Thursday, January 28, 2016

Movie Review: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe

The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe

Recommended for: Ages 8 to Adult (younger if familiar with book)

Rating: PG (for battle sequences and frightening moments)

Join Lucy, Edmund, Susan and Peter, four siblings who step through a magical wardrobe and find the land of Narnia. There, they discover a charming, once-peaceful kingdom that has been plunged into eternal winter by the evil White Witch, Jadis. Aided by the magnificent lion Aslan, the children lead Narnia into a tremendous, climactic battle to be free of the Witch's glacial powers forever!

This will ever and always be my favorite movie. Since I first saw it about ten years ago, I have seen it enough times to unintentionally memorize the entire film, and yet it never gets old. The magic of Narnia is always new, always beautiful, and the depth of the story, the true meaning behind it, it always fills me with awe, no matter which format of the story I'm experiencing. Last weekend, watching it because the snow we received reminded me all day of Narnia, was no different. I love every second, and I always come away with something new.

Technical: 5/5

This film was excellently made. It was Disney. They do the best work. The attention to detail is amazing. The roots of the lamppost, the carvings on the wardrobe that tell the story of The Magician's Nephew, the costumes (all of which I absolutely love), how real and lived in both Mr. Tumnus and the beavers' houses are, the way the White Witch's ice crown melts throughout the movie, it's brilliant. The acting is fantastic. Something that really stuck out to me this time around was the interaction between Peter (William Mosely) and Lucy (Georgie Henley). It was just so real. Will made you believe that he really was Georgie's big brother. The little gestures, like how he takes her hand to help her along, how he is always taking care of her, pay attention to that next time. You can't beat acting like that. It was very well written as well. While I could complain about forced dialogue in The Voyage of the Dawn Treader (2010), there is no call for that in this film. There are a few changes I wish they hadn't made, but even so, it is quite a faithful adaptation, one of Disney's best. Gotta mention the music. I love it to pieces. After all, it's the soundtrack that started my continuing addiction to film score.

Setting: 4.8/5

I personally think they did a superb job of creating Narnia for the screen. I only deducted a bit of a point because I decided I didn't like the way they did the dryads. It's cool having them materialize out of flower petals, but it's not how they're described in the book, nor is it consistent with their portrayal in Prince Caspian. And while someone inevitably says that the White Witch's castle wasn't that close to Beaversdam in the book, they didn't really condense it all that much. According to the map, it's not as far as you would think. It's all in Lantern Waste. Knowing the history of Narnia, they were able to really dig in deep and portray it, like with the lamppost. The Stone Table, Beruna, the breathtaking Castle of Cair Paravel, it's all perfect. Faithful to the book. 

Plot: 4.8/5

As I said before, there are a few things I wish they hadn't changed, though overall, I think they did a spectacular job of adapting the book. I don't mind them adding more battle, I don't mind Lucy first entering Narnia during hide-and-seek, I don't mind the added river scene, I don't even mind the upped tension. I do wish they hadn't cut so much of Aslan breathing life back into the statues at the Witch's Castle, I think having them run after breaking the window wasn't such a good idea, and having the Witch sit down after Aslan roars at her isn't nearly as effective as having her run out of the camp. But even with the changes, it is a most powerful story. I've talked about it before, in my Friday Favorite about the book. It never ceases to amaze me. All the parallels! Edmund was so nasty. He was cruel to Lucy, he betrayed his family without a thought, and yet, Aslan gave up His life to save him. It's such a picture of the True Story. Just as Edmund had to die for his treachery, we have to die for our sins. Just as Aslan gave up his life that Edmund might live, Jesus gave up His life that we might be redeemed. And just as Aslan came back to life to bring hope and salvation to Narnia, Jesus came back to life to bring hope and salvation to us. And as Aslan says in Dawn Treader, "This was the very reason why you were brought to Narnia, that by knowing me here for a little, you may know me better there."

Character Development: 5/5

Spectacular. Fantastic. The characters were well developed in the books and, while they strayed from the book in this department as in others in Prince Caspian, they were quite accurate in this one. Susan is, perhaps, slightly more skeptical than in the book, and the beavers are a bit more, um, interesting, but the children and Mr. Tumnus and Aslan and the Witch, they were so well done. I could go into each character individually and their characteristics and how they were portrayed, but I'm not here to write a book on the subject, and I need to finish this review. But Peter, Susan, Edmund, and Lucy were so real and accurately portrayed and well acted. Also worth mentioning is the Professor. There's a bit more to him than in the book, but considering we know his backstory when C.S. Lewis had yet to make it up when writing this book, I'm very glad of the little things they threw in to the way he reacted to what the children said about Narnia.

I will always love Narnia. It will always touch my heart. It will always help me to see and understand things I haven't before. It will always have a special place in my heart.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Book Review: The Blades of Acktar: Deny

The Blades of Acktar: Deny by Tricia Mingerink

Recommended For: Ages 13 to Adult

Rating: PG-13 (for violence and thematic content)

All lies have consequences.

Promoted to top rank among King Respen's assassins, First Blade Leith Torren hides his involvement with the Resistance. How many lies will it take to protect his secret?

Renna Faythe has done nothing but survive for the past four years, but now Leith's courage inspires her to something more. If only she could figure out what that duty might be. 

When the unthinkable happens, faith wavers. Friendships tear. What else will they be forced to deny?

But this time, Leith faces his greatest fear.

He can't save everyone.

Oh, my goodness. I don't know if I've read a more intense book. It's hard to say whether a lot of horrible stuff happens to the characters, but the

Writing: 4.9/5
The only complaint I have is typos. There were less of them than in the first book, but they were still there, mainly missing or misplaced commas and places where I suspected words were missing. Other than that, the writing was superb. And by that I mean, it didn't pull me out of the story at all, because other than that, I didn't notice a thing about the writing. I was too engrossed in the writing.

Setting: 5/5
It's the same setting as before. I still am not quite sure whether it's supposed to be in a fantasy world or an unspecified medieval time (I'm leaning towards the fantasy world), but honestly, I didn't even care. The story was way too important to worry about that sort of thing. Other than that, though, the setting and descriptions were honestly great. They were very well-written and gave me just the right amount of detail to paint a clear picture in my mind.

Plot: 5/5
So. Intense. Seriously, my heart was pounding throughout the whole book. It was It was a really good plot. I really don't know what to say. It was really really good, but intense, and not exactly the happiest ending and Leith's gonna die and...yeah. It was amazing.

Character Development: 5/5
Did I mention these characters are amazing? They're so true to life. I loved Renna's character arch, and of course Leith. It'll be really nice when they finally get together. Brandi was just as amazing as ever, and I loved the addition of Jamie. There wasn't as much Shadrach as I would have liked, but hopefully in the next book. And King Respen. Wow. He's dangerous, that's for certain. I hate what happened to Uncle Abel and Aunt Mara, but among all the other things that happened, it hasn't really sunk in yet. Also Lord Alistair... Anyway. I guess I can mourn later. The characters were just as good in this book, if not better.

I could say so much more good stuff about this amazing book, but I should probably stop here before I go on a rant about how good it was. And I really, really, really need Book 3. Will it come out soon? Please?

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Movie Review: Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

Rating: PG (for quirky situations, action, and mild language)

Recommended for: All Ages

What wonders await you in Willy Wonka's factory? Explore fields of soft minty sugar grass in the Chocolate Room...Sail along the the Chocolate River in a pink sugar boat...Experiment with Everlasting Gobstoppers in the Inventing Room...Observe talented squirrels in the Nut Room and travel to the Television Room by a glass elevator. You'll find a lot that's funny, a little that's mysterious...and an adventure as sweet and satisfying as a Wonka Whipple-Scrumptious Fudgemallow Delight bar. This dazzling film adapted from Roald Dahl's classic children's novel, directed by Tim Burton and starring Johnny Depp and Freddie Highmore, is your Golden Ticket to a world so inventive, so imaginative, you won't want to miss a delicious moment!

 I like the newer movie better than the old one because the new one is closer to the book. I remember being excited about this movie coming out and seeing pictures from their filming.

Technical: 4/5

 The Chocolate factory is amazing especially the Chocolate room. All the different kinds of candy look delicious. They were also able to do the chocolate palace, which looked realistic. The acting was done well and they all fit their characters' different personalities well. The story flows well even with a completely added storyline, where there are flashbacks. The funny thing is that they make fun of characters suddenly having flashbacks.

Setting: 4/5

  There are many places in this movie, the main place being the factory. The factory is all about candy and there is a chocolate river with a candy boat, an inventing room, and many other places that you just get glimpses of. It never says where Charlie lives but his house sticks out from everything else and is in terrible condition. Violet lives in Atlanta and the street that she lives on looked like it was in Atlanta. There are couple of other places such as a jungle. The Chocolate room is probably my favorite setting.


 There are things in this story that just don't make sense or are never explained but since it is a based on a Roald Dahl book, it is to be expected. The story is about a poor boy who tries to get one of the five golden tickets and go into the mysterious Chocolate factory. One of the children will win something big. There is a Willy Wonka backstory that is added and the very end is changed because of it. The end of the book leads right into the sequel, so the change is understandable. 

Characters: 4/5

 While they are not the most realistic, they are very interesting. Four of the children who got golden tickets are brats who get punished for their greedy behavior. Charlie is the only good child and his grandfather, who previously only laid in bed all day, is excited about the chance to see the factory and gets out of bed. Willy Wonka is a weird character who does not like his father and is surprised that Charlie likes his family more then candy.

 This is more of a fun movie and is one of Roald Dahl's better stories and I would recommend it. 

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Book Review: Surprised by Joy

The Shire Reviews schedule has been amended to two posts a week, book review on Tuesday and movie review on Thursday. Unfortunately, one can only think of old favorite stories for so long before running out. :(

Surprised by Joy by C.S. Lewis

Recommended for: Ages 15 to Adult (mentions of sinful behavior by the other boys at school, and mentions of certain temptations)

"A young man who wishes to remain a sound Atheist cannot be too careful of his reading. There are traps everywhere . . . God is, if I may say it, very unscrupulous."

This book is not an autobiography. It is not a confession. It is, however, certainly one of the most beautiful and insightful accounts of a person coming to faith. Here, C.S. Lewis takes us from his childhood in Belfast through the loss of his mother, to boarding school and a youthful atheism in England, to the trenches of World War I, and then to Oxford, where he studied, read, and, ultimately, reasoned his way back to God. It is perhaps this aspect of Surprised by Joy that we—believers and nonbelievers—find most compelling and meaningful; Lewis was searching for joy, for an elusive and momentary sensation of glorious yearning, but he found it, and spiritual life, through the use of reason. In this highly personal, thoughtful, intelligent memoir, Lewis guides us toward joy and toward the surprise that awaits anyone who seeks a life beyond the expected.

Many years ago, I read the first few chapters of this book as research for a speech on C.S. Lewis. I simply didn't have time to read the whole thing then, but I think I'm glad I waited until now. I don't think I would have quite understood the purpose of the book in the frame of mind I was in at the time, and without having read The Pilgrim's Regress.

Lewis covers his childhood much in the way that any man might cover his childhood in an autobiography, relating the general atmospheres of his home and schools, notable events, and particular memories. But he also has a slightly different focus. He always tells of the flashes of what he called Joy, sharply distinguished from both Happiness and Pleasure, a thing which becomes more apparent as the book progresses. Having just come out of The Pilgrim's Regress, an allegorical representation of Lewis's journey to Christianity, I recognized his Joy as the real life basis for John's Island. I would recommend reading those two books one right after the other, though I'm not sure if the way I happened to do it is best, or if you'd be better going the other way around.

His school experience was interesting. His first boarding school was terrible in basically every way, his second not so bad, though he was bullied somewhat, and his time at that school did not last long. Wyvern is why I give an age caution on the book. While he was never involved himself, he does address the fact that there was some homosexuality between the older and younger boys. Yet during his time at Wyvern, despite how horrible it was, he managed to find Joy through the books he discovered.

Post school is really where he starts focusing on the specifics that affected his religion. He called himself a reluctant convert, and it's easy to see throughout this book how that was so. But it's also easy to see how inescapable God's calling is. Lewis resisted, but it is impossible to ignore that God was calling him. Even which authors he discovered point back to God's calling.

What I find interesting is how logical Lewis was. He really thought things through. It may be more difficult to see in his fiction, but it's very apparent in his nonfiction. And logically, he could not make himself adhere to his teenage and young adult atheism. "A young man who wishes to remain a sound Atheist cannot be too careful of his reading." This was certainly true in Lewis's case. And it was very interesting to see how someone with Lewis's background could grow to become one of the most influential Christian writers of his time.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Movie Review: Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Recommended For: Ages 8 to Adult

Rating: PG-13 (for sci-fi action violence)

Thirty years after the defeat of Darth Vader and the Empire, Rey, a scavenger from the planet Jakku, finds a BB-8 droid that knows the whereabouts of the long-lost Luke Skywalker. Rey, as well as a rogue stormtrooper and two space smugglers, are thrown into the middle of a battle between the Resistance and the daunting legions of the First Order.

As C-3PO would say it, Oh, my goodness gracious me. I mean, wow. I thought Disney buying Star Wars was a big disaster sure not to end well. Turns out, it was the best thing that could have ever happened to it. Oh my word, it was awesome.

Technical: 5/5

I had no doubt that the technical part of the movie would be done right. And Disney didn't let me down. It was amazing (now in high-definition!) Plus, I loved all the subtle throwbacks even in this aspect to the Original Trilogy (the best trilogy). It really had a more Original Trilogy feel, which I loved.

Setting: 5/5
It's pretty obvious what the setting is: A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away... Other than that connection, though, there aren't really many settings that are repeated from the first six movies other than the Millennium Falcon. Contrary to what the trailers lead you to believe, Rey is never on Tatooine in the movie. The desert she is shown in is actually on the planet Jakku. That being said, the settings were superb and built really well.

Plot: 5/5
Oh, my word. This is where I knew the movie would fly or fail, and boy, did it fly. Actually it flew me away from the theater and jumped into hyperspace with me an unwilling prisoner, but anyway. The plot was so good and amazing and...horribly emotional. The event that propels the main character into the climax, when the bad guy kills you-know-who, was horrible and awful, and yet not extraneous at all. (Darn you, Disney!) The plot was so well-done, not only in the individual story, but also in contributing to the over-arching series arc. Very well done.

Character Development: 5/5
I knew from the start this part would probably be good. I wasn't wrong. The screenwriters did a really good job of not only bringing along old characters and maturing them realistically, but also introducing new characters we have now fallen in love with just as much. I sincerely like Rey, Finn, and Poe (oh, my goodness, Poe, his sense of humor is gold) and I can't wait to see more of them. Han and Chewie were amazing, as was Leia, and may I mention Rey again? She was amazing. And then there's the monster Kylo Ren, who is wonderfully well done and yet I hate him to pieces. And then there's Supreme Leader Snoke. I can't wait to see him develop more throughout, and the fact that he's played by Andy Serkis (a guy who plays an amazing villain) makes me excited.

In short, this may possibly be the best Star Wars movie yet. (I know, shocking, right?) It also claims the title of the first movie ever to make me cry. So go watch it. Fly along in the Millennium Falcon and get your heart ripped out. There will be tears. Oh, and don't try to watch it if you haven't seen the Original Trilogy, otherwise it won't even make the least bit of sense. But unless you really want to, you don't have to suffer through the bad acting and writing in the Prequel Trilogy if you want to see this movie. So go watch the new Star Wars! Trust me, you won't regret it.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Book Review: Redeemed

Redeemed by Margaret Peterson Haddix

Recommended for: Ages 8 and up.

Rating: PG (violence)

 Jonah’s new twin must time travel and face off against his siblings’ worst enemy in order to save the future—and his family—in the eighth and final book of the New York Times bestselling The Missing series, which Kirkus Reviews calls “plenty of fun and great for history teachers as well.”

After traveling through history multiple times and finding out his original identity, Jonah thought he’d fixed everything. But some of his actions left unexpected consequences. His parents—and many other adults—are still stuck as teenagers. And now Jonah has a new sibling, an identical twin brother named Jordan.

As odd as all this is for Jonah, it’s beyond confusing for Jordan. How does everyone in his family have memories of Jonah when he doesn’t? How can his annoying kid sister Katherine speak so expertly about time travel—and have people from the future treating her with respect? A few rash moves by Jordan send them all into the future—and into danger. What if he’s also the only one who can get them back to safety, once and for all?

 This is the last book in The Missing Series and it was a good conclusion. It was confusing but not nearly as confusing as number seven.

  Writing: 4/5
 This book, unlike all the others, is from Jordan's point of view. Haddix was very good at making everything that is familiar to the readers be brand new for Jordan, who has never experienced these types of things before. This book is always exciting and there were some twists that I didn't expect. There were several typos and I think that there was the wrong name at one point. The reading level is great for the target audience.  

 Setting: 5/5

 In this book they go to the future, but you don't get to find out much about what it is like. It is also not specific about when in the future they go. When in the future the only places they go are a hospital and to the Interchronological Rescue's building where they visit a lab and the offices. There is also Jordan's home where some strange things are happening, but other than that it is a normal home.

Plot: 4/5

 This book starts out with a scene from book number seven, just from a different point of view. The story follows Jordan who is completely confused with everything that is going on. He decides to do something about it when he gets annoyed at people talking about the situation. Throughout the story he is trying to figure out how he can help his parents, while still learning about time travel. There was one part where the villain told what his plan was, which helped them to know what they needed to do to defeat him.

Characters: 5/5

 The old characters, such as Katherine and Jonah, have grown so much over the series to become much more grown up. Jordan keeps expecting Katherine to act like her old self and is surprised by her change. Jordan is rash at the beginning of the book but even he grows. The villain is trying to get a secret that will get him more money. You get to see the younger version of a former character, who is mad about his life but is very smart.

I love this series, especially number 5 and 6, and I would recommend it to people of all ages. I only recommend this books if you have read all of the previous books.

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Movie Review: Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Star Wars: The Force Awakens


Recommended For: Ages 8 to Adult

Rating: PG-13 (for sci-fi action violence)

Thirty years after the defeat of Darth Vader and the Empire, Rey, a scavenger from the planet Jakku, finds a BB-8 droid that knows the whereabouts of the long-lost Luke Skywalker. Rey, as well as a rogue stormtrooper and two space smugglers, are thrown into the middle of a battle between the Resistance and the daunting legions of the First Order.

I used to be a huge Star Wars fan. I loved the saga. Then I fell out of it for awhile (long story). I didn't care all that much. When Disney bought Lucasfilm in 2012, it came back into my attention, somewhat. I knew they were going to make more movies, but I didn't really think they'd be any good. Especially when I heard that one of the films they wanted to make was a Han Solo prequel (which I've now decided I'm interested in). I thought the Disney Star Wars movies would either be really good or really bad, if I thought about it at all. 

When the trailers started coming out, I began to be interested. It looked like a pretty cool movie, but I was still apprehensive (this from a girl who doesn't understand why Jar Jar Binks is so hated). We rewatched the movies, out of order, part of the time showing them to a friend who had somehow never seen any of them. I started to remember how I loved the story. And I started to get hyped up about The Force Awakens. I couldn't help it. Movie excitement is catching. I got super excited about it when I made some kids' Star Wars costumes for the premier. And then when practically everyone we knew said it was fantastic and amazing and a must see, I knew I HAD to see it. I was very excited. Armed with a Carmike Cinemas gift card, I went to the theater prepared to be amazed. It did not disappoint. Unless you count the fact that it ended and Episode VIII doesn't come out until May 2017. EDIT: The release date has since been moved back to December of 2017. :(

Technical: 5/5

It was the best made Star Wars movie of all time. The other movies have their technical faults, poor CGI, bad acting, dialogue the actors complained about, etc., but this had none of that. Technology is at the point where CGI doesn't have to look like CGI, and Disney isn't going to let their actors do a bad job. JJ Abrams is a FAR better director than George Lucas. (IMO, Lucas should have brought Spielburg on to direct the way he did for Indiana Jones.) Disney knows how to do a movie right. Yet, they were extremely careful to keep the same feel to the movie as the originals and the prequels. From the beginning crawler to the transitions to the star destroyers and x-wing fighters, this movie LOOKS like a Star Wars movie. And John Williams's score is as superb as ever. It seamlessly weaves old themes with new, creating a brilliant masterpiece of music. And ALL THE REFERENCES. This was a movie made by fans of the original FOR fans of the original, to be sure.

Setting: 4/5

I'm only deducting a point because the theology of the Force isn't exactly Christian. I'm not going to give a treatise on that, you can find it in the Cosmic Humanist section of Understanding the Times if you're interested. But there was rather less of a lesson on it than in previous movies, which is kind of what I expected from Disney. The settings were great. It flowed naturally from the worldbuilding of all the previous movies, despite introducing new planets. I don't think any old ones were revisited. (Rey is on Jakku, not Tatooine, apparently the galaxy has more than one desert planet.) Lots of old ships were there, star destroyers, x-wing fighters, TIE fighters, the Millennium Falcon. If I hadn't been sitting in a packed movie theater, I would have squealed out loud when Rey called it "garbage." The most amazing thing about the movie is that the Falcon's hyperdrive worked every time. ;) I wasn't sure how I'd like the introduction of a new model of droid, but BB-8 is a fantastic little droid.

Plot: 4.5/5

They did borrow a good bit from the original, but they did it so fantastically I didn't mind one bit. I have heard a person or two complain about that, but I've also heard people praise it for all its throwbacks to the original movie. So it's really a matter of opinion. And despite the throwbacks to original material, it has a TON of new material as well. It opens up so many new storylines, asks so many new questions, preps the viewer for an unfolding story that can't possibly be told in less than a full trilogy. I have to be careful what I say, because I'm sure there are SOME people who have managed to not see it yet, and for the sake of that small population, I want to do my best not to spoil it, but it was great. I imagine it's a very similar experience to that of the people who saw the first one in theaters, thrown into a new world with new characters, trying to sort out what in the world is going on, while the twists and turns confuse and amaze us. Only we have the advantage of knowing the backstory of the galaxy, and having a few old friends turn up here and there. Han and Chewie get the most screen time of the old characters, but R2, 3PO, Leia, and Luke do make appearances (and Luke is NOT the bad guy. For any of you who might be wondering). It was so good.

Character Development: 5/5

My sisters and I kept saying, the movie may be terrible, but the characters will be well developed because it's Disney and they develop their characters well. We were half right. The movie was not terrible, but the characters were well developed. I'd like to know more of Poe Dameron, I liked what I saw of him. Finn and Rey, though. Oh my goodness. They're the best. Finn is pretty awesome. The trailer shows many shots of him in a stormtrooper uniform, so I don't think it's really a spoiler that he is one. But he's different. The First Order doesn't use clones anymore, but they do condition kids from birth. You can see that in Finn, how they've inflicted simplicity of mind on him (it mostly just comes off as immaturity), but how much ability he has to overcome it as well. He definitely matures throughout the film. And he's so funny! I love him. And there's Rey. I love her. She's a strong girl and she can take care of herself, but she didn't come across as a "girls can do anything guys can" kind of girl to me. More as a survivor who hasn't had anyone to protect her, so she'd rather watch her own back than trust someone else to do it for her. But she isn't the sort who doesn't make friends easily either. Her friendship with Finn is the best. And they're clearly not related, so no twins revelation to sink that ship, Amanda. ;) I want to know who her parents are. I still think she's Luke's daughter. I enjoyed seeing Han and Chewie again. I'm not a huge Han fan, but he's matured since the originals. He's an old man who's seen a lot since then, after all. Kylo Ren. I hate that guy. I want redemption for him so bad, but he's such a monster. I can't stand it. But I want to see more of him.

I'm probably coming to the party way late with this review. Most everyone who wanted to see it probably saw it before I did, and that was a little more than a week ago. But if you've been living alone on Tattooine hiding from the First Order, get yourself to the movie theater and see how the Resistance fights back. Old fan or new fan, it's a movie you won't want to miss. I would love to see it again in theaters. I have to keep reminding myself that Captain America: Civil War is coming out in 5 months and how awesome it will be to see it for only $2.18 if I'll just save the rest of that gift card...

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Book Review: Dare

The Blades of Acktar: Dare by Tricia Mingerink

Recommended For: Ages 13 to Adult

Rating: PG-13 (for violence and thematic content)

Courage could cost him everything.

Third Blade Leith Torren never questions his orders or his loyalty to King Respen until an arrow wound and a prairie blizzard drive him to the doorstep of the girls whose family he once destroyed.

Their forbidden faith and ties to the Resistance could devastate their family a second time.

Survival depends on obedience, but freedom beckons. How far does he dare go to resist the king and his Blades? No matter what Leith chooses, one thing is certain.

Someone will die.

 I need the next book. Can I please have the next book? Actually, I need to get around to actually buying it with the gift card I got for Christmas. In the meantime, my sister and I both wanted to review Star Wars, but I need to review this book first, so here goes...

Writing: 4.8/5

The writing was mostly amazing. There were a couple of times I got tripped up over badly structured sentences, missing commas, and typos (seriously, what is it with people and commas? They exist for a reason, you know). But I just reminded myself the book was the author's first. And really, I never would have guessed it was her first if I hadn't known.

Setting: 4/5

The setting was really good, nice descriptions, well-developed, would have been really nice had I been able to tell whether this was supposed to be a fantasy world or a made-up country back in the medieval time period. Given all the talk about Daniel and King Nebuchadnezzar and such, I just didn't have a clue. Hence the missing point. Maybe in the second book...

Plot: 5/5

Gah, I need the next one. Sorry, distractions. The plot was good. I was kind of surprised SPOILER a good guy didn't die END SPOILER given the back description, but I'm not counting on that immunity in the next book. And, honestly, I think if I had to write a back cover description for this book, I would end up tearing my hair out. It is an awesome book with an awesome plot, but so hard to describe. Savvy? (Sorry, I just watched Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End and it rubbed off.)

Character Development: 5/5

I JUST LOVED LEITH AND RENNA AND I MUST HAVE MORE OF THEM. Anyway. I guess you can tell I liked them. They still don't rate quite as high as Jace and Kyrin from Ilyon Chronicles, but I still think I could end up fangirling over them. Leith and Renna and Brandi (oh, my goodness, Brandi) and Shad and everyone else, and just wow. And the bad guy gives me shivers. Tricia Mingerink has stellar characters and I can't wait to read more about them.

Wait, what are you still doing here? Go read this book now! (And no, you can't borrow my copy. It is my precious.) Trust me, you won't regret reading this book. I guarantee it.

Now I'm off to write a review of the new Star Wars movie, because Morgan can't have all the fun.