Category Archives: Kat’s Reviews

Red Hood And The Outlaws, Vol. 1: Redemption

Former Batman-sidekick-turned-vigilante, Red Hood is an antihero with scores to settle. When he teams up with Starfire and Arsenal, the trio start taking out the bad guys while dealing with their bad histories and “family” drama.

Title: Red Hood and the Outlaws, Vol. 1: Redemption
Author: Scott Lobdell (Writer), Joshua Williamson (Writer), Kenneth Rocafort (Illustrations)
Series: Red Hood and the Outlaws (2011) series
Publish Date: Aug 1, 2012 by DC Comics
Genre: superhero, graphic novel
Source: Purchased

Publisher’s Description: No sooner has Batman’s former sidekick, Jason Todd, put his past as the Red Hood behind him than he finds himself cornered by a pair of modern day outlaws: Green Arrow’s rejected sidekick Arsenal, the damaged soldier of fortune, and the alien Starfire, a former prisoner of intergalactic war who won’t be chained again. As a loner, Jason has absolutely no interest in this motley crew of outlaws. So what’s he going to do when they choose the Red Hood as their leader?

Possible spoilers beyond this point.


Kat Mandu says…

I admit I don’t read a lot of comic books. Bring on the boos and insults, I know. A lot of my superhero fandoms and knowledge stems from the MCU or DCU (movies) and other various sources. And then I get curious and read into them with the comic books. Plus, if I find a character I really love but isn’t in the movie universes, I tend to look up information on the character and go from there.

Red Hood (and Moonstone, but that’s another story) has always been different. Granted, I first came across his story by watching the animated movie Under The Red Hood. But after that, I became hooked. I recently attended the Wizard World Convention in Chicago and bought the entire Outlaw series (not 52) with glee.

Red Hood is the first DC character I truly adore and care about. Maybe it’s because I have an affinity for young characters who die and are reborn as something else. Maybe it’s because he’s got plenty of one-liners that make me giggle. Maybe it’s because he doesn’t suck *cough, cough Aquaman.*

Long story short, Red Hood was originally the second Robin, Jason Todd, a sidekick trained by Batman. He was murdered at a young age by the Joker and then came back (there are alternate versions of how he was reborn). He felt enraged that his death was not avenged and then donned the Red Hood, becoming a vigilante in the city of Gotham, promising to do better than Batman.

Regardless of the crimes he commits, Jason Todd is a hero at heart, protecting the innocent and getting the bad guys. His methods are far more justified than his mentor’s, even though he kills off the men he thinks are deserving—”let the punishment fit the crime.” He may not have the acute moral compass that Batman does when it comes to killing, but regardless, he mostly gets his revenge.

I’ve read Death In The Family, Under the Hood, and Lost Days, so now I figured it’s time to catch up on his Outlaw days.

I really enjoyed this first installment, too. Jason is smart, angry, and badass as he gets caught up in a rivalry between the All Caste (which is the assassin “school” he’s sent off to at the end of Lost Days) and The Untitled. While in the meantime, he’s teaming up with Starfire and Arsenal.

*On a side note, does anyone else hear Jensen Ackles’s voice as Jason’s? After watching Under The Red Hood, I totally still do.*

I don’t know much about Starfire beyond what I’ve seen in Teen Titans and other comics, so I wasn’t quite sure why she was hiding out on an island until she explained that it was because humans didn’t understand her, and vice versa. She’s quite a fire show with her emotions, pheromones, and powers.

I do know a lot of readers think the way she is portrayed by the writers/artists is sexist, but I don’t really buy into that. From EVERYTHING I’ve seen, Starfire has always been beautiful, has always tossed her feelings around, and has never been shy or uncomfortable about her body or feelings. She’s on an island where she’s free to do as she pleases and went there to escape restrictions. I don’t know what her sexuality has to do with sexism, because sexism is defined as prejudice, stereotyping, or discrimination, typically against women. So, how are the artists and writers being sexist? By drawing a beautiful woman who is a badass alien princess and has feelings? Come on, people. Be real here.

Arsenal is pretty damn funny. In one point of the story, Jason says something along the lines of Arsenal/Roy having the type of humor that is still funny but underlines a lot of things that are very true and very real, and I like that about him. Although I’ve never read the story where he does, I know that at one point, Arsenal goes up against the Justice League and Oliver Queen’s corporation. And I know that somewhere along the line, he loses everything—including himself. So he’s a sarcastic, sassy, angsty bastard, and I love it.

All in all, all these broken characters come in to team up and face down a series of undead, scaly, and very deadly foes and still come out victorious. Cue the applause.

Couple things before I wrap it up: I’d love to learn more about Essence. She seems like a badass too, and I’d never even heard of her before I read this series.

I’d love to see if this first book’s plots still has ties in the future books, or if it’s left unfinished. I guess I’ll find out!

And I love that, despite everything, Jason has learned, he’s still the same, angry person who wants to kill the Joker and who loathes Batman for not avenging his death. Learning new tricks and new saintly mantras doesn’t always make you a saint, and I like that Jason, though good at heart, isn’t going to be swayed one way or another. He’s going to do what he wants.

Overall, this gets a four from me.

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Gathering Darkness by Morgan Rhodes

Blood keeps spilling as the third book takes it up a notch and ushers in a whole new line of secrets, romances, and deadly twists.

Title: Gathering Darkness
Author: Morgan Rhodes
Series: Falling Darkness, Book 3
Publish Date: December 9th, 2014 by Razorbill
Genre: YA High Fantasy
Source: Purchased

Publisher’s DescriptionWar brought them together. Love will tear them apart.

Alliances form across Mytica and beyond as royals and rebels alike race to hunt down the Kindred—the four elemental crystals that give their owners god-like power. The stakes have never been higher for Magnus and Cleo, who are brought together by a life or death decision that will lock their fates and change the course of the kingdom forever.

THE REBELS forge ahead. Princess Cleo slays with sweetness—and a secret that might control Lucia’s magic—as she and vengeful Jonas lead the hunt for the all-powerful Kindred.

THE KRAESHIANS join the fray. Ashur and Amara, the royal siblings from the vast kingdom across the Silver Sea, prove to be just as ruthless as they are charming as they manipulate their way to victory.

THE WATCHERS follow Melenia out of the Sanctuary. They ally, in the flesh, with King Gaius, who vows to use Lucia’s powers to unveil the Kindred.

And which side will Prince Magnus choose, now that everyone he’s been betrayed by everyone he’s ever loved?

Possible spoilers beyond this point.


Kat Mandu says…

Magnus has been betrayed by his father, who harbors secrets about his true lineage and also had his mother killed, and by his sister, who knows the truth about his feelings and now feels nothing but repulsion from him despite their old bonds.

Cleo has a goal in mind—befriend Lucia, gain power over her and her magical abilities, and win back Auranos. And for the most part, it works until Lucia discovers the truth and goes berserk.

Jonas, with Cleo’s help and a shady new friend, is trying to find the kindred before anyone else and save his friends in the meantime. But trusting the wrong people is only going to get him in big trouble.

Lucia is awake, alive, and ready to get control over her elementia. But when the boy she loves is killed by all the machinations of the people she loves, she’s ready to go dark side.

So all these characters have their own agendas right now, and it makes for a very interesting mix. This is the first book in the series that really gripped me to my core so that when I was working away from the book, I found I really wanted to get back to it, wanted to read more to find out what would happen. I almost thought it was a five-star book.

But the romance just didn’t do it for me. At this point, Magnus seems to be throwing his love around anywhere the wind blows. He still cares for Lucia, though in honesty, he’s almost over her. He decides to sleep with Amara, who turns out to be his enemy. And then at the end, he and Cleo kiss at random. Like, what the hell? Plus, Lucia gets her own romance in Alexius, sleeping with a guy she barely knows and will probably be the end of her (which he is, who could have guessed?). And Nic, who wants Cleo and Ashur? Ashur, who kisses him, confuses him, and suddenly he’s in love with him?

Man, half of it just seemed… forced or there just to be a simple plot. I know for certain that the other half of it was there for plot twists. Like Magnus sleeping with Amara. That much I knew was a mind game. But the rest? Predictable and sometimes unnecessary. It distracted me from the main plots of the book.

But it still gets a four from me anyway!

Series list and reviews…

Some links will become active as future reviews are published.

Other recommendations…

Leigh Bardugo’s Grishaverse; Renee Adieh’s The Wrath and the Dawn; Jodi Meadows’s The Orphan Queen series.

Rebel Spring by Morgan Rhodes

Limeros is victorious – but Auranos and Paelsia now have to deal with the consequences of their actions in book one. Now Jonas and Cleo must take a stand against some very powerful enemies. And Magnus will have to decide what is more important to him – love or duty – as he’s forced to marry a woman whose life he destroyed.

Title: Rebel Spring
Author: Morgan Rhodes
Series: Falling Kingdoms, Book 2
Publish Date: November 27th, 2013 by Razorbill
Genre: YA High Fantasy
Source: Purchased

Publisher’s Description: After a bloody siege, Auranos has been defeated, its young queen orphaned and dethroned. The three kingdoms—Auranos, Limeros, and Paelsia—are now unwillingly united as one country called Mytica. But the allure of ancient, dangerous magic beckons still, and with it the chance to rule not just Mytica, but the whole world over…

At the heart of the fray are four brave young people grappling for that magic and the power it promises. For Cleo, the magic would enable her to reclaim her royal seat. In Jonas’s hands, it frees his nation, and in Lucia’s, it fulfills the ancient prophecy of her destiny. And if the magic were Magnus’s, he would finally prove his worth in the eyes of his cruel and scheming father, King Gaius, who rules Mytica with a punishing hand.

When Gaius begins to build a road into the Forbidden Mountains to physically link all of Mytica, he sparks a long-smoking fire in the hearts of the people that will forever change the face of this land. For Gaius’s road is paved with blood, and its construction will have cosmic consequences.

Possible spoilers beyond this point.


Kat Mandu says…

Jonas becomes the leader of the rebels and a very, very wanted man. Cleo has just lost her family and throne and is now a prisoner in her own home, forced to marry Magnus. Lucia slumbers deeply for mysterious reasons. And Magnus is trying to figure out where his loyalties really lie.

The plot is still thickening in this one as people really start to see new sides to new characters. Lo and behold, the Limerian king actually had a magical guide, telling him to slaughter everyone that stood in his way, a guide that has ties to Alexius, who visits Lucia in her dreams, and Lucia has the ability to do practically anything with her powers. Hmm… the mysteries surrounding this one deepen.

Plus, here’s a kicker. Jonas and Cleo are trying to set aside their differences (Jonas kidnapped Cleo in the first one and he does it again in this one) and team up. But of course, things don’t always go according to plan. Jonas isn’t the best strategist, and so he often leads his comrades into very dangerous, unlucky situations. Cleo may be getting better at lying and faking her way through most of the things she’s facing, but even she can’t silver-tongue the King of Blood.

And there’s a lot of blood. That’s for sure. Lots of action in this, plus I’m finally starting to lean towards certain characters more, which is what the author was probably trying to do. Get readers to root for certain characters, root for a certain side. I find that I’m actually the least fond of Lucia. Because she hasn’t witnessed a lot of hard times in her life (she was the favored child, spoiled by her father but hated by her mother), she seems like a naive brat who throws tantrums whenever she doesn’t get her way. And now she’s giving whatever darkness she has within her time to play.

Four stars for this one – I’m really starting to get hooked at this point.

Series list and reviews…

Some links will become active as future reviews are published.

Other recommendations…

The Red Queen series by Victoria Aveyard; Snow Like Ashes series by Sara Raasch; and Throne of Glass series by Sarah J Maas.

Falling Kingdoms by Morgan Rhodes

When a young man is murdered in Paelsia by an Auranian rich boy, revenge becomes the name of the name and ignites a war that’s been a long time coming. Three kingdoms battle it out for ultimate power over the land in this high-stakes fantasy book.

Title: Falling Kingdoms
Author: Morgan Rhodes
Series: Falling Kingdoms Book 1
Publish Date: December 11th 2012 by Razorbill
Genre: YA High Fantasy
Source: Purchased

Publisher’s Description: In the three kingdoms of Mytica, magic has long been forgotten. And while hard-won peace has reigned for centuries, a deadly unrest now simmers below the surface.

As the rulers of each kingdom grapple for power, the lives of their subjects are brutally transformed… and four key players, royals and rebels alike, find their fates forever intertwined. Cleo, Jonas, Lucia, and Magnus are caught in a dizzying world of treacherous betrayals, shocking murders, secret alliances, and even unforeseen love.

The only outcome that’s certain is that kingdoms will fall. Who will emerge triumphant when all they know has collapsed?

It’s the eve of war… Choose your side.

Princess: Raised in pampered luxury, Cleo must now embark on a rough and treacherous journey into enemy territory in search of magic long thought extinct.

Rebel: Jonas, enraged at injustice, lashes out against the forces of oppression that have kept his country cruelly impoverished. To his shock, he finds himself the leader of a people’s revolution centuries in the making.

Sorceress: Lucia, adopted at birth into the royal family, discovers the truth about her past—and the supernatural legacy she is destined to wield.

Heir: Bred for aggression and trained to conquer, firstborn son Magnus begins to realize that the heart can be more lethal than the sword…

Possible spoilers beyond this point.


Kat Mandu says…

Now that I’ve read the first three books in the series, I can appreciate more how much all of the characters have grown. Mostly, I’m glad that Cleo has gotten over herself because I basically can’t stand her in this one. She’s petty and kind of dumb, plus she has the tendency to put herself in a lot of positions where she’s vulnerable enough to do something bad or have something bad done to her.

Magnus and Jonas also seem young in their desires. Magnus is constantly trying to please anyone in his life, including his sister, whom he’s in love with, and Jonas is emotional over his brother’s death and therefore willing to stab anyone or anything that gets in his way, so he goes to war for the sake of revenge and glory and ends up seeing the worst of what he’ll have to face.

A lot of people say this series is a young adult version of Game of Thrones. I haven’t actually read the books or watched the television adaptation; however, I know that it bounces around between character perspectives, which enables readers/viewers to gain glimpses of different sides of the story. Falling Kingdoms does the same thing – mostly following Magnus/Lucia (who represent Limeros), Cleo (Auranos), and Jonas (Paelsia) as they eventually collide with each other in fierce and sometimes devastating ways. I really love this type of writing because I like to keep up with all the sides of the story, not just one.

That being said, this wasn’t a book that really held my attention just yet. Looking back now, I can definitely see it was targeted to be the real deal introduction to everyone and the plot and that we get the juicier details and bigger plot twists as the story progresses. So sometimes it wasn’t enough to make me want to keep reading through the night. Regardless, I rated it a four, so it was great enough for that!

Series list and reviews…

Some links will become active as future reviews are published.

Other recommendations…

Danielle Jensen’s Malediction trilogy, Sherry Thomas’s Elemental trilogy, and Death Sworn duology by Leah Cypress.

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