Something Dark and Holy Trilogy: Character Analysis

Amazon.com: Wicked Saints: A Novel (Something Dark and Holy, 1):  9781250195661: Duncan, Emily A.: Books

Overview:

The book series, Something Dark and Holy (shortened to SD+H), is a dark fantasy trilogy written by Emily A. Duncan. The whole series revolves around a cleric by the name Nadya Lapteva. Her character is particularly interesting in the way she grows over the course of the series. Here’s some quick background information first. The series takes place in medieval Eastern Europe and follows Slavic mythology. Her country, Kalyazi, has been at war with Tranavia for centuries. The main difference between the two is that Kalyazi has clerics, individuals who can communicate directly with gods, while the Tranavians do not follow the gods and use blood magic. Nadya finds herself as the last remaining Cleric and last remaining hope to end the war. Fair warning, this will contain spoilers.

Wicked Saints:

Amazon.com: Ruthless Gods: A Novel (Something Dark and Holy, 2):  9781250195692: Duncan, Emily A.: Books

In the beginning of the first book Nadya is a very timid girl. As the last cleric, she has been constantly protected and on the move. This, of course, leads to problems. In the first half of the book, she is separated from her countrymen and meets Malachiasz. He is a Tranavian who claims he was exiled from his country. Nadya sees him as a lost boy, pities him, and eventually agrees to travel with him. Malachiasz uses this story in order to gain her trust and lead her into the capital of Tranavia. Throughout this part of the novel, Nadya’s gods try to communicate with her and warn her. However, she ignores them. 

Around the middle of the novel, Malachiasz begins to show his true colors. However, Nadya is still too naïve and blindly in love with him. Nadya’s character continues down this path until the final chapter of the novel. In the last half of the book, Malachiasz admits he was never exiled. He only brought Nadya to Tranavia because she contained the power to turn him into a god. Nadya is absolutely torn and heartbroken with this betrayal. She not only lost the only boy she ever loved, but now her gods won’t even speak to her.

Ruthless Gods and Blessed Monsters

Amazon.com: Blessed Monsters: A Novel (Something Dark and Holy, 3):  9781250195722: Duncan, Emily A.: Books

In the beginning of the second novel, it is revealed that Nadya has fallen into a deep depression. She was in solitude for nearly a year before she decided to try and track down Malachiasz; he now has the power of a god and was terrorizing her home country. Her depression disappears when she finally finds him and tries to work out problems. This is where Nadya’s character truly emerges. She gains strength, bravery and grows in power. She becomes her own character as she makes the discovery that her magic doesn’t come from her gods, but rather herself. By the end of the series her character is nearly unrecognizable from the first novel.

I highly recommend this series if you like a strong female protagonist and lots of character development. 

-Michelle L.

The Scourge by Jennifer A. Nielsen

My Mom found this book in a book shop a little while ago. I had just finished reading the False Prince that was also by Jennifer A. Nielsen and I had been looking for another book in the same series. Since I enjoyed the False Prince, my Mom had given me this book and I had decided to read it. 

In The Scourge, by Jennifer A. Nielsen, Ani Mells has gotten herself in trouble and is encountering a series of problems. Ani is a River Person who is less better off than what their people would call, the “pinch worms”. Ani seems to have caught the Scourge; the sickness that has spread across the country of Keldan. It is highly contagious and supposedly incurable. Ani is sent to the Colony, where all the Scourge victims are put and to be left for their demise. Weevil, Ani’s best friend, and Della, a pinch worm, are all on the Colony together. During her time on the island, Ani finds something suspicious going on on the island, and she plans to get to the end of it and make everything better. 

This book was wonderful. At first, I was reminded of COVID since a big part of the plot was about a virus that was hard to cure. The farther I read, however, I realized that that wasn’t the case. The story had a huge twist at the end of the book that had a great build up. And throughout the story, there were more surprising events. They were definitely unexpected to me. There was great character development; especially from Ani. Ani’s confidence levels grew, and so did her leadership. But all characters had character development. Even the smallest of side characters had character development. 

I believe that this book was the second Jennifer Nielsen book I’ve read and it definitely didn’t disappoint me. It’s an enjoyable book that isn’t super long, so you can finish it quickly. I would definitely recommend this book to other readers.

-Nicole R. 

The Scourge by Jennifer Nielsen is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library.

Crier’s War by Nina Varela

The War of Kinds had brought destruction upon the human race and prosperity to the Automa. Because of this war, resentment spread across the races, both knowing their loathing for each other but never explicitly stating it to one another. But their beliefs and actions have proved they consider each other enemies.

The Automa sovereign’s daughter, Lady Crier, had no idea of this destruction. And she never really had no clear idea until she met Kinok and Ayla. Kinok is her soon-to-be husband who she is forced to marry for the betterment of her kingdom. Her father felt that the only way to subdue Kinok’s influences was to extinguish the threat of power he felt from recent times. But would this action create a difference?

Ayla is a human servant girl who wishes for nothing more than Crier’s immediate death. She believes wholeheartedly in the saying “An eye for an eye” and after the death of her family order by the sovereign himself, she thought to act upon this ideology. But as the book continues, Ayla begins to realize the true nature of Lady Crier and separate some Automa from others. And Lady Crier also begins to realize the true connection between the Automa and humans and how her father isn’t exactly who she thought he was.

From the way this book was written to the path of the plot, I couldn’t stop thinking about the book even when I wasn’t reading it. So many little things in the plot occur in the story that seem to have no meaning until it creates meaning into the story altogether. When reading, one wouldn’t see major plot twists coming until they approach it and read back on all of the clues Nina Varela left for them in obscured areas. The imagery was beautiful, unfolding the story in my eyes with vivid scenes and intense dialogues. And the symbolism wrapped the entire story together and the fates of the characters in the book. The story is also an enemies-to-lovers book so if you like that, you should definitely check it out!

-Saanvi V.

Crier’s War by Nina Varela is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library.

Book vs. Movie: Howl’s Moving Castle

Howl's Moving Castle (Howl's Castle Book 1) - Kindle edition by Jones,  Diana Wynne. Children Kindle eBooks @ Amazon.com.

Sophie Hatter is the eldest of three daughters, which is deemed as “most unlucky”. Over the years, she’s accepted that she won’t have a fun, lavish future like her younger sisters, so she becomes content with being holed up in her family’s hat shop, trimming lace and styling bonnets.

However, everything changes when the Witch of the Waste visits the shop and curses her to become an old lady. Desperate for a solution, she hikes her way to the infamous “moving castle”-belonging to no other than the soul-eating wizard Howl. Here, she strikes a deal with Calcifier- an evil fire demon- hoping he can lift her curse.

Along the way, Sophie discovers that the wizard is not all he’s said to be and that maybe there’s more to herself than she thought.

I discovered the book Howl’s Moving Castle shortly after I watched the movie adaptation by Studio Ghibli, and neither disappoint. They both capture the essence of a world that’s both modern and magical in their own ways.

The main difference between the two is that the Studio Ghibli movie follows a slightly different plot, as do most movie adaptations. The concept of Sophie being the eldest-and therefore, prone to failure-is almost completely eradicated, focusing more on how her looks are subpar and modest compared to her sister. Although, this ends up tying in well with the movie’s altered story, as it is a story of self-acceptance, I was sad that this major plot point didn’t get included.

Howl's Moving Castle by Hayao Miyazaki, Hayao Miyazaki, Chieko Baisho,  Emily Mortimer, Christian Bale | DVD | Barnes & Noble®

There were also characters that didn’t make it into the movie, such as Sophie’s sister Martha and Howl’s family that resides in the mortal realm. While I was disappointed to find this out, Studio Ghibli makes their adaptation work in it’s own way, using their staple “ghibli-magic” to create a version of the story that’s lovable and great to watch, preferably on a rainy day. And of course, as always, the animation is stunning.

Despite their differences and minor plot changes-and the watering down of Howl’s oddly lovable snootiness- the movie adaptation does an excellent job of capturing the story that Wynne-Jones wrote so magnificently.

-Luxy B

Howl’s Moving Castle by Dianne Wynne Jones is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It can also be downloaded for free from Overdrive. The Miyazaki animated film can also be checked out from the library.

Keeper of the Lost Cities: Exile by Shannon Messenger

This second installment of Shannon Messenger’s 9 (soon to be 10) book series starts with Sophie and her adoptive father Grady going on a hunt for a Sasquatch. Sophie uses her incredible telepathy to listen for nearby thoughts, and soon she hears a few panicked words. She and Grady are in pursuit, but she stops him when she realizes they are scaring him away. They make it to a clearing, and then they see it; an Alicorn. Alicorns are an endangered species in the Elvin world, with only one left. Until Silveny came along.

This book has everything; a magical being that is being threatened by the rebels (Silveny the Alicorn), a mental healing that went wrong, a loss felt by the world, and a bit of sparkly poop mixed in too. I highly recommend reading this book, it shows amazing action that will have you on the edge of your seat. Even though there are action and stressful situations, there is still a funny side to it. Keefe jokes, Sandor and Grizel being so over-protective it’s funny, and some funny Councilor jokes too. I give Exile 10/10 because it has everything you could ever want in a fantasy book.

-Izzy W.

Keeper of the Lost Cities: Exile by Shannon Messenger is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It can also be downloaded for free from Overdrive.

Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard

Red Queen - Aveyard, Victoria - 9780062310644 | HPB

If I had to pick an all time favorite book, it would be Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard. The book is set in a futuristic fantasy/dystopian world which is divided between red blood and silver blood. The Silvers are born with powers or abilities, ranging from control over certain elements, to mind-control. Whereas, the Reds are born with no abilities. 

Mare Barrow is nobody, a Red pickpocket who tries her best to provide for her family. However, since she is unemployed she will be forced into conscription for the army at the age of 18. Desperate, she flees into the largest Silver city in hopes of finding work. Meanwhile, the Silver royalty is hosting a competition to find the next future Queen for their oldest prince – Cal Calore. Said competition consists of the most powerful Silver women showing off their powers in order to impress the prince. Suddenly, as Mare is watching the competition she is pushed into the arena by accident, changing her entire life in seconds. What should have killed her, instead left her with the ability to control lightning. Reds did not have powers, only Silvers, or so it had been up until then. 

In an effort to keep Mare hidden, the Queen forces her into an arranged marriage with the second born prince, Maven. Mare then spends months as both a prisoner and an anomaly, training and learning her own powers. Meanwhile, tensions between the Reds and Silvers are rising, a group named the Scarlet Guard is planning a revolution.

In secret, Mare joins the Scarlet Guard, only to be shocked when she notices that the second born prince, her fiancé, is already a part of the Guard. Maven Calore is the shadow of his brother and would rather see the Silver empire fall before his brother takes the throne. Together, they plan a revolution drenched in blood, heartbreak and betrayal. 

Red Queen is an amazing novel and a real show of creative world building. The way in which Aveyard describes the Silver’s abilities is a very detailed magic system unique specifically to the series. Furthermore, the series is a perfect mix of fantasy and dystopian to keep the reader craving to read more. This book also has what I would describe as the best, most painful, plot twist I had ever read. Not wanting to spoil anymore, this is definitely a book I would recommend everyone read. 

-Michelle L.

Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It can also be downloaded for free from Libby.

Dance of Thieves by Mary E. Pearson

This captivating fantasy novel follows Kazi Brightmist, also known as the notorious pickpocket “Ten,” and her fellow members of the Queen’s elite guard to venture to neighboring settlements on orders to investigate disturbances in these areas. Upon reaching their destination, Kazi discovers Jase Ballenger, the newly crowned lord of the land after his father’s untimely death. Each suspicious of each other, they quickly become enemies but are forced to work together when they are captured by slave traders and chained at the ankle. Worried about his city and determined to complete her assignment, the two make the long journey back, finding themselves attached at the hip by the end of their adventure (or leg 😉). However, trials await the pair when their secrets threaten to uncover. Trying to outwit each other, they enter an exchange of ploys and tactics to each secure what they desire. They dance the dance of thieves.

This book is such a fun read. You are enveloped in the beautiful world of Venda and the Ballenger Empire with its endless deserts and colorful bizarres. Kazi is a strong, witty warrior who, despite all her hardships has become a member of the Queen’s personal guard. Jase is very clever and the leader of his large family and city. I really enjoyed the two protagonists’ banter and outwit each other in a constant battle to determine who was more clever. This book quickly became one of my favorites and I highly recommend you read it so it can become your favorite as well.

-Gia S.

Dance of Thieves by Mary E. Pearson is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It is also available for download for free from Libby.

Writing Tips: How to Create A Main Character

500+ Writer Pictures | Download Free Images on Unsplash

Purpose: This should be the first part to consider when you create your protagonist. The purpose is how the character creates the plot of the book. What is the character trying to accomplish? What obstacles is your protagonist facing and why are they doing it? These are things to consider before fleshing out your main character. The plot will help you decide what traits to give your character.

Personality: This is arguably the most important part of creating your character because this is what will make the reader either put down the book or continue reading. When giving your character personality traits, make sure to give them traits that are relevant to the story and further the plot. The protagonist’s personality should be relatable and realistic. Everybody wants to read about positive traits and unique skills, but they also want to see flaws. We all have flaws, and sometimes the flaws in protagonists help to advance the plot of the story. How about a knight who is extremely timid? Mixing stereotypes with unique flaws and traits is the ideal way to create your protagonist.

Physical Traits: While personality is most important, the physical traits of your main character can also help draw in readers. For example, this could be race, gender, or physique. Especially nowadays, there is a lot of diversity within books regarding gender and race. This broadens the audience and allows certain readers to connect deeper with your character. Gender plays an important role in modern books because typically, girls read more than boys (not to say boys don’t read or there aren’t amazing male protagonists.) Finally, the physique of your character is important for two reasons: it helps draw in certain groups of readers, and it should reflect your plot. A character who has to carry a broadsword and armor, should have muscle. A character who spends a lot of time inside with little sleep, should appear ghastly. These are all simple ideas that could help you with creating your protagonist. 

-Michelle L.

The Iron Trial by Holly Black and Cassandra Clare

The Iron Trial by Holly Black and Cassandra Clare is the first installment of the Magisterium Series. The Iron Trials story introduces the main character, Callum Hunt. Throughout his whole life, he has been told the magic is bad and to stay away from it, despite his father being a mage. So when it’s time for Call to take the Iron Trials test to see if he can get into the magic school; the Magisterium, he tries to fail the test. And even though he does his best at failing, he still gets admitted to the Magisterium. Now the Magisterium is awaiting for him and he has to find his way through it. With the two other apprentices in Call’s group, Aaron and Tamara, they go through magic lessons, tests, and many different hardships throughout their first year at the Magisterium. 

The Iron Trial was an interesting and intriguing book. The three main characters in the book all had their own sets of personalities and different lives. Call was sarcastic and liked to talk back. He was always alone but liked being with friends. Aaron was kind and always tried to be the equal ground between everyone. He was loyal to his friends and stood up for them. Tamara was the smart one who knew more about magic than Aaron and Call did. She was independent and at first, very serious. As I read, I learned more about the characters and the different lives they live in. They were all very unique and great characters. Even the side characters were important to the story and stood out. Many of the characters had character development throughout the story which I really liked. There were a couple of plot twists in the story which were very relevant to the plot and changed a lot in the story. 

The Iron Trial is a fantasy book that wasn’t super long. The chapters were a good length and the book itself was a good length as well. At first, my expectations weren’t set very high and I thought it would be a normal magic book and that it wasn’t anything special. As I read, I found myself pulled into the story, wanting to find out what happens next. I finished the book in a few days and ended up enjoying the book more than I thought I would. The Iron Trial is only the first book out of five in the Magisterium Series. I enjoyed this book and I would definitely recommend this book to anyone who enjoys a good fantasy novel. 

-Nicole R. 

Iron Trials by Holly Black and Cassandra Clare is available to check out from the Mission Viejo Library. It can also be downloaded for free from Overdrive.

Best of: Fantasy Romance

These are some of my favorite young adult romance novels/series. I have read way more than the ones listed, but these are the ones that stand out the most.

  1. The Cruel Prince (Folk of The Air series) by Holly Black
The Cruel Prince (The Folk of the Air, #1) by Holly Black

This would be my top recommendation if you are just getting into this genre. The series follows an enemies to lovers trope and is what I consider the best of the trope. The series follows a girl named Jude, who is one of the only humans living in the land of Faerie. Her arch enemy is none other than the handsome, Prince Cardan. In an attempt to gain support and power in the strange immortal land, Jude works against the throne. However, betrayal works both ways and she soon finds herself having to work with Cardan to save the land of Faerie.

  1. A Court of Thorns and Roses Series by Sarah J. Maas 
Amazon.com: A Court of Thorns and Roses eBook : Maas, Sarah J.: Kindle Store

If you’re someone who enjoys reading book series this is just the one for you. A Court of Thorns and Roses follows the tale of Beauty and The Beast but with a twist. Feyre is the main protagonist of the series and her family’s only hope in surviving a particularly tough winter. Desperate to feed her family, she ventures far out into the woods in search of deer, but instead shoots a wolf. Her entire life is changed as she is dragged into a magical kingdom for murdering a faerie. She now has to live in the land and becomes close to the High Fae of the Spring Court. 

  1. From Blood and Ash by Jennifer L. Armentrout
From Blood and Ash (Blood And Ash Series): Armentrout, Jennifer L.:  9781952457005: Amazon.com: Books

I saved the best for last, this is my personal favorite of the three because of the worldbuilding and chemistry involved in the series. Although there are only three books in the trilogy, each is close to 1000 pages, so they’re a good read. The series follows a girl named Poppy, who is a maiden – meaning she is forbidden to interact or talk to anyone. However, she is also very rebellious and constantly finds ways to sneak out of her quarters. This goes well until she meets a guy and instantly falls for him. He turns out to be her new personal guard. This is truly an amazing series full of both sweet moments and angst. 

-Michelle L.