Monday, 11 January 2016

Le Fey Series - Henge #1 and Sword #2


As couple of disclaimers to get out of the way. 
 1) I was provided with free review copies of both Henge and Sword by YA Bound Book Tours, however this has in no way influenced my reviews. 
2) I recently watched a Will Smith movie marathon - Independence Day, Men In Black and Bad Boys 2 - so my reviews today come with excessive Will Smith reaction GIFs.
And now, on to the reviews!

Henge

Modern-day Camelot. Where knights no longer carry swords. Magic is dangerous. And those who seek control are not to be trusted. Sixteen-year-old Morgan le Fay is a fire user. An ordinary girl with an extraordinary skill, she has the ability to create and command fire at will. Her dream is to become the Maven - the right hand of the future King Arthur. In the chance of a lifetime, Morgan is selected to join Arthur’s Round, an elite group of young magic users from which the new Maven will be chosen.

Henge is my kind of dream read. A twisting turning spin on the legend of Camelot with a modern YA lean. Think Harry Potter meets The Hunger Games. I was expecting to like this book, but I wasn't expecting to love it as much as I did! Being a Cornish girl, I devour anything related to old English folklore, especially if it's got a tie to my beloved home county. The familiar characters in a modern day setting was so fun to read. I absolutely loved reading about a young King Arthur as a spoilt, moody teenager, Guinevere as an apprentice healer, Lancelot as the head of Arthur's guard. There were even a few mentions of Tristan and Isolde, who I utterly adore! The modern setting was a brilliant twist, the idea of the search for Arthur's mages being a televised competition in the vein of The X Factor was inspired. Knowing the legends already, it made it kind of hard to read the book without second guessing what was coming and where the story was going which was a bit of a shame, but I guess with a book based on a legend this can't be help. But it did feel like characters were dropping spoilers just by mentioning names or talking about certain events.
I wasn't expecting to like Morgan as much as I did. Initially, she seems a bit too much of a "tick all the boxes" type protagonist, with incredible magic, tragic backstory, men falling over themselves for her, but she really grew on me as the story went on. Sharp and guarded with just the right amount of optimism, by the end of the book I had my new book girl crush! Her budding romance with Merlin was sweetly written, and I loved her friendship with Gwen. Vivian was a bit too much of the stereotypical gorgeous, bitchy antagonist for me to like though, I felt she was a bit hard done by by the story! Given the tales of Morgan Le Fey and her reputation as a sorceress, it was sort of heartbreaking to read her desire to do good and redeem her mother knowing her fate in Arthurian  legend. I actually found myself tearing up at a few points!



The plot was perfectly paced and written (although given that the story was based in the UK, there were a few glaring "americanisms" in the text that were quite distracting), with twists and cliffhangers coming at just the first time to keep me hooked. Each time I though I'd just finish the chapter and put the book down, there was something else that kept me blasting through the pages. Before I knew it, I'd read the whole book in one sitting!
Or standing. On the tarmac at Barcelona airport. We were waiting for ages. My point is I couldn't put the book down.
Once Morgan enters the trials in Camelot, the book doesn't let up! From the trials themselves to a plot connected to her deceased mother to harm the young Arther, the twists just keep coming! It was a bit frustrating at the end of the book to be left with such a blatant hook for book two, leaving more questions than answers. Lucky then that when I'd finished Henge, I could move right on to Sword ...


Sword

After surviving a string of brutal trials, sixteen-year-old Morgan le Fay is an official member of Camelot. But beneath its shining fa├žade, Camelot is a crumbling government where loyalties are divided. When Morgan discovers that someone is plotting to assassinate the future king, she must take her destiny - and his - into her own hands. With the sword Excalibur beckoning in the distance, Morgan embarks on a seemingly impossible mission. And before her journey ends, everyone will know what she is truly capable of.

After loving Henge, the bar had been set high for Sword. Did it reach it?

Not quite.

After failing to fulfil her destiny to become Arthur's Maven, Morgan uncovers a plot to harm the young future king Arthur. So she decides to throw caution to the wind, and kidnap him to take him to the mythical Avalon to uncover Excalibur. Realm Lovejoy gets the the right balance of burning ambition and fierce determination in Morgan so that you can believe every one of her actions, even when they seem utterly insane. Every seemingly stupid action she takes is justified, and it's a credit to the author that nothing Morgan does seems contrived for the sake of the plot, even if in theory they seem ludicrous, especially for a character so intelligent.


Sword is very much a book of two halves.

The first sees Morgan and a reluctant Arther searching for Excalibur, following in her mother's footsteps. After uncovering the group working within Camelot to bring down the Pendragon family, Morgan finds no allies in the castle to help her protect the king. So she takes matters into her own hands. This half of the book; five stars. I loved it! Morgan is beaten and battered from what she sees as her failings and revelations about her past, and Arthur is a typically moody brat hauled out of the comfort of his castle for the first time in his life. They make a wonderful pair, their sniping eventually giving way to mutual understanding. I really wish their quest had gone on longer. Morgan seemed to find Excalibur ridiculously quickly considering that Camelot hadn't been able to find it in centuries.

The second half is where the book started to fall apart for me. After Morgan is captured and put on trial, the book devolves into a parade of characters saying how wonderful, powerful, beautiful, damaged and special Morgan is. The pace grinds to a halt. The not-quite-relationship between Morgan and Merlin is continued from Henge, even more heartbreaking here as Morgan realises what could have been between them. His visits to her in her prison are quietly devastating. I want these two to happen so much, but I know it's not going to happen, and if it does, it won't end well. I could have done without the needless love triangle with Lancelot though. Granted, he's described in book one as only a couple of years older than Morgan, but she's 16, he's in a position of power as the head of Arthur's guard (let's be generous and say he's in that role at a ludicrously early age, perhaps 19 rather than creepily older) and she's all sorts of screwed up when he spends the night with her in the dungeons. He calls her "kid" early in the book too and his early interactions with her are very much a teacher trying to coax a misbehaving child back to school, making his pursuit of her fall on the wrong side of gross.

I loved Morgan even more in this book than in Henge, her slow descent into madness beginning. She's a complex, almost anti-heroine, fighting for what she believes is right even to the detriment of everything and everyone aroud her. It's a shame that a big revelation about Morgan's heritage is robbed of its impact if you are familiar with Arthurian legend and it's an extra punch in the feels if you know them enough to have an inkling of where future books are going. As with book one, there were some "americanisms" in the book that would really take me out of the story as I was reading (for the record, no one in the UK says "making out". Ever.), and because of the story I felt that a book was alittle over descriptive at times, too much telling and not enough showing. Though as with Henge, the ending had me like



Honestly, I'm getting a bit fed up with books that end on such obvious cliffhangers for the sequels. Yes, give me a hook, but don't leave the story hanging mid scene. Books, movies, whatever, even if they're part of a series, should stand alone as a story with a beginning, middle and end. I want to be chomping at the bit to read book two, but I don't want to feel like a couple of chapters are missing from my copy of book one. The ending was just too abrupt for me and left me with a bit of a bad taste in my mouth. But all in Sword was an enjoyable read, if a little fumbled in execution in places, and, moans aside about endings, I know I'll be reading book three.


Le Fey is a promising series with an fantastic premise. If you're looking for magic, legend, knights, kings, wizards and a female lead who can kick ass and take names for all her flaws, this is definitely a must-read for you!

It's only a pity I almost couldn't work an Independence Day Will Smith GIF into this post.
Phew, there it is.

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