Saturday, 9 January 2016

ARC Book Review: Grudging by Michelle Hauck

I received an e-arc of this book via Edelweiss in exchange for my honest review. This did not affect my opinion of the book in any way.

Publisher: Harper Voyager Impulse

Published: November 2015

Pages: 432


Summary


A world of chivalry and witchcraft... and the invaders who would destroy everything.
The North has invaded, bringing a cruel religion and no mercy. The ciudades-estados who have stood in their way have been razed to nothing, and now the horde is before the gates of Colina Hermosa... demanding blood. On a mission of desperation, a small group escapes the besieged city in search of the one thing that might stem the tide of Northerners: the witches of the southern swamps. The Women of the Song. But when tragedy strikes their negotiations, all that is left is a single untried knight and a witch who has never given voice to her power. And time is running out. A lyrical tale of honor and magic, Grudging is the opening salvo in the Book of Saints trilogy.


My Thoughts...


What a way to start the year! Grudging was my first read of the year (though not on purpose: I was supposed to read this last month... oops!) and it was a FANTASTIC one!
I enjoyed absolutely everything about this book. From the setting, to the characters, to the story, to the writing style every aspect helped in keeping me glued to the pages as much as my hectic schedule allows. 

While the plot in itself would not seem the most original in the realm of fantasy books (young hero sets out on an impossible mission to save his country and meets pretty girl with special talent in the process), there were enough original elements to make even the common tropes enjoyable. For starters, I loved the medieval Spanish atmosphere that radiated from the ciudades-estatos. It was definitely not something I had come across before, and so it kept me really interested in the setting as much as the story. Speaking of which, the world-building here was absolutely amazing! I think the author did an awesome job of incorporating different cultures and always giving just the right amount of information to understand her world, always avoiding boring info-dumps.

One of my favourite elements of this book was definitely the underlying theme of clashing cultures. The peaceful society of Colina Hermosa is suddenly faced with a bloodthirsty enemy that fully intends to wipe out anyone who doesn't conform to its ideals. I really enjoyed following the political attempts to compromise with an enemy that has absolutely zero tolerance for the different. And then there's the witches. Living secluded in the swamps, completely cut out from the rest of society, the Women of the Song live in a full-on matriarchy. I was really curious about the witches' culture, and while I didn't get many answers yet as to their traditions and beliefs, I am hopeful that the author will explore this society in more detail in the next books, seeing as she did such a fantastic job with Colina Hermosa in this one!

And then, the characters. I really, really loved all of them! I adored how each of the characters, even the "minor" ones, had a clear personality and evolved throughout the book. The Northerners were easy to dislike, especially given their brutality and cruelty, but it was clear that there were reasons for their behaviour deeply rooted in their culture and religion, and I look forward to finding out more details about this in the sequels. As for the heroes, I enjoyed seeing them doubt themselves and their abilities and question their choices: none of them were perfect, predestined saviours who reached their goals effortlessly. They made mistakes and had to find their own way through trial and error, and I loved them for it. And Ramiro and Claire! Oh, I ship these two so much. I'm incredibly happy that the author avoided an instalove and went for a  more realistic relationship instead.

In short, I absolutely loved Grudging and I seriously can't wait to read the second book in the series! I definitely recommend it to everyone, but especially fantasy lovers: you won't be disappointed.


Rating: 5/5