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Pants' Books & Stuff!

Hi there! I imagine you must be wondering what the heck is up with my blog name. The short answer is, Pants has become my internet handle in a lot of places where I hang out (somehow). I mainly read YA and comics, and I also frequently read speculative fiction of pretty much any kind. My other hobbies include watching anime and playing video games. Other random tidbits: I have a Bachelor's degree in English Literature and a Masters in Library and Information Sciences. I also have an affinity for tea.
Dreamdark: Blackbringer  - Laini Taylor
Originally reviewed here.

Why I Read It: After reading and really enjoying Lips Touch: Three Times (review here), I decided I wanted to own ALL of Taylor's books, so I immediately put this on my "to buy" list. However, I noticed that the second book was not available to order on chapters.ca (I didn't check anywhere else), BUT, World's Biggest Bookstore did have one copy. So I decided to pick it up sooner rather than later because I was paranoid it was out of print or something. I also didn't plan to read as soon as I did, but when I went to Toronto last week (which was when I bought it), I only brought one book with me to read, thinking it would be enough (I usually bring two, just in case, but rarely get to the second one.) Of course, the ONE time I only bring one book with me I finish it my first night in Toronto. So because this was the only book I had with me (and the second Dreamdark book), I decided to jump right in and read them right off the bat. Spoiler-free review ahead!

Now, while I had been pretty excited by Lips Touch, I wasn't THAT excited about these. If I had looked at these covers and NOT known these books were written by Laini Taylor, I don't think I would be interested in them at all. But the only other book that Taylor has written is Daughter of Smoke and Bone and I wanted MORE! So I splurged on these anyway. A testament to my (lack of) restraint. Anyway, all of this is to say that I had little to no expectations for this book, despite really enjoying the other novel I had read by this author.

My initial impression of the book was that it had a style much more suited to younger audiences than Lips Touch -- it felt more akin to middle grade to me than YA. This isn't a problem, as I actually enjoy MG quite a bit, but it initially caught me off guard. The plot wasn't terribly exciting either. I liked it enough that I knew I would probably read it until the end (bar something REALLY AWFUL/STUPID happening), but it wasn't really grabbing me.

I don't know WHEN the change happened, but something occurred while I was reading this, and before I knew it, I found myself falling in love with it. Seriously. It just... happened. And I still can't figure out WHEN or WHY, but I'm obviously not too upset by it. The story definitely picked up about 1/3 of the way in, and I think I just became accustomed to the style of the writing and was able to get past how it read younger than Taylor's previous book.

One of the best things about this book is something that is pivotal in pretty much any work of speculative fiction: the world-building. This is a book about fairies, but instead of going for the "gritty", court-dealing fairies one sees in a lot of urban/contemporary fantasy these days, Taylor took a more tradition root and went for the Tinkerbell-version: the ones who are tiny people and live in trees/natural environments. Humans are definitely around, but they have zero involvement in the story -- this is all about the fairies. The magic system and the creation myth behind the world and the fairies was probably my favourite part. The idea of a magical tapestry feels like a kickback to old-school fairy tales but Taylor made it new and exciting and it was one of my favourite developments in the world-building and plot. There are just SO many cool things going on with the magic in this story, and everything fits together perfectly.

I liked the way that Taylor used narrators in this story. A lot of YA these days likes doing the "he-said-she-said" thing where the story will jump between the main female and male protags POV every chapter. This book has a male and female protag, but the obvious emphasis is on Magpie, as her POV chapters dominate the story. Talon has chapters from his POV as well, but instead of being a slave to the alternating chapters, Taylor only has chapters from Talon's POV when it's important to the story, and when it's necessary to give background info that will later be important to the plot that we couldn't possibly get from Magpie's POV. This prevents info-dumping from occurring later on in the story and offers a broader perspective of the world Taylor has created.

The characters themselves were fantastic; they felt timeless and classical without being predictable and boring. I loved that Magpie is a heroine who kicked ass, but does so with the help and support of her friends. Her crow family is AWESOME and I loved them all to bits too. (I don't see how you can go wrong with coffee-drinking, cigarillo-smoking crows though, seriously.) Talon was a little more bland in comparison, but he grows into his own and complements Magpie really well. I was surprised that him and Magpie's relationship didn't develop into a romantic one (there are hints and nudges in that direction though).

This book pleasantly surprised me and I'm very happy for it. I was so happy to have the sequel on hand and I dove into as soon as I was finished with this (and then picked up Daughter of Smoke and Bone as soon I was finished with THAT. I am officially hooked on Laini Taylor.)

Final Verdict: While I initially wasn't in love with this book, something happened at the 1/3 mark, and before I knew it, I found myself in love. The world-building, from the creation mythos, the magic, and the fairies themselves, felt like it was drawing from classic and timeless sources, but still felt fresh and original (especially compared to most other fairy/faerie/fae stories which are currently populating the YA market.) The writing style definitely reads kind of young, more akin to the MG level, but it's WELL-WRITTEN MG-style writing, so that's not a complaint from me -- it did initially catch me off guard though. The story was a little dull at first, but once it picks up, it REALLY picks up and I wasn't able to put the book down. I love how Talor takes stories that have a fairy-tale feel to them, and spins them into something that feels modern and classic at the same time; familiar but equally original. Amazing stuff. (P.S. If you read and like this, I suggest checking out R. J. Anderson's Rebel Faeries series, which also deals with tiny-faeries, instead of those court-dealing urban fantasy faeries.)