Life’s Too Short – Courting Darkness, The Cassandra, The Wolf and the Watchman

Posted February 28, 2019 by Bonnie in 2019, Book Reviews, Life's Too Short / 5 Comments

I received this book free from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Life’s Too Short – Courting Darkness, The Cassandra, The Wolf and the WatchmanCourting Darkness by Robin LaFevers
Series: Courting Darkness Duology #1
Published by HMH Books for Young Readers on February 5, 2019
Pages: 512
Genres: Fantasy, Historical Fiction
Format: eARC
Source: Netgalley
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Also by this author: Grave Mercy, Dark Triumph


Death wasn’t the end, it was only the beginning…

Sybella has always been the darkest of Death’s daughters, trained at the convent of Saint Mortain to serve as his justice. But she has a new mission now. In a desperate bid to keep her two youngest sisters safe from the family that nearly destroyed them all, she agrees to accompany the duchess to France, where they quickly find themselves surrounded by enemies. Their one ray of hope is Sybella’s fellow novitiates, disguised and hidden deep in the French court years ago by the convent—provided Sybella can find them.

Genevieve has been undercover for so many years, she struggles to remember who she is or what she’s supposed to be fighting for. Her only solace is a hidden prisoner who appears all but forgotten by his guards. When tragedy strikes, she has no choice but to take matters into her own hands—even if it means ignoring the long awaited orders from the convent.

As Sybella and Gen’s paths draw ever closer, the fate of everything they hold sacred rests on a knife’s edge. Will they find each other in time, or will their worlds collide, destroying everything they care about?

DNF @ 10%

Courting Darkness returns the focus to Sybella (originally from Dark Triumph) and her new mission in life. I adored the original trilogy and while it has been said that it’s not necessary to read them to appreciate the new duology, I found a definite lack of world-building and establishment of character in this installment. Whether or not it’s necessary, I would highly recommend reading them for the background knowledge alone since it does not appear to be given in Courting Darkness. And while it must be said that there isn’t anything necessarily wrong with this story (despite my obvious DNF) I realized shortly into this that while I was originally excited for more stories set in this world, I felt that the original trio’s stories had been told and nothing more was needed.

I received this book free from Library Thing in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Life’s Too Short – Courting Darkness, The Cassandra, The Wolf and the WatchmanThe Cassandra by Sharma Shields
Published by Henry Holt and Co. on February 12, 2019
Pages: 304
Genres: Historical Fiction, Fairy-Tales/Retellings
Format: ARC
Source: Library Thing
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The Cassandra follows a woman who goes to work in a top secret research facility during WWII, only to be tormented by visions of what the mission will mean for humankind.

Mildred Groves is an unusual young woman. Gifted and cursed with the ability to see the future, Mildred runs away from home to take a secretary position at the Hanford Research Center in the early 1940s. Hanford, a massive construction camp on the banks of the Columbia River in remote South Central Washington, exists to test and manufacture a mysterious product that will aid the war effort. Only the top generals and scientists know that this product is processed plutonium, for use in the first atomic bombs.

Mildred is delighted, at first, to be part of something larger than herself after a lifetime spent as an outsider. But her new life takes a dark turn when she starts to have prophetic dreams about what will become of humankind if the project is successful. As the men she works for come closer to achieving their goals, her visions intensify to a nightmarish pitch, and she eventually risks everything to question those in power, putting her own physical and mental health in jeopardy. Inspired by the classic Greek myth, this 20th century reimagining of Cassandra's story is based on a real WWII compound that the author researched meticulously. A timely novel about patriarchy and militancy, The Cassandra uses both legend and history to look deep into man's capacity for destruction, and the resolve and compassion it takes to challenge the powerful.

DNF @ 21%

In Greek mythology, Cassandra was cursed to speak prophecies that no one would ever believe. Sharma Shields’ Cassandra is a woman who also possesses the ability to prophesize and when she goes to work for the research facility that created the atomic bomb during WWII, her protestations fall on deaf ears when she tries to warn everyone of what’s to come. The plot of this one sounded fascinating and I was anxiously awaiting my opportunity to read it but unfortunately, I found Cassandra’s character to be insufferable and the rest of the characters were completely depthless. Whether or not they were developed further on in the story is a moot point since I obviously did not finish this story, however, character development is not a better late than never sort of thing and should have been done in the very beginning. The bit of story I did read left a lot to be desired plot-wise as well. Cassandra’s story lacked fluidity and felt rather like she was simply checking off boxes on a list of what she knows she does in life. Considering she’s got the gift of prophecy it’s thoroughly possible that this could have been the reason, except, Cassandra never felt like an active participant in her own life and seemed much more likely that it was the author checking off boxes instead. It was at about the point I hit this quote that I decided this just wasn’t for me:

“I admired his stridency. I wanted to bake it, to eat it like a large meat loaf so that it would enter my bloodstream and become my own.”

I received this book free from the Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Life’s Too Short – Courting Darkness, The Cassandra, The Wolf and the WatchmanThe Wolf and the Watchman by Niklas Natt och Dag
Published by Atria Books on March 5, 2019
Pages: 384
Genres: Historical Fiction
Format: ARC
Source: the Publisher
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In this breathtakingly bold, intricately constructed novel set in 18th century Stockholm, a dying man searches among the city’s teeming streets, dark corners, and intriguing inhabitants to unmask a ruthless murderer—perfect for fans of Perfume and The Alienist.

It is 1793. Four years after the storming of the Bastille in France and more than a year after the death of King Gustav III of Sweden, paranoia and whispered conspiracies are Stockholm’s daily bread. A promise of violence crackles in the air as ordinary citizens feel increasingly vulnerable to the whims of those in power.

When Mickel Cardell, a crippled ex-solider and former night watchman, finds a mutilated body floating in the city’s malodorous lake, he feels compelled to give the unidentifiable man a proper burial. For Cecil Winge, a brilliant lawyer turned consulting detective to the Stockholm police, a body with no arms, legs, or eyes is a formidable puzzle and one last chance to set things right before he loses his battle to consumption. Together, Winge and Cardell scour Stockholm to discover the body’s identity, encountering the sordid underbelly of the city’s elite. Meanwhile, Kristofer Blix—the handsome son of a farmer—leaves rural life for the alluring charms of the capital and ambitions of becoming a doctor. His letters to his sister chronicle his wild good times and terrible misfortunes, which lead him down a treacherous path.

In another corner of the city, a young woman—Anna-Stina—is consigned to the workhouse after she upsets her parish priest. Her unlikely escape plan takes on new urgency when a sadistic guard marks her as his next victim.

Over the course of the novel, these extraordinary characters cross paths and collide in shocking and unforgettable ways. Niklas Natt och Dag paints a deliciously dark portrait of late 18th century Stockholm, and the frightful yet fascinating reality lurking behind the powdered and painted veneer of the era.

DNF @ 20%

The Wolf and the Watchmen is a story set in 1793 involving the brutal murder of a man and the duo on the hunt for the perpetrator. This is quite a violent and graphic story but it paints a vivid portrait of 18th century Sweden. Did anyone watch the show Taboo with Tom Hardy? It reminded me a lot of that except Taboo has a facet of the supernatural and this story did not. While I don’t normally need supernatural additives in my historical fiction for them to suceed, it did make me realize that I felt like there was something missing to this story that I couldn’t quite put my finger on. This story is admittedly very well-written and I can see why it was awarded best debut novel by The Swedish Academy of Crime Writers, unfortunately, the bleakness of the story was absolute and I couldn’t find the motivation to finish.


5 responses to “Life’s Too Short – Courting Darkness, The Cassandra, The Wolf and the Watchman

  1. So I’ve been seeing The Cassandra everywhere and to be honest, actually placed a hold on Overdrive – which I’m not retracting. Too many other things to read. Thanks for such honest reviews and for potentially saving others from what you went through.

  2. This is the second DNF I’ve seen for Courting Darkness — bummer! I really enjoying it, but I’ve also only read Grave Mercy from the original trilogy. While some of the characters were familiar, this was the first time I met most! I’m sorry it didn’t work for you.

    Also, I’m not sure if I’ve mentioned this before, but I do a DNF&Y post at the end of every month. If you do something similar, I’d love for you to link up! I think it would be a good way to bring attention to your post, and have similar topics grouped together. I was a little late this month, but that doesn’t usually happen! 🙂

    Lindsi @ Do You Dog-ear? 💬
    Lindsi Root recently posted…Seafire (Seafire, #1) by Natalie C. ParkerMy Profile

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