I’ve fallen into a semi reading slump lately where all the books I’ve read have been entirely unsatisfying, so since I didn’t want to post 3 more lengthy reviews on books I didn’t enjoy all that much, I’ve regrouped my feelings on Curse of the Sphinx, Throne of Glass, and More Happy Than Not into this handy little post.
Curse of the Sphinx by Raye Wagner
How long can a monster stay hidden in plain sight?
Seventeen-year-old Hope Nicholas has spent her entire life on the run. But no one is chasing her. In fact, no one even knows she exists. With her mom, she’s traveled from town to town and school to school, barely staying long enough to meet anyone, let alone make friends. And she’ll have to keep it that way. It’s safer.
When her mother is brutally ripped away from her, Hope’s life shatters. Is this the fulfillment of Apollo’s curse, murder from the shadow monsters of the Underworld, or have the demigods finally found her? Orphaned and alone, Hope flees again, but this time there’s no one to teach her who to trust—or how to love.
Set in a universe where mythology is alive and well in the modern world, Curse of the Sphinx irresistibly blends action, suspense, and romance.
I’ll admit I went into Curse of the Sphinx only knowing that it contained a lot of elements of Greek mythology and completely blind to the plot, so maybe this played a part in why I wasn’t starstruck by it. When I finished the book, I was incredibly underwhelmed; it didn’t live up to the few reviews I’d read of it and the romance gave me creepy Twilight vibes, which did not help. That was my chief problem with this book, actually, since Athan straight up stalks Hope, which she even calls him out on (!!!), he doesn’t respect her feelings about being in social situations for too long (as someone who also gets overwhelmed by too much socialising, this is such a dick move. Stop.), and then he completely flips out on her for lying even though he’s no saint himself. I liked Hope a bit more than Athan since she’s way more critical of the situations she finds herself in than a lot of YA heroines, and she actually thinks before acting (another rarity), but she’s not perfect since she still falls for Athan (despite the stalking, which she asked him to stop, and he didn’t; do you see my pb???).
Throne of Glass by Sarah. J. Mass
After serving out a year of hard labor in the salt mines of Endovier for her crimes, 18-year-old assassin Celaena Sardothien is dragged before the Crown Prince. Prince Dorian offers her her freedom on one condition: she must act as his champion in a competition to find a new royal assassin.
Her opponents are men-thieves and assassins and warriors from across the empire, each sponsored by a member of the king’s council. If she beats her opponents in a series of eliminations, she’ll serve the kingdom for four years and then be granted her freedom. Celaena finds her training sessions with the captain of the guard, Westfall, challenging and exhilarating. But she’s bored stiff by court life. Things get a little more interesting when the prince starts to show interest in her… but it’s the gruff Captain Westfall who seems to understand her best.
Then one of the other contestants turns up dead… quickly followed by another. Can Celaena figure out who the killer is before she becomes a victim? As the young assassin investigates, her search leads her to discover a greater destiny than she could possibly have imagined.
Throne of Glass is one of those books that everyone seems to love and yet I didn’t (please don’t crucify me). I have a lot of issues with it, chief amongst which was how out of place the story was in its universe. Rather than reading like a fantasy quest, it followed the standard YA-school-fantasy set up:
- The MC is thrust, often against their will, into a new school that they can’t leave
- The MC follows their lessons, which are described in detail at first before being glossed over (here: The first few Trials are meticulously described and then it turns into this: “two weeks have passed in which she passed two more Tests”)
- The MC realises something mysterious is going on with the school but the authority figures aren’t as concerned (Dorian and Supposedly-Great-Captain-Of-The-Royal-Guard-Chaol think that the first few disembowelment are the result of a drunken brawl. Really?? Are you serious??? My 13-year-old sister does better investigative work than that…).
- The MC befriends the “outcast” (I realise this doesn’t happen in every school-fantasy but female main characters are often shunned by the popular girls).
- The MC realises they like the school after all (this is usually done when they’re given a chance to freedom and decide to stay).
- The MC investigates on their own and gains an understanding of the general picture fairly quickly.
- The MC falsely accuses someone who is actually just trying to help.
- Turns out the MC is a special snowflake which comes in handy during the climax when they have to battle whatever force of evil they’re up against.
(let me know if I missed any, I’m pretty sure I got them all)
Now, don’t get me wrong, I love reading this kind of plot but not when it’s unnecessarily disguised as high fantasy. I had to constantly remind myself of the setting, which did the book no favours. Had the plot been engaging, or the characters even remotely interesting, I may have been able to forgive this, but they weren’t. C (let’s call her that because I don’t remember how to spell her name) reminded me of a snobby, pushover chipmunk on redbull what with her attention span barely lasting more than 3s, Dorian was a complete dick (he did go to C’s rooms one time with the intention of mocking her, and then he creepily watched her sleep. Charming.), Chaol is completely incompetent inconsistent as a character since he goes from hating C with a passion to having feelings for her for no reason?? Don’t get me wrong, I love, and I mean love, the enemies-to-lovers trope but this is not it, and it made their relationship feel very forced.
More Happy Than Not by Adam Silvera
In the months after his father’s suicide, it’s been tough for 16-year-old Aaron Soto to find happiness again–but he’s still gunning for it. With the support of his girlfriend Genevieve and his overworked mom, he’s slowly remembering what that might feel like. But grief and the smile-shaped scar on his wrist prevent him from forgetting completely.
When Genevieve leaves for a couple of weeks, Aaron spends all his time hanging out with this new guy, Thomas. Aaron’s crew notices, and they’re not exactly thrilled. But Aaron can’t deny the happiness Thomas brings or how Thomas makes him feel safe from himself, despite the tensions their friendship is stirring with his girlfriend and friends. Since Aaron can’t stay away from Thomas or turn off his newfound feelings for him, he considers turning to the Leteo Institute’s revolutionary memory-alteration procedure to straighten himself out, even if it means forgetting who he truly is.
Why does happiness have to be so hard?
More Happy Than Not was the March pick in the Fanboy Book Club (which makes this review quite late) and it really put me at odds with myself. On Goodreads I’ve given it 1 star but it’s a lot more nuanced than that: On the one hand, I didn’t like it, I wouldn’t go so far as to sayI hated it, but it definitely irritated me while I read it and left a bad taste in my mouth once I was done with it. I didn’t enjoy the interactions between different characters (I nearly threw my phone out of the window after one too many ‘no homo’s, that’s a phrase I never want to hear again at this point) while the ending left me feeling completely unsatisfied (which was entirely the point but I don’t read for an unsatisfying resolution, I have enough of that in real life). That being said, I also recognise that it’s well written, with realistic situations/characters, and a plot that took me completely by surprise. There were parts of the book that I really liked, and the message it conveys is really important, but that wasn’t enough to change my overall opinion of the book.
Have you read any of these books? What are your thoughts on them?