Size Doesn’t Matter (144): Prisoner of Ice and Snow; And Then You’re Dead; Jeweled Fire

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 (144): Prisoner of Ice and Snow; And Then You’re Dead; Jeweled FirePrisoner of Ice and Snow by Ruth Lauren
Published by Bloomsbury USA Childrens on April 4, 2017
Genres: Fantasy, Adventure
Pages: 288
Format: ARC
Source: ALA
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three-half-stars

In a thrilling fantasy that’s equal parts Prison Break and Frozen, Valor attempts the impossible—breaking her sister out of prison.

When Valor is arrested, she couldn’t be happier. Demidova’s prison for criminal children is exactly where she wants to be. Valor’s sister Sasha is already serving a life sentence for stealing from the royal family and Valor is going to help her escape . . . from the inside.

Never mind that no one has escaped in three hundred years. Valor has a plan and resources most could only dream about. But she didn't count on having to outsmart both the guards and her fellow prisoners. If Valor’s plan is to succeed, she’ll need to make unlikely allies. And if the plan fails, she and Sasha could end up with fates worse than prison.

This fresh and exciting middle-grade debut effortlessly melds an unforgettable protagonist, a breathless plot, and stunning world-building—and is impossible to put down.

Middle grades are hit or miss for me, and Prisoner of Ice and Snow was a hit. The comparison marketing of Prison Break meets Frozen is hilariously misguided, but the book’s good. (Like, seriously, do kids, the target audience, give a shit about Prison Break?) Though a bit short to deliver the ideal level of feels, I read this book straight through in one sitting, and I have no regrets.

The basic plot of Prisoner of Ice and Snow is very Prison Break, though obviously the tone and duration is entirely different. Thirteen-year-old Valor gets herself arrested (by shooting an arrow at Prince Anatol) and sent to Tyur’ma, the prison for kids. Her sister Sasha was sent there for stealing a politically important music box, and Valor’s going to break her out. The plot leaves a wee bit to be desired, because everything goes really easy for our little baby teen escapees, but I didn’t really mind.

Valor has a ton of spirit, and the sisterly devotion is very sweet. There’s a really strong focus on powerful women in this book, actually. Like, this Russian-esque society (btw, the Frozen comparison is because it’s icy and snowy bc Russia—there’s no magic in this fantasy) is a queendom. Anatol actually CANNOT INHERIT THE THRONE. How awesome is that? You almost never see that, and yasss baby queens and hunters and political schemers, I love it.

The main missing thing here, aside from extra pages of plot and intricacy are the feelings. I like the whole cast quite a bit, but I was never particularly concerned for them, because the middle grade was a bit too fluffy for me to worry overly. There’s a burgeoning adorable middle grade ship, but it doesn’t ever quite get acknowledged, aside from one cute blushy scene. I’d just love to have seen that get a few pages of screen time.

Prisoner of Ice and Snow was a great two hours, and I’ll most definitely check out more Ruth Lauren. This is a fabulous debut.

Tl;dr – Review in a GIFfy:

 

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 (144): Prisoner of Ice and Snow; And Then You’re Dead; Jeweled FireAnd Then You're Dead: What Really Happens If You Get Swallowed by a Whale, Are Shot from a Cannon, or Go Barreling Over Niagara by Cody Cassidy, Paul Doherty
Narrator: Dennis Boutsikaris
Length: 5 hours
Published by Penguin Audio on April 4, 2017
Genres: Nonfiction, Humor, Science
Format: Audiobook
Source: Publisher
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two-half-stars

A gleefully gruesome look at the actual science behind the most outlandish, cartoonish, and impossible deaths you can imagine

What would happen if you took a swim outside a deep-sea submarine wearing only a swimsuit? How long could you last if you stood on the surface of the sun? How far could you actually get in digging a hole to China? Paul Doherty, senior staff scientist at San Francisco's famed Exploratorium Museum, and writer Cody Cassidy explore the real science behind these and other fantastical scenarios, offering insights into physics, astronomy, anatomy, and more along the way.

Is slipping on a banana peel really as hazardous to your health as the cartoons imply? Answer: Yes. Banana peels ooze a gel that turns out to be extremely slippery. Your foot and body weight provide the pressure. The gel provides the humor (and resulting head trauma).
Can you die by shaking someone s hand? Answer: Yes. That's because, due to atomic repulsion, you've never actually touched another person s hand. If you could, the results would be as disastrous as a medium-sized hydrogen bomb.
If you were Cookie Monster, just how many cookies could you actually eat in one sitting? Answer: Most stomachs can hold up to sixty cookies, or around four liters. If you eat or drink more than that, you re approaching the point at which the cookies would break through the lesser curvature of your stomach, and then you d better call an ambulance to Sesame Street.

In the latest of my impulsive audiobook downloads, I couldn’t resist the macabre little title, the sort of book Barnes & Noble sets by the check out to tempt people into a little last minute purchase. And Then You’re Dead starts out quite charming and amusing, but it loses steam towards the end.

The narration works well for the audiobook, and I like the concept a lot in theory. It’s basically a really amusing way for Cassidy and Doherty to educate the reader about a bunch of scientific things, while appealing to humanity’s enjoyment of the macabre. Unfortunately, they get too repetitive. Basically every single space death ends the same way, so they describe the same process repeatedly. By the end of the book, I was just waiting for it to finish so I could be done.

Tl;dr – Review in a GIFfy:

 

Size Doesn’t Matter (144): Prisoner of Ice and Snow; And Then You’re Dead; Jeweled FireJeweled Fire by Sharon Shinn
Series: Elemental Blessings #3
Published by Ace on November 3, 2017
Genres: Fantasy, Romance
Pages: 403
Format: Hardcover
Source: Library
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four-stars

The national bestselling author of Troubled Waters and Royal Airs returns to her Elemental Blessings series with the story of a young princess who will need more than blessings to survive in a kingdom where everyone will do whatever it takes to claim the throne…

As one of the four princesses of Welce, Corene always thought she might one day become queen. Only circumstances changed, leaving fiery Corene with nothing to show for a life spent playing the game of court intrigue—until a chance arises to become the ruler of a nearby country.

After stowing away on a ship bound for Malinqua with her loyal bodyguard, Foley, Corene must try to win the throne by making a play to marry one of the empress’s three nephews. But Corene is not the only foreign princess in search of a crown.

Unaccustomed to being anyone’s friend, Corene is surprised to find companionship among her fellow competitors. But behind Malinqua’s beautiful facade lie many secrets.

The visiting princesses are more hostages than guests. And as the deadly nature of the court is revealed, Corene must rely on both her new allies and Foley’s unwavering protection—for the game she has entered is far more perilous than she ever imagined…

Of the Sharon Shinn novels I’ve read thus far, Jeweled Fire is probably my least favorite, if you forced me to make that call. In other ways, though, there are aspects I love that are different from any of the others. Basically, Shinn is a fantasy queen, even if occasionally her shippy brilliance falls through.

Let’s talk about that elephant in the room first. If you’ve read the book blurb, you know that Corene’s going to end up with Foley. In a rare exception to my general rule, I actually read the jacket copy before starting the book, and I was…puzzled to say the least. But I figured that Sharon Shinn would be able to make it work, even if he and Corene had never ever had any chemistry (considering that he was holding down a job as a royal guard and she was a teenager, that’s probably a good thing).

The best I can say for this ship is that I didn’t hate it. Foley’s very nice, but I don’t particularly go for bodyguard ships; there’s something about the power dynamics there I don’t like. I mean, it’s his job to die for her, and it’s also his job to protect her and it’s messy. He’s not AS much older than her as I thought he was, but the age gap’s still fairly large. Mostly, the ship is just lacking in chemistry, which really doesn’t seem suited to the fiery Corene. I get that he exerts a steadying influence on her, but this one does not float my boat.

However, I do absolutely love Corene, and I love the plot of this book a lot. It’s the most political intrigue-y of the novels I’ve read, and it has an actual mystery the resolution of which I didn’t work out ahead of time. Also, it’s the first Shinn novel where the heroine left her culture for another, and it’s really fabulous to see more of the world.

What I love most is that Jeweled Fire is about four girls competing to try to marry the potential heir of Malinqua (who could be one of four guys) and they all become friends. It’s not an easy immediate thing, and they do scheme against one another some. The friendships form slowly, but are ultimately so touching and believable. I especially love Corene’s relationships with Liramelli and Melissande. The girls all understand the game they’re playing, and this isn’t remotely a girl hate novel. It’s beautiful, honestly.

Corene’s voice differs strongly from that of Zoe or Josetta. Corene’s more power hungry and curious, and she’s also more naive and impulsive. She’s not as nice as her mother-in-law or sister. Unlike the other two, Corene also has major insecurities, largely from having been raised by Alys. For all that she’s very young and you hear that in her voice, she’s also really good at court interactions, which shows frequently in this book. Shinn has such a brilliant way of highlighting the flaws and strengths of her heroines.

Leah’s sections left me a little bit cold. She doesn’t get too many chapters, and she’s largely a plot point (and likely there to set her up for the next book). I like Leah, but she’s much more staid (torz, duh) than Corene, and her narration pales when placed side by side with Corene’s. My attention always wandered during her sections.

Another excellent fantasy from Shinn, though very disappointing in terms of shippiness. Time to headcanon Corene meeting someone sexy and bantery in Cozique!

Tl;dr – Review in a GIFfy:

 

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2 responses to “Size Doesn’t Matter (144): Prisoner of Ice and Snow; And Then You’re Dead; Jeweled Fire”

  1. Yay, another successful Shinn! For the most part at least. I keep trying to decide whether I should read this series first or her Samaria series but I think I’ve decided on this one because angel stories don’t really do it for me.
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