Size Doesn’t Matter (78): All the Feels; The Queen of Blood

I received this book for free from Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Size Doesn’t Matter (78): All the Feels; The Queen of BloodAll the Feels by Danika Stone
Published by Swoon Reads on June 7, 2016
Genres: Contemporary, Romance
Pages: 336
Format: ARC
Source: Publisher
AmazonThe Book Depository
Goodreads
two-half-stars

College freshman Liv is more than just a fangirl: The Starveil movies are her life… So, when her favorite character, Captain Matt Spartan, is killed off at the end of the last movie, Liv Just. Can’t. Deal.

Tired of sitting in her room sobbing, Liv decides to launch an online campaign to bring her beloved hero back to life. With the help of her best friend, Xander, actor and steampunk cosplayer extraordinaire, she creates #SpartanSurvived, a campaign to ignite the fandom. But as her online life succeeds beyond her wildest dreams, Liv is forced to balance that with the pressures of school, her mother’s disapproval, and her (mostly nonexistent and entirely traumatic) romantic life. A trip to DragonCon with Xander might be exactly what she needs to figure out what she really wants.

Oh, Swoon Reads, you mixed bag of mostly unfortunateness. I just can’t quit Swoon Reads, because every single premise is basically designed for shippers. However, the quality of the books has been pretty consistently meh at best, with the exception of the fabulous These Vicious Masks. All the Feels actually is one of the better ones so far, but it’s also just okay.

I don’t have it in me to pass up a fandom book, and part of the novel takes place at Dragon Con in my hometown, so there was no way I wasn’t reading All the Feels. It was a pretty fast-paced read and did keep my attention even though I wasn’t engaged in the characters, so that’s a plus I guess.

The fandom aspect has the most shininess. I liked the plot of fandom pushing for an additional movie and managing to accomplish so much. Fandom gets denigrated a lot, and it’s nice that this story focuses on the good side of that. Plus, unlike Gena/Finn, it doesn’t end in soul-crushing tragedy, though, up to that point, Gena/Finn definitely did a better job capturing the banter, arguing, and emotional roller coaster of fandom.

The characterization of All the Feels doesn’t really cut it. My problems basically all come back to Xander. I think he could have worked as a character and a love interest, but the way that he’s written is just such a mess. He permanently cosplays steampunk, and he and Liv bondered over their mutual weirdness, even though their fandoms are different. That could have been great.

However, I just don’t really buy their relationship at all. Xander somehow has a gorgeous sorority girlfriend, and, like, I’m sorry but no matter how hot you are if you’re basically LARPing steampunk all the time, that’s just not happening. Xander calls Liv “Dearest” constantly and reads like a strange mixture of a gay best friend, a grandpa, and a lost and confused Austen heroine. It’s not endearing. It’s cool that Xander’s bi, but the way he talked really didn’t feel authentic or believable. The ship really just didn’t click for me and I shrugged when they got together. I’d probably have entirely hated it if I hadn’t pictured them as Jane and Billy from Jane by Design. Have a sample of his dialog:

“Honestly, dearest, where are your dresses? Your heels? A body as lovely as yours requires adornment.”

All the Feels is fine. It’s okay. If you can deal with how Xander talks, you’ll probably like it.

Tl;dr – Review in a GIFfy:

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I received this book for free from ALA in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Size Doesn’t Matter (78): All the Feels; The Queen of BloodThe Queen of Blood by Sarah Beth Durst
Series: The Queens of Renthia #1
Published by Harper Voyager on September 20, 2016
Genres: Fantasy, Adventure, Romance
Pages: 368
Format: ARC
Source: ALA
AmazonThe Book DepositoryAudible
Goodreads
three-half-stars

An idealistic young student and a banished warrior become allies in a battle to save their realm in this first book of a mesmerizing epic fantasy series, filled with political intrigue, violent magic, malevolent spirits, and thrilling adventure

Everything has a spirit: the willow tree with leaves that kiss the pond, the stream that feeds the river, the wind that exhales fresh snow . . .

But the spirits that reside within this land want to rid it of all humans. One woman stands between these malevolent spirits and the end of humankind: the queen. She alone has the magical power to prevent the spirits from destroying every man, woman, and child. But queens are still just human, and no matter how strong or good, the threat of danger always looms.

With the position so precarious, young women are chosen to train as heirs. Daleina, a seemingly quiet academy student, is under no illusions as to her claim to the throne, but simply wants to right the wrongs that have befallen the land. Ven, a disgraced champion, has spent his exile secretly fighting against the growing number of spirit attacks. Joining forces, these daring partners embark on a treacherous quest to find the source of the spirits’ restlessness—a journey that will test their courage and trust, and force them to stand against both enemies and friends to save their land . . . before it’s bathed in blood.

I’ve tried several Sarah Beth Durst novels in the past, and none of them really worked for me. As such, my expectations were low, but I couldn’t resist a book about Queens, okay? Of all the Durst, I’ve read/tried, The Queen of Blood easily took the top slot. I will always be here for woman-centric fantasy.

My favorite thing by far about The Queen of Blood is that it’s basically ALL about women dominating. Like, the world building is that the only people born with the magic to control the spirits, who live to kill humans, are female. Because of that, only women rule in this world. It’s rather like normal fantasy has been genderswapped, because there are very few male characters (though one is a POV character) and those men are basically all love interests for the women.

Another way that The Queen of Blood stood out for me is that the heroine, though possessed of magic, actually isn’t even close to the strongest female character. In fact, despite hard work and training, she remains the worst of the best in the country. I kept expecting her to discover that she had super special but slightly different magical talent and that never really happened. She reminds me a bit of Julius in the Heartstrikers series, in that her skill lies more in friendship and working with others.

After about the halfway point, I got pretty into The Queen of Blood. However, I can’t say it’s the strongest fantasy novel ever. Durst’s writing is decent but not outstanding. Take for example a couple of the character names: Marilinara and Tridonna. Eek. The revelation of the antagonist is a long time coming but obvious from the very start. The novel’s delightfully vicious and bloody, but the fight scenes and battles were especially hard for me to really picture. That said, I’m not the most visual reader so ymmv.

If you want to read about a bunch of murder queens in a fantasy world where women take the lead, The Queen of Blood might just be what you’re looking for.

Tl;dr – Review in a GIFfy:

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