Vicious (Villains #1) Review

18180495

Book: Vicious

Author: VE Schwab

Vicious was my September #RockMyTBR book and I was super excited for it, because VE Schwab is one of my absolute favourite authors and I’ve heard nothing but amazing stuff about this book. I’ll admit, I didn’t love it quite as much as the Shades of Magic trilogy, but I wasn’t too surprised by that as I do prefer fantasy to sci-fi esque stories and Vicious definitely falls more into the latter category than the former. The non-linear format kind of confused me at first, but once everything started to come together, I totally understood why V chose to tell the story that way and thought it was really clever. I also loved all of the morally ambiguous characters and how you could still root for them even when they weren’t great people. Here is a short synopsis of the book:

A masterful tale of ambition, jealousy, desire, and superpowers.

Victor and Eli started out as college roommates—brilliant, arrogant, lonely boys who recognized the same sharpness and ambition in each other. In their senior year, a shared research interest in adrenaline, near-death experiences, and seemingly supernatural events reveals an intriguing possibility: that under the right conditions, someone could develop extraordinary abilities. But when their thesis moves from the academic to the experimental, things go horribly wrong.
Ten years later, Victor breaks out of prison, determined to catch up to his old friend (now foe), aided by a young girl whose reserved nature obscures a stunning ability. Meanwhile, Eli is on a mission to eradicate every other super-powered person that he can find—aside from his sidekick, an enigmatic woman with an unbreakable will. Armed with terrible power on both sides, driven by the memory of betrayal and loss, the archnemeses have set a course for revenge—but who will be left alive at the end?

In Vicious, V. E. Schwab brings to life a gritty comic-book-style world in vivid prose: a world where gaining superpowers doesn’t automatically lead to heroism, and a time when allegiances are called into question. 

This book was a very character driven story: the plot itself was quite simple, essentially Victor and Eli were friends once and after their experimentation into superpowers, Victor ends up in jail for ten years and when he gets out, he wants revenge on his former friend. Usually I do prefer plot driven stories, and I will admit that the pacing was a little off through this book despite it taking place over a short period of time, but fortunately, the characters in this story were strong enough that it wasn’t such a deal breaker that I wasn’t always compelled by the plot.

Eli and Victor were both very intriguing and complex characters and I loved reading about them. Their friendship/enmity was really interesting to read about and it was quite cool seeing both the parallels (and there are many) and differences between their characters. Victor comes off as the more sympathetic one, because we get to spend more time in his head, but even then, he certainly couldn’t be characterised as “good”. Eli was the more obviously psychopathic one, he didn’t really seem to have any redeeming qualities, but I still really enjoyed reading about him-it was quite interesting to see the differences in how they both viewed themselves, Eli sees himself as this saviour type figure whereas Victor is quite openly cruel and happy to be the villain. I found Victor quite refreshing because unlike Eli, he didn’t think he was being evil for the greater good, he was quite conscious of his cruel streak and was unapologetic about it, which I liked. It was very cool that their powers were essentially polar opposites, I think that just highlighted both the similarities and differences in their characters.

I also really loved the side characters, they were all really well thought out and generally well developed (aside from Serena, who I felt could have been developed a little more) and refreshingly complex-often side characters can feel a bit flat, this was not the case here. Sydney & Mitch were both great and I loved the little dysfunctional family that they formed with Victor. Mitch was definitely the most likeable character in the book, he just wanted to keep everyone safe and I just wanted to give him a big hug most of the time. Sydney starts off as an innocent little girl, but you can see that innocence slowly creeping away through the book which was definitely cool to see-I can’t wait to see what she does after some of the events of the climax of the book.

The A-linear storytelling was a bit confusing at first, since we were jumping around all these different time periods without all that much context, but once everything started to come together, I enjoyed the unusual narrative style, though I did feel like the pace somewhat lagged in places. I did like however that the chapters were very short, it made the book a lot easier to get into-I think had the book had the a-linear story and super long chapters, I probably would have given up! I also loved that the story, whilst being a-linear was also kind of circular, the story starts and ends with the characters in the same place-the graveyard, so it does give you a sense that the narrative has come full circle. I liked that the book was under 400 pages as well, it meant there was no unnecessary filler.

I loved the EO powers, I thought they were all really cool, and quite different from the powers that you often see in superheroes (or in this case supervillians!) and I thought the whole system of becoming an EO, through a Near Death Experience and then your power being whatever you desired at the point of your death, was so cool and really well thought out. That side of the world building was really well done, the only thing I would say is that I would have quite liked the setting and timing of the story to have been more embellished, all we get is that it takes place in a urban setting sometime in the near future and for an author who I know is extremely good at worldbuilding, the vagueness was a little disappointing.

There was a refreshing lack of romance in this book-that is none! I love that VE Schwab doesn’t always focus on the romantic storyline, this book had so many different types of relationships, friendships, sibling relationships, found families, and they were all platonic, it was wonderful. Romance definitely wouldn’t have fit in this novel, so I’m very glad that V didn’t shoehorn it in!

There was a dog! I love it when books have animal companions and Sydney’s dog Dol was a great addition to the motley crew of Victor, Mitch and Sydney.

The climax was really exciting, though I did feel like it was a little rushed and I didn’t love that there was a new EO introduced just for plot reasons because it felt like he didn’t have the time to get the same development as the other characters. Even though I was spoiled for the ending, I was still left with my mouth hanging open, it was that good. I can’t wait to see what happens in Vengeful!

Overall, this was a really cool, unique book and despite it taking me a while to get into the story due to the narrative style, I thought the characters were really great and I loved that VE Schwab did something completely different and unexpected-I don’t think I’ll ever read a book like this from anyone else, so that’s pretty awesome!

My Rating: 4/5

BECHDEL TEST: PASS-Sydney and Serena do have a few brief conversations that don’t revolve around men.

I don’t know what my next review will be, since I can’t really decide what I want to read at the moment, so I guess you guys will find out once I’ve read it!

 

Advertisements

Tower of Dawn (Throne of Glass #6)

31450852

Book: Tower of Dawn (Throne of Glass #6)

Author: Sarah J Maas

I will admit, I wasn’t looking forward to Tower of Dawn. Chaol has always been my least favourite of the main Throne of Glass gang and I didn’t really see the point of an entire full length novel from his perspective, I thought it would be really boring and just annoy me. But then my friend Nicola was bugging me to read it after she read it last year, she said I would really love it, that it was very similar to my favourite book of this series, Heir of Fire and that I just had to read it. So after putting it off for a year, partly due to lack of interest in Chaol and partly due to genuinely not having enough time to read a 600+ page tome during University term time, I finally got around to it this summer and I have to admit: Nicola was right. I didn’t love this book quite as much as Heir of Fire, but it definitely did have a very similar vibe and Chaol’s journey of healing was beautiful to read about. I did think, as I have done with all SJM books since Heir of Fire, that this book could have been trimmed by a good hundred pages or so and not really lost anything, but I loved getting to read about a whole new part of the Throne of Glass world, I loved getting to see Yrene again and I grew to, if not exactly love Chaol, have a fondness for him that definitely was not there before! Here is a short synopsis of the book:

In the next installment of the New York Times bestselling Throne of Glass series, follow Chaol on his sweeping journey to a distant empire.

Chaol Westfall has always defined himself by his unwavering loyalty, his strength, and his position as the Captain of the Guard. But all of that has changed since the glass castle shattered, since his men were slaughtered, since the King of Adarlan spared him from a killing blow, but left his body broken.

His only shot at recovery lies with the legendary healers of the Torre Cesme in Antica—the stronghold of the southern continent’s mighty empire. And with war looming over Dorian and Aelin back home, their survival might lie with Chaol and Nesryn convincing its rulers to ally with them.

But what they discover in Antica will change them both—and be more vital to saving Erilea than they could have imagined.

First of all, I have to talk about the world building in this book, because it was INCREDIBLE. We get to see a whole new continent in this book, the Southern Continent and it has such a different culture to the world that we are used to in Throne of Glass normally, Erilea, it’s based of the Mongolian Empire and Sarah J Maas goes into such depth about the culture and the politics and religion and food and everything of the Empire and I was like-YES. I feel like Sarah J Maas has spent more time developing the romances than anything else in Rifthold sometimes and it was great to have a book when she went really heavy duty into the world building. Antica was an awesome location for this book to take place in!

I also loved that this book definitely had more diversity in it than the other books in the Throne of Glass series. It feels like Sarah has really listened to the complaints from readers about the overall “whiteness” of the Northern Continent, and in this book, pretty much every character is a POC which was awesome to see. We also got a f/f couple in the form of the Khagan’s daughter Hasar and her lover Renia, which was lovely to see.

And then of course we have Chaol in his wheelchair. I know that a lot of readers, including myself were a bit nervous about the way that SJM was going to handle Chaol’s disability in this book. Now, I am not disabled, so I cannot speak to how accurate the representation is, but I’m going to link you guys to Brittany’s review of this book as she is a disabled reviewer and is obviously a lot more able to speak to the nuances of the disabled representation in this book than I am as an ablebodied person: https://reverieandink.com/towerofdawn/

I will say that for those who are worried that Chaol will magically be up and out of his chair within a few chapters, that things are not that simple. Chaol’s journey of emotional and physical recovery is the main, and in my opinion the most satisfying arc of this book. It is not as simple as a few sessions with a healer and he’s up and about again: he has to do some really tough physical and emotional work and it is really satisfying to get to see him work through a lot of the trauma that he has been through over the past few books and I came out of this book with a lot more respect for him as a character than I had going in.

I can’t really talk about how Chaol’s healing works out without being overly spoilery: it doesn’t fall into the magical cure trope which was good but I feel like the way everything was resolved was overly complicated and Sarah J Maas could have reached the same end point without having to include the solution she did, which involved one of my least favourite tropes (I am really sorry for how vague this is but I am so scared of spoiling the ending for people!). There were just a couple of things that bothered me about his healing: 1) there is no way a paraplegic who is recently recovering would be able to just jump on a horse and start galloping it, riding in general requires a lot of strength from your legs, hips and butt and there is no way that you are going to have enough strength to go much faster than a walk when you haven’t been back at it that long and your muscles have been atrophying from disuse. I’m not a medical expert obviously, but I have been riding for most of my life and I’m pretty sure even if you are an accomplished rider, if you become disabled, you’re not just going to be able to jump back on a horse and be at the same level you were before and 2) he probably should have been supported during his first time walking.

So yeah Chaol grew on me. I think I was looking at all of his flaws in Queen of Shadows and didn’t appreciate the good things about him, how loyal and kind and respectful he was and whilst he still had his moments of being whiny and annoying and a little self righteous, I definitely feel warmer towards him than I did going into this book and by the end I was really rooting for him, which was lovely.

Yrene from The Assassin and The Healer becomes a main character in this one (you really must read The Assassin’s Blade before you read this one because a couple of characters from it pop up) and I have to say I really loved her! She’s quite different to SJM’s other female characters, she has the same temper and sass, but she’s quieter, more introspective and obviously more focused on healing things than destroying them. I quite liked that with Yrene, SJM showed she could do female characters who are badass in a non-warrior type way! I loved how Yrene and Chaol’s relationship developed: how they basically hate each other at first, then they have some snarky banter, then slowly become friends and then into romance-it was nice to see a proper slow burn romance in one of Sarah’s books again! I’m really looking forward to seeing Yrene and Aelin meet again as well.

Nesryn is the other main POV character in this (we switch between Chaol, Yrene and Nesryn) and whilst I enjoyed her arc of coming home and finding out where she belonged and liked that she got her own adventure, separate from Chaol’s, she still felt a little flat for me. I feel like I still don’t know her all that well and that her main trait is just “warrior”. Still I like that she now has more purpose than just being Chaol’s girl and I think that she will get more time to develop in the last book.

There were so many awesome sibling dynamics in this book: the Khagan has five children and we get to see a lot of sibling interactions between the oldest four which was awesome to see because they are siblings who clearly love each other a lot and yet would stab each other to get the throne and that is my favourite kind of sibling! I think Hasar and Aelin’s meeting is going to be electric.

I loved the ruks! They’re these like bird type creatures, sort of like gigantic eagles I think and they were super cool-though not quite as great as the wyverns.

I still don’t really understand SJM’s need to pair up every single one of her main characters, especially when they are ALL HETERO RELATIONSHIPS. I mean how many more hetero relationships can you write? I would really love Manon/Asterin to be a thing in the last book, but I feel like that’s not going to happen. It feels like a lot of the characters are paired up for convenience rather than having an actual connection, which is not great.

I was however very glad that there were fewer awkward sex scenes in this one-don’t get me wrong, there are some and many veiled awkward references to manhood and “riding” but significantly less than in Empire of Storms or A Court of Mist and Fury. I love Sarah J Maas’ writing, I really think she has a way with words and there were some really beautifully written sections of this, but 99% of her sex scenes make me feel super awkward, I think there was one in Empire of Storms that I liked, but I’m starting to think that was a serious anomaly!

It did however bother me that there seemed to be a ridiculous focus on how physically attractive characters are, particularly the female characters. I didn’t need to hear how much Chaol loved Yrene’s breasts and hips so many times. I didn’t need all the awkward insinuations about his manhood and the constant need for SJM to reassure us how masculine he was. That was one thing I really loved about Nesryn’s new love interest Sartaq actually, we didn’t have to constantly hear about how “buff” he is or have him going all hyper male over Nesryn, he treated her as an equal and I loved that.

There are some really vital reveals in this book with relation to the war and the Valg, so you really cannot miss it if you don’t want to be totally confused at what is going on in the next book! The time also runs concurrently to Empire of Storms, so it starts where Queen of Shadows leaves off and ends I think a little after where Empire of Storms ends, that can be a bit confusing, but I quite liked the way Sarah managed to integrate the two timelines.

I really did hate the giant spiders-warning for arachnophobics (like me), they are back in this book!

The plot was quite slow for a good 60-70% of the book, it did get better in the second half, but the first half was mostly world building, which I didn’t mind too much as I was really into the new world that was introduced, but it would have been nice if things had got moving a little bit faster. Still I’m used to the slow pace of SJM books by now-I just wish that some of the fillery chapters had been cut, it would have streamlined the story, which it sorely needed! The second half was definitely better than the first in terms of action and the conclusion was pretty exciting! There was a lot of political intrigue and manoeuvrings in this as well, which I really loved.

I liked that there was no shitty overprotective Fae male bullshit in this, it made it a lot easier to read! Chaol does still fall into the toxic masculinity trap at times, but he does grow throughout the book and I did appreciate that it always felt like he respected that Yrene was her own person who could make her own decisions.

There were a few classic SJM tropes that I don’t love in regards to relationships which happened here, the “I loved you the moment I saw you” even though the text says the exact opposite and some other infuriating things that I can’t talk about because it would be spoilery, but in general, I will say that I liked Yrene and Chaol and Nesryn and Sartaq’s relationships better than the trashfire that is Rowaelin.

That epilogue though: JUST I CAN’T EVEN, KINGDOM OF ASH IS GONNA BREAK MY HEART AND I AM NOT PREPARED AND YET I NEED IT SO MUCH.

So yeah, overall, this was a pretty awesome addition to the Throne of Glass series, and very much worth your time, even if you don’t love Chaol, because of the great worldbuilding, the beautiful healing journey, some genuinely sweet relationships and some big reveals that will definitely change the course of the next book!

My Rating: 4/5

BECHDEL TEST: PASS-Yrene and Hafiza have a conversation at the beginning of the book about healing and Yrene’s future plans.

My next review will be of my September #RockMyTBR book Vicious, by V.E. Schwab. I’m so excited for this one, it has been forever since I last read a V.E. Schwab book!

 

Days of Blood and Starlight (Daughter of Smoke and Bone #2) Review

18048665

Book: Days of Blood and Starlight (Daughter of Smoke and Bone #2)

Author: Laini Taylor

This was my August #RockMyTBR book, and after enjoying the first book in the series last summer and buying the other two and getting them all signed at YALC, I was really looking forward to reading this one and seeing what happened next in Karou’s story, but I’m sad to say I didn’t enjoy this one quite as much as the first. Whilst the first book was for the most part set in Prague, we move to Morocco/Eretz for most of this book and I have to say I definitely missed Prague! I had thought I would have liked this book more because I had been told it was darker and less romance heavy than the first one, but I actually missed the kind of whimsical, hopeful feel of the first one, for a long while in this one, it just felt like stuff was bad and was never going to get better and mopey Karou and angsty Akiva were difficult to deal with! Perhaps if it had been 200 pages shorter, I might have enjoyed it more, but as it was, it really felt like 400 odd pages of mostly filler and then all the really important stuff happened in the last 100 pages-so infuriating when that happens! Here is a short synopsis of the book:

Once upon a time, an angel and a devil fell in love and dared to imagine a new way of living – one without massacres and torn throats and bonfires of the fallen, without revenants or bastard armies or children ripped from their mothers’ arms to take their turn in the killing and dying.

Once, the lovers lay entwined in the moon’s secret temple and dreamed of a world that was like a jewel-box without a jewel – a paradise waiting for them to find it and fill it with their happiness.

This was not that world.

This book was yeah….it was a difficult one for me to read. We pick up in an odd place, where we left off with Karou and Akiva in the last book, we pick up with Zuzana and Mik in Prague and much as I love them, it felt like a strange place to pick up after the end of the last book! It takes us a good ten chapters to even find out what Karou has been doing and even then, the actual plot, what little of it there is, just drags so badly. It wasn’t until maybe 300-400 pages into this 500 page tome that it actually felt like things were happening and yeah, that was not great.

In addition to this, the book is so dark and depressing. Necessarily so, sure, it is a war book and it couldn’t have had quite the same whimsical feel as the first book, but I think the author didn’t really need to hit us over the head with how bad war is all the time, we get it war is bad and pointless and a lot of people are dying here, but for so long it just felt like pointless, endless war with no hope for reprieve and whilst that may have been Laini Taylor’s point, it wasn’t great fun to read about.

The pacing in this book was SO OFF. The chapters were really uneven, at the start they were super short, and then they started to get longer and then they went back to being super short again and some chapters didn’t even feel like they were adding anything to the story. There was not enough plot to justify 500 pages of story.

Karou is basically a totally different person in this book than she was in the first one. It’s understandable, she’s grieving, but I didn’t feel like I was really rooting for her in this one. She was so directionless and she couldn’t make up her mind and was just generally so whiny and whilst I could understand it, it was not fun to read about. I missed the sassy, smart protagonist that was in Daughter of Smoke and Bone, this book’s Karou felt so completely different to that.

I’m still not a massive fan of Akiva, he still feels totally two dimensional, and I didn’t find his POV engaging at all. Even when I found Karou irritating, she didn’t feel flat in the same way that Akiva did. His motivations are basically solely around her, and it felt like if she hadn’t been Madrigal, Akiva wouldn’t have cared at all about the chimaera. I did however enjoy his interactions with his siblings, Hazael and Liraz actually felt more three dimensional than Akiva did and they saved Akiva’s POV for me, because even when I didn’t like him, I did enjoy them.

The romance is basically non-existent in this book, instead we get my favourite *rolls eyes* thing, with Karou and Akiva being all angsty over each other, as Karou can’t get past what he did to her family (understandable) and Akiva is trying to make things up to her, but I’m sorry Akiva, there are some things a girl just can’t get over. I really can’t get on board this ship anymore, though I know it will probably be a HEA for Karou and Akiva in the last book, because genocide of your girlfriend’s people? Yeah that’s not something that makes for a healthy relationship.

Zuzana and Mik were the saving grace of this book for me, even though they didn’t quite fit as the Prague story is really secondary in this book. I love their relationship and Zuzana is just everything I love, a short, feisty, funny girl and Mik is so cute and sensitive and a generally great boyfriend. I can’t wait to read the novella story about them later this year! So yeah, their part didn’t really fit with all the war stuff going on, but they did provide a nice break from all the despair.

The writing was nice enough, but like in the first book, it did feel overwritten at times, I didn’t need quite so much flowery prose and it didn’t fit as well in this book as it did in the first one, because this one has a much darker tone and it felt like the writing didn’t really reflect that? The constantly switching POVs were also really annoying as it made the pace of the book feel kind of jerky and some of the POVs just didn’t fit-like all the stuff with Sveva and Sarazal? Yeah that wasn’t necessary. Laini Taylor also had a super annoying habit of telling you exactly what was going to happen before it happened and I found that took me out of the story quite a bit.

Thiago, the White Wolf makes for a decent villain of this book, as he is genuinely scary, but it was a bit ridiculous that it took so long for Karou to work out that he was working against her, not for her. I also thought that the attempted rape (trigger warning in this book for rape and extreme violence), was a step too far and was definitely not needed. In fact there was a lot of gratuitous violence and mentions of violence against women in this book and I was definitely not there for that.

There were a lot of new characters brought in in this book, in fact a few too many I thought, because at points I was struggling to keep up with who was who! The only one that really made an impact on me was Ziri, a fellow Kirin, who of course has to have a crush on Karou (*eyeroll*) as he was super cute and precious and just genuinely sweet.

We go more in depth in the resurrection process in this book, which I thought was really cool, the one plus to this book is that we get deeper into the world of Eretz and I definitely came out with a better understanding of everything than in the first book so that was good.

The final twist was pretty much the only part of the book that I felt genuinely excited about and then just as things were getting good, the book was over! The book definitely spent too much time focusing on the wrong stuff and just didn’t get to the point fast enough, and by the time I actually was interested in what was going on, it was too late. I have to admit, I didn’t really understand the point of the ending, though I can’t explain why without spoilers, so let’s just say I don’t think that the direction it looks as if the third book is heading in is entirely necessary.

I loved the map at the beginning, it was super helpful to refer back to when places in Eretz were mentioned!

The conflict between the chimaera and the seraphim feels way too black and white, Taylor makes it pretty clear the chimaera are the good guys and the seraphim are the bad guys and I just felt there was so much more room for nuance than Taylor explored.

Overall, this book definitely suffered from second book syndrome, the pacing was slow, Karou was unrecongnizable for most of the book, Akiva was bland and were it not for Zuzana and Mik, the entire book would have been completely depressing with not much room for hope, ironic given Karou’s name means just that! I still want to read the final book, because I want to know how it ends, but I don’t think I’ll be rushing to do so anytime soon.

My Rating: 3/5

BECHDEL TEST: PASS-Karou and Zuzana talk about resurrections and chimaera and magic.

My next review will be of the latest Throne of Glass book Tower of Dawn, which I am finally reading before Kingdom of Ash comes out in October!

Fawkes Review (e-ARC)

36576048

Book: Fawkes

Author: Nadine Brandes

Published By: Thomas Nelson Fiction

Expected Publication: 10th July (whoops!)

Format: e-book

Thank you to Thomas Nelson Fiction and Netgalley for allowing me to read this book early, I was super excited with it because 17th century historical fantasy is not something that I come across very often and I love this period of history, so it was definitely something that I was really excited to read.

First off, the concept of the story is so darn cool. Like a retelling of the Gunpowder Plot in an England where everyone uses magical masks to control colours? Definitely one of the more inventive fantasy that I’ve read in a while-I read a lot of fantasy so sometimes it’s difficult to find books that feel new and fresh and original and this one definitely did.

Because the book takes place over two years, the plot is quite slow to start off with, it’s only toward the end of the first section “Grey” and the beginning of the second section “Black” that the pace really starts to pick up as the Gunpowder plot really starts to get underway. It does get better in terms of pace, but those first hundred pages or so were a little bit of a slog to get through as not much is really happening. However once the pace picks up, things get really exciting, especially in the last few sections when the story is getting to its climax.

My interest in the magic system was definitely what kept me reading in the first part of the book when the plot was a little slow-I thought it was so cool and creative. Basically everyone has a mask which they can use to manipulate different colours, the whole idea is that each person should only be able to control one colour but there are some people who want to be able to use all the colours through the use of White Light. The idea of using masks has always fascinated me so combining these with being able to manipulate objects through the use of different colours? Yup, I will never not be obsessed with this magic system.

I wasn’t overly attached to the narrator Thomas at first. He seemed a bit bland and I wasn’t entirely keen on some of the sexist views he espoused at the beginning of the book (he comments that the main female character Emma is better than other girls because she doesn’t show any cleavage *eyeroll*) but I LOVED his character development throughout the book. At first Thomas kind of just seems like he is floating along and not really making any choices of his own but as he grows and learns more throughout the book, he starts striking out on his own and becoming more independent and really thinking about what he wants and what is actually best for the country and by the end I just wanted to give the boy a hug. At the start of the book, I was like, yeah Thomas is okay, but he’s a bit bland and boring and by the end I was like LOOK AT MY BOY, HE’S BEEN THROUGH SO MUCH AND HE’S JUST TRYING HIS BEST AND I MUST PROTECT THE PRECIOUS (I only have two speeds for characters apparently, bland indifference or must protect at all costs). He has a bit of a hero complex but that’s understandable for a 17th century man and for the most part I did find it kind of endearing. It was great to see a YA novel with a male first person narrator, that’s much rarer that it really should be.

The main female character Emma, I just adored. I love historical women who want to go outside of the box society has set for them, and Emma just totally embodies that. She wants to strike out on her own and paint for a living and no one will hire her to be an apprentice even though she’s an amazing artist and skilled at using colour power (because sexism) but she doesn’t let the fact that no one is willing to give her a chance stop her from trying. She’s super powerful, and really brave and compassionate and I loved getting to see such a well rounded female character. She’s also black, because yes, black people did exist in 17th Century Britain and the author does explore the racism that she faces, but at the same time, Emma’s story isn’t totally about that.

I loved seeing the development of the relationship between Thomas and Emma, they have a really sweet relationship and Thomas learns and grows so much from Emma, at first he’s like MUST BE A MAN AND PROTECT and then he’s like, okay, this girl can stand up for herself. His relationship with Emma is also key in his decisions towards the end of the book. Emma also learns and grows from Thomas as well, as she sees what she really wants out of a relationship and learns that she does not have to stay with the boy who is blackmailing her. It was so nice to see a relationship in a YA book that is based on mutual respect, we need more of these!

If you know the history of the Gunpowder Plot, the story is relatively predictable (and of course, you will know how it ends before you get there) but Nadine’s magical twists and turns mean that the predictability of the historical part of the story never gets boring. I particularly loved the villain of the story, without wanting to give away too much, he was really great and I thought the Stone Plague was a great way of adapting the plague at the time to fit a magical story.

I loved how much the father/son relationship of Guy and Thomas was central to the story, as parent/child relationships are so rare in YA and it was great to see their relationship grow and develop through the story, especially since they had been estranged before the events of the story, so they are really just meeting each other for the first time.

The whole Keeper/Igniter war is very reminiscent of the Catholic/Protestant divisions in the 17th century, and I’m pretty sure that White Light is supposed to signify God, but it’s not whack you over the head with it religion, so if you’re not a big fan of books with religious themes, don’t worry, they are here, but they are relatively subtle and I thought it was quite a clever way to combine religion with the fantasy aspects of the book.

I liked the way that the real life plotters were incorporated into the book, aside from Catesby, I didn’t really know much about the other plotters so it was great to get to learn a bit more about the plotters that you don’t hear as much about through this book. The whole thing at Holbeche House, I had no idea that actually happened, I assumed they were all caught at the same time, so that was definitely interesting to find out about-I love it when I read historical books and they teach me something new!

I liked how White Light was kind of snarky and had a sense of humour-my favourite kind of character, even though White Light is more of a presence than a character, but you get my point!

There were a few gruesome bits, especially involving the plague, so if you are a bit squeamish, just be pre-warned that there are some gross bits in this book!

The ending was bittersweet, I’m glad that the author stuck to the history, because we all know how the Gunpowder Plot worked out, though it was heartbreaking to read about but also that there was a glimmer of hope for Thomas and Emma, because it would have kind of sucked if she had ended with the death of Guy Fawkes (it’s history guys, the end to the Gunpowder Plot is not a spoiler) and just left on that sad note, without offering any sort of hope for the future, so it was nice to have a not totally depressing ending!

Overall, this was a really great historical fantasy, such a unique and creative take on a well known historical event and it was definitely great to read a historical book about a time period that is not explored enough in my opinion. I am definitely looking forward to reading Nadine Brandes’ next book because its about the Romanovs and I LOVE the Romanovs!

My Rating: 4/5

BECHDEL TEST: FAIL-Emma is really the only named female character in this book because 17th century, of course we can’t have more than one woman……*eyerolls viciously*

My next review will be of Days of Blood and Starlight, the sequel to Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor.

Children of Blood and Bone (Legacy of Orisha #1) Review

36859561

Book: Children of Blood and Bone

Author: Tomi Adeyemi

This book was another one of my YALC prep reads, though I only finished it on the first day of YALC hence why you are getting the review of it now, and in a slightly sad turn of events, I didn’t get to meet Tomi Adeyemi in the end because her signing queue was simply too long for her to get to everyone in the time she had, awesome for her, slightly sad for me and my friend. Anyway, the hype surrounding this book was huge, so I was slightly nervous to read it in case it didn’t live up to my expectations, but thankfully, it was AMAZING and is definitely now one of my favourite books of the year. Here is a short synopsis of the book:

They killed my mother.
They took our magic.
They tried to bury us. 
Now we rise. 

Zelie remembers when the soil of Orisha hummed with magic. When different clans ruled – Burners igniting flames, Tiders beckoning waves, and Zelie’s Reaper mother summoning forth souls.

But everything changed the night magic disappeared. Under the orders of a ruthless king, anyone with powers was targeted and killed, leaving Zelie without a mother and her people without hope. Only a few people remain with the power to use magic, and they must remain hidden. 

Zelie is one such person. Now she has a chance to bring back magic to her people and strike against the monarchy. With the help of a rogue princess, Zelie must learn to harness her powers and outrun the crown prince, who is hell-bent on eradicating magic for good. 

Danger lurks in Orisha, where strange creatures prowl, and vengeful spirits wait in the waters. Yet the greatest danger may be Zelie herself as she struggles to come to terms with the strength of her magic – and her growing feelings for an enemy.

This book was just….ugh…I apologise in advance for this being a likely totally flaily and probably incoherent review but I am just super in love with this book and this world and these characters that I can’t even…..it’s probably a good thing that I didn’t get a chance to meet Tomi Adeyemi at YALC because I am totally not coherent about my love for this book yet.

Obviously the diversity in this book is absolutely amazing. I can’t even remember the last time I read a book with an all black cast, if I ever have which I’m not sure about, so that was so amazing to see and I can’t even imagine how great it must be for black readers to see that kind of representation on page, since I’m a white woman who never really has to think about seeing myself represented in books, so yeah, it was definitely great to have an #ownvoices all black story and I seriously hope the success of this book means that we’ll get to see more of these types of story, particularly in fantasy novels.

I thought the world building was so great, I loved all the different maji clans and the history behind each clan’s magic, I thought Orisha as a country with all the culture, the animals, the food, the currency was really well thought out, I could have done with maybe seeing a bit more of different Orishan places, but I think overall Tomi Adeyemi did a really good job: Orisha was quite a sprawling, complex world but I felt like I really knew their history and culture and everything by the end which is always what you want. I also loved that there were ten different clans and we got to explore lots of different types of magic, I thought that was super cool. It was also interesting to have a world where religion played such a big role, I have known a lot of fantasy books that have utilised a religion of sorts but it is usually background, Zelie’s belief in her gods had a big impact on her actions in the book, so that was interesting to see.

I loved most of the characters, I thought all the main characters were well developed and complex and each went through their own journeys through the book. I wasn’t overly keen on Zelie at the beginning, I understood why she was so angry and I appreciated that Adeyemi allowed her to be angry because often girls in books aren’t, I just felt like she was unnecessarily cruel to Amari in the beginning and that she didn’t really learn from her reckless, impulsive decisions and it was left to everyone else to get her out of the mistakes she had made; I could definitely understand Tzain’s exasperation with her! I did feel like she developed through the book and I definitely felt for her pain and everything she went through, I just didn’t love her to quite the same extent as I loved Amari. Amari was definitely my fave of this book, she goes through such a journey from scared princess to powerful warrior (who still loves to do hair and makeup and is traditionally feminine, which is great to see) and I found her quite easy to root for, because she clearly wants to try and do the right thing and she’s overcome a lot of abuse from her father.

Inan, I had slightly complicated feelings about. His motivations are just as complicated as Zelie and Amari’s and you do feel bad for him, because like Amari, he is overcoming abuse from their father (Inan is Amari’s brother) but I did find his chapters rather repetitive and sometimes you just wanted to scream at him “MAKE UP YOUR MIND”. However I appreciated that Adeyemi didn’t just make him a cookie cutter villain and explored his motivations and tensions between magic and his loyalty to the crown.

Tzain was the one main character that I felt fell kind of flat. Perhaps it was because he wasn’t a POV character in this book, but it kind of felt like his only purpose was saving Zelie’s ass when she did something stupid (ie frequently) or mooning over Amari. I hope that in the next book, he gets a POV so he can be explored more because I reckon he could be really interesting, we just haven’t seen enough of him yet.

I liked that the cause for and against magic wasn’t black and white, you get to see the oppression of those with magic, which is clearly wrong, but you also get to see how dangerous magic can be, and you can sort of understand where the King is coming from even if his method of dealing with it is totally barbaric and definitely is not the way to deal. It made the book a lot more interesting than if it was just “Magic is amazing, the King is awful”.

I wish the King had been more developed as a villain though, you get some understanding of what he did to his children and what motivates him, but he did feel like somewhat of a flat villain at times and I think he could have been expanded upon more.

I loved the sibling relationships between Tzain and Zelie and Inan and Amari, though I felt like Inan and Amari’s relationship could have been more developed. However I did love that familial relationships were front and centre in this book, because so often they are ignored, so it was great to see that!

The romance was the one place where the book kind of fell flat for me and it contributed to the pacing issues I had with the book. The start of the book was a little slow, but it soon picked up but then as soon as the romance between Zelie and Inan was introduced it felt like everything slowed down and concentrated way too much on them rather than the overarching plot. I also felt like Zelie and Inan’s romance didn’t really make sense, they hated each other and then ten seconds later, they seemed to be proclaiming their love and planning for a new Orisha together. It didn’t feel earned, so I wasn’t invested in it at all. Tzain and Amari’s relationship never really developed past the crush stage, but I kind of had to wonder why that was there, since it was a little weird to have all four characters paired up with each other, especially since they were two groups of siblings! Personally, I felt the romance feels more from Zelie and Amari and seriously hope they become a thing in the next book, since I definitely read possible lesbian vibes between Amari and her maid and I’m pretty sure, whether she’s bisexual or a lesbian, Amari definitely didn’t read as straight to me!

There were so many great action sequences but at times it did feel like the violence was a bit gratuitous, like the whole boat death match sequence, they could have got the stone another way and it didn’t really add much to the book.

The chapters were generally quite short which I appreciated-it made the book a lot more easily digestible for me as I was mostly reading it on my bus journeys to and from work!

I loved having the map and the explanations of the different Maji clans at the beginning, they were very useful to refer to throughout the book and the map was beautiful!

I’m always a bit wary about the use of mind reading powers in books as there are a lot of iffy issues with consent there, and I found that as well as that, there were generally a couple of iffy scenes where the girls would say no to something (like Amari not wanting to dance and then Tzain dragging her to do it anyway, and Inan pushing Zelie up against a tree) and the boys would ignore them and I felt like that could have been easily rectified or at least acknowledged.

It would have helped me if there had been a glossary for the unfamiliar Yoruba words, I loved the inclusion of the language but it would have been nice to know how to pronounce those words I was reading!

This book explored so many really important issues, prejudice, colourism, slavery, police brutality, it was great to see these things talked about in such an open way as they are all really important things that we definitely need to talk about more.

The alternating three POVs were for the most part done really well, though on occasion, particularly between Zelie and Amari’s POVs, I would get confused as to which character was narrating!

I did generally like Adeyemi’s writing style, though it did seem slightly overwritten in parts and occasionally, the dialogue was overly formal and stilted. Plus the dreaded “breath she didn’t know she was holding” line appeared and I know it can be a genuine thing in anxiety to not realise that you are holding your breath, but I wish authors could find a different way to express it because it’s so overused!

The author’s note at the end, explaining her inspirations for the book was extremely powerful and if you don’t usually read the author’s notes then definitely do this time because she explains her real life inspirations for the book, and it was quite heartrending to read.

THE END, OH MY GOSH THE END, THAT WAS JUST MEAN. I did feel like the end was a little rush, because of all the romance stuff in the middle, by the time we got to the end, it felt like both the author and the characters were racing through and I really needed a second to take a breath! Having said that, I loved the way everything wrapped up, even though that ending was cruel, and I can’t wait to see what happens in the next book.

Overall, I really loved this book, despite the few small problems I had with it, and can definitely understand why everyone has been hyping it up so much, it’s a wonderful, diverse, fantasy world with great characters and a great plot and 2019 cannot come soon enough because I NEED to know what happens next. Definitely a top book of 2018 for sure!

My Rating: 4.5/5 (0.5 off for the pacing problems and my lack of love for the romance)

BECHDEL TEST: PASS-Zelie and Amari talk about magic and the things they need to do to save Orisha.

My next review will be of my current Netgalley read, Fawkes, a retelling of the Gunpowder plot, which I’m really enjoying.

Radio Silence Review

25322449

Book: Radio Silence

Author: Alice Oseman

This book is another one of my YALC prep reads, as Alice Oseman is one of the authors attending YALC, it is also one of the books I received from my lovely #otspsecretsister from the last round I took part it, Amy (@YAundermyskin) so it knocked two items off my goals for the year which was good. It seems like everyone and their friend loves this book, and whilst I did enjoy it, I didn’t love it quite as much as everyone else seems to. I did love the focus on friendship rather than romance and I thought the diversity was great and the school struggles were very relatable, but I felt like the plot kind of dragged a bit. Here is a short synopsis of the novel:

What if everything you set yourself up to be was wrong?

Frances has always been a study machine with one goal, elite university. Nothing will stand in her way; not friends, not a guilty secret – not even the person she is on the inside.

But when Frances meets Aled, the shy genius behind her favourite podcast, she discovers a new freedom. He unlocks the door to Real Frances and for the first time she experiences true friendship, unafraid to be herself. Then the podcast goes viral and the fragile trust between them is broken.

Caught between who she was and who she longs to be, Frances’ dreams come crashing down. Suffocating with guilt, she knows that she has to confront her past…

She has to confess why Carys disappeared…

Meanwhile at uni, Aled is alone, fighting even darker secrets.

It’s only by facing up to your fears that you can overcome them. And it’s only by being your true self that you can find happiness.

Frances is going to need every bit of courage she has

I’m not really entirely sure how I feel about this book. There were some parts of it that were so so good and other parts that I was like, eh, can’t really care less about. I’m going to talk about both, and hope that I can kind of reconcile the sort of meh feelings that I had about this book.

So the good stuff first. I loved the focus on friendship, I thought that was really great and having a book that had a male/female plationic friendship at its centre was so refreshing as they are still annoyingly rare! Aled and Frances’ friendship, at least for the first half of the book was so lovely and it was great to read a book that put friendship above romance for a change, because at least for me, my friendships have always been the most important thing in my life. Though on the topic of friends, I felt like Frances complaining that her friends only liked her because they didn’t know the real her was a little annoying because she never gave them the chance, and she never actually tried to get to know them either, so I felt when she said that Aled was the first person who ever really got her, like “well you didn’t exactly try to let your friends get to know you” and then she’s surprised when she really likes Raine even though she’s been friends with her for years? Yeah I did not get that at all.

I loved the diversity, nearly every member of the main cast is queer, and Frances and Daniel are also POC, Raine is also a POC though her sexual orientation is not outright stated. It was refreshing to see a book where so much diversity was so easily interwoven into the book and it was great to see Aled, Frances, Daniel and Carys all directly say that they were demisexual, bisexual, gay and lesbian respectively, on page.

I also loved Frances’ relationship with her mum, it was great to see a supportive and present parent in a YA book, plus her mum seemed super awesome!

I found the struggles about sixth form and what to do for Uni very relatable and realistic, sixth form is such a confusing time and it’s so difficult to decide at 18 what you want to do for the rest of your life, honestly four years later, I’m still not entirely sure? So that part was great to read about, though it felt like Frances’ teachers weren’t that involved, which didn’t ring true to me, because in my experience of sixth form, my teachers were super involved in the whole applying to Uni process, we had mock interviews, practice personal statements, our teachers talked to us all the time about what we were applying for and there was even more preparation involved for those applying to Oxbridge, so someone like Frances who was Cambridge bound and supposedly at a really good school, I find it hard to believe that she was so unprepared and flustered at her interview and that only one of her teachers suggested that English Lit wasn’t right for her. From my experience, I feel like a student like Frances wouldn’t have got so far through the application process without someone suggesting that perhaps English Lit wasn’t what she was passionate about and Oxbridge perhaps wasn’t for her.

There was some nice representation of mental health at University as well with Aled, which I liked as I feel like that’s a topic that sometimes falls through the cracks and its such a prevalent issue.

The chapters were a nice length, I liked that they were mostly short, it made the book a lot faster to get through, even when it was dragging. I also liked the fandom references, I thought the podcast was really creative and I liked the social media aspects, though they did feel in parts overdone.

Now onto the things I didn’t like so much. I felt like the book was quite slow paced, even though there was a lot happening which was weird. We kind of had the same things over and over again, school, Spoons, clubs, Frances and Aled hanging out, and repeat for most of the book, which is fine, that’s what most teenagers’ lives are like, I just found myself bored. It was a very weird combination of too many subplots: Frances and Uni, Aled and his mother, his missing sister, Radio Silence, Aled’s mental health issues etc and yet everything moving a too slow a pace. For a lot of the book, all the different parts felt a bit disjointed and it did all come together at the end, but I felt like the different strands were too uneven for most of the book.

I also felt like quite a lot of the characters were a bit shallow, Frances not so much because we’re in her head so we get to understand her motivations a bit more, and Aled was decently well rounded as well, but Raine and Daniel and Carys and both Frances and Aled’s mums felt a bit shallow. This is especially true of Aled’s mum, who is abusive but we don’t really get any indication of why she is that way, so she just comes of as one dimensionally evil. I also found Frances kind of irritating at times because she complains so much about things but then doesn’t do anything to change her situation and doesn’t really seem to be aware of what a privileged position she’s in. I also felt like Aled overreacted a bit to a certain event in the book. I don’t know, I just didn’t feel like all of the characters were entirely well rounded.

I also felt like the story was a little long for my liking, which is weird because it’s only four hundred pages, which is relatively standard for me, but at times it just felt like the story would never end! I think perhaps it was because it was a contemporary, I’m used to reading fantasies of four hundred pages plus, but contemporaries tend to be around the 300-380 odd page mark, so the fact that this was quite long considering probably contributed to my feeling that it was slow paced.

There is also a section of animal cruelty, not described on page, but even the mention of that was enough to turn me off. For content warnings, this book contains a character with depression, not outright stated as such but pretty clearly described, emotional abuse, child abuse and suicide ideation.

I didn’t really buy that Frances wearing funky clothes and liking an Internet podcast would have meant her friends would have thought her weird and she would have been ostracized: this book was published in 2016, a lot of people liked funky fandom clothes and internet podcasts then and even when it was written I don’t think it would have been seen as weird as the author made it out to be.

So overall there were definitely good aspects to this story, I feel like it had just been too hyped up for me and didn’t quite live up to my expectations. Honestly, if I had read this when I was in sixth form, I probably would have been just as hyped about it as everyone else, but now I’m almost done with Uni, I see Frances in a different way than I would have when I was 16, I probably would have loved her at 16, at 21 she irritated me. I’m definitely glad that a book with such good diversity and a male/female platonic friendship at its centre is so popular, it just wasn’t for me.

My Rating: 3/5

BECHDEL TEST: PASS-Frances and Raine have a conversation about their grades, and later on about white privilege.

My next review will be of my final YALC prep read, the one I am reading at the moment, Children of Blood and Bone, by Tomi Adeyemi.

 

 

Legendary (Caraval #2) Review

36515061

Book: Legendary (Caraval #2)

Author: Stephanie Garber

This book was one of my most anticipated books of this year, as Caraval was one of my favourite books that I read last year and I couldn’t wait to dive back into the magical world that Stephanie Garber created, this time seeing it through the eyes of Scarlett’s younger sister Tella. Now I’ve been burned a little by my most anticipated reads this year as none of them have been quite as good as I was hoping, but not so with Legendary! Legendary ups the stakes from its predecessor, creating a thoroughly spellbinding story that I could not put down and devoured in just over a week. Here is a short synopsis of the book:

A heart to protect. A debt to repay. A game to win.

After being swept up in the magical world of Caraval, Donatella Dragna has finally escaped her father and saved her sister Scarlett from a disastrous arranged marriage. The girls should be celebrating, but Tella isn’t yet free. She made a desperate bargain with a mysterious criminal, and what Tella owes him no one has ever been able to deliver: Caraval Master Legend’s true name.

The only chance of uncovering Legend’s identity is to win Caraval, so Tella throws herself into the legendary competition once more—and into the path of the murderous heir to the throne, a doomed love story, and a web of secrets…including her sister’s. Caraval has always demanded bravery, cunning, and sacrifice. But now the game is asking for more. If Tella can’t fulfill her bargain and deliver Legend’s name, she’ll lose everything she cares about—maybe even her life. But if she wins, Legend and Caraval will be destroyed forever.

Welcome, welcome to Caraval…the games have only just begun.

We pick up pretty much just after we left off in Caraval, with the ball to celebrate the end of the game from the last book, so if you don’t have a great memory, I’d recommend refreshing yourself with at least how the last book ended, because we don’t get any recaps, we just dive straight into the story.

The book is narrated by Tella, Scarlett’s younger sister this time around and I have to admit, I much prefer her to her sister. Tella is more daring and reckless, she’s impulsive and a little naive and she makes mistakes, but she felt like a flawed, complex character to me and I found her voice a lot more engaging than Scarlett’s which made her easier to root for. We didn’t really get to see much of Tella in the last book, so it was interesting here to dive further into her motivations for her actions in the last game and to get to see that she’s so much more than she was made out to be in Caraval, she’s flirtatious and feminine and she likes pretty dresses yes, which makes people underestimate her but she’s so much stronger and smarter than everyone gives her credit for and I loved that. There was a great fight scene between her and one of the Fates, which I really loved.

I found the pace much better in this one, in the first book, it felt like the first half dragged and then the second half was much more fast paced, but this book felt like it had a much more even pace, it’s still quite slow, but it’s a beautiful unraveling of a mystery and I still felt really engaged and wanting to know what was going to happen with Tella and the game next. The chapters were a nice length, and though some were overly long, overall they were much more even and this helped with the pace feeling a bit more even here than it was in Caraval.

The writing was lovely, but it did feel like the author went overboard on some of metaphors sometimes (“smells like ink and secrets-what on earth do secrets smell like!) and there were quite a few repetitive phrases throughout the book, still for the most part, the writing created a real atmosphere and you felt like you were in the game-I especially loved the descriptions of the many, many, pretty dresses that Tella got to wear, I swear, I would risk my life in Caraval if it meant I could wear some of those clothes.

There were so many twists and turns and mysteries in this book, I was constantly intrigued throughout and wanting to know what would happen next.

I appreciated that there was a lot more worldbuilding in this book for the world outside of the game, last time we got a great idea of how Caraval worked, but not necessarily the outside world, this time we get to see a new location, Valenda, and get more insight into the religion and the mythology of the world, as Garber introduces the Fates, god-like beings who have spent centuries trapped inside a deck of cursed tarot cards. I thought the Fates were really interesting and look forward to seeing more of them in the next book. Jacks, The Prince of Hearts, was a captivating new villain and the introduction of the Fates has definitely expanded the scope of Garber’s world.

I loved the map at the beginning, it was so cool!

There were quite a few spelling errors and missing words here and there, which I found quite jarring. I know this is more an editing problem, but I think perhaps slightly more thorough proofreading was required because they were quite noticeable!

There was a LOT of romance in this book, which I didn’t mind because the chemistry between Dante and Tella was seriously strong, but I did feel like some of the romance plot could have been used to develop the relationship between the sisters on page, because much like in Caraval, it felt like we were only told how close Tella and Scarlett were as sisters and not really shown, and Tella’s romantic relationships kind of overshadow her relationship with her sister. I’m also worried we might be building towards a love triangle between Tella, Dante and Jacks (there were hints of it in this book) which I really don’t want because I still despise love triangles, even though I think this one could potentially be done well.

I was worried that having a second book set at a Caraval would be a bit boring and repetitive but the game is totally different this time around, so don’t worry too much about that, though I do wonder what will happen in the final book, since there’s no way there can be three Caravals in one year!

It was interesting to get more background on Scarlett and Tella’s mother (wow those two have seriously terrible parents!) and it will be interesting to see how everything plays out with her given the events of this book.

I wasn’t sure about Scarlett in this book, she’s more in the background, but she seemed to be doing a lot of shady stuff in this book and after what’s revealed about what she was doing at the end of the book, I’m not sure how I feel about her anymore, because what she’s doing….yeah it’s not great. I’ll be interested to see the fallout of her decisions in the next book and how it affects her relationship with her sister.

It felt like the Empress Elantine was a bit underutilized, she had the potential to be a really interesting character, but I wasn’t sure that she was used to her full effect.

We get some more insight into Legend’s identity this book, and I found the final “reveal” scene, a little bit anti-climactic because you’d essentially already been told before that point and it didn’t have the impact for me that I think Stephanie Garber intended. The resolution to everything felt a bit easy, I was really impressed with how Garber managed to keep the stakes high throughout the book and I was constantly worried for Tella, but the way everything resolved just felt a little too…..neat. I’m sure there’ll be some fallout from everything that happened in the next book, but for this one, the solution felt a little….deus ex machina-ey!

The ending…..wow! I have so many questions and theories about it, especially as to who the missing heir is, because I sense there is a lot more to that story and if my theory is correct then it could be pretty exciting. Stephanie Garber certainly knows how to end a book with a bang!

My Rating: 4.5/5

BECHDEL TEST: PASS-Tella and Aiko, the game’s cartographer, have a discussion about her mother’s history. Tella also talks with Empress Elantine about her mother.

My next review will be of my next YALC prep read (yes I am still doing that, I just took a break for a week), Radio Silence, by Alice Oseman.