I have never read a greater hook than the one I read in, ‘In Five Years,’ by Rebecca Serle. Dannie Kohan goes to sleep one night engaged, and wakes up five years in the future, getting a small glimpse of a moment in time – but with an entirely different man than the one she became engaged to. This sets off a chain of events that forever impacts Dannie’s life, especially when Dannie actually meets the other man from her dream.
The fantastic hook and premise set far too high of an expectation for me, and as the book played out, I found myself disappointed and wanting. I thought I was opening up a dynamic love story, but it turned out to be a sad tale of friendship, more than anything. Had Serle labeled their work as contemporary fiction, rather than the time-travel romance tale it was marketed as, I think this would have prevented such the let down that I felt.
As to the beautifully wonderful things that Serle did fantastically, the structure of the novel was quite intriguing, as the reader already knew the ending. The real reason I kept reading was to figure out how Serle masterfully tucked together an intricate web of a story, towards the ending revealed to us from the very beginning.
Overall rating: 🖤🖤🖤🖤 Romance rating: 18+ (Bumped up from the previous novel, due to the portrayal of some of the darker romantic themes.) I enjoyed this book so much more than the first in the series! There was beautiful character development on Feyre’s part. Maas has the ability to incorporate such real feeling emotions in her characters. In the previous book, a quart of thorns and roses, there seems to be the general consensus that it had a very beauty and the beast feel to it. With the second book, a quart of missed and fury, it had a different flavor all its own. (Despite there being the familiar theme of stealing away Feyre from the world she knew before) The world building in this book was better than the last, and the unique chemistry that forms between the characters was more palpable than the previous book. The plot development shows that Sarah J Maas really considered her overarching goal for the series before she ever put pen to paper for the first novel, and for that I truly commend her.
However, the unrealistic character transformations for Feyre’s love interests really became distracting for me. The biggest issue that I had with the second book in her series, and the reason why I couldn’t give it a full five stars/hearts, is that I just didn’t find the timeline and love interest character swap to be believable. The main character, Feyre, had a change of heart regarding two very important characters, and I think those feelings that Maas wrote felt very organic and genuine. But I just didn’t buy into the good guy suddenly becoming a bad guy and the bad guy suddenly becoming the good guy. It’s not that the storyline itself is unbelievable, but the abrupt character shifts just didn’t make sense. Some actions aren’t fully explained, leaving the reader to wonder why the new good guys did bad things in the past and the new bad guys did good things. The ending seemed to be one of those too good to be true endings, where our main character Fayre pulls off a challenging heist over an ancient, more prepared adversary.
Despite the drawbacks of the second book, I personally would favor it more than the first and will be reading the rest of the series eagerly. Sarah J. Maas’s ability to write in beautiful emotional characters is certainly one of her greatest talents, and though I had several questions throughout the book, I still continued reading so I can continue on Feyre’s journey with her.
Overall rating: 🖤🖤🖤.🖤 Romance rating: flexible 18+ I went back and forth on how to rate this book, and I struggled for a while on putting my finger on exactly what it was that pulled this book back from being rated 4 stars. Grace Draven cultivates immediate intrigue in the first chapters of Phoenix Unbound, and I found myself turning page after page eagerly. The middle began to lull for me, and the pacing slowed. The characters are compelling, so I continued reading towards the ultimate crescendo of the novel, and JUST when I thought Draven was going to pull the rug out from under my expectations as a reader, the direction shifted and the novel tied together in a wholly unexpected way. I think this would have worked if the twist had felt more planned, and less crafted by happenstance. I feel there is a difference between a plot twist, and finishing a series with an unexplained bang – just to have some sort of ending. For those that have read the book or intend to, I am speaking of the very, very end.
Some of the best features of this book were the world-building and the deeply rich lore. Draven created an immersive world that is rich in its flavor and surroundings, and I found myself enraptured by their depiction. While this book might not be one that I purchase for my personal collection, I would certainly recommend this book to others if they are fans of fantasy and compelling backstories for their female heroines.