Summary: About to be executed for murder, Yelena is offered an extraordinary reprieve. She’ll eat the best meals, have rooms in the palace—and risk assassination by anyone trying to kill the Commander of Ixia. And so Yelena chooses to become a food taster. But the chief of security, leaving nothing to chance, deliberately feeds her Butterfly’s Dust—and only by appearing for her daily antidote will she delay an agonizing death from the poison. As Yelena tries to escape her new dilemma, disasters keep mounting. Rebels plot to seize Ixia and Yelena develops magical powers she can’t control. Her life is threatened again and choices must be made. But this time the outcomes aren’t so clear…
Review: I’ve just finished rereading Poison Study for my “Rereading Books I Loved as a Teenager” blog post which I will be wrapping up later this month. I read this series back in 2012 when I found it randomly at my local library. I remembered really loving them, so I bought the trilogy when I found them at one of my local used bookstores a year or so ago. But with all the moving I’ve done and will be doing in the future; I’ve been working on rereading books I don’t remember anything about other than the fact that I liked them so I could see if I still liked them or not. Poison Study follows Yelena who is about to be executed for murder. But when Valek, the Commander’s chief of security, offers Yelena a position as the Commander’s new food taster. After Yelena accepts, Valek teaches her how to sniff out and taste poisons that might be used to kill the Commander. I thought Yelena’s training in poisons was a great part of the story. It was interesting to learn about the poisons but while she’s learning that, we’re also learning about how this world works and the governing of Ixia. We learn a bit about Ixia’s past. The start of the story is pretty slow. We know that Yelena killed the son of someone important. The fact that she’s still alive is something that this man isn’t happy with. Along with learning about how to identify poisons, Yelena is being targeted by several different people. So, not only is she trying not to be poisoned to death, but she’s also on the lookout for anyone trying to physically attack her as well. This is when the story starts to get more complicated and a bit political. Yelena and Valek are suspicious of the man trying to have Yelena killed, but he’s in a position of leadership, so it’s complicated. I think the political twists and turns of the plot were interesting ones. There were some that were predictable, people that were so obviously ‘bad guys’ but what was interesting was figuring out how they were doing the things they were doing. You could see all of the pieces and it was pretty clear that they were all connected, but finding out how exactly the puzzle pieced together was a compelling story. This story was way darker than I remember. Yelena’s childhood was filled with trauma, from torture (that’s pretty explicitly described) to rape. She was not treated well. But she seemed like a pretty well-adjusted person for someone that had been through all of that and then spend a year in a dungeon. We’re told about her trauma and shown what she’s been through and it seems that the biggest thing from everything she’s experienced is that she wants to learn to fight so that she’ll never be defenseless again. Also, she has a ghost following her that we don’t really know much about what exactly that means, so I guess we will find out more in the next book. The romance between Yelena and Valek was one I enjoyed. I’ve read mixed reviews about this as many pictured Valek to me an older gentleman and Yelena is supposed to be only 19. But we learn more about Valek’s history it’s clear he’s not an old man. I think their romance was slowly developed and believable. I really enjoyed it and I’m very excited for the ‘forbidden romance’ aspect of the next book. Overall, I really enjoyed this book. It was way darker than I was anticipating, but I enjoyed it. There is also a trans man in this first book that I believe we will see again later in the series, but I can’t speak to whether it’s good or bad representation, so if you’ve read this and you can speak for the representation, let me know. I’ve seen lots of people compare this to Throne of Glass and I can sort of see the comparison, but this series came first so. I’m eager to continue the series.
Summary: THEIR BATTLES ENDED IN VICTORY Lydia returns to Mudaire to enter training at the healing temple. But instead of fighting to save lives, she’s convinced she is doing more harm than good. She delves into the history of the gods only to discover a truth that will change her life forever. His birthright as commander of the Royal Army is finally in his grasp, but Killian feels anything but victorious. Burdened by his past, he embraces the darker side of his mark—and in doing so, risks starting a war. BUT THE WAR HAS ONLY JUST BEGUN Having defeated the tyrant Urcon, Marcus struggles to form a lasting alliance with the Arinoquians. But he is plagued by the knowledge that there is a traitor among his friends, and it could cost him everything that he’s fought for. Torn between her growing allegiance to the Thirty-Seventh legion and her need to liberate her people, Teriana finds herself mired in a web of secrets. She embarks upon a path that will either save everyone she loves—or put them all in their graves.
Review: Thank you to NetGalley and the publishers for providing me with an eARC of Gilded Serpents in exchange for complete honesty about how much this book destroyed me. I reread both book one and book two via the audiobooks (which were really great and I recommend them!!) so the world and characters were fresh in my mind when I started this book. Jensen somehow managed to give me all of the things to make my heart happier than it’s ever been for these characters and yet still rip it still beating right out of my chest. In Gilded Serpents, the four characters that we’ve come to love so very much in the first two books, Teriana, Marcus, Lydia, and Killian, all have their own points of view. And much like how book one and book two paralleled one another with their timelines, book three does that as well. But one of the most interesting things that I noticed was how the events of Marcus and Teriana’s journey paralleled events of Killian and Lydia’s journey. There were times during the story that both pairs were doing the same or similar things, like staying at an inn for example, and I thought that was such a fun aspect of the story. I just want these four to finally all meet up so badly I could scream. I also want to say, there’s a secret that’s finally revealed in this book that I’ve been suspecting since reading Lydia’s book (Dark Skies) and I’m not surprised that I was right but I was happy to have it confirmed. I also really loved that the characters are finally learning things. While Lydia learned where Teriana was in Dark Skies, Teriana has no idea that everyone thinks Lydia dead. So, secrets are revealed in this one and they are juicy. Now, all four of these characters have grown immensely throughout their journeys so far. Lydia, while no expert swordswoman, has learned to defend herself. She’s also learned an incredible amount about her magic. She’s smart and determined, clever and stubborn, fierce and passionate. I love her so much. She’s grown so much from the timid patrician girl we knew in Dark Shores. Teriana’s story is filled with inner conflict. She’s in love with her enemy and that has some obvious challenges. She’s done nothing but make hard choices since this series started and that doesn’t change in this book. She’s faced with more hard choices, but I was delighted to see her find some moments of happiness. I think what I love most about Teriana is that she always stays positive. Even when she’s carrying another human being to what could likely be her death. She suffers and struggles, but doesn’t let those challenges win. Marcus is a tough character for me. I go back and forth between loving him and really disliking him (much like Teriana). He is the Legatus of the 37th legion. But these men are more than just his subordinates, they’re his family. Marcus also faces many challenges in this book. He must make hard choices regarding his men. He’s put in situations where he has to face his fears and others where his internal battle of what’s right versus what’s being ordered. I think I ultimately will love him. But I’ll still probably flip flop back and forth again during the next book. Killian is my favorite. He’s a Marked warrior, so he’s strong, fast, skilled, and very smart when it comes to battle. But he faces a struggle of heart versus duty. (There is another parallel!) With Killian it’s different though because, as the reader, I know a secret that will change everything. Though once that secret is out, we didn’t get to see much after that. Killian’s dark path isn’t over yet, but he will forever fight to keep his loved ones and his kingdom safe. He’s loyal and full of love, compassionate and intelligent. He’s absolutely someone you’d want on your side. Overall, I loved this book just as much as the first two. It was nice not to have to wonder as much about what was happening to the other couple because we were getting all of their points of view. I really liked that the chapters are short and still left me wanting more from each character. I also have to mention the world. We see three places, four if you include the ocean, in the first two books. But in this one, we find out more about other kingdoms and we get to see the mysterious Darin. We also get to see more Marked Ones that are marked by different Gods. I love the magic in this series and it was really interesting getting to see more of the abilities bestowed from other Gods. The only thing I didn’t like was the cliff hanger and that’s only because there isn’t even a cover for book four yet. I face the eternal bookworm struggle of suffering to wait for the next book in the series. I cannot recommend this series enough. It’s full of diverse character that you just can’t help falling in love with.
Summary: Jetta’s home is spiraling into civil war. Le Trépas—the deadly necromancer—has used his blood magic to wrest control of the country, and Jetta has been without treatment for her malheur for weeks. Meanwhile, Jetta’s love interest, brother, and friend are intent on infiltrating the palace to stop the Boy King and find Le Trépas to put an end to the unleashed chaos. The sweeping conclusion to Heidi Heilig’s ambitious trilogy takes us to new continents, introduces us to new gods, flings us into the middle of palace riots and political intrigue, and asks searching questions about power and corruption. As in the first two books, the story is partly told in ephemera, including original songs, myths, play scripts, and various forms of communication.
Review: I want to start by saying a huge thank you to Heilig’s publicity team that reached out to me to see if I was interested in reading an advanced copy in exchange for an honest review. On This Unworthy Scaffold is one of my most anticipated releases in 2021 and I literally screamed a little when I got the email asking if I was interested. On This Unworthy Scaffold is the third and final book in the Shadow Players series. I won’t go too much into a summary of the book because there is a summary above and also this is the third book in a series. If you haven’t read the first two books you can read my reviews for For a Muse of Fireand A Kingdom for a Stage. This series follows Jetta, her family, and the friends she makes along the way. I’ve come to really love all of the side characters that make up the main group. Jetta and the rebels have a plan. But as things usually go, nothing goes according to plan. The plot of this story was really compelling. Jetta and Theodora go off on one mission. With this we finally get to see Aquitan. I liked this part of the story. We get to see Jetta think on her feet. She’s still often worried that her malheur. I liked that there was talk of her taking the elixir, a version of modern-day medication. I liked that she was aware of it and questioned herself sometimes to wonder if she was making good choices or not. I also really liked Jetta’s problem solving. She’s not afraid to stand up to those in power. I thought it was really clever the way that she brought things full circle when she finally performed in Aquitan. I just genuinely enjoyed seeing her in her own element, making choices on the fly to get herself out of the situation that she found herself in. I also loved Theodora. She’s an engineer/inventor. I feel like I didn’t get to see as much of her as I would have liked, but I still liked what we did see. She’s smart and unafraid to say what she thinks. Jetta and Theodora working together was really fun to read. The other team is the Tiger, Leo, Akra, Cheeky, and Tia. Cheeky and Tia are absolutely the comedic relief of the story. But they bring good conversations to the table. They are sex workers and it’s always talked about in a positive way, never with any shame. I also still love Akra. He and Jetta have their ups and downs that come from her bringing him back from the dead, but I loved their relationship. And my dear sweet Leo. I hate the way his story ended. No, I don’t hate it. I hate how fitting it was for his part of this story to end that way. Leo has tried so hard to do good and be loved. He faces his own challenges through this series, but he never lets anything get him down for long. His love for Jetta is so clear. Jetta and Leo lift one another up and I couldn’t help but root for them. Overall, this was a beautiful and heartbreaking finale to a series that I will reread and love for years to come. I love these characters. I love this story. It includes a lot of important things, like colonialism and bipolar. It’s filled with diverse and queer characters. It’s also written in a unique format, with sheet music, play scripts, myths, and prose. I cannot recommend this series enough.
Summary: She’s been the victim and the survivor… Poppy never dreamed she would find the love she’s found with Prince Casteel. She wants to revel in her happiness but first they must free his brother and find hers. It’s a dangerous mission and one with far-reaching consequences neither dreamed of. Because Poppy is the Chosen, the Blessed. The true ruler of Atlantia. She carries the blood of the King of Gods within her. By right the crown and the kingdom are hers. The enemy and the warrior… Poppy has only ever wanted to control her own life, not the lives of others, but now she must choose to either forsake her birthright or seize the gilded crown and become the Queen of Flesh and Fire. But as the kingdoms’ dark sins and blood-drenched secrets finally unravel, a long-forgotten power rises to pose a genuine threat. And they will stop at nothing to ensure that the crown never sits upon Poppy’s head. A lover and heartmate… But the greatest threat to them and to Atlantia is what awaits in the far west, where the Queen of Blood and Ash has her own plans, ones she has waited hundreds of years to carry out. Poppy and Casteel must consider the impossible—travel to the Lands of the Gods and wake the King himself. And as shocking secrets and the harshest betrayals come to light, and enemies emerge to threaten everything Poppy and Casteel have fought for, they will discover just how far they are willing to go for their people—and each other. And now she will become Queen…
Review: The Crown of Gilded Bones is the third book in the From Blood and Ash series. If you’d like to read my reviews for the first two books, they’re linked here: From Blood and Ash review and A Kingdom of Flesh and Fire review. I’m going to start this review by saying that if you haven’t read the first two books and you plan to, eventually, maybe come back to this review after you’ve done that. I won’t be spoiling anything from The Crown of Gilded Bones, but I will probably be spoiling events from the first two books. In this third installment of the series, we start right where book two left off. Poppy and Casteel have arrived in Atlantia. There is so much new information being thrown at Poppy. I really liked the way that Armentrout deals with this. Instead of info-dumping, Poppy sort of absorbs everything she’s hearing, maybe asks one or two questions, but saves most of her questions for when there’s actually time for her and Casteel or her and Kieran to sit down and talk about it all. Poppy is the rightful Queen of Atlantia. She has a choice to make whether or not to accept this responsibility. I liked that Poppy wasn’t forced to become the queen just because she is the rightful ruler by blood. Her choice isn’t taken away from her once again, it’s up to her to decide if she wants to be queen. I liked the interactions between Poppy and Casteel and Casteel’s parents. I liked that everything wasn’t just fine and dandy. There was conflict and conversation before being able to actually develop Poppy’s relationship with her mother and father-in-law. The Wolven come into play often in this book. As Poppy is Queen by blood, the blood of a God, they are loyal to her. I loved this aspect of the story. She’s a little bit uncomfortable with it and her moments spending time with the Wolven definitely added some moments of levity to an action packed and otherwise serious story. I liked meeting more of the Wolven and even the infamous Gianna. I think Poppy’s bond to the Wolven was a really interesting aspect of the story. She’s exploring what that bond entails (communicating telepathically??) and how it works. This leads me into Poppy’s godly abilities. There isn’t anyone alive to teach Poppy how to use her abilities. She is a descendent of Nyktos, so she has power over life and death, but as she’s learning in this book, her powers are so much more than that. I really liked seeing Poppy explore her abilities and figure out what she can do and how to do it. I think that it’s another great way that Poppy gains control over her own life. She can do these incredible things, like healing people from the brink of death or the opposite. But she has to choose to learn how and choose to use her powers. Now, the sex scenes in this book are to die for. There were so many specific sex scenes that I wanted to happen and Armentrout blessed us with them. And not at all surprising, these scenes were even better than what I’d hoped for. I think Armentrout is doing an incredible job showing sex as something natural and fluid thing. Poppy watches someone doing something, because Wolven are very open about their nudity and attraction, and then she tries it with Casteel. I think this is such a great part of the book. There is no shame when it comes to sex for any of the characters and I think that’s such an important thing. I think sex is today’s world can be considered such a taboo and sometimes shameful thing to talk about and I’m so glad that Armentrout only shows it in positive ways. The world is also opening up so much more. We learn more about the history of the world and we visit new places in Atlantia as well as a secret new place. I think this world is such an interesting one. I have a feeling we will be seeing even more, as there was definitely some foreshadowing of places to come for the rest of the series. It’s here that I also want to mention all the answers we finally get. I was left with so many questions at the end of A Kingdom of Flesh and Fire and almost all of them were answered, though Armentrout certainly left me with an entirely new set of questions. It’s interesting because I had the questions I went into this book with answered but I finished the book and still have so many questions and yet I still feel satisfied with the answers I did get. Poppy and Casteel are absolutely one of my favorite bookish couples. I think the development of their relationship is so incredibly done. They really are so well suited. Casteel gives Poppy the freedom of choice that she so desperately needs and Poppy gives Casteel the love and support that he needs. They both manage to know exactly what the other needs when they need it. And their sexual chemistry is nothing short of perfection. I loved that even in the most serious of moments, they are joking and being completely inappropriate with one another. It’s just so fitting for who their characters are and how they are together. Overall, this series just keeps getting better and better. I was absolutely devastated by the events in the final 100 pages of this book and I will be anxiously awaiting book four to see how things play out. I can’t say that I’m not incredibly excited to see a rage filled Poppy take on Solis. It’s going to be glorious and there are so many new things and new information in play. I think the series will just continue to get better and better and I cannot wait.
“I would kill any and all who stood between Casteel and me because we deserved to be together. We deserved a future, a chance to explore each other’s secrets. To love one another. We deserved to simply…live. I would do anything to ensure that.”
“You are the foundation that helps me stand. You are my walls and my roof. My shelter. You are my home.”
“I’d spent the better part of my life clothed from chin to floor, and more than half of my face covered. I knew how to hide. I was only now learning how to be seen.”
“I do not want to be party to forcing you into yet another role you did not ask for nor desire. I will not replace the veil you loathed with a crown you hate. If you do not want to take the Crown, I will support you,” he swore, and the intensity in his words captured me. The irrevocable oath he was making. “And if you decide you want to take what is yours, claim the throne, I will set this entire kingdom on fire and watch it burn if that ensures that the crown sits on your head.”
“Bravery is a fleeting beast, isn’t it? Always there to get you into trouble, but quick to disappear once you’re where you want to be.”
Summary: It is not a peaceful time in the Dells. The young King Nash clings to his throne while rebel lords in the north and south build armies to unseat him. The mountains and forests are filled with spies and thieves and lawless men. This is where Fire lives. With a wild, irresistible appearance and hair the color of flame, Fire is the last remaining human monster. Equally hated and adored, she had the unique ability to control minds, but she guards her power, unwilling to steal the secrets of innocent people. Especially when she has so many of her own. Then Prince Brigan comes to bring her to King City, The royal family needs her help to uncover the plot against the king. Far away from home, Fire begins to realize there’s more to her power than she ever dreamed. Her power could save the kingdom. If only she weren’t afraid of becoming the monster her father was.
Review: Fire is a part of the Graceling series. From my understanding, these are all just companion stories. I’ve been rereading them since there has been another installment in this series released this year. It’s been years since I’ve read any of the Graceling books, so I thought I’d reread before getting to the newest one. You can find my recent review for Gracelinghere. Fire follows the main character, named Fire, in the kingdom of the Dells. This is a different part of the world than what we learned of in Graceling. So, it felt like I was learning the world all over again, because I was. I think it was easier to become familiar with this world. The magic was interesting with the monsters that live in this part of the world. They have an irresistible magic about them. I thought that was really interesting to see how it worked with all the different kinds of monsters, from monster insects to Fire, the last human monster. I think the world was, like Graceling, a bit confusing to keep track of which leaders where who and where they ruled. Add on to that, some of them are forming alliances and there is a war brewing. I liked the political aspect of the story. At times, it was a bit drawn out, but overall, I enjoyed it. Fire was a really compelling character. She was the best part of this story. I enjoyed learning about her past, her struggles, and her secrets. She was a great choice of main character for this story. She really kept me interested in the story when I felt that it was dragging. Overall, I liked Graceling better than Fire, but I still liked this one. It was an interesting story that shared more of the world we didn’t get to see in Graceling. I thought Fire was a great character (that I believe we see again in the future?) I’m eager to continue onto Bitterblue so that I can get to the newest story in the series.
Summary: Between life and death there is a library, and within that library, the shelves go on forever. Every book provides a chance to try another life you could have lived. To see how things would be if you had made other choices . . . Would you have done anything different, if you had the chance to undo your regrets?” A dazzling novel about all the choices that go into a life well lived, from the internationally bestselling author of Reasons to Stay Alive and How To Stop Time. Somewhere out beyond the edge of the universe there is a library that contains an infinite number of books, each one the story of another reality. One tells the story of your life as it is, along with another book for the other life you could have lived if you had made a different choice at any point in your life. While we all wonder how our lives might have been, what if you had the chance to go to the library and see for yourself? Would any of these other lives truly be better? In The Midnight Library, Matt Haig’s enchanting new novel, Nora Seed finds herself faced with this decision. Faced with the possibility of changing her life for a new one, following a different career, undoing old breakups, realizing her dreams of becoming a glaciologist; she must search within herself as she travels through the Midnight Library to decide what is truly fulfilling in life, and what makes it worth living in the first place.
Review: The Midnight Library is a book that I have seen nothing but rave reviews for. It’s the entire reason that I bought it. I ended up getting my book club to choose this book for our March read. I was a bit disappointed by this book, but I can completely understand why so many people love it. We follow Nora in her life around when she attempts suicide. But instead of whatever is beyond life, she finds herself in the Midnight Library, a place before actual death where every possible version of your life is stored. I thought this concept was really cool. You could have the chance to see what your life would be like had you made another choice at any point during your life. Nora is shown her book of regrets and the story goes from there. She tries out different lives that she could have had, none of them being what she thought they would or making her happy like she thought they might. I thought the idea of being able to see alternate versions of your life was really cool. I didn’t love that once Nora was in these lives, she didn’t have the memories from them. I thought that made things more complicated than they needed to be. But, overall, I liked these parts of the story. My biggest problem with this book was Nora. She’s just tried to kill herself. So, she obviously is struggling with her mental health. It’s mentioned several times, in several versions of her life, that she takes anti-depressants. I liked this aspect. Normalizing taking medication and seeking help is such an important thing. But Nora just continually worked against herself. She was not a likable character in my opinion. I think this book did some great things, but I found that I couldn’t get myself to actually like Nora. Overall, I can understand why so many people love this book. But it missed the mark a bit for me. I liked the concept, but with a main character that I didn’t like, the story just wasn’t as enjoyable as it could have been.
Summary: The last thing Barclay Thorne ever wanted was an adventure. Thankfully, as an apprentice to the town’s mushroom farmer, Barclay need only work hard and follow the rules to one day become the head mushroom farmer himself. No danger required. But then Barclay accidentally breaks his town’s most sacred rule: never ever EVER stray into the Woods, for within the Woods lurk vicious magical Beasts. To Barclay’s horror, he faces a fate far worse than being eaten: he unwittingly bonds with a Beast and is run out of town by an angry mob. Determined to break this bond and return home, Barclay journeys to find the mysterious town of Lore Keepers, people who have also bonded with Beasts and share their powers. But after making new friends, entering a dangerous apprenticeship exam, and even facing the legendary Beast of the Woods, Barclay must make a difficult choice: return to the home and rules he’s always known, or embrace the adventure awaiting him.
Review: Thank you, NetGalley and the publishers for providing me with an eARC of The Accidental Apprentice in exchange for an honest review. I love a good middle-grade story. So, when I learned that Foody (who gained my love and admiration with her YA books) was releasing a middle-grade series, I was beyond excited. The Accidental Apprentice follows Barclay Thorne when his life changes. He’s an orphan that lives in a town full of rules. He’s working as an apprentice to the town’s mushroom farmer and he’s found that he actually enjoys what he’s doing. One day, he’s working with his fellow apprentice when they accidentally break the town’s most important rule: don’t go into the Woods. While breaking that rule, Barclay somehow bonds with a Beast. This changes everything for him. After he’s run out of town, he finds Viola. Viola helps Barclay make it to the Lore Keeper town within the woods. There he searches for a way to remove his Mark and get rid of the Beast that has chosen him. I thought this book was such a fun read. It was filled with action and adventure, mystery and intrigue. There are so many misconceptions about the Lore Keepers that Barclay was raised to know. So, he spends so much time just unlearning all the things he thought he knew. I really enjoyed this aspect of the book. Barclay studies and takes tests in hopes to win a competition, so we get to see him as he’s learning all these new things about Lore Keepers and Beasts, as well as, his own Beast. I think the best part of the story was Barclay’s internal struggle. We see him start to realize that he might actually belong with the Lore Keepers, but he’s in fierce denial about this because he still wants to return to his town. He thinks that his parents would have wanted him to stay in his hometown. His slow development out of those thoughts was really enjoyable. I thought it was well done. He didn’t just start having fun with his new friends and give up on his mission. It really was an internal struggle. I loved Barclay’s new friends. I was shocked at one of the twists involving them. But I also liked how things turned out with the boy that seemed mean. I think the friendships were really interesting. I liked the unexpected bits about them. Overall, I loved this book. I thought the Beasts and Lore Keepers were interesting and unique. I liked the friendships and the adventures the friends went on. I liked the competition aspects of the story. I also loved the development of Barclay. I think this book will be well loved.
Summary: Trader. Fighter. Survivor. With the Marigold ship free of her father, Fable and its crew were set to start over. That freedom is short-lived when she becomes a pawn in a notorious thug’s scheme. In order to get to her intended destination she must help him to secure a partnership with Holland, a powerful gem trader who is more than she seems. As Fable descends deeper into a world of betrayal and deception she learns that her mother was keeping secrets, and those secrets are now putting the people Fable cares about in danger. If Fable is going to save them then she must risk everything, including the boy she loves and the home she has finally found.
Review: Thank you to NetGalley and the publishers for providing me with this eARC in exchange for an honest review. Namesake is the sequel to Fable (which I reviewed here). I really loved Fable, so I was very excited to get approved to read its sequel. Namesake did not disappoint. I’m just going to say right now that there will be spoilers for Fable, so stop reading now if you haven’t read the first book. Namesake follows Fable, our main character, after the cliffhanger ending. Fable has been kidnapped and once again separated from her crew. I missed seeing the crew together, but I loved all of the secrets that we learned and getting to see more of this captivating world. We get to see more outside of the Narrows that we learned about in Fable. The mysterious Bastian is finally revealed. We also get to meet the infamous Holland. I really enjoyed seeing this world open up. Young’s writing is so great. It’s detailed enough to give a clear picture of the story and the characters, but not so flowery that it danced around. Fable is the same badass, intelligent, fierce main character that she was in the first book. She’s faced with a lot of revelations about the past that she’s forced to deal with in her present. I thought these secrets and twists were well done. I didn’t see any of them coming and they really did great things for the overall story. Now, I’m sad to say that I didn’t love the romance between Fable and West as much in this book. I still liked it and was invested in their happy ending, but there was something about it that I just didn’t like in this book. I think the conflict that was introduced, specifically for the romance, wasn’t needed at all. I didn’t care for the comparisons to Fable’s father and the doubt that it caused for Fable. Especially since I don’t feel like any of that was really worked through. Overall, this was another action packed, high stakes story that I thoroughly enjoyed. I loved Fable. I loved seeing her faced with challenges and working through her choices. I liked seeing her try to solve problems and figure out the next steps. I loved seeing more of this world. I especially loved the writing. I will definitely be looking into Young’s backlist soon.
Summary: Wren Southerland’s reckless use of magic has cost her everything: she’s been dismissed from the Queen’s Guard and separated from her best friend—the girl she loves. So when a letter arrives from a reclusive lord, asking Wren to come to his estate, Colwick Hall, to cure his servant from a mysterious illness, she seizes her chance to redeem herself. The mansion is crumbling, icy winds haunt the caved-in halls, and her eccentric host forbids her from leaving her room after dark. Worse, Wren’s patient isn’t a servant at all but Hal Cavendish, the infamous Reaper of Vesria and her kingdom’s sworn enemy. Hal also came to Colwick Hall for redemption, but the secrets in the estate may lead to both of their deaths. With sinister forces at work, Wren and Hal realize they’ll have to join together if they have any hope of saving their kingdoms. But as Wren circles closer to the nefarious truth behind Hal’s illness, they realize they have no escape from the monsters within the mansion. All they have is each other, and a startling desire that could be their downfall. Allison Saft’s Down Comes the Night is a snow-drenched romantic fantasy that keeps you racing through the pages long into the night.
Review: I received Down Comes the Night as an eARC via NetGalley and the publishers. I request this because the cover pulled me in and I had some friends on Twitter that were also excited for it. This book did not end up being what I was anticipating. I thought this was going to be a spooky story about a creepy house but with magic. This story is actually about Wren, who has magic that can be used to heal. She’s impulsive and compassionate. She’s told again and again that her feelings keep her from being the soldier she is supposed to be. I liked that Wren never let herself change. She wanted to be able to change, if only to please the people in her life that were asking her to, but she made the same choices over and over. I liked this about Wren, even if she didn’t like it about herself. It hurt to read about Wren’s internal thoughts and motivations. She’s motivated by those that want her to change. It was so good to see her finally grow out of that. She learns to appreciate the things about herself that others are always criticizing. I think her growth was well done. I also really liked that Wren is bisexual, but it wasn’t really a part of the plot. Now, the love interest. I had a really hard time liking him. Hal has done some really terrible things. But somehow, I couldn’t help but liking the relationship between Hal and Wren. I don’t know that I can say I liked Hal. But I liked their romance. Overall, I enjoyed this book. The romance was one that I found myself invested in. The world was interesting. There was a fascinating and creepy villain. The politics of the world was interesting, too. I especially liked the ending. There were consequences for the things that Hal had done, but there was also a happily ever after for the romance. The resolutions between Wren and her loved ones was one that I could get behind. I think many people are going to love this book.
Summary: Katsa has been able to kill a man with her bare hands since she was eight—she’s a Graceling, one of the rare people in her land born with an extreme skill. As niece of the king, she should be able to live a life of privilege, but Graced as she is with killing, she is forced to work as the king’s thug. She never expects to fall in love with beautiful Prince Po. She never expects to learn the truth behind her Grace—or the terrible secret that lies hidden far away . . . a secret that could destroy all seven kingdoms with words alone. With elegant, evocative prose and a cast of unforgettable characters, debut author Kristin Cashore creates a mesmerizing world, a death-defying adventure, and a heart-racing romance that will consume you, hold you captive, and leave you wanting more.
Review: Graceling tells the story of Katsa, the niece of a king. She has the Grace of killing. She has been trained to be the king’s weapon, doing his bidding. But one day, Prince Po comes to court and Katsa finally finds a challenge. The two end up on an adventure they did not expect. I don’t really want to spend too much time talking about what happened. So, I’m going to get into my thoughts on the things I liked about this book. Katsa was raised to be the king’s enforcer. Despite this, she finds ways to rebel against the things she’s made to do. She and her friends have created the Council. This Council helps those in need. I really liked that while Katsa mostly did what the king ordered, she found ways to do good things too. I mostly liked Katsa. She’s angry, abrasive, and stubborn. She can be selfish at times, but when it counts, she does the right thing. Then there’s Po. I loved Po. He does his best to find ways in the cracks of Katsa’s armor. He gets to know her, even though she doesn’t really want that. I loved learning about the other kingdoms through Po and his experiences. I think Po was a well-developed character. I liked his family connections. I think Po’s personality was a really good balance for Katsa. They’re basically opposites, so things were really interesting when their relationship turned romantic. I think the world building was alright. It wasn’t anything to call home about, but it was interesting. There was a bit of information dumping at the beginning. I think the politics of this world were one of the more interesting aspects of the story. The different kings were all pretty horrible, but it was interesting to see their differences. Overall, I really enjoyed this story. The plot is super interesting and the characters, while imperfect, kept my interest and I found myself easily invested in their story. I am very excited to continue onto Fire. I also forgot to mention at the start of this review that this was a reread. I read this series years ago, but with the release of Winterkeep, I wanted to reread all the books in the Graceling Realm before diving into the new one.
Hi, lovelies! Today I have a full series review for you all. With the new Netflix adaptation of Shadow and Bone coming out in April, I decided that I wanted to reread all of the books in the Grishaverse. Soon after, I realized I’d never reviewed the original trilogy. So, this past week I binge read the three books in the Shadow and Bone trilogy. Instead of giving each book its own review, I thought it would be easier to just review the whole series in one post. So, that’s what I have here for you. (I’ve already reviewed Six of Crows and Crooked Kingdom if you want to check out those reviews when you’re done reading this one.)
Book One – Shadow and Bone
Summary: Surrounded by enemies, the once-great nation of Ravka has been torn in two by the Shadow Fold, a swath of near impenetrable darkness crawling with monsters who feast on human flesh. Now its fate may rest on the shoulders of one lonely refugee. Alina Starkov has never been good at anything. But when her regiment is attacked on the Fold and her best friend is brutally injured, Alina reveals a dormant power that saves his life—a power that could be the key to setting her war-ravaged country free. Wrenched from everything she knows, Alina is whisked away to the royal court to be trained as a member of the Grisha, the magical elite led by the mysterious Darkling. Yet nothing in this lavish world is what it seems. With darkness looming and an entire kingdom depending on her untamed power, Alina will have to confront the secrets of the Grisha . . . and the secrets of her heart.
Review: I enjoyed Shadow and Bone but I think because I’ve read it before it felt lackluster. There were some things I didn’t remember, but nothing that really surprised me (maybe because I haven’t waited long enough to forget). I feel like so much happened in this book but at the same time, it felt like nothing happened the whole time. There were also some things that bothered me that I don’t think I noticed the previous times I read this book. One of those things is how quickly Alina accepts her power as Sun Summoner. I think this is supposed to be because it made sense to her, but I would have liked a bit more internal conversation about her acceptance of this. She goes from disbelief to throwing herself into her new studies too quickly for my liking. Another thing is her ‘friendship’ with Marie and Nadia. We’re supposed to care about these two girls that have befriended Alina, right? Because we know next to nothing about them in this book and I didn’t care about them at all. It was easy to read, aside from remembering what Grisha had which power. It felt like a simple story (especially compared to her other books). Alina had one goal, well two if you count finding Mal, and she didn’t reach it. Which I think that’s why it feels like nothing happened. She was trained with her ability and then ran away. But when she got her courage together and tried to do the right thing she failed. So, it’s almost like the whole story was pointless. I know there’s two more books and I am picking up the second one tonight. I don’t know, I just feel like I remember liking this series so much more than the reading experience I just had. As for Mal and Alina, their ‘romance’ wasn’t very easy for me to get invested in. It seemed like Alina was the one that cared more. I made a note while reading that said, “Alina shows Mal a lot of loyalty, but does Mal show the same thing back?” I think maybe eventually, but I didn’t see that in this book.
Book Two – Siege and Storm
Summary: Hunted across the True Sea, haunted by the lives she took on the Fold, Alina must try to make a life with Mal in an unfamiliar land, all while keeping her identity as the Sun Summoner a secret. But she can’t outrun her past or her destiny for long. The Darkling has emerged from the Shadow Fold with a terrifying new power and a dangerous plan that will test the very boundaries of the natural world. With the help of a notorious privateer, Alina returns to the country she abandoned, determined to fight the forces gathering against Ravka. But as her power grows, Alina slips deeper into the Darkling’s game of forbidden magic, and farther away from Mal. Somehow, she will have to choose between her country, her power, and the love she always thought would guide her—or risk losing everything to the oncoming storm.
Review: There were a few things that managed to surprise me in this book. I forgot about a certain plot point that happens with Genya (who I still love with my whole heart). Alina starts to gain confidence in herself and we see that when she speaks up a few times. Though, she is still in denial about that fact that she needs to save the world which was annoying. I definitely see why everyone says this suffers from second book syndrome. Beacuse it does. They plan and plan and plan, and literally everything fails. I understand why some of the stuff needed to be in there, but I feel like there was so much unnecessary story. Mal pissed me off the whole time, they found literally nothing on the firebird and Alina almost died. I think this could have been a much shorter story. And while I understand that things needed to happen, like meeting Sturmhond (the only good part of this book), there was so much telling and barley and showing because nothing is really happening. Alina is being paraded around, and people are preparing but nothing is happening. That’s really my biggest complaint. This was almost 500 pages and almost nothing happened. But I will say, despite nothing really happening, I was, surprisingly, never bored.
Book Three – Ruin and Rising
Summary: The Darkling rules Ravka from his shadow throne. Now the nation’s fate rests with a broken Sun Summoner, a disgraced tracker, and the shattered remnants of a once-great magical army. Deep in an ancient network of tunnels and caverns, a weakened Alina must submit to the dubious protection of the Apparat and the zealots who worship her as a Saint. Yet her plans lie elsewhere, with the hunt for the elusive firebird and the hope that an outlaw prince still survives. Alina will have to forge new alliances and put aside old rivalries as she and Mal race to find the last of Morozova’s amplifiers. But as she begins to unravel the Darkling’s secrets, she reveals a past that will forever alter her understanding of the bond they share and the power she wields. The firebird is the one thing that stands between Ravka and destruction—and claiming it could cost Alina the very future she’s fighting for.
Review: The first thing I want to mention about this book is the setting and the writing. I probably could have mentioned it for the previous books, but it stood out the most for me in this one. Bardugo’s writing is stunning. She really knows how to set a scene and describe the setting these characters are in. It stood out the most to me while the gang is traveling through the tunnels. This book is my favorite out of all three. This was the book where I found myself finally invested in the relationships. Where we’re seeing all of these characters together and how they’ve grown after all the trials they’ve faced together. Zoya is my Queen and favorite. I liked that Alina and Zoya managed to find a sort of friendship when they started out hating one another. There were quite a few things that I completely forgot about in this story. I found myself surprised by twists I should have remembered more than once. I really enjoyed being surprised and I thought all of these twists were well done. Overall, I enjoyed this one the most. There were plot twists that I’d totally forgotten about. I grew to love characters I didn’t like when I started my reread. I even ended up really liking Mal and Alina together. So many people say that he’s controlling and boring and blah blah, but I didn’t see any of that. I thought the almost constant nods to his tracking abilities were a little over the top, but after finishing the book I realize that it’s done that way on purpose. I love Nikolai with my whole heart. Genya, Zoya, David, and the twins are my favorites. I think overall this series was really well done. I know many don’t like the way this book ended, but I did. I think it was a satisfying ending that brought things to a full circle, ending where they began. Alina never wanted to be special, so I liked that she got her quiet life back.
Now, this series as a whole stands up against time, I think. I think individually each book has its issues. But if you look at all three books together, they are really great books. When I was reading the first and second books, I was considering unhauling my copies after I finished my reread. Now, that I’ve finished I remember why I loved this series so much. I may not have liked all of the choices the characters made, or even liked all of the characters, I think this was an incredible adventure. I think this series will find fans for many years to come.
Summary: Three cultures clash in all out war–against each other and against the gods–in the second book of this fantasy duology that’s sure to capture fans of The Hunger Games and An Ember in the Ashes. The Races are over. War has begun. Ashlord and Longhand armies battle for control of the Empire as Dividian rebels do their best to survive the crossfire. This is no longer a game. It’s life or death. Adrian, Pippa, and Imelda each came out of the Races with questions about their role in the ongoing feud. The deeper they dig, the clearer it is that the hatred between their peoples has an origin point: the gods. Their secrets are long-buried, but one disgruntled deity is ready to unveil the truth. Every whisper leads back to the underworld. What are the gods hiding there? As the sands of the Empire shift, these heroes will do everything they can to aim their people at the true enemy. But is it already too late?
Review: Thank you to NetGalley and the publishers for providing me with this eARC in exchange for an honest review. Blood Sworn is the sequel to Ashlord (which I reviewed here.) In this book, we follow the same three characters, Pippa, Adrian, and Imelda. The way the first book ended left me wanting to know more. I wanted to know so much more about this world, the gods, and where the story is going. I got everything that I wanted from this book. Once again, the story is told in first person for Imelda and Adrian, but Pippa’s story is told in second person. I think Pippa’s story being told in this way was such a creative choice and it really does something to the story. Pippa’s chapters were absolutely my favorite parts of this book. She has the most growth and change in this series. She starts off so loyal to her people, the Ashlords, but slowly she realizes that everything isn’t as it seems. She finally learns the truth from one of the gods and that’s where this story gets really interesting. I think Pippa is so incredibly smart. I am awed by the plans that her brain manages to create. I think she’s an incredible character and I loved her. I also really enjoyed the way that Pippa’s relationship with Adrian changed over time. Adrian was an interesting character as well. But I feel like he sort of just went along with Pippa’s plans. I know this isn’t the case, but we didn’t actually see Adrian and Pippa make their plans so, it’s not hard to assume that Pippa (the master strategist) is the one that came up with the majority of their plans. I liked that Adrian did his part to show the Longhands that things could be different if everyone worked together to make a change. Finally, Imelda. I wanted more phoenix horse stuff, but we got enough that I wasn’t terribly upset about it. I like that Imelda is also super smart, but in different ways than what we see from Pippa. I think Imelda’s part of the story was interesting because the Dividian’s are the underrepresented group of the story, despite having a large population. I liked following Imelda because with Pippa and Adrian working together, their stories were similar, but Imelda’s path is so different from the others. She stumbles into something she doesn’t totally understand, but manages to find herself working toward the same goals as Pippa and Adrian. Overall, I absolutely loved this book. I loved this duology. I will recommend this series forever. Phoenix horses, political drama, characters that are complex and loveable, and a fascinating world and interesting gods, there is everything you could possibly want in a fantasy story.
Summary: After a horrible accident claims the lives of her family, sixteen-year-old Ever Bloom can see people’s auras, hear their thoughts, and know someone’s entire life story by touching them. Going out of her way to avoid human contact to suppress her abilities, she has been branded a freak at her new high school—but everything changes when she meets Damen Auguste. Damen is gorgeous, exotic and wealthy. He’s the only one who can silence the noise and random energy in her head—wielding a magic so intense, it’s as though he can peer straight into her soul. As Ever is drawn deeper into his enticing world of secrets and mystery, she’s left with more questions than answers. And she has no idea just who he really is—or what he is. The only thing she knows to be true is that she’s falling deeply and helplessly in love with him.
Review: Evermore is the start of a series that I remember really loving when I was a teenager (hence why I reread it since I’m doing a themed thing for the blog). I was pleasantly surprised to find myself actually interesting when I started the audiobook. I really liked the narrator. She did a good job telling the story without leaving me confused about which characters were talking and all that. Ever is dealing with the grief of losing both her parents and her younger sister in a car accident. A car accident that Ever was the only survivor of. Since the accident, she’s able to see auras, read thoughts, and see the ghost of her younger sister, Riley. She copes the best she can in the form of oversized hoodies and by blocking the world out by listening to her iPod (it even mentions her having an iPod pocket. Anyone else remember these?) Things change for Ever when the new kid, Damen, shows up at school. For some reason, when he’s around, everything else goes silent. She doesn’t have to hear everyone else’s thoughts. But the more time she spends with him the more suspicious of him she gets. Once she’s away from him, she can see that he’s keeping secrets and there’s something about their interactions that just doesn’t sit right with her. I liked that she could see the red flags, but I didn’t like that she pretty much ignored them and “fell in love” with him anyway. Their relationship was the biggest issue with this book for me. Their relationship never felt like it followed a natural progression. I feel like Ever never really got to know him and I feel like Damen never took the time to get to know her either. If they did do this, it was brushed over and we were told about it instead of shown. Then, the big reveal shares all of Damen’s actual secrets and that’s supposed to make all of the uncomfortable things he did okay? Not for me. Overall, I thought the magic was interesting. I liked Ever and her two best friends. But I couldn’t make myself care about the relationship. I can totally understand why I liked this book when I was younger. The dated music and other references also definitely made me chuckle.
Summary: Eleanor Zarrin has been estranged from her wild family for years. When she flees boarding school after a horrifying incident, she goes to the only place she thinks is safe: the home she left behind. But when she gets there, she struggles to fit in with her monstrous relatives, who prowl the woods around the family estate and read fortunes in the guts of birds. Eleanor finds herself desperately trying to hold the family together — in order to save them all, Eleanor must learn to embrace her family of monsters and tame the darkness inside her. Rose Szabo’s thrilling debut is a dark and thrilling novel about a teen girl who returns home to her strange, wild family after years of estrangement, perfect for fans of Wilder Girls.
Review: Generally, I start my reviews with a bit of a summary of the story in my own words. Well, I can’t do that with this review because I honestly have no idea what just happened. I listened to the audiobook and really enjoyed the narrator. I felt like the story itself wasn’t super fast-paced (until the end anyway) but it still felt like I flew through the story. I think part of this is because I was so confused and filled with questions that I just needed to keep going so I could get some answers. I gave this book 4 stars, but honestly, I’m still so confused. The story follows Eleanor after she flees her boarding school and returns home to a family she hasn’t seen in almost ten years. Her family is filled with monsters and she is missing quite a few important pieces of her memory. The things that Eleanor couldn’t remember was one of the more frustrating aspects of this book because it clear that her family remembers more than she does, but because she’s been gone so long with no communication from anyone aside from her grandmother, there’s a lot of distrust between all of them. Eleanor’s grandfather, sister, father, and cousin are werewolves (they’re never called that because their origin is a whole other thing. But they’re basically werewolves). Her paternal grandmother (the one that sent her away in the first place) is a witch of some sort and her mother is hinted to be something, but it’s never really addressed. Now, with all of this, it was easy to assume that Eleanor was also something, but we didn’t know what exactly that was. This was one of the big plot lines of the book. What is Eleanor? Well, we learn that what she is played a big part of everything that’s happened to her. So, the things that I liked about this story were many. Despite being confused as heck for most of this story, I was interested. The setting was atmospheric and vivid. The author did an excellent job with stunning imagery. I liked seeing Eleanor uncomfortable. I think this was because I didn’t really like Eleanor. She doesn’t make good choices (her grandmother gives her advice on her death bed and Eleanor basically never thinks about it again even though following that advice would have saved her from literally everything in this book). But what compelled me to continue on in this story was that I couldn’t help but understand why Eleanor did the things she did. It wasn’t hard to sympathize with her even though I didn’t really like her. There were some things that were so clear to the reader that Eleanor didn’t want to see them, so she didn’t. But with her backstory, it was easy to understand why she was this way. I loved all of the fantasy/horror elements. The monsters and the magic, the stories that we heard the family tell, it was all so creepy in the best way. I also really loved Margaret. She’s Eleanor’s aunt. I liked the slow development of the relationship from actively disliking one another to finding themselves on the same side and working together. Margaret doesn’t speak and doesn’t like to be spoken to, so we get some fun charades scenes. I would have liked to have gotten a bit more from some of the other characters though. We got a lot of Arthur (a family friend) because he is a love interest. I think the ‘romance’ was absolutely not needed for this story to work. Romance is in quotes because there was a sort of happily ever after that I didn’t really care for. I would have totally been okay with all the other bits of the ‘romance’ if they hadn’t gotten that HEA moment, especially after learning all the details of Arthur’s backstory. We didn’t get much from Eleanor’s cousin and sister other than the fact that they were spoiled adults that acted like children because they’d been given or had taken anything they had ever wanted or needed. Overall, this was a wild ride that was spooky, creepy, scary, and a whole bunch of other things. I think it was written well. But sometimes there was just a bit too much going on. I loved all the monsters and magic and mayhem. I will definitely be reading more work by Szabo.
Summary: Through blood and sacrifice, Amora Montara has conquered a rebellion and taken her rightful place as queen of Visidia. Now, with the islands in turmoil and the people questioning her authority, Amora cannot allow anyone to see her weaknesses. No one can know about the curse in her bloodline. No one can know that she’s lost her magic. No one can know the truth about the boy who holds the missing half of her soul. To save herself and Visidia, Amora embarks on a desperate quest for a mythical artifact that could fix everything―but it comes at a terrible cost. As she tries to balance her loyalty to her people, her crew, and the desires of her heart, Amora will soon discover that the power to rule might destroy her.
Review: All the Tides of Fate is the sequel to All the Stars and Teeth (which I reviewed here). I really liked All the Stars and Teeth. I think it had so many of the things I love in fantasy books. I was a little worried that All the Tides of Fate wasn’t going to compare to the first book, but it definitely did. I think this was a great conclusion to this world and its characters. Grace did an excellent job wrapping up all the different plotlines and giving the reader a solid close for these characters that we’ve come to care about. I’m going to do a bit of a disclaimer here. If you haven’t read All the Stars and Teeth, you should stop reading this review because I will be talking about a few things that happened in the first book. If you don’t want to be spoiled for the first book, please come back to this review after you’ve read that book. So, All the Tides of Fate follows Amora Montara now that she is Queen. She has very lofty goals and things she wants to accomplish in her kingdom. One of those things is to be more honest with her people. Her family has been lying to them since their kingdom was created. Amora was cursed in the end of the first book, so this one starts off with Amora struggling without her magic. The people don’t completely trust her. So, Amora and the gang (Bastian, Ferrick, and Vataea) set off on a tour of all the islands so that Amora can meet eligible bachelors and maybe find a husband. One of the things I really likes about this book was the discussion surrounding Amora being Queen and facing issues that her father never would have even had to think about. Even though she is Queen, she is still a woman and she faces challenges because of this. I liked that Amora’s mother actually talked outright about this with Amora. I really appreciated this aspect of the story. Another thing that Amora deals with in this book is panic attacks. She very obviously has PTSD from the events in the first book and we see her experience panic attacks several times. I really liked how these moments were handled by the other characters. There wasn’t anyone looking down on her or treating her differently. It was treated like something that happens after something traumatic. I liked seeing her friends support her through these moments and do their best to help her. (Also, Vataea suggests singing a song to help calm herself and Amora sang sea shanty’s so yes I 100% heard the Tik Tok sea shanty that was going around everywhere a little while ago). I think one of my favorite things about this book was getting to see more of the world. The characters travel to several different islands on their supposed husband tour. I really enjoyed seeing the different islands that we only heard about in the first book. I think this really opened up the world a bit. I also liked that we got to learn more about some of the mythology of the world. Along with that, we learned more about some of the characters backstory which I thought was interesting. Overall, I really loved this book. I think it did a lot of things and it managed to do all of them well. There were so many great moments in this book and I think Grace did an incredible job telling this story and giving these characters a satisfying ending. I absolutely recommend this series.