Emperor of Thorns (The Broken Empire, #3)Emperor of Thorns by Mark Lawrence
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The third and final book in the Broken Empire series has the perfect end. A bitter-sweet ending actually. Which is the way I like books to end. I also needed a day to reflect and recover, which is also something I like in a book.

Oh, and before we go any further, it should be said that this series has been the most unapologetically violent series I’ve come across. Or at least it’s the most violence done for character development and story line, not cheap shock factor. Shocking it may have been in many cases, but never unfounded.

So, first and foremost, I love that Jorg, the main character, stays rock steady throughout the series. He doesn’t suddenly start doing good things just to be a redeemable character by the end. In fact, any time he does do something good, he rejects it and makes up a dishonorable motive. Jorg does his damnedest, in fact, to keep his status intact as an anti-hero. Heavy on the anti. Yet as contemptible as Jorg ensured himself to be, I ended up adoring him quite against my better judgement. But I guess that puts me in league with every other character in the book. Every time one of his allies stand with him, I wondered what they saw in him that would make them fight so hard. I figured out it’s the little moments, the times between him nuking kingdoms and slaughtering princes, that make him likable.

As for the story itself, though it jumped back and forth in time as it did in the second book, this time it didn’t confuse me. I have to commend Mark Lawrence on keeping it straight, though. There were times during the “Five Years Earlier” parts when I’d go “Oh yeah, that hasn’t happened yet,” since the “current” story line of the second book takes place after the “past” story line in this one. Like I said, commendable, since I barely made my way through that sentence.

I also loved the way magic was real and science was viewed as mystical. I had to giggle every time they would make mention of electricity or the like, since it was spoken of as “Builder magic,” a mysterious thing that was beyond reason. Though I do have to wonder why the Builders froze that poor “Custodian.” My guess is he was the lab rat. The first to get thrown into stasis.

One of the major mysteries in Emperor is the identity of the Dead King, which I figured out a little before half-way through the book, but I think I was supposed to. I mean, I think the clue I figured it out with was pretty glaring, but I’ll have to wait till my friends finish the series before I can compare notes.

I’m a little sad that there will be no more adventures with Jorg in the Broken Empire, though Lawrence gives sound reasoning for it in his note at the end. At least I’ll be able to get more stories set in the same universe with his upcoming book Prince of Fools. And if I’m lucky, I’ll get an ARC to read!

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Bitterblue (Graceling Realm, #3)Bitterblue by Kristin Cashore
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

i really liked the Graceling Realm series and was quite satisfied with its conclusion. i loved the characters and getting to see everyone from Graceling and Fire from a new perspective. Bitterblue is a good read if you can get over one flaw: the beginning. (obviously, I did, but still.)

it started very slowly with Bitterblue constantly doing nothing but signing paperwork all the time. and you have to wonder how it is that a girl of 18, who was very precocious at 10, never got curious enough in EIGHT YEARS to explore her own castle, let alone her kingdom. i’m an adult and i get curious after eight MINUTES. every time Bitterblue’s age, the amount of years passed, or how Bitterblue spent her time was mentioned, I again expected to get some kind of explanation as to what would make her so patient. I just don’t find it true to the character, as smart and strong as she is, to have been so meek for so long. especially someone who is apparently adept at knowing how how to make her advisers flustered enough to leave her be. it’s unbelievable that she never went exploring- again, in her own castle- during these respites. i think she easily could have been as ignorant and naive as was necessary for the story and still have snuck around the grounds now and again. with such overprotective advisers, it would even have made sense if she had avoided people so no one could tell on her. and it would be fitting that someone used to sneaking around her own castle for so long would finally get emboldened to venture outside her walls and be confident she could manage moving around undetected. but if you can get over that, it ends up being a fun story.

it was strange seeing characters from a different perspective. after having read from the perspective of Katsa in the first book, it’s very odd to see her from an outside view, where it wasn’t that odd to see Fire at all. i could almost fill in some of Katsa’s thoughts and feelings during her time in the tunnels, which was actually good because i wasn’t left wishing I could see that part of the story.

i feel rather bad for Po, though, during these stories. he always seems to spend the majority of the time miserable and/or bedridden. and i also feel bad for Teddy in this book. he’s pretty much everyone’s tool. he chats up a pretty girl in a pub against the wishes of his best friend, only to have said friend and the pretty girl fall in love. he gets stabbed and then gets his house partially burned down from his forgiveness and continued involvement with the pretty girl. he’s going to be the surrogate father of his lesbian sister’s baby (remember when Bitterblue wonders if he and Bren are sweet on each other, then Po later tells her about their plan?). and in the end, he gets to work two jobs because it’s out of character for him to turn down the Queen (the pretty girl) when she asks him to be head of one of her ministries.

also, i felt satisfyingly horrified whenever Leck was mentioned. i liked that he was still a frightening character a decade after his death. and i liked the big reveal about Bitterblue’s advisers. when you think they just had to do the patch up work after Leck had his fun, you already can understand why they’re so damaged. but when you find out that Leck made them do the horrible things- *winces* *shivers*- it was a surprising confession. it was weird to feel so much revulsion and pity at once.

of late, i’ve rather taken to happy endings. not sappy ones, but i kind of like when the hero/ine gets the girl/guy. though i suppose i would be complaining about a sappy, saccharine ending now if Bitterblue had ended up with Saf. and after all, it’s implied that she ends up with him down the road, anyway. so i guess that’s ok.