The Kingdom of Copper (Daevabad Trilogy #2) Review (Audiobook)

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Book: The Kingdom of Copper (Daevabad #2)

Author: S.A. Chakraborty

Format: Audiobook

Narrator: Soneela Nankani

BECHDEL TEST: PASS-Razu teaches Nahri sleight of hand tricks.

Content Warnings: Violence, torture, death, murder, slavery, human trafficking, mentions of stillbirth, mentions of rape threats, war themes, racism (between fantasy races), alcoholism

I really enjoyed The City of Brass when I read it back in April and naturally was super excited to read the sequel as soon as I could. I did end up really enjoying it, though not as much as City of Brass, simply because it was slower and longer than I would have liked and it took me a bit to actually get into the story. Still I really loved the characters and the world, and the last few chapters…..WOAH. Here is a short synopsis of the book:

S. A. Chakraborty continues the sweeping adventure begun in  The City of Brass conjuring a world where djinn summon flames with the snap of a finger and waters run deep with old magic; where blood can be dangerous as any spell, and a clever con artist from Cairo will alter the fate of a kingdom.

Nahri’s life changed forever the moment she accidentally summoned Dara, a formidable, mysterious djinn, during one of her schemes. Whisked from her home in Cairo, she was thrust into the dazzling royal court of Daevabad—and quickly discovered she would need all her grifter instincts to survive there.

Now, with Daevabad entrenched in the dark aftermath of a devastating battle, Nahri must forge a new path for herself. But even as she embraces her heritage and the power it holds, she knows she’s been trapped in a gilded cage, watched by a king who rules from the throne that once belonged to her family—and one misstep will doom her tribe..

Meanwhile, Ali has been exiled for daring to defy his father. Hunted by assassins, adrift on the unforgiving copper sands of his ancestral land, he is forced to rely on the frightening abilities the marid—the unpredictable water spirits—have gifted him. But in doing so, he threatens to unearth a terrible secret his family has long kept buried.

And as a new century approaches and the djinn gather within Daevabad’s towering brass walls for celebrations, a threat brews unseen in the desolate north. It’s a force that would bring a storm of fire straight to the city’s gates . . . and one that seeks the aid of a warrior trapped between worlds, torn between a violent duty he can never escape and a peace he fears he will never deserve.

SPOILER ALERT: This review will contain some unavoidable spoilers from both The City of Brass & Kingdom of Copper. If you do not want to be spoiled, then stop reading now. 

So once again, my biggest issue with this book was the pacing, it’s an incredibly lengthy book (at 23 hours 14 minutes) and it doesn’t really pick up until the second half. I get that adult fantasy tends to be slower, but I just don’t want to wait till more than halfway through a book before the exciting stuff starts happening! Some of the chapters are also really overly long, I mean just the PROLOGUE was an hour!

Dara gets a POV in this book, and it just didn’t really fit with what was going on with Nahri and Ali’s storylines, it felt really disconnected. It wouldn’t really have impacted the storyline of this book one iota if he had stayed dead and Manizheh’s plan had gone ahead the same, though admittedly I may be biased because I still really hate him. But still, I did feel that Dara’s chapters contributed to my struggle to get into this as much as City of Brass, his chapters didn’t really push the story forward in the same way that Nahri and Ali’s did and I honestly think the book would have been better without them.

I loved that there was more focus on the women in this book, especially Nahri’s relationships with the different women in her life as that was one of my biggest problems with the last book. Here we get to see women play much more of a starring role, including getting to see more of Ali’s sister Zaynab which I loved. I particularly loved the inclusion of the shafit doctor, Subha, it was lovely to get to see Nahri have a female mentor who could teach her more about human methods of healing as well as Nisreen.

I wasn’t expecting the five year jump and it worked well in some respects, it was nice seeing the characters more settled in their lives but at the same time, I would have liked to see Nahri growing into her powers more. It also felt like there was no real reason for it, as I think the same storyline could have quite easily happened immediately following on from The City of Brass, though I understand that the author probably wanted Nahri and Ali to have spent a while away from each other.

I still really enjoyed S.A. Chakraborty’s writing style, she describes everything in such a beautiful way and the food descriptions made me feel so hungry, all the food sounded so delicious! Soneela Nankani did a great job with the narration as well.

The family dynamics in this are super interesting, particularly between Ali and Muntadhir, as the heir to the throne and his brother, there’s a lot of tension there and it was very interesting to see how that played out. It was also cool to see Ali and Zaynab’s mother in this book and how she changed things for them, and I liked how Nahri fitted into their whole family dynamic especially with Zaynab, after their rocky start in City of Brass. Familial relationships are at the forefront of this book which I loved as so often it is romance that is centred.

Speaking of romance, I was glad that took a backseat in this one, I’m even less on board with Dara and Nahri after the events of this book and to be honest, I don’t think Nahri is really in that place anymore either. I definitely think the swerve away from romance allowed all of the characters more space to develop individually, which I loved. It’s hinted that Ali has feelings for Nahri, but I really hope S.A. Chakraborty doesn’t go there, because I love their friendship and I really want to see a male/female friendship in a book that doesn’t end in romance!

Nahri and Jamshid’s newfound friendship was another highlight in this book, they had such a heartwarming friendship when it would have been easy for the author to go down the “you’re having sex with my husband so we’re enemies” route. It would have been nice if we’d got to see Nahri interact with Razu a bit more, as that seemed like it had the potential for a beautiful friendship.

I don’t love that S.A. Chakraborty keeps leaning very close to the “bury your gays” trope with Jamshid and Muntadhir, there have been a few too many fake outs there for my liking!

There are so many twists and turns towards the end of this book, which are very exciting but did feel a little rushed in places. Still they definitely set things up for a really exciting finish in the third book!

THE ENDING. S.A. Chakraborty seems to be really great at sticking the landing and once again this ended up in a place where I was really excited for the final book, and I can’t wait to see how things all end.

My Rating: 3.5/5

My next review will be of one of my current Netgalley reads, Girl Serpent Thorn by Melissa Bashardoust.

 

 

Dry Review

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Book: Dry

Authors: Neal and Jarrod Shusterman

BECHDEL TEST: PASS-Alyssa talks to her friend Sofia about the water crisis.

Content warnings: Violence, death, loss of a loved one, threat of sexual assault, implied sexual coercion, toxic masculinity

I’ve really enjoyed Neal Shusterman’s books in the past, and this one, co-written with his son, certainly had an interesting premise given all of the debate around climate change in the past few years, the idea being that the entirety of Southern California runs out of water when neighbouring states block their water supplies. I can’t say that this one is one of my favourites of his, the plot was intense and fast moving, but the characters are pretty flat and difficult to connect with. Also I had quite a lot of issues with some of the toxic masculinity and slut shaming that came up in this book. Here is a short synopsis of the book:

Everyone’s going to remember where they were when the taps ran dry.

The drought—or the tap-out, as everyone calls it – has been going on for a while. Life has become an endless list of don’ts: don’t water the lawn, don’t take long showers, don’t panic. But now there is no water left at all.

Suddenly, Alyssa’s quiet suburban street spirals into a warzone of desperation and violence. When her parents go missing, she and her younger brother must team up with an unlikely group in search of water. Each of them will need to make impossible choices to survive.

The premise for this book is obviously very interesting: water is one of the primary things that humans need to survive, so obviously not being able to access it puts people in very tricky situations and the Shustermans definitely dive into all the different reactions and ways that people coped with the crisis.

The situations that the characters find themselves in are very intense, which leads to a fast paced plot with a lot happening. I’ve made no secret of the fact that I like books that have a lot going on, but the issue here is that there is so much going on that the characters suffer for it.

The characters were definitely my biggest issue with this book. They all seem relatively flat, character archetypes because dealing with a crisis means you need certain types of characters and they don’t seem to get expanded much beyond that one trait. Alyssa is the sympathetic one who wants to help others, Garrett is the “smart for his age” kid, Kelton is the guy who’s been preparing for the apocalypse, Jacqui is the mysterious badass and Henry is jerk who is using everyone. Sure, they all have to deal with challenges, but there’s just not enough time given in the book for anyone to have any real development. This meant that as a reader, I never felt all that attached to any of the characters.

I also think there were a few too many character POVs, it’s a group of five and everyone gets a POV at some point. Whilst I’m not opposed to multiple POV stories, in fact I love a lot of them, the perspectives don’t feel wildly different because the characters just aren’t developed enough, so in this case, the multiple perspectives didn’t work as well for me.

There are a lot of extremely contrived incidences in this book, that are a little difficult to suspend disbelief over. I mean the whole initial incidence of the Tap-Out seems a little contrived, I mean why would the water only be switched off to this particular area? Couldn’t people just go to Northern California? I’ll admit, I’m not American, so I don’t know if the event described by the authors in this book could happen, but it seemed a bit of a stretch that an event of this magnitude would only affect one part of the state and that there would be no alternative water sources.

Many other contrived situations happen just to make it more difficult for the characters to acquire water. I mean I get it, it would be a terrible book if the characters just immediately found water and didn’t struggle at all, but some of the situations just felt kind of ridiculous. Like of course Alyssa’s brother would contaminate their only water source and two sips of water can cure severe dehydration? I mean I get some conveniences for the sake of plot, but there were a few too many here for my liking.

The writing was decent, like I said, I prefer a lot of Neal Shusterman’s other books, but there was nothing wrong with the writing here and for the first book I’ve read that was written by two authors, it definitely felt very cohesive.

It was nice to read a book where a sibling relationship was so central, I love reading about sibling relationships in books and it was really sweet how protective Alyssa was over her younger brother.

I had some issues with Kelton’s character in terms of toxic masculinity. At points in the story, he describes Alyssa as like “a deer to be hunted” and a particular revelation about him spying on her was pretty uncomfortable for me. There’s a few kind of iffy issues in that area, one of the snapshots involves young girls having to trade sexual favours for water and Alyssa subtly slut shaming one of them later in the book.

The small snapshots of what’s going on outside of the main characters were really cool, I liked seeing what was happening in the world outside of them, it meant that we got to see the wider scope of the crisis which was cool.

Some of the elements of the book hit kind of weirdly because of the pandemic, which is not the book’s fault, like all of the panic buying in Costco at the beginning with everyone stocking up on water, reminds me of how everyone was stocking up on toilet roll at the start of the pandemic.

I did get kind of frustrated about how stupid some of the characters could be, Alyssa taking the water to the neighbours IN A LABELLED BAG was particularly stupid, she basically put a target on Kelton’s family. There are other incidences that are equally stupid, but talking about them would be quite spoilery, so basically be prepared to get very annoyed with most of these characters at one point or another.

The ending really frustrated me, without spoiling anything, it’s incredibly deux ex machina and didn’t seem to really fit with the rest of the story. I’m all for stories offering hope in a crisis but it has to fit and it didn’t really fit here, so it kind of left me feeling a bit of a sour note at the end of the book which is not what you really want!

Overall, this book had a decent concept but there were quite a few flaws in its execution, from the many plot coincidences, to the flat characters and the too neat ending. I do love Neal Shusterman’s books, but I don’t think this was one of his best.

My Rating: 3/5

My next review will be of my latest audiobook read, Kingdom of Copper, sequel to The City of Brass, by S.A. Chakraborty.

 

 

Incendiary (Hollow Crown #1) Review (e-ARC)

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Book: Incendiary (Hollow Crown #1)

Author: Zoraida Cordova

Published By: Hodder and Stoughton

Publication Date: 28th April

Format: e-book

BECHDEL TEST: PASS-Renata talks to Sula about her laundry.

Content Warnings: Arson, blood, death, loss of a loved one, grief, suicidal thoughts, torture, trauma, violence and war themes

Thank you to Hodder and Stoughton and Netgalley for allowing me to read this book early, this in no way affected my opinion of it.

I’ve been hearing good stuff about Zoraida Cordova’s books for a while, so when I saw her new book, Incendiary was available for request on Netgalley, I jumped on it: a fantasy set in a world inspired by Inquistion Era Spain? Sounds pretty awesome. There were definitely aspects of the book I enjoyed, the magic system was pretty cool and I liked the writing style, but the plot was incredibly slow paced and the characters weren’t as fleshed out as I would have liked them to be. Here is a short synopsis of the book:

I am Renata Convida.
I have lived a hundred stolen lives.
Now I live my own.

Renata Convida was only a child when she was kidnapped by the King’s Justice and brought to the luxurious palace of Andalucia. As a Robari, the rarest and most feared of the magical Moria, Renata’s ability to steal memories from royal enemies enabled the King’s Wrath, a siege that resulted in the deaths of thousands of her own people.

Now Renata is one of the Whispers, rebel spies working against the crown and helping the remaining Moria escape the kingdom bent on their destruction. The Whispers may have rescued Renata from the palace years ago, but she cannot escape their mistrust and hatred–or the overpowering memories of the hundreds of souls she turned “hollow” during her time in the palace.

When Dez, the commander of her unit, is taken captive by the notorious Sangrado Prince, Renata will do anything to save the boy whose love makes her place among the Whispers bearable. But a disastrous rescue attempt means Renata must return to the palace under cover and complete Dez’s top secret mission. Can Renata convince her former captors that she remains loyal, even as she burns for vengeance against the brutal, enigmatic prince? Her life and the fate of the Moria depend on it.

But returning to the palace stirs childhood memories long locked away. As Renata grows more deeply embedded in the politics of the royal court, she uncovers a secret in her past that could change the entire fate of the kingdom–and end the war that has cost her everything.

I’ll start with my biggest issue of the book: the pacing. I’ve been having this issue a lot with books lately and I don’t know if it’s me or the books, but either way, this book definitely felt really slow going. It starts off with a bang, you’re thrown right into the action but almost immediately slows down and remains that way for the rest of the book. Rebel spying in the palace seems like it should be a fun story, but in reality, it’s mostly Ren wandering aimlessly around the palace hoping that clues will land in her lap. It also falls into the trap a lot of slow paced books do, where the ending is rushed and then it feels like it ends on a really strange point because the author has taken too much time on buildup.

I really did enjoy Zoraida Cordova’s writing style, it hooked me instantly from the beginning and was probably what kept me reading even when the plot was feeling very slow.

I loved that LGBTQ+ characters were included in such a casual way in this book, that was brilliant to see, one of the main side characters was gay and then there are female monarchs from other lands who are mentioned to have “queen consorts” which I thought was pretty cool.

The magic system was pretty cool, the idea of a character being able to steal other people’s memories was brilliant. We also have characters who can create illusions, who can read people’s minds and who can manipulate people’s emotions. I also appreciated how the author showed the negative effects that using magic could have on the people who used it, as it always feels way too easy if there are no consequences to being able to use magic.

The characters felt a little flat to me, we don’t really get to know any of the Whispers aside from Ren and even then, Ren herself wasn’t the most compelling heroine, her constant self pity got a little irritating after a while. Some of the side characters, like Leo and Nuria both sounded really interesting but we barely get to know anything about them.

It’s also very hard to invest in Ren’s relationship with Dez when Dez barely feels fleshed out at all. The villains also felt kind of flat, we don’t get much of a sense of their motivations which makes it very hard to feel like they present any kind of real threat.

When it comes to naming places, you should definitely ensure that they don’t sound too similar to any character name or name of anything else in your novel as I kept getting super confused between Memoria (name of a place) and Moria (name used for people who had magic).

There are quite a few twists in the book that I guessed, I didn’t guess all of them, but overall, the plot is largely quite predictable and there’s nothing massively shocking about any of the “big reveals”.

Overall, this book had an interesting concept but fell somewhat short in the execution. I’m still interested in reading the second book in this duology, but I reckon my expectations for it will probably be lower than they were for this one.

My Rating: 3/5

My next review will be of Neal and Jarrod Shusterman’s Dry, which I’m almost done with, I’m expecting to finish it tomorrow.

 

Girls Made of Snow and Glass Review (e-ARC)

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Book: Girls Made of Snow and Glass

Author: Melissa Bashardoust

Published By: Hodder and Stoughton

Publication Date: 16th April 2020 (paperback release)

Format: e-book

BECHDEL TEST: PASS-Lynet and Nadia talk about Nadia’s work.

Content Warnings: Parental abuse/neglect, blood, mentions of death and loss of loved ones

Thank you to Hodder and Stoughton and Netgalley for allowing me to read this book, this in no way affected my opinion of it.

I came across Girls Made of Snow and Glass before it’s initial release in 2017, but was never able to get hold of a copy here in the UK, so it kind of fell off my radar for a while until I saw it on Netgalley a few months ago. I thought a feminist Snow White retelling sounded really great, but I found myself somewhat disappointed by the slow pace and lacklustre plot. Here is a short synopsis of the book:

Sixteen-year-old Mina is motherless, her magician father is vicious, and her silent heart has never beat with love for anyone. In fact, it has never beat at all, for her father cut it out and replaced it with one of glass. When she moves to Whitespring Castle, Mina forms a plan: win the king’s heart with her beauty, become queen, and finally know love. The only catch is that she’ll have to become a stepmother.

Fifteen-year-old Lynet looks just like her late mother, and one day she discovers why: a magician created her out of snow in the dead queen’s image. Lynet would rather be like her fierce and regal stepmother, Mina, but when her father makes her queen of the southern territories, Mina starts to look at Lynet with something like hatred, and Lynet must decide what to do – and who to be – in order to win back the only mother she’s ever known . . . or else defeat her once and for all.

My biggest complaint for this book has to be the pacing. IT WAS SO SLOW, for like 75% of the book, basically nothing happens and then it’s all resolved in like 30 pages. I mean I’m all for building things up first, but if it takes over 300 pages for your story to really get moving, then you’re definitely doing something wrong. It was only 372 pages but it felt so much longer!

I do like that the author tried to do something different with the Snow White story, by changing the focus to the relationship between the stepmother character and Snow White and I appreciate that it did address some feminist issues though it felt like kind of surface level stuff. I also appreciated that the complexities of the stepmother/stepdaughter relationship were addressed far more here than they are in the original Snow White story.

The characters didn’t feel massively developed? I mean I get it, it’s Mina and Lynet’s relationship is central to this and so they are the focus but everyone else around them did feel like basically just props. And even for the two leading ladies, I would say we get far more of an insight into Mina than Lynet as we get the flashbacks to her past.

The world building is also very minimal as for the most part, the entire novel takes place within the grounds of Whitespring and even when Lynet does go South, we don’t get all that much of a sense of what it’s like there and though the tensions between the two regions are mentioned, it’s not really expanded on, so we don’t get all that much of an idea of the state of the world that Lynet and Mina inhabit.

For a book that is advertised as being an LGBTQIA+ novel, it did feel like Lynet’s relationship with Nadia is kind of sidelined, it’s extremely slow burn, which is fine, but it also takes a backseat to both of Mina’s heterosexual romances which doesn’t really feel great.

The dual past/present timelines worked well, it can always be a bit tricky working with different timelines (Lynet is in the present, Mina’s starts in the past and works towards the present) and Bashardoust handled it really well.

The writing style was fine, if a little simplistic.

It’s kind of magic light, which is fine, but it also builds into the world-building issues, since we don’t really know how the magic works, it makes little sense as to how Mina is able to survive with a glass heart and how Lynet doesn’t simply melt when she goes South.

The villain isn’t really clearly defined and the stakes never really feel all that high, because we as readers know that Mina truly cares for Lynet, so it never feels like she’s in any danger at all, the plot is pretty predictable, so you just know that everything is going to work out in the end.

Pretty much every problem in this book could have been solved with proper communication, which I know happens in a lot of books, but it’s just SO FRUSTRATING when you know that everything could be worked out if these two characters just SPOKE TO ONE ANOTHER.

Overall, this was definitely a disappointment with the intriguing relationship between Lynet and Mina not being enough to save the lacklustre plot and slow pacing that really bogged down this book.

My Rating: 2.5/5

My next review will be of Zoraida Cordova’s Incendiary, my latest Netgalley read which I’m almost done with.

 

The Gilded Wolves (The Gilded Wolves #1) Review

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Book: The Gilded Wolves (The Gilded Wolves #1)

Author: Roshani Chokshi

BECHDEL TEST: PASS-Laila and Zofia talk about dresses.

Content Warnings: Spiders, death, racism, anti-semitism, colonialism, blood, mentions of stillbirth, bullying, loss of a loved one, anxiety attacks, parental neglect, mental torture

I was a little apprehensive going into this book because from what I’d heard of it, people fell very firmly on two sides, either they really loved it or they really hated it and there didn’t seem to be much in-between. Thankfully, I really, really enjoyed it! I can definitely see where people found it confusing in places, there was a little left to be desired in terms of the magic system and the world building but I LOVED the characters so much, they really made the book for me. Here is a short synopsis of the book:

No one believes in them. But soon no one will forget them.

It’s 1889. The city is on the cusp of industry and power, and the Exposition Universelle has breathed new life into the streets and dredged up ancient secrets. Here, no one keeps tabs on dark truths better than treasure-hunter and wealthy hotelier Séverin Montagnet-Alarie. When the elite, ever-powerful Order of Babel coerces him to help them on a mission, Séverin is offered a treasure that he never imagined: his true inheritance.

To hunt down the ancient artifact the Order seeks, Séverin calls upon a band of unlikely experts: An engineer with a debt to pay. A historian banished from his home. A dancer with a sinister past. And a brother in arms if not blood.

Together, they will join Séverin as he explores the dark, glittering heart of Paris. What they find might change the course of history–but only if they can stay alive. 

Obviously I have to start with the characters because they were the real stars of this book, without a doubt. The dynamic between them was just brilliant, they have that really natural, easy banter that I love and it was easy to see them as a family.

I had my favourites: Enrique, Zofia and Laila definitely stood out for me, for varying reasons but they were brilliant as a group as well. Tristan was also 100% the cinnamon roll character of the book and all the other characters definitely knew it! Hypnos was also brilliant, he’s super funny and he basically barges his way into the gang because he wants friends so badly and I loved how they go from begrudingly accepting him to genuinely wanting him around.

I really loved that the focus of this was on family and friendship rather than romance. There are some indicators for future romance (including queer characters, Enrique is bi and Hypnos is queer) but it’s definitely not the most important thing in the book which I appreciated.

The humour was also brilliant, this book was a whole lot funnier than I was expecting it to be: there are definitely a lot of dark moments, but Roshani Chokshi balance those really well with humour which I LOVE to see. She has really great dialogue as well, it was obviously more modern than would have been used in that time period but I found I didn’t really mind.

The main cast was majority POC, 4 out of the 6 characters, we have Severin who is biracial French-Alegerian, Enrique who is biracial Spanish-Filipino, Laila who is Indian and Hypnos who is French-Haitian and it’s brilliant to see that, especially in a historical novel because contrary to some people’s beliefs, history was not all white!!!

It also made for some brilliant explorations of identity and colonialism in a historical context and how the biracial characters struggled with being able to embrace both sides of their identities which was done in such a nuanced way. From a historian’s perspective as well, it was really interesting to see the debate over museums and objects being stolen from different cultures as repatriating objects to their country of origin is something we touched on my classes at Uni so it’s definitely a topic that I’m very interested in.

I have to talk a little more in depth about Zofia and Laila’s friendship because I just loved them so much. Laila is 100% the mum friend of the group, constantly baking and worrying over everyone and her friendship with Zofia is so pure, they are both so beautifully supportive of each other and women supporting women especially in historical contexts is something I love to see.

I really liked Roshani Chokshi’s writing, I was a bit worried from what I’d seen before that I might find it a bit overly flowery, but it wasn’t and it fitted really well with the book.

Zofia seems to be autistic, though it’s not named on page as there wouldn’t be a name for it in the 1880s. I can’t speak to the quality of the rep obviously, but there was nothing that stuck out as obviously offensive (but would def recommend seeking ownvoices reviews). I love seeing historical women in STEM and it was brilliant seeing her and Enrique (a historian) working together to solve puzzles because so often we treat those things like they have to be polar opposites and they really aren’t.

As I mentioned at the top, the world building and the magic system could have used a little work. I did find the Forging magic, the Babel fragments and the purpose of the Horus Eye a little confusing at times and whilst things were clearer by the end, there’s still a lot that I would like to be explained in the next book! I did think the forged objects and the technology was really cool, I just could have used more explanations of the systems behind them.

I also would have liked to get more of the other characters’ backstories, we get a lot of Severin’s, a little of Laila’s and Zofia’s but it would have been nice to get more of an insight of who the other characters were before Paris and what brought them there. It was also kind of ambiguous as to how old they were: I mean this is supposedly a YA book but the group definitely read more as adults to me.

The multiple POVs were done really well, everyone had a really distinctive voice and I never struggled to know whose chapter was whose, I didn’t even need the chapter headings which is exactly what you want when you have multiple POVs.

I loved all the mythology and biblical references, I thought those were really great, even if I wasn’t all that familiar with most of them.

The plot was a little slow in places, it took a while for it to get going but once I was into it, I was really into it and the heists were very enjoyable. I also appreciated that it never felt like a foregone conclusion that the heists were going to go well, so often in heist novels, it feels way too easy and that wasn’t the case here.

I loved the setting, Paris is always a winner for me, and setting the final showdown in the Paris Catacombs was inspired! It was super weird for me to see the Eiffel Tower being referred to as new, but of course in 1889 it was! The Exposition Universelle is definitely something that I need to look into more as I’m not massively familiar with that period of history.

The villain didn’t really land for me, I think they just weren’t developed enough so they never really felt like a real threat or someone I should be afraid of. I’m hoping that changes in the next book as they become more developed.

AGH THE ENDING. I HAVE SO MANY QUESTIONS ABOUT THAT ENDING AND I NEED THE NEXT BOOK LIKE NOW.

Overall, I really loved this one, I went into it sceptical from the reviews I read and I was really pleasantly surprised by how much I loved it. The characters were brilliant, the plot was great and I’m hoping my issues with the world building will be ironed out in the next book!

My Rating: 4/5

My next review will be of Girls Made of Snow and Glass, by Melissa Bashardoust.

Call Down The Hawk (Dreamer Trilogy #1) Review

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Book: Call Down The Hawk (Dreamer #1)

Author: Maggie Stiefvater

BECHDEL TEST: PASS-Farooq-Lane and Liliana talk about the end of the world.

Content Warnings: Blood & gore, death, suicide, murder, vomit

Obviously when I heard there was going to be a spin-off of The Raven Cycle centring around Ronan, I was really excited, I love the whole Raven Cycle world and was looking forward to going back to it. I have to admit though, I didn’t love Call Down The Hawk as much as I expected. The plot was kind of slow and meandering, which was to be expected, it’s Maggie Stiefvater’s style but it didn’t have the great characters and central friendship dynamics which made The Raven Cycle so great. It wasn’t all bad, I liked the developments when it came to dreaming and the end of the story felt like it was building to something exciting in the next book, but overall, it just wasn’t quite what I expected it would be. Here is a short synopsis of the book:
The dreamers walk among us . . . and so do the dreamed. Those who dream cannot stop dreaming – they can only try to control it. Those who are dreamed cannot have their own lives – they will sleep forever if their dreamers die.

And then there are those who are drawn to the dreamers. To use them. To trap them. To kill them before their dreams destroy us all.

Ronan Lynch is a dreamer. He can pull both curiosities and catastrophes out of his dreams and into his compromised reality.

Jordan Hennessy is a thief. The closer she comes to the dream object she is after, the more inextricably she becomes tied to it.

Carmen Farooq-Lane is a hunter. Her brother was a dreamer . . . and a killer. She has seen what dreaming can do to a person. And she has seen the damage that dreamers can do. But that is nothing compared to the destruction that is about to be unleashed. . . .

My main problem with this book is the same problem I have with most Maggie Stiefvater books, it takes forever to get going! This wasn’t a massive problem for me with The Raven Cycle because I loved the characters so much that I didn’t care, but when the large majority of the cast are new and you’re not already invested, the slow pacing of the plot becomes more of a problem and it felt like basically nothing was happening until right at the very end. It was also perhaps a little longer than I would have liked, it definitely felt like it could have been trimmed a little.

There are three main characters in this book: Ronan, Hennessy and Farooq-Lane, and their storylines feel largely disjointed for most of the book. We do eventually get to a point where all the storylines finally connect, but that’s about 3/4 of the way through the book, which means the plot doesn’t feel cohesive. Plotting has never really been Maggie Stiefvater’s strong point and there are definitely messy aspects to the way the plot unravels in this book as well.

In terms of the new characters, I liked Hennessy and her clones, I thought the whole girl who dreamt copies of herself into existence was pretty cool and it felt very Orphan Black which is a show I really enjoyed. It’s quite confusing initially because the two main girls are both Jordan Hennessy (the original goes by Hennessy, the copy goes by Jordan) but it settles pretty quickly. Also if you are going to make your character British, then at least try to do some research into British slang, no one here says “crumbs” or “bruv”! I genuinely don’t understand how Hennessy doesn’t suffer more with sleep deprivation though, if I only had twenty minutes sleep at a time, I would be seriously grouchy!

However, aside from Jordan (the copy), the copies don’t really get much fleshing out and I feel like there was no real need for Hennessy to have so many copies, Stiefvater could have still had the whole, she gets a tattoo for each copy and the tattoos are killing her plotline without having all the copies around, especially when they barely had any personality of their own. It also doesn’t look massively great when Hennessy and her copies are the only POC characters in the book, and the copies quite regularly die.

Carmen Farooq-Lane (referred to mostly by her surname throughout the book) was kind of an enigma to me. I didn’t really get who she was as a character, I didn’t really understand her motivations and I couldn’t really place her role in the book, since up till the very end, she doesn’t really have anything to do with either Hennessy or Ronan.

I really liked getting to see more of the Lynch family dynamic here, that was one of the highlights of this book for me. It was brilliant to get more of insight into Declan and I definitely came out of this book with more sympathy for him, he’s basically spent his entire life trying to clean up his brother’s messes and he’s only in his 20’s! It was also really heartbreaking to see Matthew come to terms with his origins (whilst providing some much needed comic relief at his questions over internal organs). We only really got Ronan’s insights into his family in TRC, so it was nice to be able to see the other side in this book, and the Lynch family dynamic went some way to delivering on the missing banter from the Gangsey in this book (though I still definitely missed them!).

It was cool to have the role of dreamers expanded in this book and learn more about their abilities, though it seems strange that nightwash and the fact that dreamers are unable to go too far from the ley lines wasn’t mentioned at all in The Raven Cycle.

I was very confused as to what Bryde and the Lace actually were though, and I’m hoping that gets explained more in the next book. I also want to know more about Mor Corra, Niall’s clone and Boudicca because those things come up but are kind of brushed over and not really explained.

Maggie Stiefvater’s writing was lovely as always and the dreamlike quality of it definitely worked well for this book.

I was kind of expecting there to be more Adam in this? Don’t get me wrong, I loved what we did see and the fact that Adam’s name in Ronan’s contacts is Management made me chuckle, but I just wish we’d got to see them together a little more.

Parsifal’s OCD was well done (also #ownvoices as Maggie Stiefvater also has OCD) but I wish it had been named on page especially as it’s something that you don’t see all that often.

The moderators are supposedly the villains in this book but they never really feel actively scary or threatening? I suppose because their purpose is kind of woolly, “stop the end of the world” and we don’t really know how or why dreamers are meant to be responsible for the end of the world so the moderators don’t feel like an active threat.

Ronan’s arc in this of struggling with his friends moving on and going in different directions, whilst he wants more for his life and feels kind of stuck where he is was really great and felt very relatable! It was nice to see Ronan take more of a starring role here and see him really come into his own with his dreaming, though I will say, again, the race dynamics feel a bit off where Ronan (the white character) is brilliant at dreaming and Hennessy (the black character) is unable to dream anything other than copies of herself.

There were way too many random character POVs in this that didn’t really seem to add anything, and I didn’t really get the point of them.

The whole ending was also really confusing, I didn’t really understand anything that was going on because the last few chapters were so rushed. I don’t know where Hennessy and Ronan went, I have no idea what was going on with the Moderators and it just felt like the book was almost unfinished? It definitely didn’t end in a natural place, that’s for sure!

Overall, there were definitely promising aspects to this book, and I will still be reading onto the sequel, but it didn’t live up to my expectations: the pacing was off, the plot was a little messy and I missed the fun and humour from The Raven Cycle. I’m hoping that the second book in the trilogy will be better now that the groundwork has been made in this book.

My Rating: 3/5

My next review will be of my latest Netgalley read, Girls Made of Snow and Glass by Melissa Bashardoust, which I’m almost done with.

 

Windwitch (Witchlands #2) Review (Audiobook)

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Book: Windwitch (Witchlands #2)

Author: Susan Dennard

Format: Audiobook

Narrator: Cassandra Campbell

BECHDEL TEST: Uncertain, I didn’t keep track!

Content Warnings: Transphobia/mental misgendering of a character, violence, death, mentions of slavery

I really enjoyed Truthwitch when I read it back in February, I loved the central female friendship, I enjoyed the magic and though I found the world building confusing, I did enjoy the world. Therefore I was excited to dive into Windwitch, however I found it had classic second book syndrome, pacing issues, lack of narrative cohesion and a plot that didn’t really seem to bring the characters much further forward than they were at the end of Truthwitch. Here is a short synopsis of the book:

On a continent ruled by three empires, some are born with a “witchery,” a magical skill that sets them apart from others.

In this follow-up to New York Times bestselling Truthwitch, a shadow man haunts the Nubrevnan streets, leaving corpses in his wake―and then raising those corpses from the dead. Windwitch continues the tale of Merik―cunning privateer, prince, and windwitch.

I’ll start with my biggest issue with this book, the sheer number of point of view characters. There are 5 different point of view characters in this book, and often the perspective would shift multiple times in one chapter which made things kind of difficult to follow. I don’t know if this was exacerbated by the fact that I was listening to the audio, but I definitely would have found it easier to follow had there not been so many different perspectives. For instance, Iseult and Aeduan are together for a large portion of the book, we didn’t need both of their perspectives all the way through? Same for Merik and Vivia, once the two were together, we didn’t necessarily need both their perspectives anymore.

I also felt like I got confused as to who all the different characters were? Obviously I got the main characters, but there were so many different side characters that I genuinely couldn’t keep up with who everyone was!

There were also a lot of issues with the pacing of this book. For about 60-70% of the book, it was very slow as the characters were largely travelling, and then towards the end, everything got so fast paced that again, it was difficult to follow and I was less excited by all the action and more just confused as to what was going on.

If I’d had access to the paperback, I probably would have gone with that over the audiobook. I didn’t mind the way the narrator read the general text, but I wasn’t a fan of the way she did the different character voices when she was doing character thoughts or dialogue. The accents were all just far too similar and it was difficult to keep track of who was speaking. For convenience sake I probably will be reading the rest of the books in audio, as I don’t have the paperbacks of the rest of the books, but I’ve definitely listened to better narrators since I started listening to audiobooks last year.

The storylines didn’t feel massively connected, obviously Merik’s and Vivia’s were and Aeduan and Iseult’s but their storylines were separate from each other and from Safi’s as well, so it didn’t feel like this book was one cohesive narrative, more like several separate narratives combined into one book. It was also a little strange that given that this book was named after Merik, his storyline was probably the least memorable!

I actually really liked Vivia in this book? In the first book, she felt like your classic one dimensional villain but it was nice to get to see more into her character in this book and see beyond Merik’s rather clouded view of her.

I was really sad that Safi and Iseult were separated for most of this book, as I loved their friendship in the first book and it definitely felt like a lot of the “fun” from that book was missing from this one. I did however appreciate that Iseult having some time on her own allowed her to grow into herself more and become more confident with who she is, as well as develop her new found mysterious powers. She also had some really great badass moments of her own in this book.

I definitely feel like the women in this world are developed a lot better than the men! I feel like I properly know Iseult, Safi and Vivia now whereas Aeduan is still somewhat of a mystery to me.

Merik, I get a sense of who he is as a person, I just don’t massively like him! He’s really stubborn and gruff and he constantly misgenders Cam which wasn’t exactly endearing. I may be biased here though, as I really loved Cam, honestly Merik didn’t deserve such a great companion (and would have died without him).

The romances in this series are…..yeah pretty meh. I honestly don’t really see the chemistry between Aeduan and Iseult although maybe that’s because I still feel like we barely know Aeduan and it’s hard to get invested in a pairing when you feel like you don’t know who one of them is. Merik and Safi are apart for this whole book, but there seems to be a potential love triangle emerging here, which I’m not happy about, not because I love Merik, but more because I despise love triangles. It’s difficult to get on board with Safi and Caden anyway, since he keeps her captive for a lot of this book (which yes, I realise Merik did as well) and intends to return her to the Emperor of Cartorra.

I felt the character relationships in general in this book felt much flatter than in the first book, I guess because their storylines were largely separate and it didn’t feel like there was as much interplay between them.

I still really need more explanation when it comes to the worldbuilding! We get to see more places in the Witchlands in this book which is great, but I feel like I’m no clearer on all the different witcheries and the diferent relationships between the empires in the Witchlands.

The writing here was decent, though again I feel like I preferred the writing in the first book, though I’m not really sure why.

Ryber just sort of appeared from nowhere at the end, and I wasn’t really sure what happened there, though I guess things will become clearer in Sightwitch?

There was some LGBTQ+ rep in this book and some POC rep, which was largely decent, though like I said, I had some issues with the way Merik misgendered Cam throughout the book, as this book confirms that he is a trans boy.

The villains in this book were largely unseen, so it didn’t feel like the immediate stakes were massively high, even though the world is seemingly on the brink of war.

Overall, this book was a classic example of second book syndrome for me. It was slow paced, the constantly shifting perspectives were somewhat confusing and it didn’t feel like it advanced the overarching plot of the series all that much. I’m hoping that Sightwitch and Bloodwitch will be an improvement on this instalment!

My Rating: 3/5

My next review will be of Maggie Stiefvater’s, Call Down The Hawk, the first book in Ronan’s trilogy!

 

City of Ghosts (Cassidy Blake #1) Review

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Book: City of Ghosts (Cassidy Blake #1)

Author: Victoria Schwab

BECHDEL TEST: PASS-Lara and Cassidy talk about Harry Potter (the books in general, not the specific character!).

Content Warnings: Drowning, death, abduction of children, grief, mild violence

I was originally planning on reading this for my #RockMyTBR challenge this year, but it was chosen for me to read by my Goodreads book club this month, and since I’d already read my challenge book for this month, I swapped this book out for its sequel as my TBR challenge book. I have to admit, if this wasn’t written by Victoria Schwab, I doubt I would have read it as I don’t tend to read middle grade books all that often. Still, I’m glad I did, it was a lot of fun and a nice break from all the chunky fantasy that I tend to read, it’s been a while since I finished a book in 4 days! Here is a short synopsis of the book:

They’re here.
They’re watching.

Cass can pull back the Veil that separates the living from the dead.

When Cass’s parents start hosting a TV show about the world’s most haunted places, the family heads off to Edinburgh. Here, graveyards, castles and secret passageways teem with restless phantoms.

But when Cass meets a girl who shares her “gift”, she realizes how much she still has to learn about the Veil—and herself. And she’ll have to learn fast. The city of ghosts is more dangerous than she ever imagined.

Like I said at the top of the review, one of the most appealing things about this book was the fact that it was short. Don’t get me wrong, I do enjoy dense fantasies packed with world building but they can get quite exhausting to read all the time, so it was nice to read something that both had reasonably short chapters, and wasn’t over 500 pages long! The writing style was also easy to read and engaging (whilst being very recognisably Schwab) which was great.

It’s interesting to see how authors who have previously done adult or YA transition over to middle grade and I felt Victoria Schwab did it very well. It was clearly written with a younger audience in mind, but it didn’t feel dumbed down at all and those who have read Schwab’s adult books will feel very familiar with the style here.

I loved the map at the beginning, and obviously as someone who studied in Scotland and is quite familiar with Edinburgh, it was really cool seeing Cass and her family go to all of these different places that I had been to in real life. It was a great setting for the book, and I think Victoria Schwab captured the sense of place very well, you can clearly tell how much she loves the city.

As for the characters, I did like them, though obviously as this is a book for younger readers, they perhaps weren’t as fleshed out as I would usually expect in a Victoria Schwab book. Cass felt younger to me than I think she was intended to be? Maybe it’s because Lara was meant to be around the same age and she just seemed older? I’m not sure, but had the book not mentioned her age, I would have pegged her at about 9 or 10 rather than 12. Jacob was adorable and quite amusing, though we don’t really learn a massive amount about him either.

I loved Cass and Jacob’s friendship, I will always love friendship centred novels and wish they were more common in YA and Adult, it was so nice to have a book with a platonic friendship between a boy and a girl without having any kind of romance (granted one was a ghost so that would have been an impossibility anyway, but still!). I’m a bit worried about the suggestion that Jacob might have ulterior motives though, I don’t want to see either of them get hurt! I also liked that despite the animosity at the beginning, Lara and Cassidy didn’t fall into the trap of hating each other for no real reason.

I’ve seen other reviews complain about Cassidy’s confusion at British words and the explanations of them, but honestly, I found it quite funny. I’ve just accepted that it’s more common for Brits to understand Americanisms than for them to understand British-isms, and since it’s a book for kids, I don’t mind as much as I would otherwise.

There’s also a fair amount of Harry Potter references, so if you’re not a Harry Potter lover, that might grate on your nerves, but personally I quite liked it. I was just as excited as Cass to go to the Elephant House!

It was a little slow to start off with, but it built nicely through the story and the climax was very exciting, so I wouldn’t say the slow pace is a problem for the whole book, more just the first and second parts (the book is split into 5 sections).

It’s obviously not massively scary, I would describe the feel of this book more as eerie than scary but it works well as a ghost story. The Raven In Red, who is the “main” ghost in this story, kind of feels like a dead Pied Piper of Hamelin, as she steals children’s lives and tempts them away with her voice. I wouldn’t say she feels massively threatening as a villain though!

The world building was decent, obviously a little more simplistic than in her other books (accounting for the younger audience) but we get a fair amount of detail on how Cass is able to go through the Veil & how ghosts can be sent on and I’m sure we’ll get more details in future books.

Cass’s parents are super oblivious for a pair who work in ghost hunting, I mean you get the sense that her mum might have some idea what’s going on, but they generally play the role of oblivious, though obviously caring parents who have absolutely no idea what’s going on with their daughter.

There are definitely similarities to Vicious that readers who have read both will pick up on, the near death experiences, the fact that Cass’s “death” is exactly the same as Sydney’s, it’s not like it’s an obvious copy, but there are some similar threads.

I was surprised that Cass didn’t look more into her abilities in the year since her accident, especially since she might have been able to find something in her parents’ research, but I suppose after a traumatic incident, your first thought probably isn’t “Oh how can I get rid of these ghosts”.

There was some decent humour in this, mostly coming from Jacob and his lack of wanting to go into scary situations!

I liked that this book wrapped up the story arc well, but with the obvious hint that there was going to be more. It feels very episodic which fits well with the fact that Cass’ parents are filming a TV show.

Overall, this was a fun little story, I don’t think it will ever be one of my favourites of Victoria Schwab’s books, but I enjoyed it well enough and I’m looking forward to reading about more of Cass’ adventures when I read Tunnel of Bones later in the year.

My Rating: 3.5/5

My next review will be of Susan Dennard’s Windwitch, which I’m hoping to get up at the beginning of next week, as it’s one I’ve already finished.

 

 

The Enigma Game Review (e-ARC)

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Book: The Enigma Game

Author: Elizabeth Wein

Published By: Bloomsbury UK

Expected Publication: 14th May (today!)

Format: e-book

BECHDEL TEST: PASS-Louisa and Ellen and Louisa and Elisabeth both have conversations which don’t revolve around men.

Content Warnings: War, death, racism, homophobia, sexual harrassment

Thank you to Bloomsbury UK and Netgalley for allowing me to read this book. This in no way impacted my opinion of the book.

Ever since I read Code Name Verity way back in 2016, whenever I’ve found an Elizabeth Wein book I’ve jumped on the chance to read it. Naturally when I saw The Enigma Game on Netgalley, I requested it immediately and was delighted to be approved. I actually didn’t twig that it was connected to Code Name Verity (despite Jamie and Ellen’s names both being in the synopsis) so I was thrilled to discover that it was. I can’t say that this book had the same emotional kick as Code Name Verity or Rose Under Fire (though it certainly had its moments) but it was a nice addition to the stories in this world and it was great to see what Jamie, Ellen and Louisa got up to during the war. Here is a short synopsis of the book:

Windyedge Airfield, Scotland. World War II.

When her mother is killed in the Blitz, and her father’s ship goes down, Louisa Adair feels she has lost everything. The country she has called home since her family left Jamaica is not a friendly place for an orphaned girl with brown skin, and she badly needs money and a roof over her head.

Finally she finds work looking after an old lady at a pub near an airfield in Scotland. There she meets Ellen, a driver for the RAF, and Jamie, a pilot – two other young people just as exhausted by the toll the war has taken on their loved ones, and just as desperate for a way to fight back.

Then the impossible happens. A German defector lands at the airfield carrying a precious package, and Louisa, Jamie and Ellen find themselves hiding a codebreaking machine that could alter the course of the war. But there are powerful people hunting for the machine, and soon Louisa and her friends are playing a deadly game that threatens everything they hold dear.

I’ll start with what I loved about this book: the characters. Ellen and Jamie, we are already familiar with from The Pearl Thief and Code Name Verity respectively, and Louisa is a new addition. It was really nice to get to learn more about both Ellen and Jamie in this book, as neither are POV characters in the other Wein books they’re in, so it was lovely to get to spend more time with them and to see them developed more. Louisa was also a really nice addition, she’s smart and feisty and just wants to contribute something to the war. The dynamic between the three of them is great and really makes the story.

I will admit, this book is quite slow paced. It took a while for me to really get into it, not helped by the often lengthy chapters, as the plot only really picks up once the Enigma machine is discovered. It also didn’t help that the “chapters” weren’t really designated, often one POV could end on the same page as another started which made it hard to know where to lead off. The writing style was very engaging though, which helped mitigate some of the other issues I had.

I loved how much this book focused on friendship! There’s no romance in this at all, and it was so refreshing to see, these characters are just really close friends and it’s great to see how the difficult situation they find themselves in reinforces the bond between them. Louisa and Ellen had a particularly interesting friendship, as both are considered outsiders in their society (Louisa as a biracial girl, Ellen as a Traveller) and exploring their different experiences with discrimination with Ellen being able to hide her background due to her white privilege whilst Louisa obviously cannot do the same.

The friendship between Louisa and Jane though was definitely the standout in this book. I don’t think I’ve ever really seen a book that focuses on the relationship between an old woman and a young girl where the pair aren’t related? Anyway, it was really heartwarming to see how the two of them bonded over the course of the book and it was lovely to see an older person playing an important role in the plot, as again, that’s something you don’t see often. I would totally read a whole book about Jane, you get the sense she’s had quite the interesting life and she’s surprisingly funny!

I’ll be honest, I was actually quite shocked with what happened to Jamie, even though it is mentioned in Code Name Verity, because it’s been so long since I read it that I completely forgot!

The book is related to Code Name Verity, but it does largely stand alone and doesn’t assume knowledge on part of the reader, so you could read it without reading Code Name Verity first, as chronologically, the events of this book happen before Code Name Verity (this being set in 1940/41, and that book being set in 1943). However, I would recommend reading Verity and The Pearl Thief before this one as I reckon you will get more out of it if you’ve already familiarised yourself with Jamie and Ellen.

I loved the setting, the little village pub in the north of Scotland, it’s very atmospheric and I thought the wishing coins left by pilots in the beam above the bar was a really nice touch (even moreso when I read the author’s note and learned it was inspired by a real place)!

There are both POC and LGBTQ+ characters in here, which is always nice to see in historical novels. I thought Wein tackled the racism that Louisa faced well, especially with the scene on the bus where a child mistook her for German.

It’s not the most action packed book, it’s more intrigue and espionage in this book than anything else, but we do get some pretty exciting air battles.

It was a lovely surprise to see a favourite character from Code Name Verity returning too, though I can’t say who as it would be a massive spoiler.

The book actually ended up being more heartbreaking than I was expecting, but obviously, the characters are going through a war and I probably shouldn’t have been so surprised by some of the events.

The author’s note at the end was really interesting, it was great to learn about some of the real history that inspired events and settings of the book (though I would say it was a tad long!).

Overall this was a really nice addition to the Code Name Verity world and whilst I wouldn’t call it as impactful as either CNV or Rose Under Fire, it was great to see what both Jamie and Ellen got up to during the war and I loved Louisa. If Wein does more in this world, and I really hope she does, I would love to see what Louisa got up to after the events of this book as it left her in a really interesting place!

My Rating: 3/5

My next review will be of V.E. Schwab’s middle grade debut, City of Ghosts.

 

 

The Lady’s Guide To Petticoats and Piracy (Montague Siblings #2)

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Book: The Lady’s Guide To Petticoats and Piracy (Montague Siblings #2)

Author: Mackenzi Lee

Bechdel Test: PASS-Felicity, Johanna and Sim all have many conversations which do not revolve around boys.

Content warnings: Sexism, racism, colonialism, blood, implied threat to harm animals

This book was my #RockMyTBR book for May and I was both excited and a little nervous to read this one. I love Felicity, but obviously when I read the first book, I was unaware of the more…..problematic things that Mackenzi Lee had done so obviously I read this one with a little more awareness of that than I had when the first book. I liked Monty’s book a little better, I thought it was funnier and had more adventure, but I still really enjoyed this one. It was so great to see a historical book centring women, all with different dreams and ambitions but all treated as equally valid. Here is a short synopsis of the book:

A year after an accidentally whirlwind grand tour with her brother Monty, Felicity Montague has returned to England with two goals in mind—avoid the marriage proposal of a lovestruck suitor from Edinburgh and enroll in medical school. However, her intellect and passion will never be enough in the eyes of the administrators, who see men as the sole guardians of science.

But then a window of opportunity opens—a doctor she idolizes is marrying an old friend of hers in Germany. Felicity believes if she could meet this man he could change her future, but she has no money of her own to make the trip. Luckily, a mysterious young woman is willing to pay Felicity’s way, so long as she’s allowed to travel with Felicity disguised as her maid.

In spite of her suspicions, Felicity agrees, but once the girl’s true motives are revealed, Felicity becomes part of a perilous quest that leads them from the German countryside to the promenades of Zurich to secrets lurking beneath the Atlantic.

Felicity was one of my favourite characters from the last book, so naturally I was thrilled that she was centre stage in this one. Her style of narration was very different to Monty’s drier, and more serious, but I still enjoyed it, it was funny in a different way, more sarcastic. She’s not the easiest narrator, she’s selfish and prickly and a little harsh but it made sense for her character and it was great to watch her learn and grow throughout the book.

The other two main female characters were equally brilliant. Johanna in particular, I really loved, she’s Felicity’s best friend from childhood whom she has grown apart from after a bitter falling out two years ago. Johanna is a more “traditional” 18th century woman, she likes pretty dresses and makeup and her big slobbery dog, Max but she is also smart and brave, and is determined that no one, especially not Felicity will treat her lesser because she enjoys femininity. Honestly, Felicity at the beginning definitely doesn’t deserve a friend like Johanna, so kind and caring that she doesn’t slam the door in Felicity’s face when she arrives at her wedding unannounced, just in order to get to her fiance. Sim was very intriguing though I would say that she doesn’t get as fleshed out as the other two, which was a shame as she was probably the most interesting of the three characters, with her career ambitions being to take over her father’s fleet.

The chapters, like in the first book, were a little overly long, 20-30 pages each is a bit much for me over one chapter! I also felt like it could have been a little shorter, as the pace seemed to drag in places.

Obviously feminism is central to this story, though it’s not referred to given the time period, but all of the women in the book are trying to gain equality in some way or another. I LOVED how Johanna confronted Felicity on her internalised misogyny and showed how just because Johanna was a different kind of woman to Felicity, didn’t mean Felicity should look down on her for it, that confrontation was probably one of my favourite sections of the book. I would have liked if the intersectionality between Sim’s race and her gender had been explored more, that kind of got a bit brushed over, though I suppose since she her society is African, the fact that her father wanted to give his command to her brothers and not her, wasn’t really a race issue.

I loved how much focus on friendship there was in this novel! So often in YA, friendship gets brushed aside in favour of romance, and it was so lovely to see a book where friendship was key. I also loved how it explored the breakdown of Felicity and Johanna’s friendship because friendship breakups are definitely something that is under acknowledged in YA.

I did find Lee’s writing enjoyable and easy to read, though I will admit, Felicity’s inner monologue got kind of repetitive. Obviously I agree that women should be equal to men and it sucked how sexist 18th century society was, but I didn’t need to hear it over and over again.

Obviously the LGBTQIA+ rep was great in this book once again, we get to explore Felicity’s asexuality, which was only hinted at in the first book and that was great to see.

I will say though that I wasn’t massively impressed with how the race rep was handled (and I think I was being more critical here after Mackenzi Lee’s IRL actions) as though she does try to tackle Johanna and Felicity’s imperalist attitudes, it does come across as “Look, there can be good colonialists and bad ones” and the fact that Felicity and Johanna end up being two white girls in an African pirate gang….I don’t know how well that sits. I also wasn’t massively keen on the scene where Felicity removes Sim’s headscarf to use as a bandage for a wound, didn’t seem all that respectful to Muslims.

The fantasy elements in this one again felt kind of out of place, I’m not exactly sure why Lee tries to shoehorn these in when they don’t really fit. Much as I love dragons, they don’t really fit in the 18th Century, or any novel set in a real world setting! I was expecting some sort of fantastical twist after the first book, but it still felt clumsily done.

The sexism of the medical profession in the 18th century was handled very well, though it obviously made my blood boil. Felicity’s hero Dr Platt was categorically THE WORST and definitely proves why “Don’t Meet Your Heroes” exists, even if it’s not always true. The scene where Felicity mentioned menstruation in front of all the medical doctors and their insane reaction to i made me laugh so hard.

Much like the first book, Lee does dialogue very well in this one, some of Felicity’s one line quips in this one were amazing!

We also get to see Monty and Percy again in this one, and though they aren’t main characters, it was lovely to see them all loved up and happy. The moment where Felicity calls Percy her brother really made my heart melt and it was lovely to see them bond more in this one.

I felt like there wasn’t a massive amount of piracy in this book for a book that has piracy in it’s title? I don’t know, I just love pirates and would have liked to have seen more.

Lee’s Author’s Note at the end talking about the real life women who inspired the book was really interesting to read, though perhaps a little long!

Overall I really enjoyed this book, it was great to see Felicity take centre stage and follow her adventures and any book that puts a focus on female friendship is pretty much guaranteed to be something that I enjoy! I’m looking forward to the final book coming out in August and seeing what shenanigans Felicity and Monty’s younger brother gets up to!

My Rating: 4/5

My next review will be of Elizabeth Wein’s newest release, The Enigma Game, which I should have up on Thursday as that’s it’s publication date.