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Of Ice and Shadows After falling in love with Of Fire and Stars I was eager to pick up the seuel Luckily I thought it was even stronger than the first one developing the characters fleshing out the world introducing two eually interesting plots and keeping the core of Denna and Mare's relationshipMy full review is up at the Lesbrary comes out of the closet OF ICE AND SHADOWS 2019 you sneaky bastard better be uick slowly comes back to the closet and wait The long awaited seuel to the acclaimed YA fantasy Of Fire and Stars Mare and Denna travel to a new and dangerous kingdom where Denna will be trained to tame her magic by a mysterious ueen who is not all she seems Perfect for fans of Malinda Lo and Kristin CashorePrincesses Denna and Mare are in love and together at last only to face a new set of dangersMare just wants to settle down with the girl she loves which would be easier if Denna weren't gifted with forbidden and volatile fire magic Denna must learn to control her powers which means traveling in secret to the kingdom of Zumorda where she can seek training without fear of persecution Determined to help Mare has agreed to serve as an ambassador as a cover for their journeyBut just as Mare and Denna arrive in Zumorda an attack on a border town in Mynaria changes everything Mare's diplomatic mission is now urgent she must uickly broker an alliance with the ueen of Zumorda to protect her homeland However the ueen has no interest in allying with other kingdoms; it's Denna's untamed but powerful magic that catches her eye The ueen offers Denna a place among her elite trainees an opportunity that would force her to choose between her magic and MareAs Denna's powers grow stronger Mare struggles to be the ambassador her kingdom needs By making unconventional friends her knowledge of Zumorda and its people grow and so too do her suspicions about who is truly behind the attacks on Zumorda and her homelandAs rising tensions and unexpected betrayals put Mare and Denna in jeopardy and dangerous enemies emerge on all sides can they protect their love and save their kingdoms Some interesting things happened toward the end but overall I didn't feel invested The climax happened so uickly I didn't realize it was over and it left me wondering why all the build up Mare was nearly intolerable with her constant prejudice against an entire nation of people Just not as interesting as the first book for me OH MY GOD OH MY GOD OH MY GOD OH MY GOD OH MY GOD THEY'RE COMING BACK THEY'RE COMING BACK I NEED TO FEEL THEIR LOVE ONCE MORE OH MY GOD OH MY GOD OH MY GOD OH MY GOD I CAN'T STOP SCREAMING WITH JOY I WILL DEVOUR THIS BOOK ONCE IT COMES OUT Not bad but I liked the first book a lot Of Ice and Shadows was a nice seuel for me to listen to It was honestly of background noise than anything but I really did try to focus on it In it we still have the same princesses that we fell in love with in the first book Mare and Denna Yet there was something missing in this bookNot going to lie nothing really happened in this At least for me because things didn't start to get interesting until the very end of the book Each princess just felt different to me in this one It's like they were on some big or grand adventure but nothing really happened Yes magic needed to be tamed and they needed to be together till the very end 'Cause ya know they love each other and shitbut I just wasn't invested this time around I tried but they these two felt so boring I honestly wished that the ending could've redeem them or the entire book but it just wasn't meant to be Maybe next time folks The Good– Both Denna and Mare grow into individuals– Plotwise there was usually something going on– Some genuine moments of intrigue– Decent choice of scenesThe Bad– Rough amateurish writing style– Indistinguishable voices between the two main characters– All the telling over showing– Huge lack of self awareness in terms of xenophobia– Author doesn't know how to build meaningful relationships between characters– Final battle was basically just a confusing sneeze– Apparently we're expected to forgive Thandi even though he's done nothing to earn it– Strange amount of girl hate for an FF novel– No concrete plans for continuing the seriesMaybe in these troubling times of rising fascism and white nationalism it's not a great idea to shape your novel's plot around the idea of suspecting the desert dwelling immigrants of secretly trying to bring the country downTragically I am neither kidding or embellishingStoryDenna and Mare arrive in the border town Duvey to find it under attack from Sonnenborne Denna's powers overwhelm her and after Mare shares her news of Sonnenborne's plot back home in Mynaria it becomes clear the girls are bound for different paths—for now at leastAfter a fight over Denna's out of control powers she accepts the ueen's offer—that is ueen Invasya or Ina from Inkmistress—for specialized training in the northernmost part of the country In the north Denna finds clues pointing toward a seventh god and grows closer to the ueen Mare stays behind in the south to continue her ambassadorial duties and to sort out the plot she knows is afoot and must involve every single Sonnenborne in the city “Excuse me” a man said behind me in rough Tradespeech I moved aside to let him pass shocked when I saw his Sonnenborne garb Two people rushed after him both carrying tall stacks of folded fabric “What the Sixth Hell are Sonnenbornes doing here” I asked “Those are textile merchants” Alek shrugged “Sonnenbornes just attacked a city a week’s ride from here” “Which is why it’s doubtful that those textile merchants were involved in the attack” “Kartasha is neutral territory” Denna added “Its people will feel different after we share details of the attack” I said Still it didn’t sit right with me Rumors had to have made their way ahead of us even if we came bearing the official message Wouldn’t that have made people suspicious of Sonnenbornes especially if they knew that children had been abducted during the battle It would be easier if acceptance was part of Mare's character growth—why bother simple foreigners who just want to run their business—but as it turns out Mare's fears are 100% well founded and justifiedRampant xenophobia aside the story has all the right building blocks to work There is some genuine intrigue Denna finding hints of a seventh god in ruined temples and neglected libraries and Mare sneaks around chasing conflicting clues she tries to piece together Of Ice and Shadows has an interesting base plot and tons of potential but Coulthurst is no storyteller Of Ice and Shadows suffers from a brutal execution problemCoulthurst does a lot of telling over showing and struggles with which elements to embellish and build upon and which ones to stack and set aside Elements like Corovja's ancient temple and dusty library should be absolute goldmines of information and intrigue but in Coulthurst's hands they're a forgettable means to an end She overwrites Mare's feelings in Denna's departure—I feel so sad I feel so guilty ugh—but the Midwinter Revel the brutal competition Denna's unknowingly signed up for in accepting the ueen's training is glossed over in a couple paragraphs as is the book's final battle After building the ultimate antagonist up and showcasing the depth of their might the final battle plays out as something no longer or distressing than a particularly violent sneezeThe biggest concern as of writing this there are no concrete plans for another book This is infuriating as Of Ice and Shadows ends with bigger things looming on the horizon and the notes of unfinished business The entire series could've concluded comfortably with Of Fire and Stars as a standalone or with tedious Inkmistress as no than a novella and a third book in Mare and Denna's story as the final entry Yet we are left hangingCharactersIt's seemingly rare in Young Adult series that couples stay together for very long as is the case here After an argument about Denna's unstable magic Denna heads north for training without a proper good bye and Mare's left lonely and guilt riddenAlthough the circumstances in which they separate are a little contrived Mare and Denna do spend the time growing into themselves and developing as individual characters outside of their relationshipOutside of between the main characters Coulthurst struggles to build impactful relationships She does sort of succeed with Mare's friendship with young Fadeyka mind you but there are other characters who are clearly supposed to cause a large amount emotional strife who simply don't It's hard to believe Denna thinks of Invasya almost like family when their scenes together are truncated and Coulthurst always antagonizes Invasya in her characterization Likewise it's hard to dredge up any feelings when a character whose defining trait is barely having a personality dies Both these characters lack crucial scenes with the girls we don't see them connecting or showing vulnerability to one another Invasya and Denna's relationship frustrates most according to the end of Inkmistress this is supposed to be a BIG DEAL but no confirmed seuels on the horizon and the end result having the emotional impact akin to losing a box of raisins well What's the pointWriting StyleOf Ice and Shadows is told in first person past tense alternating between Mare and Denna's POVs as in the first bookSomehow in the near three years since Of Fire and Star's release Coulthurst's writing style hasn't improved at all Given the time the number of books the author's written and the release of programs like ProWritingAid—which basically spoonfeeds the basics of writing strong prose—since the release of the first book it's disappointing to say the leastAs in previous books her writing style is rough rambling imprecise and unnecessarily wordy She takes a lot of words to add very little new or meaningful information to the story instead substituting dozens upon dozens of unnecessary details such as how a character spills his soup into his beard when he eats These details contribute little to the story and only serve to cast Denna and Mare as weird and judgy Additionally she tends to abuse filter and other weak words particularly made and litters the prose with unnecessary thats and hads Given this is the fourth book Coulthurst's authored or co authored it's inexcusably amateurishThemes and RepresentationCoulthurst does an okay job presenting Denna learning to control her powers gaining confidence and finding a new purpose in life as she does with Mare learning to leadOutside of thatUhThere's the aforementioned issue with xenophobia The book is ripe with it and I don't know if the author is genuinely aggressively anti immigrant and racist or just painfully ignorant of what she's writingAnother issue the girl hate Mercifully in YA it's something authors are moving and away from but to see it here in an ff book about two girls in love by a woman author specifically married to another woman It's genuinely strange Almost every girl and woman is presented in a negative light to some degree the catty stuck up girls Denna trains with; Invasya's bloodthirst; Fadeyka's annoying persistence; Laurenna's supposed desire for power On the flipside we're supposed to care and even like male characters who are purposefully boring or contribute little to the story We're even supposed to forgive Mare's brother Thandi although we're given no reason to and despite his rampant sexism misogyny and cruelty in the first bookRecommended ForUnfortunately it comes down to thisIf you're gay and like fantasy your choices in books are limited The only benefit Of Fire and Stars or Of Ice and Shadows has over a good fanfic is that they're somewhat completedAnd if you're not gay there's nothing here executed particularly well or particularly original to win you over ¯ツ¯ More book reviews at Feathered Turtle Press DNF 35%I'm the saddest bean Ever since first reading Of Fire and Stars I had always hoped that it would get a seuel because we saw so little of the world and magic system in the first one On top of that Audrey Coulthurst's Inkmistress was literally my favourite book of 2018 But I was so bored by Of Ice and Shadows I tried pushing my way through it for over two weeks eventually put it down and just never felt like I wanted to get back into it DNF at 50%I had this book out from the library for over a month but hardly could make my way through it I ended up moving away and having to return this to the library which was a great conclusion to my everyday uestioning myself Should I DNF this I was just bored I feel like I've read this story before in a 2013 generic fantasy It's a journey book with random side characters interspersed and nothing to anchor me to the story because the girls' relationship is getting distant as Denna explores her powers which in itself wasn't interesting either I wish I could've liked this but it was just difficult to read because I didn't care about anything that was happening even though I liked the girls' relationship in book one This book's dynamic was so different and I just couldn't get through it Maybe one day I'll try again I CAN’T WAIT FOR MY SOFT PRINCESSES TO COME BACK TO ME