Review: “Wild Savage Stars” by Kristina Pérez

Wild Savage Stars (Kristina Perez)Title: Wild Savage Stars
Series: Sweet Black Waves #2
Author: Kristina Pérez
Publication Date: August 27, 2019
Publisher: Imprint
Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐
Get it: IndieBound | Book Depository | Barnes and Noble | Books-a-Million | Amazon | Kobo | Apple Books

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/39863498-the-gilded-wolves

ARC provided by the publisher through Edelweiss. All opinions expressed in this review are my own.

Kristina Pérez picks up where she left off in Wild Savage Stars, her second installment in her Tristan-and-Isolt-inspired series.

Branwen has a secret powerful enough to destroy two kingdoms.

Her ancient magic led to a terrible betrayal by both her best friend, the princess Essy, and her first love, Tristan. Now this same magic is changing Branwen. Adrift in a rival court, Branwen must hide the truth from the enemy king by protecting the lovers who broke her heart – and finds herself considering a darker path.

Not everyone wants the alliance with Branwen’s kingdom to succeed – peace is balanced on a knife’s edge, and her only chance may be to embrace the darkness within…

I read Kristina Pérez’s debut Sweet Black Waves last year and fell in love with her story. It’s one about love – love for your motherland and its people, love for your family, of the sister of your heart, and of love found unexpectedly. Pérez put her own spin on a legend that has been repeatedly told and romanticized over the centuries, breathing fresh life into it by focusing on a different character. It was an exciting start for a new series, and with the way it ended, I knew that I just have to get my hands on its sequel or else my curiosity will kill me.

Well, reader, I got my wish and boy, it was everything.

Brutal, magical, romantic and tragic – Wild Savage Stars was both the sequel I expected it to be and a surprising follow-up to its predecessor. It starts off almost immediately after the events of Sweet Black Waves with Branwen, Tristan and Eseult arriving at Iveriu’s enemy country of Kernyv. Pérez places her original trio in a new land, introduces new characters- both allies and foes – and ups the stakes in this installment.

Wild Savage Stars quote #1

Despite all these additions though, the story felt instantly familiar and I was quickly drawn back into this series’ world. Pérez’s writing is as strong as ever with lush descriptions and dramatic prose that is sure to coax an emotional response even from the most stoic of readers – be it anger, sadness or horror. Her scholarly knowledge of medieval legends, as it has done in her first book, continues to provide a solid foundation for her version of the story. It’s actually one of the things that originally pulled me to this series.

But it wasn’t why I stayed.

Branwen is a complex character. Dutiful to a fault and loyal to the bone, she oftentimes falls victim to her own schemes: making decisions that she thinks will best protect the ones she loves and overplaying her hand in preserving peace for her beloved Iveriu. She is not easy to like – most of the time she’s actually quite unlikeable – but there’s just something so ineffably human about her, in her struggle between what her heart’s wants and her mind’s idea of what is right, in being cleaved in half by love and hate, being caught up in between anger and forgiveness.

This series may be inspired by Tristan and Iseult’s legends, but this is Branwen’s story and she commands this book, dictating its tone and pace like the wildfire that she is. Wild Savage Stars is darker, more complicated than its predecessor. It mirrors Branwen’s growing powers and her new life in a new land – one that she has long seen as an enemy.

Wild Savage Stars quote #2

Indeed, while Tristan (annoyingly repentant to the point of self-flagellation) and Eseult (still selfish, immature, irresponsible, petty and, just so completely, wholly unworthy) remained stagnant, Branwen flourished. She falls in headfirst into Kernyvak politics, faltering at first but quickly became more adept as she gained her footing. She also, finally, comes around to accept her ancient magic – scaling up another level after vacillating between denial and reluctance in SWB and the first third of this second book.

Shifting the focus on new characters – the fair and kind King Marc and the cagey Ruan – instead of meandering on the broken pieces of the Tristan-Branwen-Eseult triangle was actually a godsend as it gave Branwen and the story a depth that the first book lacked.

Wild Savage Stars quote #3

I enjoyed reading this book so much and not just because it pushes the series on. Wild Savage Stars can very well stand on its own and even improves on its predecessor – something that a lot of sequels fail to do. With the way this installment ended, (Gasp! Another betrayal!) the series closer is bound to be an exciting one, and I’m in this ride come what way. Historical fiction buffs, Fantasy lovers, Romance readers and fans of retellings will all find something to love in this book. I definitely, definitely recommend this whole series and if you see a girl pushing this book into people’s hands, that’ll be me.

about the author

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KRISTINA PÉREZ is the author of The Myth of Morgan La Fey (Palgrave Macmillan, 2014). She holds a Ph.D. in Medieval Literature from the University of Cambridge.

She has lectured at the National University of Singapore on vampires in Western Culture and was a Visiting Assistant Professor at Hong Kong University’s Journalism and Media Studies Centre. As a journalist, her work has appeared in The Wall Street Journal Asia, Departures, L’Officiel India, Condé Nast Traveller, CNNGo and the South China Morning Post, among others.

Her debut YA Fantasy, Sweet Black Waves – a Tristan and Iseult retelling – was published by Imprint/Macmillan on June 5th, 2018. The sequel, Wild Savage Stars was published on August 27th, 2019.

Writing as K.K. Péerez, her first YA Sci-Fi, The Tesla Legacy was published by Tor Teen on March 12th, 2019.

Website | Twitter | Facebook | Instagram | Tumblr

Can’t-Wait Wednesday: “Wild Savage Stars” by Kristina Pérez

Can't Wait Wednesday

Can’t-Wait Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted Tressa at Wishful Endings, to spotlight and discuss the books we’re excited about that we have yet to read. It’s based on Waiting on Wednesday, hosted Jill at Breaking the Spine.


Happy Wednesday everyone!

I missed CWW for a couple of weeks. Life has been keeping me busy, I’m afraid. There were a few changes at my work. Nope, still doing the same thing – being a nurse and all that – but I was given a new clinic to establish and manage, which is a good thing though I haven’t gotten to feeling excited about it yet. I’ll get there eventually, I think.

Anyway, to get me back to the CWW track, I’m featuring a sequel to a book I loved last year.

Wild Savage Stars (Kristina Perez)Title: Wild Savage Stars
Series: Sweet Black Waves #2
Author: Kristina Pérez
Publication Date: August 27, 2019
Publisher: Imprint
Pre-order: IndieBound | Book Depository | Barnes and Noble | Books-a-Million | Amazon | Kobo | Apple Books

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/39863498-the-gilded-wolves

Branwen has a secret powerful enough to destroy two kingdoms.

Her ancient magic led to a terrible betrayal by both her best friend, the princess Essy, and her first love, Tristan. Now this same magic is changing Branwen. Adrift in a rival court, Branwen must hide the truth from the enemy king by protecting the lovers who broke her heart―and finds herself considering a darker path.

Not everyone wants the alliance with Branwen’s kingdom to succeed―peace is balanced on a knife’s edge, and her only chance may be to embrace the darkness within…

I really loved Kristina Pérez’s take on Tristan and Iseult Sweet Black Waves when it came out last year. She created such an interesting character in Branwen – someone still coming to grips with her newfound power, someone divided between her duties and her own wants. The first book ended in a sort of cliffhanger and I’m excited to see how things pan out for her, for Tristan, maybe a bit about Iseult as well, (but if you read my review of the Sweet Black Waves you’ll know how I feel about her.)

I was lucky enough to get a chance to read an ARC of this book. I can’t get to it right now because I still have a couple more books on my schedule, but you bet I will get to this book as quick as I can.

💗💗💗

Rachel

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What book/s are you excited for this week?

 

The Mid-year Freak Out Tag, or The “Rachel, Why Are You Posting This Just Now? It’s Already Mid-July” Post

Mid-year BT

I know, you don’t have to tell me the date. I’m posting this mid-year freak out thing halfway through July. June has been a really busy month for me at work. The flu vaccines that we ordered were delivered and blah, blah blah…you don’t want to hear about it. I’m not griping. I actually love working at a clinic setting. As an occupational health nurse, I have more independence here compared to when I was working in a hospital.

This year has been good for me in all aspects. That includes reading and my life as a reader of course. Here are some of the highlights of my year so far:

🍂  Coming back from my hiatus: I’ve been blogging about books since 2013, but had a long hiatus (5 years) before finally coming back last April. I consider myself lucky that I still have readers, and that I’ve gained new ones. The bookish community has always been a friendly and supportive one. Know that I consider all of you my friends 🤗 🤗 🤗

🍂Breaking my writer’s block: I have had the worst writer’s block the past year. No matter how long I stare at my laptop’s screen nothing comes out, so it really feels so good to just be writing again.

🍂Finally getting myself a new bookshelf: I’m bad at keeping myself away from bookstores and, as it is, I’ve accumulated a ton of books, more than half of which I haven’t yet read. For some months, they were stacked in my room’s floor (okay, maybe there were 3 stacks *cringe*) This new bookshelf will keep my babies safe and protected.

SO, yay me! *pats own back* Anyway, before I go talk you into sleep, here’s how the first half of the year has been for me as a reader. I hope you enjoy reading my answers as much as I enjoyed thinking and writing them up.

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How many books have you read so far?

28 (and still counting) 😁

My ultimate goal this year is to actually get out of my comfort zone and read more books from other genres. I love sci-fi and fantasy. Books from these two closely related genres are definitely easier to get into for me. But I’ve noticed that more than 50% of the books I’ve finished last year were from either of those two genres (not that I’m complaining) so spreading my wings a bit, so to say, is my target this year. I think I’m doing great so far.

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What is your reading goal for the year?

A modest 40 books.

I used to set a very ambitious 100-200 books years ago (I was young okay!) but learned my lesson.

That 40-book goal is actually a step up from last year’s 30 and 2016’s 20, which I both surpassed. I’m hoping I’ll be able to reach my goal again this year, but if not, then it’s really no big deal. Hey, as long as I get to read books I’m happy. It ain’t no contest. (Yes, younger self, that goes out to you! 🙄🙄🙄)

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Best book you’ve read so far

Sadie by Courtney Summers. This is, hands down, Courtney Summers’ best book so far. Sadie is so unapologetically dark and gripping. I can’t recommend it enough. Here’s a link to my review if you want to read more about how this book messed me up.

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Best sequel you’ve read so far

Hmmm…tough one. 🤔 I’d have to give it to Dark Triumph, the second book in Robin LaFevers’ His Fair Assassin trilogy (which I loved) but War Storm by Victoria Aveyard comes at a very close second.

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New release you haven’t read yet, but want to

Definitely Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi. It’s been receiving a lot of buzz, the most recent of which is being featured on The Tonight’s Show book club as their first read. Plus, I’ve heard great things about it so I’m really excited to read it just as soon as time allows me to sneak it into my TBR pile.

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Most anticipated release for the second half of the year

Wildcard (screams) I just have to know what happens next especially after that ending in Warcross!!! (I requested for a review copy of this but was declined. Penguin semi-hates me.)

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Biggest disappointment

Ghosted by Rosie Walsh. I don’t want to explain it again so here’s my review. (I’m still amazed I finished it. Oh well 😑)

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Biggest Surprise35430013

It’s a tie between A Thousand Beginnings and Endings edited by Ellen Oh and Elsie Chapman, and The Wars of the Roses: The Fall of the Plantagenets and The Rise of the Tudors by Dan Jones.

Anthologies, generally, are a hit-and-miss for me, with more misses than hits, but this collection of re-tellings of Asian myths, legends and folklore turned that around. I loved most of the stories in it, and it just felt so good to read one centered on my people and our culture. It’s another step towards diversity in books.

Okay, now my nerd is going to come out. I loved Dan Jones’ The Wars of the Roses. It’s about, as the title suggests, the fall of the Plantagenet kings and the rise of the Tudors. Did you know that Owen Tudor married Catherine of Valois (Henry V’s widow & Henry VI’s mother) in secret because they were not allowed since Owen was Welsh? I sure didn’t. It was interesting to learn more about how the Tudors came to power in England. Plus, Dan Jones’ books are just so easy to read, it’s like reading a story only the story he is telling happened in real life. (Addendum: Dan Jones has a few documentaries in his portfolio. You should check them out. I think his Great British Castles docu-series is a great place to start. Another addendum: He’s really cute! 😍)

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Favorite new author (Debut or new to you)

Kristina Pèrez. She’s a debut author and she just released her first book, Sweet Black Waves, last month. It’s a re-telling of the ancient Celtic legend Tristan and Iseult. It’s swoony, and full of magic and alludes to Celtic culture. I enjoyed her work a whole lot and now waiting (impatiently) for the sequel to come out next year.

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31179006Newest fictional crush

While no one will ever replace Tobias Eaton in my heart, (He’s still my ultimate book boyfriend and not just because he is played by the gorgeous Theo James in the movies. Brave, smart, patient and kind – he’s just the whole deal) I have found two new book boyfriends the past 6 months. Gavriel Duval from Grave Mercy by Robin LaFevers and Prince Tristan of Kernyv from Sweet Black Waves by Kristina Pèrez. Those two just make me swoon. 😍😍😍

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Newest fictional character

The broken but still fierce Sybella d’Albret from Robin LaFevers’ Dark Triumph. My love for this baby is more than a truckload. I just want to hug her and cheer her on as she gets her revenge on the people who hurt her.

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Book the made you cry

Sadie. It made me cry ugly, angry tears for what has been done to Sadie. Really guys, I couldn’t wait for it to come out, so you could read it already. Let’s commiserate together after you guys are done with it, okay?

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Book that made you happy

My Plain Jane by Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton and Jodi Meadows. It’s such a funny and sassy re-telling of Jane Eyre.

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Favorite book to film adaptation you saw this year

Sharp Objects. It’s not really a movie, a limited series on HBO, and it’s only on its first episode but it’s soooo good. Plus, Gillian Flynn, the “Gillian Flynn”, herself, wrote for the series.

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Favorite review you’ve written this year (so far)

A Thousand Beginnings and Endings because it was one of my most detailed ones and, personally, I still find reviewing anthologies hard. Here’s the link to it if you want to check it out.

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Most beautiful book you’ve bought (or received) so far this yearws

War Storm. You can only imagine the happiness and pleasure I get from seeing all four RQ books + Cruel Crown together on my shelves. You have one happy girl here.

(P.S. I want that crown!!! 👑👑👑)

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What books do you need to read by the end of the year?

🍂  Cruel Prince : I have this now. Oh, the cover is soooo pretty!!!

🍂  Six of Crows and Crooked Kingdom : I just can’t seem to find this in my local bookstore. I might have to order it from Book Depository. But I am definitely going to read this within the year.

🍂  Carve the Mark and The Fates Divide : I actually started on Carve the Mark but am putting it back on hold. It’s the kind of book you need a lot of time to read. I’m reserving it for December when I will go on a bit of a leave from work and blogging (just one week, y’all) for the holidays.

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There you have it! The first half of my 2018 has been productive so far. Here’s to a more bookishly fruitful last half. Cheers! 🥂🍻

💗💗💗

Rachel

Review: “Sweet Black Waves” by Kristina Pèrez

31179006Title: Sweet Black Waves (Sweet Black Waves #1)

Author: Kristina Pèrez

Publisher: Imprint/Macmillan

Publication Date: June 5, 2018

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐ 1/2

Get it: IndieBound | Book Depository | Barnes and Noble | Amazon | Books-a-million

 

 

 

Odai eti ama. I hate and I love.

That line just about sums up what I feel about Sweet Black Waves, the first book in what is to become a trilogy inspired by the Celtic legend of Tristan and Iseult.

Not you without me, not me without you.

Two proud kingdoms stand on opposite shores, with only a bloody history between them.

As best friend and lady-in-waiting to the princess, Branwen is guided by two principles: devotion to her homeland and hatred for the raiders who killed her parents. When she unknowingly saves the life of her enemy, he awakens her ancient healing magic and opens her heart. Branwen begins to dream of peace, but the princess she serves is not so easily convinced. Fighting for what’s right, even as her powers grow beyond her control, will set Branwen against both her best friend and the only man she’s ever loved.

Goodreads

Sweet Black Waves centers on Branwen, Princess Iseult’s cousin and lady-in-waiting. Orphaned when she was a young girl after both her parents were murdered by Kernyvak raiders, Branwen is taken in by her mother’s sister Queen Iseult and raised in court alongside her cousin Essy, the only child and the heir of Iveriu.

Apprenticed to her aunt and serving as lady-in-waiting to her cousin, Branny lives a seemingly content and peaceful life. But all these is turned upside down when a striking young man washes ashore, half-dead. Branny saves him without knowing that he’s an enemy, that their meeting will change everything for both of their countries and for themselves.

My feelings for this re-telling is a mix of good and not-so. The fact that this one is based on Tristan and Iseult is already a plus for me. I’ve been waiting for so long for a re-telling of this Celtic legend. I actually cannot believe no one has done this sooner. But while it does base a lot of its elements on the ancient legend, being super familiar with it is not a pre-requisite. You could easily go in blind and still enjoy this book.

Two things I loved about Sweet Black Waves: the writing and the main characters.

Pèrez’s writing is just so beautifully evocative you’ll be transported to a lush and untamed alternative version of ancient Ireland and Cornwall. From the first line down to the crushing end, I was hooked. Poetic and lyrical, readers are sure to find Pèrez’s story immersive. She overdoes this though at some points, dipping into purple prose territory, something I’m hoping she’ll be able to rein in in the coming sequels.

As gorgeous as Pèrez’s writing was, ultimately what made me keep on reading were the characters. I was just bound to love Branwen. Strong, loyal and dutiful, she is oftentimes caught in between her role as Essy’s handmaiden and keeper and working for peace between Iveriu and Kernyv. She is flawed as she is passionate, rash as she is cautious – and, for me, it made her character only more believable.

Then there’s Tristan – charming, sincere, romantic, good-hearted and fierce Tristan who also has loyalties of his own, duties of his own to his land and his king. It was hard not to like him.

Together, these two characters make for a compelling story. The pair of Branwen and Tristan, dare I say, is the best thing in Sweet Black Waves. I breezed through pages featuring these two, just wanting to know what happens next. It was interesting to watch Branwen and Tristan’s dynamic evolve from enemies to unwilling friends then finally becoming lovers. Their attraction was instant, something I was wary about at the start of the book though I got over it after seeing the obvious chemistry between them. These two are totally shippable! (I do, I ship them!!! 😍😍😍)

Now, for the not-so-good parts of this book.

As much as I love Sweet Black Waves, there are still things in it that I didn’t much like. They aren’t really big blunders, nothing as bad as that. I think it’s more to do with my preferences, so take this with a pinch of salt.

I’m writing this review a couple of days after I finished the book, so I had the time to let the story sink in. I just can’t help but think that Pèrez could have cut a bit more of the book’s bulk. At 400++ pages, Sweet Black Waves is a long book. I understand that this being the first installment of a planned trilogy, the author wants to lay down the building blocks of her world, and she succeeds half of the time. The other half though, she wobbled, forcing in the details so her characters arrive at a pre-planned conflict. I totally read through some of the foreshadowed events, and while it did not stop me from enjoying this story, it did take out the element of surprise the author intended for her readers. This problem was most noticeable in the second part where the story moved the slowest, the characters plodding through the thick plot Pèrez set up for them.

Another bit that could have been done better – the secondary characters. While both Branwen and Tristan’s characters are well-developed, the characters who support them just felt flat to me. King Óengus was almost non-existent. Essy and Keane, meanwhile, were two-dimensional, oftentimes playing foil for Branwen and Tristan.

For all its imperfections, however, Sweet Black Waves is a thoroughly enjoyable and emotional read. It’s an interesting and creatively imagined re-telling, and I’m sure going to grab the next two books especially after that punch-in-the-gut ending. I highly recommend this to readers of fantasy romance.

P.S. (because I just got to sneak this in) Essy annoyed me throughout the book. She doesn’t deserve Branny’s devotion. The brat! (You could tell, I still have a lot “feels”. Sorry, not sorry.)

P.P.S.The second book already has a title!!! Wild Savage Stars!!! 🤩🤩🤩

First Line Fridays: “Sweet Black Waves” by Kristina Perez

First Line Fridays (feature photo)

First Line Fridays is a weekly feature hosted by Hording Books.


This weeks FLF line comes from one of my current reads. I also featured this book in a recent CWW post. Yes, boys and girls, I finally have it in my hands. 🤩🤩🤩

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Smoke and screams and love.

Fractured images swirled in the back of Branwen’s mind, transporting her a thousand leagues away from Castle Rigani. She dug her fingernails into the armrests of her chair as her heartbeat accelerated. The dreams always grew worse this time of year. Snatches of color like stained glass that collided togethet and burst apart.

 

 

 

 

I’m not yet very far into this one as I only started yesterday and I’m also reading one other book (which I started earlier). Rest assured though, I will reviewing this book. I love what I’ve read so far.

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Rachel

What are you currently reading? Come, share the first line of it with me.

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