good morning, cyberspace!
Today I’m coming at you all with a book review! WOOT WOOT!
And I know that I’ve basically been flinging a TON of bookish posts at your faces lately (seriously, Kenzie. what is up with all the book stuff.), but I promise that this is the last book-related post for a while, okay? I’ve basically just been on a serious book binge lately, and apparently this is something that I need to fling in you guys’ faces.
please don’t hate me.
BUT ANYWAY. Today’s bookish post is none other than a review of a book that I have had on my TBR since literally forever ago. Or, for those of you out there who prefer dealing in absolutes (apparently the Sith read my blog now), since March of 2018.
Actually, to make matters even worse towards my severe lack of productivity, I won an ARC of this book through the author’s blog, and though I started reading it literally the day before it was published, I didn’t actually finish the book until December 3rd.
So. Yeah. 2018 wasn’t a very productive reading year for me, but that, my friends, is a topic for an entirely different blog post and had absolutely nothing to do with the amazingness of the books I read last year.
Let us take, for instance, Crowning Heaven by Emily Hayse. It took me exactly 9 months to finish it, and yet the story was wonderful. In fact, I’m kind of kicking myself for not having finished it sooner, because HOLY GUACAMOLE that last quarter! The entire story was good as a whole, but that final quarter was probably my favorite part.
And so obviously I must now squeal about the entire book.
Crowning Heaven by Emily Hayse
GOODREADS BLURB — Heaven Cassidy has only ever wanted one thing: a family. But when she opens a letter from her long-lost mother, she finds herself running for her life. Swept into a world of proud queens and ancient feuds, Heaven must decide whether her dream is worth taking on the responsibility of two kingdoms, one of which wants to crown her and the other to kill her.
— FIRST IMPRESSIONS —
i. OOOH. PRETTY.
First things first, I think we need to discuss the elephant in the room. . .
That cover, guys. Holy guacamole. Is that not one of the absolute most gorgeous covers your eyes ever did see? I mean, just LOOK at it! It’s all starry and glittery and night-sky-y, and I am totally, 100% in love with just that cover alone. Whoever designed that deserves all of the cookies, folks. Just. . .wow. 10/10 stars.
ii. I WON A CONTEST!!!!
I mean, this really has nothing to do with the book, but like . . . I WON AN ARC OF THIS GORGEOUS BOOK. And as someone who doesn’t ever win anything (curse you Webkinz and your prejudiced writing contests), this was like a super big highlight of 2018 for me.
iii. That blurb, tho. . .
(shoutout to all the people who hate it when people spell “though” as “tho”. i’m cringing just forcing myself to be hipster, here.)
If I’m being totally honest, I’m not much of a blurb, girl. After a while, they all just start to sound oddly alike, and I find myself skimming over them with eyes glazed over like my favorite crullers.
However. When an author has the audacity to mention murder in their synopsis?
AHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA. HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA. HAHA. Sold.
— PART ONE . . . THE CHARACTERS —
The first thing I’d really like to dive into for this book is the characters. I’m not sure if this is how normal people review books or not, but we’re just gonna go with it and pretend like I know what I’m doing, okay? Okay.
So. The characters. I am — as you may or may not know — a very character-oriented writer/reader. I absolutely adore characters. You can have the most original and twisty plot of the century, complete with a shocking mindgame and a world full of alien invaders, but if your characters are nothing more than a ball of mush. . .? I’m probably not going to like your book very much.
However, Crowning Heaven — thankfully — had some really great characters. Most of which ended up breaking my heart towards the end, but I mean. . .? Pssh. Technicalities.
I’m not sure how in-depth I can go about the characters without spoiling anything, but I’ll just list a few* of my favorites here. . .
- Tyr . . . *distant sobbing intensifies*
- Wren . . . (at least I think her name was Wren??? My brain is a pile of mush this morning, guys, don’t judge me.) So Wren was probably the sweetest little sunflower of ever?? She loved playing with hair, which is something I can seriously relate to (I love hair for some reason? I know. I’m bizarre.), and she was just so little and smol and fragile and I just. . . *more distant sobbing*
- Nic . . . Nic was perfection. That is all. And also I totally shipped him with Heaven from the very start, so yeah. That was a roller coaster ride like no other.
- THRASI . . . Thrasi, Thrasi, what can I say about you. If Nic was perfection, Thrasi was like . . . a million times more perfect. I absolutely LOVED this guy, and also his brother, Swift. (please tell me you got Swift’s name right, marshmallow brain) BUT THOSE LINDLEY BOYS WERE MY FAVORITE AND I LOVED THEM AND THEY ARE MY SMOL SONS WHO I MUST PROTECT AT ALL COSTS. (seriously. Thrasi is the best.)
- Athen . . . So while I did ship Nic and Heaven from the very start, I couldn’t help but kind of fall in love with Athen, too. . .? Which made it really difficult to pick who I wanted Heaven to end up with!!! But, towards the end, I really started to like Athen just a tiny little bit more. Just a little bit. Because he’s awesome.
don’t judge me
- Garm (a.k.a Heaven’s uncle) . . . Okay, but I absolutely adored this character??? Garm was just so sweet and kind and practically adopted Heaven as his own smol child, and I just. . . I loved him. Even with all of the trials and difficult decisions Heaven had to face, all he truly cared about was whether she was happy. The relationship between these two was simply precious, and I loved it. That’s all I can say.
- Tia and Jani . . . I SHIP IT I SHIP IT I SHIP IT I SHIP IT I SHIP IT I SHIP IT I SHIP IT SO HARD.
Honestly, I just really loved the characters, okay? They were perfection. That is all.
Also, I feel like I should mention that although I didn’t necessarily connect with Heaven as much as I did with some of the secondary characters (this is not very uncommon with me, to be perfectly honest. I love me a good side character), I still really enjoyed reading the story from her point of view! Her character transformation was good, and though there were a few things I found myself wishing for relating to her character (more on my nitpickiness later) I still really enjoyed getting to watch her learn and grow and explore the fantastical world that Hayse created.
Which, of course, brings us to. . .
*I feel like I’m missing a few characters, which is severely annoying, but basically I just really loved a lot of them? I mean, we can’t expect my marshmallow brain to remember everything, amiright? Aha.
PART TWO . . . THE WORLD/SETTING
Okay. Full disclosure time: I absolutely loved this world. It was sort of like stepping backwards in time to a Narnia-esque landscape, where the bustling modern world as we know it is replaced with mountains and castles and Fire Plains and beautiful sunsets and sunrises and horseback rides and dresses and stars and camps and I JUST.
I LOVED IT.
IT WAS PERFECTION.
Not to mention that Hayse described the settings in such a way that you could practically taste them. I would 10/10 be okay with finding myself magically transported into this world for a day. Or a week. Or a month.
You know. Minus the terrible war happening across the entire country and all that. . .
Seriously, though, the settings of this book were simply stunning. I’m kind of hoping there’s a sequel, just so I can visit this world again and soak in all of the delicious goodness. Worldbuilding was definitely a five star for this book, and I am thoroughly impressed by Hayse’s ability to create vivid and lifelike settings.
PART THREE . . . THE PLOT/THEME
/MY OPINIONS THAT NO ONE ASKED FOR
All right, guys, stick with me here, because my brain is a little bit foggy today. Not only has it been well over a month since I’ve completed this story, buut I’ve also had a cold for the past week, and I’m only just starting to come out of the weird cold-brain-fogginess. So.
Let’s see if I can talk about this properly.
The plot of Crowning Heaven was — in my humble opinion — really good. There’s a ruthless queen who wants nothing more than for Heaven — a smol American girl who had absolutely no clue she was even tied to royal blood — to be dead, a terrible war that kind of broke my heart in many places, and *SPOILERS* (highlight the hidden text to read the spoiler) >> a royal matchmaking thing that kind of reminded me of Princess Diaries 2 and honestly had me laughing my face off the entire time I read it. The whole thing was just so awkward and fun and it was literally the most fun I’ve had with a book for quite some time. XD <<
Now, throwing all these things together, I seriously loved the plot. Fantastical settings and worlds and kingdoms at war and *SPOILER* >> AWKWARD ROMANCES!!!!! << are my JAM, and I had a lovely time reading through it all and getting to experience it right alongside Heaven. However — and this could just be me being severely nitpicky, so feel free to take this with as many grains of salt as needed — sometimes it felt like I was missing something from Heaven.
In the beginning of the book, we meet Heaven in a tiny little coffee shop in America, and it is extremely easy to see that she was raised in the modern American world. Her thoughts, dress, way of speaking, etc. all showcase where she has her roots. However, as she begins to get swept off into the fantastical worlds of Rodhcar and Castellan (I’m 98% positive I spelled at least one of those wrong), there’s this almost immediate shift of her thoughts and way of speaking into the ways of Rodhcar, with little to no resistance on her part, which felt just a little off for me.
Now, to be fair, there definitely were parts of the story where Heaven’s American-ness really shone through, and I absolutely adored these parts!!! Like when she’s talking to Nic about fast food and hamburgers and all that delightful stuff. But I just wish there had been a little bit more of that sort of backtracking into the old American ways, simply because her childhood culture was so far flung from the cultures of Castellan and Rodhcar, and I would have really loved to see those cultures clash in the most bizarre ways possible.
However, as I said, there definitely were some of these clashes. I just would have liked to see more of them. Because I live on the painful awkwardness of others, obviously.
*end of Kenzie’s rant of unwanted opinions*
Secondly, I really want to touch on the theme for a moment here, because HOLY COW, THAT THEME, THOUGH. Themes are something I’m usually kind of meh about (even when it comes to my own writing, which is a PROBLEM, folks), but at the end of Crowning Heaven, I maaaaaaaaay or may not have been shedding just a wee little tear at how far Heaven had come.
I just . . . the ending was really touching, okay? I mean, it was also severely heartbreaking, but it was a touching sort of heartbreak. Like when someone smashes your heart into a million pieces, but you kind of sort of like it.
I JUST REALLY LOVE WHERE THIS BOOK ENDS UP, OKAY. DON’T JUDGE ME.
. . . OVERALL . . .
In the end, Crowning Heaven was a magnificent debut by a brand new favorite author of mine. Although there were moments where I felt Heaven’s character was a little bumpy, I still ended up seriously loving her and her character arc and transformation, and I am really really hoping that Emily writes a sequel. . . *crosses fingers* *and toes* *and eyeballs*
The characters of Crowning Heaven were, as is most often the case, the crowning feature* of this story for me, but the plot and theme and worldbuilding were equally as delightful, and I would 10/10 recommend this to anyone who loves a good fantasy with warring kingdoms and epic settings and ruthless queens and awkward romance!
*HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA! DO YOU GET IT??? DO YOU???
My rating: Four out of five stars and a cookie. Because TYR. *sobs*
TALK TO ME, PEASANTS!
That’s all I’ve got for today, folks! I’m not really sure what kinds of questions to ask at the end of a book review. . . Ummmmmm. . . What kinds of books have you been reading lately? Have you ever read Crowning Heaven? WILL you read Crowning Heaven? What’s your favorite brand of peanut butter? Are you wearing socks right now?
I really don’t know how to end this. Let’s just talk about all of the things down in the comments below, okay? Okay.
*flings cookies in the air and disappears*