Do you search your life to see little bits of magic and have you always been drawn to fantasy in general?
Fantasy has always been my jam, ever since I was a little kid being read bedtime stories about fairies and wizards and trolls that lived under bridges. I don’t think I’ve ever been content with the world we live in, the real world, so creating new and exciting worlds with fantastical elements has always had great appeal to me. Maybe it’s wishful thinking, but I do think there’s magic to be found in the everyday world (how you want to define magic is up to you!) if only we stop to look for it.

Your main character, Echo, was such a delight to read about. I loved that she had made her home in a library and surrounded herself with books. Though my life differs greatly from Echo’s I still found her to be very relatable. Which character was easiest for you to write and/or relate to?
As much as I see bits and pieces of myself in Echo (her love of books, her appreciation of food, her use of humor as a defense mechanism), I have to say the easiest character for me to write was Dorian. He’s just so Over It, you know? He’s tired of dealing with everyone’s crap and harboring inconvenient emotions that he just can’t shake, but under all the layers of curmudgeon, he’s actually pretty squishy. He’s more sensitive than he appears though he tries very hard to hide it. I definitely know what that’s like.

I loved that you created a world with dragon people (Drakharin) and bird people (Avicen). Could you tell us a little about each and which you are more drawn to yourself (if you could even choose between the two)
The Avicen have feathers for hair and they live beneath the streets of New York. They’ve been around longer than human beings have and they’re too stubborn to leave their home, even if cohabitating with humans drives them to live in secrecy. They’re a vibrant people, who believe in community over the needs of individuals. This is reflected in the structure of their society, where everyone has a role (Ivy is a healer, Rowan is in the military, the Ala is a seer) based on their strengths and their government which is run by a Council of Avicen elders. They don’t think power should reside with a single person because people are inherently flawed.

The Drakharin (who have scales the way humans have freckles which are faint and iridescent against the skin), on the other hand, have a more traditional power structure in some ways. They have a nobility that comes together to elect their monarch (kind of like the way Polish kings were chosen before that monarchy went kaput), who goes by the title of Dragon Prince. Qualities that are prized in Dragons Princes are strength, first and foremost, with wisdom and cunning close behind. Their use of the word Prince instead of King is important on a few levels. They don’t have a word for princess in their language (Drakhar) so anyone can be a Prince regardless of gender and “prince” implies that the position can be fleeting. Kings might cling to power with absolute authority, but prince implies something more ephemeral. It’s a title that be bestowed but also taken away if they find you undeserving of it.

In TGaM Echo can travel quickly between locations with the use of magic- this allows you and the reader to venture many places within your book. You did a wonderful job changing the atmosphere of each of these settings and really made each feel like a different place. Have you done a good amount of traveling to draw inspiration from or did you pull from research?
The book is pretty much a love letter to all the places I’ve been, even the not so nice ones (like the desolate train station in Appenweier, Germany when Echo and her friends head to the Black Forest). I’ve lived in Japan, England, and France, so I had to throw Kyoto, Paris, and London in there. I combined my own experiences with research to make sure I got things right (memory is a funny thing sometimes). I hadn’t been to Scotland when I wrote the book, but I modeled the Drakharin stronghold after a place that already exists — Eilean Donan Castle – so I relied on travel blogs and firsthand accounts from friends for that. The only place I haven’t personally visited (yet) is Taiwan, but that’s where Google street view comes in handy.

Can you give us any hints about the sequel to TGaM?
I can tell you that it’s called The Shadow Hour and it deals with the consequences of what happens at the end of Book One. Echo’s personal journey is only getting started in The Girl at Midnight, and I plan on putting her and her friends through the ringer before everything is said and done.

Those that follow you on Twitter (if not you really should be) have seen your beautiful nail-art creations. Can you tell us about how you got started doing this and share a few of your personal favorites?
Procrastination is the mother of invention. Seriously. I got bored one day and didn’t feel like doing the work I was supposed to be doing so I started painting my nails to look like the nearest book, which if I remember correctly, was The Ring and the Crown by Melissa da la Cruz.

I had a great time doing the character manicures for The Girl at Midnight and the video tutorial for nail art inspired by the cover. I think my favorite designs for books I haven’t written are the ones I did for Rainbow Rowell’s Landline and Laura Ruby’s Bone Gap .

If you’ve not visited her Tumblr for nail-art you must do so (right now).

Giveaway

Thank you to Random House for providing a book for giveaway. U.S. only

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Review of The Girl at Midnight by Melissa Grey

GirlatMidnightCoverThe Girl at Midnight
By: Melissa Grey
Release Date: April 28th 2015
Publisher: Delacorte Press
Format: Print ARC
Source: Gift

My Rating:
star

Summary:
Beneath the streets of New York City live the Avicen, an ancient race of people with feathers for hair and magic running through their veins. Age-old enchantments keep them hidden from humans. All but one. Echo is a runaway pickpocket who survives by selling stolen treasures on the black market, and the Avicen are the only family she’s ever known.

Echo is clever and daring, and at times she can be brash, but above all else she’s fiercely loyal. So when a centuries-old war crests on the borders of her home, she decides it’s time to act.

Legend has it that there is a way to end the conflict once and for all: find the Firebird, a mythical entity believed to possess power the likes of which the world has never seen. It will be no easy task, but if life as a thief has taught Echo anything, it’s how to hunt down what she wants . . . and how to take it.

But some jobs aren’t as straightforward as they seem. And this one might just set the world on fire.

The Story:
I was obsessed with reading The Girl at Midnight and did everything in my power to obtain a copy. It took months but eventually a wonderful friend sent me a copy and I dropped everything to read it immediately. I think it is safe to say I had some pretty high expectations. And, I think that might have been a tiny disservice to the book.

Was this book entertaining and overall a great book? Yes! I really did enjoy it. I felt that Grey’s writing was very strong and well done. I loved her descriptions and felt that her prologue especially was brilliant. Have you seen those comparisons to the Daughter of Smoke and Bone series and The Mortal Instruments? I typically hate to compare novels or see similarities but I couldn’t help seeing them with this book.

The tone and urban feel was very much in the style of Laini Taylor’s series which I appreciated because I love her books so much. It didn’t feel copied if that’s what you are worried about. But it really did bring  Karou to mind especially for the first half of the book. There was a relationship that really felt like TMI to me and because of these similarities I did keep thinking back to those other books. I’m not sure if that bothered me or not but it did distract a little bit.

Back to the book at hand, The Girl at Midnight had a really wonderful moderate pace that was incredibly enjoyable to read. It wasn’t rushed but no sections really dragged. I adore that it took real settings and added a magical dimension and entire races of beings that existed outside of the normal person’s awareness. I really do love books that take this approach to magic because it allows me to peek around my own life and pretend to see little bits of magic.

The Characters:
Grey really created a likeable cast of characters that all interact wonderfully and have some stellar dialog. I loved the humor and emotions she was able to invoke within her characters. Echo was an easy main character to enjoy because she was wonderfully flawed but also so kick-ass. I loved her sarcasm and really did hope for her to succeed. The side-characters were wonderful and all so varied from one another. I found myself loving them just as much as I loved Echo.

I didn’t know going into this book that there were bird people and dragon people (yeah, I know the Avicen are mentioned in the summary but who reads those?). So much win there. I have been loving the bird-people trend in YA lately (Challenger Deep, Magonia and this book). Who doesn’t need giant birds with glorious feathers running around? I adore the visual I get when imagining what they might all look like. And really, anything to do with dragons wins in my book. I will say that the dragon people are a bit underutilized in their dragon-ness but I’m hoping for much more in the follow-up.

Final Thoughts:
I was a tiny bit distracted by the similarities I could see with some other well known books but at the same time The Girl at Midnight really took some of my favorite aspects and wrapped them up into a new and impressive storyline. I’ll be checking out more from Melissa Grey and this series.

Stacking the Shelves

This past week was incredibly uneventful which is a wonderful thing. My kiddo did have a cold for most of his spring break but he seemed content to curl up on the couch with me and watch movies. UPS lost a book I was really excited about but I have a replacement coming next week. This has been the first book they’ve ever lost from my two years of blogging but I still wasn’t a happy camper. I’m beyond thankful that a replacement was sent.

Only two new books this week but I’m so thrilled about them. Stacking the Shelves hosted by Tynga’s Reviews is a weekly meme where you show what books you’ve purchased, gotten from the library, received from giveaway, as gifts or for review.

Gifted:

GirlatMidnight
You might know this but I’ve been wanting The Girl at Midnight soooo badly. I needed it in my life and a wonderful friend was sweet enough to send it to me. I am so grateful. I’ve already started it and so far I’m liking it. It has a very Laini Taylor feel so far.

Purchased:

Storyspinnerbook thestoryspinneruncovered

I read and adored the ARC of The Storyspinner so I had a copy on order. Last Saturday via Twitter and Nikki (thank you for telling me!) Becky’s launch party was in my town that day. I switched plans around and went out to Blue Willow Bookshop to meet Becky in person. She is so sweet and a wonderful speaker. I loved hearing about her adventure in publishing.

 Beckyandme

Posts from last week:

  • Review of Stone in the Sky by Cecil Castellucci   star
  • Interview with Lauren DeStefano + Giveaway
  • Discussion– about a book I can’t see fault with or my “Pedestal Book”
  • Review of Death Marked by Leah Cypess   star

Giveaways

This week is Lauren DeStefano giveaway week.