Ninth House (Alex Stern #1) Review

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Book: Ninth House (Alex Stern #1)

Author: Leigh Bardugo

BECHDEL TEST: PASS-Alex and her professor Marguerite Belbalm, have a discussion about her grades and her future at Yale.

I was really excited for this book, because I love Leigh Bardugo and I was looking forward to seeing how she would transition from YA to Adult. I’ve also been talking about wanting to find more Uni aged protagonists in fiction, especially fantasy for a while now, so naturally the premise really appealed to me. I thought the concept for this book was fantastic, and I loved the creativity in the world building but unfortunately the pace just lagged for me. It was a good 200 pages before I felt like I was really invested in the story, and I just didn’t really warm to the characters at all. Here is a short synopsis of the book:

Galaxy “Alex” Stern is the most unlikely member of Yale’s freshman class. Raised in the Los Angeles hinterlands by a hippie mom, Alex dropped out of school early and into a world of shady drug dealer boyfriends, dead-end jobs, and much, much worse. By age twenty, in fact, she is the sole survivor of a horrific, unsolved multiple homicide. Some might say she’s thrown her life away. But at her hospital bed, Alex is offered a second chance: to attend one of the world’s most elite universities on a full ride. What’s the catch, and why her?

Still searching for answers to this herself, Alex arrives in New Haven tasked by her mysterious benefactors with monitoring the activities of Yale’s secret societies. These eight windowless “tombs” are well-known to be haunts of the future rich and powerful, from high-ranking politicos to Wall Street and Hollywood’s biggest players. But their occult activities are revealed to be more sinister and more extraordinary than any paranoid imagination might conceive.

I have to start with my biggest problem with the book, which was the pacing. It was incredibly slow paced, and I get that it was more of a slow burn mystery type book, but if you’re over 200 pages into a book and it’s not really gone anywhere, then I consider that a problem. The chapters, especially in the beginning, were overly long and honestly, I felt like it could have used trimming a little, it didn’t feel like the story needed the 450 pages it had, and I think if it had been shorter, the plotting and pacing may have been tighter.

I did love the concept, I thought it was really creative and not something I’d really seen much of before. I loved all the different societies having different types of magic, though we didn’t really get to explore all of them, the book mainly focuses on Skull and Bones, Scroll and Keys, Aurelian and Manuscript. I also really liked that this was a fantasy that focused on University students, it’s something I’ve been looking for and I hope that the success of this book might make publishers more willing to take on stories like this.

There was a fair bit of controversy when this book came out about the dark themes, and Bardugo definitely didn’t shy away from the darker elements of life, but I didn’t think it was anymore gritty or brutal than anything else I’d read. There are a fair few trigger warnings for this book though, which include: child rape, sexual assault, drowning, violence, gore, magical drug-related sexual assault, drug addiction, overdose, suicide, blackmail, consumption of human waste, murder and racism. There was quite a graphic rape scene which I found rather uncomfortable, but by and large, I didn’t find the book overly graphic.

I really loved the map at the beginning, I’m not massively familiar with Yale, or New Haven, so that was definitely helpful, and I do love it when a fantasy book has a map.

As for the characters, well it took me a while to warm up to any of them. Alex is by nature quite guarded, which is understandable given the trauma that she’s been through, but she did feel quite flat and her motivations were quite hazy for me for most of the book. I did find that she grew on me more later in the book, but she wasn’t quite as developed as I would have liked her to be. Both Darlington and Dawes, the other two main “Lethe” characters in this book, also felt like they were quite poorly developed, I got a general sense of both of their characters, but not enough to feel any kind of connection to them, and Darlington was barely there for most of the book.

In general, Bardugo’s writing was great, though I will admit, I thought there was a little too much exposition and info-dumping, especially in the first 200 pages of the book. She definitely does know how to create atmosphere with her writing though, and there were some really beautiful turns of phrase here.

I also thought there was a little too much reliance on narration and internal monologue. Bardugo does dialogue so well, I’m surprised she didn’t use more of it here and I definitely felt that contributed to the plodding pace. I also think that more dialogue between the characters would have helped in terms of establishing clearer character dynamics.

I also thought that the switching back and forth between the past and the present was a little choppy, especially in the first half of the book where it was switching between Darlington and Alex’s POVs. I think that was a little too much, either have two narrators both in the same time period, or switch between the past and the present with the same narrator, because the way Bardugo did it here didn’t seem to work.

I did like that Darlington and Alex had a platonic relationship, at least for now. There were hints that Darlington might have a thing for Alex, but I’m hoping that Bardugo doesn’t decide to explore that, because I am so sick of platonic relationships always turning into romance. Speaking of romance, I did read Alex as potentially having some feelings towards women, her relationship with her former roommate Hellie definitely seemed like it had romantic undertones, so I’d like to maybe see that explored in future books (though I may have read that totally wrong).

The world building was good, but it was almost overwhelming. You get so much information thrown at you right from the get go, you’re basically dumped in the action and I’m guessing we were supposed to feel like Alex, kind of confused by everything, but as a reader, that’s not a particularly fun place to me. I mean, everything was developed well, I know how Lethe works, I know the basics of all the societies and their histories, but I just felt like too much information was getting thrown at me all at once. I also wish I’d read the appendix with all of the Houses of the Veil and their details before reading, because I think I’d have been less confused.

I did feel like some of the character relationships and dynamics were lacking. I really enjoyed Alex’s dynamic with Turner, I think they bounced off each other well, but with the other characters, I felt like either we didn’t really see how they worked together or it wasn’t developed enough. Like Alex and Dawes definitely had the potential for a great friendship, but I don’t think it was developed and I really want to see more of that in future books. Same with Alex and Darlington, or Darlington and Dawes. In the first book of a series, I always want to get a sense of how the characters relate to each other, and I don’t feel like I got that here.

I also really wish we’d got see Alex with her non-Lethe friends more, as when an event happens that impacts one of her friends, she goes all out to get revenge for her, but as readers, we’ve not really seen any textual evidence to suggest that their relationship is that strong.

I definitely think that this book could have had more diverse representation: Alex is stated to be (I think) a biracial Latina, though that definitely could have been made clearer, and Detective Turner, who is black, and I think Alex’s friend, Mercy was black as well, but I definitely felt like the diversity could have been better, it did seem to be a largely white cast, other than these few characters. There’s also not really any LGBTQ+ representation, or disabled representation which would have been great to see.

I thought it was great that Bardugo included a scene with Alex getting her first period, it’s great to see that being normalised in fiction.

I think Bardugo went a little overboard on the sheer number of mysteries needing to be solved in this book: we had North and Daisy Whitlock’s murders, Tara Hutchins’ murder, the Scroll and Key portal magic not working, Darlington’s disappearance…..and though everything tied together in the end, I feel the book would have been better if Bardugo had perhaps just focused on one or two main mysteries.

The exploration of both trauma and white male privilege was done really well, and it was quite interesting see how the magical aspects tied into both things.

There were some really great twists in the book, both in Alex’s past and in the events that happened in the current timeline, though I will say that I felt like the murder case was solved a little too easily at the end and there were perhaps a few too many coincidences and convenient leaps, rather than clues to follow throughout the book. Still it definitely ended in an exciting place (though I wish the details around Darlington’s disappearance hadn’t been so hazy) and made me excited to read the next book.

Overall, I think this book had a lot of potential, I loved the concept, and I thought it tackled difficult topics well, but it was definitely bogged down by too much detail and too many subplots, which made it feel very slow paced. Still I enjoyed it enough that I will definitely be reading the second book, in the hope that now everything is set up, I will be able to fully immerse myself in the world and characters.

My Rating: 3/5

My next review will be of my November #RockMyTBR book, An Enchantment of Ravens by Margaret Rogerson.

Kingdom of Ash (Throne of Glass #7) Review

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Book: Kingdom of Ash (Throne of Glass #7)

Author: Sarah J Maas

BECHDEL TEST: PASS-Yrene and Elide have a conversation about healing her ankle.

I FINALLY FINISHED THIS BOOK. Kingdom of Ash was my most anticipated release of 2018, and yet it took me almost exactly a year from first getting the book to finishing it. In hindsight, I probably should have just read it on audio from the very beginning, but I only got Audible this year and I didn’t realise quite how much I was going to struggle with the physical copy. 980 pages is a lot for a book, and this one definitely DID NOT need it, as about 400 of those pages was complete filler, it felt like SJM was just trying to write the biggest book she could because the storylines that she needed to wrap up could have been resolved in fewer pages, and in some cases, she extended plots over several chapters that could have been resolved in one or two. We also had a lot of characters spread across an entire continent in this book, which led to some confusion as you had to keep track of which character was where when and what characters knew what. It did resolve the series in a satisfying way, which is the main thing you want from a series finale, but it was definitely not up to the levels of Heir of Fire or Tower of Dawn for me. Here is a short synopsis of the book:

Aelin has risked everything to save her people―but at a tremendous cost. Locked within an iron coffin by the Queen of the Fae, Aelin must draw upon her fiery will as she endures months of torture. Aware that yielding to Maeve will doom those she loves keeps her from breaking, though her resolve begins to unravel with each passing day…

With Aelin captured, Aedion and Lysandra remain the last line of defense to protect Terrasen from utter destruction. Yet they soon realize that the many allies they’ve gathered to battle Erawan’s hordes might not be enough to save them. Scattered across the continent and racing against time, Chaol, Manon, and Dorian are forced to forge their own paths to meet their fates. Hanging in the balance is any hope of salvation―and a better world.

And across the sea, his companions unwavering beside him, Rowan hunts to find his captured wife and queen―before she is lost to him forever.

As the threads of fate weave together at last, all must fight, if they are to have a chance at a future. Some bonds will grow even deeper, while others will be severed forever in the explosive final chapter of the Throne of Glass series.

So as I kind of touched on at the top of this review, I actually read this book kind of weirdly, as I did half of it in physical format and then the other half in audio. Basically, I had kind of been dipping in and out of it with no real regularity since November last year, and was making pretty slow progress because of that. After doing so well with Priory on Audible over the summer, I finally decided that enough was enough and that I was going to finish the remainder of Kingdom of Ash on Audible.

The size of this book was always going to be a challenge for me, generally my preference is for books of about 300-500 pages, 600 pages at a maximum, so a book that is over 300 pages more than the books I generally like to read, was always going to be difficult. Still, I don’t mind a book being a bit longer, if the story justifies it. THIS ONE DID NOT.

Aelin’s rescue was dragged out over the first 200 odd pages of the book, the Lock storyline took about 5 chapters, the last twenty odd chapters of the book was literally just them battling Morath, all of it could have been condensed into a much more streamlined book. The torture scenes of Aelin in Doranelle could definitely have been shortened, they were very hard to read.

In addition to the book being overly lengthy, it’s also not the best paced. The first half was excruciatingly slow, and it felt like all of the real plot took place in the second half, as the first half was basically just them trying to hold Morath back so that they weren’t completely destroyed before Aelin and the rest of their forces could get to them.

I did enjoy the writing as always, although the audio did highlight some of the more cringy aspects of SJM’s writing which kind of pass me by when reading, particularly in the more….intimate scenes! The prologue in particular was really gorgeous, I love the kind of old folktale style of it.

As with any SJM book, there is romance in this book, though thankfully, the romantic drama does seem to take a backseat here, after all there is a war on! I still really don’t like that she has to have everyone in her books paired off though, I don’t think it sends a great message to young female readers that every woman in the book “requires” a man and & that they all need to be paired off, especially given that some of the men in the book don’t treat their partners very well.

Speaking of that, I have to mention Aedion because he was SO AWFUL in this book. He was terrible to Lysandra pretty much the whole way through, even at one point throwing her out naked in the snow and by the end everything’s all hunky dory and they are totally loved up again? NO. I actually really did like Aedion and Lysandra but the way he treated her in this book was not okay.

Aelin kind of took a backseat for a lot of this book which wasn’t what I was expecting. I was glad that other characters got the chance to shine, and given that Aelin was imprisoned for a good portion of the book, it made sense but I wish she’d got to Terrasen sooner and been a bit more involved in the action because she only really seemed to do stuff right at the very end!

Without giving away any spoilers though, I was particularly thrilled with Yrene’s role in this book, I did not expect it and thought it was brilliant! Elide also really shone for me in this book, she had some brilliant moments and was really integral to saving Aelin and in the final battle as well.

It’s really difficult to talk about some of the things that frustrated me with this book without giving away massive spoilers but I’m going to try! Basically we know from previous books that the forging of the Lock with the Wyrdkeys and it will require a sacrifice from either Aelin or Dorian. Well the way it went down in this book just really annoyed me, not only because it was dragged out over more chapters than it needed to be but also because the way SJM resolved it felt really anticlimactic and I felt kind of cheated because it was a moment that the series had been building to for so long.

There was a LOT of deux ex machina in this book. Dorian can suddenly do things that he’s never been able to do (shapeshifting) because the plot requires it, impossible situations are resolved at the last minute by characters pulling something out of their hat that they “planned earlier”, and I know Sarah J Maas has done this in some of her other books too, but it was especially noticeable in this one being the final book. Everything just seemed to come a little too easily, the stakes were high enough but it just didn’t feel like it was enough of a struggle for the characters.

I’m glad there was a map in the front of this one, though it wasn’t very useful when I was listening to the audiobook!

There were way too many POVs in this book, it’s grown to such a large cast and whilst that’s fine, because everyone was scattered in this book, and there were so many things happening at once, it did get a little bit difficult to keep track! I also really missed the group dynamic, this group of characters have such a fun dynamic but they’re separated for most of the book and that was a shame.

This is a weird little thing but some of the accents in the audiobook really threw me off! I know it’s fantasy and they can feasibly have any accent they want but I just found some of the narrator’s accent choices a little weird. Some of the pronunciations in the audiobook weren’t quite what I expected either, but I guess that just means that I’ve been pronouncing them wrong all this time!

The battle scenes kind of lost their impact after a while, Sarah J Maas isn’t really an action writer and you can definitely tell, her writing is much better when she’s writing emotional arcs or character dynamics, rather than big set action pieces and plus there were so many, the last twenty odd chapters were really just one long battle and I got a bit bored!

I was weirdly disappointed that Ansel didn’t have a bigger role in this, after she was teased to be coming back, I was hoping that she would be a bit more involved, but she was barely there and we didn’t really get to see her at all, let alone see her interact with Aelin which was a shame. Nesryn also seemed to serve basically no purpose in this, I feel like she could have done so much more than she was given.

I was hoping this last book would be a bit more emotional, but aside from the ending, and one other event in the book which I can’t talk about because of spoilers, it wasn’t quite the emotional rollercoaster I was expecting, which is fine, I guess I was just hoping that the final book in this series would make me feel a bit more.

I really wanted a big confrontation between Manon and her grandmother, and was kind of disappointed in the way things worked out for them as I felt like they weren’t really resolved properly.

The ending was really beautiful, the whole of the last couple of chapters and the epilogue, it was a really fitting end to the series, and I’m glad that the last line, which Sarah talked about at her event last year did not disappoint. For all of the gripes I had with this final book, and I did have many, SJM really stuck the landing!

Overall, I did think this was a satisfying conclusion to the series, but it wasn’t quite the thrilling final book I was hoping for. The second half was great, but the first left a lot to be desired and I think had it been trimmed a few hundred pages, and not relied so much on lucky coincidences, then I would have enjoyed it more. Still, I am definitely going to miss this series and these characters, I hope SJM does come back to them at some point in the future.

My Rating: 3.5/5

My next review will be of Ninth House, by Leigh Bardugo, my current read.

 

The Last Namsara (Iskari #1) Review

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Book: The Last Namsara

Author: Kristen Ciccarelli

BECHDEL TEST: FAIL-None of the conversations Asha has with other female characters revolve around anything other than men.

I got The Last Namsara in Fairyloot’s November 2017 box, Ladies Who Slay, specifically because it was said to be a book about dragons with a badass female character, and finally got around to reading it this year, as my October #RockMyTBR book. Sadly, I was somewhat disappointed by the book, it was slow paced, I found it hard to connect to the main character, and the world building, aside from the mythology and stories, was lacking. Here is a short synopsis of the book:

In the beginning, there was the Namsara: the child of sky and spirit, who carried love and laughter wherever he went. But where there is light, there must be darkness—and so there was also the Iskari. The child of blood and moonlight. The destroyer. The death-bringer.

These are the legends that Asha, daughter of the king of Firgaard, has grown up learning in hushed whispers, drawn to the forbidden figures of the past. But it isn’t until she becomes the fiercest, most feared dragon slayer in the land that she takes on the role of the next Iskari—a lonely destiny that leaves her feeling more like a weapon than a girl.

Asha conquers each dragon and brings its head to the king, but no kill can free her from the shackles that await at home: her betrothal to the cruel commandant, a man who holds the truth about her nature in his palm. When she’s offered the chance to gain her freedom in exchange for the life of the most powerful dragon in Firgaard, she finds that there may be more truth to the ancient stories than she ever could have expected. With the help of a secret friend—a slave boy from her betrothed’s household—Asha must shed the layers of her Iskari bondage and open her heart to love, light, and a truth that has been kept from her. 

I’m kind of unsure how I feel about this book. The concept was so brilliant, I loved the idea of a world built on stories, and of course dragons are absolute catnip for me so this should have been a slam dunk. And there were parts I liked, I really liked the stories and the mythology of the world, I thought that was really great and honestly, I could have read an entire book of those. I also really enjoyed the dragons, though I think if you’re going to market yourself as a “dragon book”, you kind of need to have more than two!

The pace of the book was extremely slow as well, for the first 200-300 pages there wasn’t really all that much happening, honestly, it could have been a much shorter book than it was. It doesn’t usually take me an entire month to finish one book, and though I was quite busy this month, I also think the slow pace of the book had something to do with it.

The writing was decent, if not particularly memorable, though the author did have a problem with repetition, she used a lot of the same phrases over and over again throughout the book. And whilst I know that “breath they didn’t know they were holding” is a legitimate thing that happens to people with anxiety, I wish authors could find a different way to express it because it’s such an overused phrase!

Asha was an okay MC, I found it hard to connect to her in the beginning, because she was just so mean and whilst I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that, it took a while to connect with her because I didn’t understand why she was being so awful. She was also incredibly dumb, there were a lot of things that she could have worked out a lot earlier if she’d just thought to ask her brother! I think the problem was that the author told us a lot about Asha’s personality and skills without really showing them in action, it was hard to believe that she was as evil as she was leading us to believe, she just came off as kind of bratty.

The side characters were hardly developed at all, it felt like they had a name and maybe a few key characteristics, but no real depth to them at all, which made it hard to care. Torwin, Dax and Safire all had the potential to be interesting, but they just weren’t developed enough, if I’d known more about them, then I might have cared about their stories more. Safire in particular just seemed to be used as a plot device to motivate Asha.

There were several things that made absolutely no sense within the world building: the entire world being afraid of Asha since she was an eight year old girl, when by all accounts, she was the one severely burned by a dragon? And the whole regicide rule, like if you kill the King, you are sentenced to death? Surely people plotting to kill the King are wanting to take the throne (as was the case here), and so if you are successful and become King or Queen, then you then have to sentence yourself to death? That makes no sense at all. Asha also changes her mind awfully quickly about slaves and dragons for someone who has been indoctrinated her entire life to hate them, and for a great dragon slayer, she doesn’t seem to do a very good job of it in the book, as she is injured in pretty much every fight she has with a dragon.

The gender dynamics of the world were also difficult to pin down, as there is clearly no male/female preference in terms of inheritance of the throne, Firgaard has had both kings and queens and there’s nothing that seems to hint that their society considers women as lesser, but then no one seems to bat an eye at Asha’s fiance being abusive and its implied that marital rape is legal, so clearly they don’t care about women that much.

Aside from the stories, the world building was lacking. There are no descriptions of the characters, or the world, and though there are names of a few places thrown about, we don’t really learn much about them. I’m not a visual reader, so I don’t need lengthy descriptions, but I do want to have an idea about what the world and characters are meant to look like and I don’t think I got that here.

Torwin and Asha’s romance made me quite uncomfortable because of the master/slave dynamic. I just don’t think that there is any good way to write that, the power dynamics are so unbalanced that it feels wrong and so I can’t root for the couple. In addition to that, the romance in general was just weak, it wasn’t developed enough, I didn’t really feel the chemistry between the two characters and in general just felt quite insta-lovey to me.

There were some twists through the book, a lot of the major ones I guessed though, because the author pretty much spelled them out for you. I don’t mind authors leaving clues for the readers to work the twists out for themselves, but I don’t want them to be in your face obvious.

The book was quite light on dialogue, it was mostly Asha’s stream of consciousness, and the dialogue that was there wasn’t done all that well. I think if there had been slightly more dialogue and interactions between characters, not just Asha’s internal thoughts and feelings, then we would have had a better sense of the characters’ dynamics and relationships.

The ending didn’t feel earned, it all wrapped up a little too easily for my liking, the characters didn’t really have to struggle to achieve their goal and they weren’t really any sacrifices made by them. There’s nothing wrong with a standalone being wrapped up in a neat bow and a happy ever after, but it has to feel earned, and it didn’t here.

Overall, this book had a lot of potential, but it didn’t really live up to it, with weak characters and lacklustre worldbuilding. I don’t think I will be reading the companion novels.

My Rating: 3/5

My next review will be of the final book in the Throne of Glass series, Kingdom of Ash by Sarah J Maas, which I’m hoping to finally finish soon after almost a year of reading it!

Before The Devil Breaks You (The Diviners #3) Review (Audiobook)

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Book: Before The Devil Breaks You (The Diviners #3)

Author: Libba Bray

Format: Audiobook

Narrator: January LaVoy

BECHDEL TEST: Uncertain, honestly I didn’t keep very good track, I was so engrossed in the book and it’s not as easy to flick back through audio as it is in a physical book!

This series has just got better and better with each book. What started as a promising but relatively shaky first book, progressed into an exciting series with a brilliant and sprawling cast of diverse characters, with each book upping the stakes more and more. This book is the most high stakes yet, as all the Diviners come together to save America from the onslaught of ghosts, caused by the mysterious King of Crows. After the events of this book, I’m very excited to see what will happen in the conclusion next year. Here is a short synopsis of the book:

After battling a sleeping sickness, The Diviners are up against a group of new and malevolent foes–ghosts! Out in Ward’s Island sits a mental hospital full of lost souls from people long forgotten. Ghosts who have unusual and dangerous ties to the Man in the Stovepipe Hat also known as the King of Crows.

With terrible accounts of murder and possession flooding in from all over New York City, the Diviners must band together and brave the ghosts haunting the asylum to bring down the King of Crows.

Heart-pounding action and terrifying moments will leave you breathless in the third book of the four-book Diviners series by #1 New York Times bestselling author Libba Bray.

Beforre we start, there are a lot of trigger warnings for this book, including: sexual assault, eugenics, medical abuse, body horror, Holocaust imagery, murder, mentions of paedophilia, homophobia, racism, many of which will be touched on in this review.

Once again, the narration of this book was just brilliant. January LaVoy has definitely been my favourite narrator in my admittedly short so far foray into audiobooks, the way she does such distinct voices for all the characters, she really throws herself into her performance, even singing at points during the story, which all adds to the creepy atmosphere of the book and really enhances your reading experience.

I loved that the Diviners were all working together in this book, in the last two books, the cast has felt somewhat disparate, each one working towards their own thing but in this book, the whole group came together. I loved the dynamics between them, and this book explores different combinations of characters as well, so you truly get to see how every one of the characters interacts with the others. I found it much easier to keep track of all the characters in this book, I think in large part because they were together a lot more and their stories were more intertwined.

Speaking of character dynamics, the dialogue in this is just brilliant. If you’ve been following my blog for a while, you’ll know that dialogue is one of the things that I really love in books and this book has witty banter in spades, which really adds some levity, especially when things are starting to get quite dark in the story.

I said in my review of Lair of Dreams that I hoped Theta got more of her own plot in this book, unrelated to Memphis and Henry and boy did Libba Bray deliver on that front! Theta is a survivor of sexual assault and an abusive marriage, and this book really explores her journey of healing and coming into her own power and realising that she doesn’t have to be held back by her abuser any more. It was a really powerful story and I think Bray handled it with care and consideration.

I was also glad that Mabel, who was largely sidelined in the first two books, finally got more of a story in this one, and really came into her own in terms of figuring out who she wanted to be and how she wanted to fight for her cause.

As with the other books, the diversity in this book is amazing, we have POC characters, with Memphis, and Isaiah, and Ling and now Theta confirmed to be biracial (her birth mother was Cherokee), we have LGBTQ+ characters with Henry being gay and Ling being homoromantic asexual, we have Jewish characters in Sam and Mabel, we have Ling with her disability & Evie being confirmed to have depression. These characters come from all different backgrounds and it’s wonderful to see that in a historical novel, because so often authors take the easy way out and have only white, straight characters because it’s “accurate to history” (History graduate here, it’s not).

Then we come to the romance in this book. Memphis and Theta’s relationship continues to face obstacles, especially when she pulls away from him because of Roy and of course because of the opinions of interracial romance in society in the 1920s. Their relationship is really sweet though, they are both so supportive of each other and given all of Evie’s relationship drama, it was nice to see a relationship that faces it’s troubles, but both people love and support each other and know that they want to be together.

Okay so Evie. The love triangle of the first two books is still alive and well for most of this book, and it does get a little tiresome seeing her go back and forth, especially when the chemistry between her and Sam is so damn obvious! I was glad that the love triangle was resolved, but I wasn’t really happy with the way Bray did it. This might get slightly spoilery, but I think it’s important to talk about: essentially, Jericho attempts to sexually assault Evie, whilst under the influence of serum given to him by Jake Marlowe. Sexual assault SHOULD NOT be used to resolve a love triangle, and I was really disappointed that Bray went there, considering how carefully she handled Theta’s story. I’ve genuinely never felt so uncomfortable reading something in my life, I think the audio element definitely heightened that for me, as I don’t picture things very well in my head, but hearing Evie’s struggles…….I actually out loud said “No, No, No” when I was listening and almost switched the audio off, so I wanted to warn about that scene to other readers, because I didn’t see it coming and it really threw me.

We also had Mabel and her new beau Arthur, and I have to admit, I didn’t really care too much for their romance, mostly because we didn’t really know Arthur, so it’s kind of hard to root for and see chemistry in a relationship when you barely know one of the characters.

I liked Evie a lot more in this book than the others, I feel like she really developed as a character and the fact that she knows her friends are more important to her than fame is definitely a big step in the right direction, she developed a lot as a character through this book, which I appreciated, especially after her downward spiral in Lair of Dreams.

I did like that during the few sex scenes that we had in this book (not fade to black, but not overly explicit) that consent was featured in all of them, which is another thing that makes me so annoyed about the whole Evie/Jericho thing because Bray is so careful to include consent in all her sex scenes (not something that you always see with YA authors) that it seems odd she would think it was okay to use sexual assault as a way to resolve her love triangle. I can’t really go into details without being spoilery, but I liked that there was an instance with two characters in the book where the girl is slightly unsure, her partner asks if she wants to stop and she agrees, but then changes her mind, and he again clarifies whether she is sure. Quite often in books, the “Yes” is seen as the be all end all, and this book showed that consent can be withdrawn or regiven even once sex has started and I liked that a lot.

I appreciated that the chapters in this book were organised a lot better than in the other audiobooks in the series, each chapter is largely self contained, and it was much easier to follow from one chapter to the next. I also found the pace much better in this book, Lair of Dreams was somewhat meandering, in this book, the goal is clear, the characters were more streamlined, it all came together for a much faster paced book.

The scenes in the asylum were definitely creepy, though I was expecting from the synopsis for the asylum to play more of a role, but it was actually only featured for a few chapters. I did appreciate that this book highlighted mental health, and the treatment of patients with mental illnesses in the 1920s. I knew a little about eugenics and the sterilisation programme for people in asylums from other books I’ve read but it was great to see Libba Bray touch on it here as well, as I feel like America’s role in eugenics isn’t widely known? It’s largely seen as a phenomenon of Nazi Germany, but actually goes all the way back to Ancient Greece. In fact, the modern field of eugenics was developed by a British scientist Francis Galton, something I didn’t know until writing this post. Nazism was actually the beginning of the end of eugenics rather than the origin of it.

I really liked that this book showed an example of a friendship “break-up” between Mabel and Evie, because I feel like it was coming for a while, the two have been growing apart for some time and YA definitely does not touch on how painful these can be enough, so I liked seeing it here.

I didn’t find The King of Crows quite as compelling a villain as I’d have liked, he’s kind of this faceless Big Bad, which I don’t find particularly scary. I though Jake Marlowe was a much more compelling villain, because he’s the kind of evil that you can recognise from our own world, a guy who does bad things but truly thinks he’s doing them for the benefit of people, even when he hurts others in the process.

I actually read the synopsis for King of Crows before I read this one, so there was a particular event that I knew was going to happen for the whole book and I was basically just looking for it, and waiting for it to happen. I did end up being surprised though, as I wasn’t expecting the person or the circumstances surrounding the event!

There were lots of other twists and turns as well, lots of reveals about Project Buffalo, the 144, Evie’s brother, Sam’s mother and other things that have been hinted at throughout the series. If The Diviners and Lair of Dreams were the set up, Before The Devil Breaks You and King of Crows are the answers. I particularly loved the flashbacks to Will and Sister Walker’s time in Project Buffalo.

Overall, I really loved this third instalment of The Diviners series. We got so many more answers, in the first two books we only really got hints to what was going on, now everything is coming together, the whole gang is united and it’s all setting up for a massive conclusion in the next book. I am very glad King of Crows is out in early 2020 because I’m not sure how long I can wait for it!

My Rating: 5/5

My next review will be of my October #RockMyTBR book, The Last Namsara by Kristen Ciccarelli (and yes, I know I said that after my last review, but I finished BTDB first and I wanted to review in reading order).

 

Stalking Jack The Ripper (Stalking Jack The Ripper #1) Review

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Book: Stalking Jack The Ripper

Author: Keri Maniscalco

BECHDEL TEST: FAIL-Audrey Rose has very few conversations with other female characters and they all revolve around men.

I specifically saved this book up to read during the Autumn, even though I don’t usually plan my reads around the seasons, just because pretty much everything about this book screams “dark Autumn night”, which made it perfect for my September #RockMyTBR read. I’d generally heard really good things about this book, and I’m happy to say I really enjoyed it, I thought it was an interesting take on the Jack The Ripper murders, with a compelling protagonist, even if it was slightly slow paced at times. Here is a short synopsis of the book:

Seventeen-year-old Audrey Rose Wadsworth was born a lord’s daughter, with a life of wealth and privilege stretched out before her. But between the social teas and silk dress fittings, she leads a forbidden secret life.

Against her stern father’s wishes and society’s expectations, Audrey often slips away to her uncle’s laboratory to study the gruesome practice of forensic medicine. When her work on a string of savagely killed corpses drags Audrey into the investigation of a serial murderer, her search for answers brings her close to her own sheltered world.

The story’s shocking twists and turns, augmented with real, sinister period photos, will make this dazzling, #1 New York Times bestselling debut from author Kerri Maniscalco impossible to forget.

My favourite thing about this book was definitely the protagonist. Audrey Rose was a great main character, she was smart and witty and curious and I just really loved her. Did she have a tendency to put herself in dangerous situations without thinking? Yes. But I loved that she wanted to stretch the boundaries of what was expected from women in that time and refused to accept the limitations that people wanted to place on her. I also loved that she was a woman interested in science, because women in STEM are rare enough in contemporary fiction, let alone historical and that she was both interested in autopsies and forensic science, whilst not shunning traditional feminine things.

I have to say though, I was disappointed by the lack of other women surrounding Audrey in the book. We have her aunt and her cousin, but they make only fleeting appearances, for most of the book, Audrey is surrounded by her male relatives and Thomas. I think it’s kind of an easy way out, a way to pay lip service to your book being “feminist” without actually doing the work, you have the token woman who is pushing the boundaries of her society, but she can be the only one. The other female characters in the book are all underdeveloped and barely there, which really disappointed me.

Audrey Rose is also mentioned as having Indian heritage, but again, this seemed to be just paid lip service to, and considering that at that point, Britain had colonised India, it seemed like something that should have been explored more. The Timekeeper trilogy had a character with similar heritage, Daphne, and her connection to that was explored much more and I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the book that did it better was written by a biracial author, and this one was not.

I loved the banter between Audrey Rose and her love interest, Thomas Cresswell, I thought that was done really well, and you all know what a sucker I am for great dialogue, especially when it’s witty banter! Thomas himself though, I did find incredibly irritating at times, most reviewers seemed to really love him but I thought he was kind of a jerk through most of the book, though he did grow on me toward the end. I didn’t mind their romance, but at the same time, I would have been happy enough if they’d just been friends.

I liked that Audrey Rose’s family was involved in the story, so often in YA, we don’t really get to see the characters’ parents (though I might be biased here because I read a lot of fantasy and nine times out of ten, the parents are dead), and here, her father, brother and uncle were actually pretty integral to the plot, which I thought was great.

I loved how the book included pictures from the actual time period, including Jack The Ripper’s actual letters, I thought that was such a cool touch and really added to my reading experience.

Like I mentioned up top, the pacing did lag in places, but I actually didn’t really mind that too much? Some chapters were a little over long and I felt as I was getting to the conclusion of the book that it probably could have been shortened a little, but overall, it was actually a pretty fast read for me, and even when it was a little slow, I was intrigued enough by the mystery that I didn’t really mind.

I enjoyed the writing style, I thought it fitted the dark, macabre tone of the book, although I did think some of the descriptions were a little bit gory for me, but that’s nothing on the author’s ability, just that I’m a bit of a wuss when it comes to blood and gore! I also liked that it fitted the time period of the book, there might have been some anachronisms here and there, but by and large, the language was appropriate to the time which I appreciated, because 1888 teenagers are obviously not going to speak or think the same way as 2019 ones!

I loved the chapter titles, too few books do chapter titles and the ones here were really great, I love it when chapter titles take a line from the chapter because I spend the entire chapter searching for the title and feel such a sense of satisfaction when I do!

As for the mystery itself, the suspect list is kind of limited, for reasons I can’t really explain without giving it away, so in that respect, the reveal wasn’t necessarily that surprising because there were only so many people that it could be. However, I was really surprised by the motives of the killer, because I did not see that coming. I’m not sure how scientifically probable the Ripper’s plan was, it seemed a little outlandish and improbable to me, but then again I’m not a scientist, so how would I know?

I found the blurb quite misleading although I can’t really explain why without giving away massive spoilers but let’s just say it had me completely on the wrong track for a while, and I don’t know whether that was intentional, or whether I just completely misinterpreted what it meant!

In terms of the historical accuracy, generally it’s quite decent, Maniscalco has definitely done her research into the Ripper murders and she explains the historical liberties that she took in her author’s note at the end. She did have a tendency to have Audrey Rose “predict” future events, like stating the first organ transplant would happen, which Audrey would have no way of knowing, and her attitude to Thomas smoking is pretty anachronistic since at the time, people did not know that smoking was bad for you.

The ending was way too easy, I felt like it wrapped up without making any of the characters have to face the difficult choices that the book had been building up to, so I was a little disappointed in that. It did however wrap up in a way that was satisfying as a standalone, but also left you wanting more, so I appreciated that. I know that there are three more books in the series, but I’m assuming they all follow the idea of a standalone mystery which is wrapped up by the end of the book, which I quite like.

Overall, I really enjoyed this historical mystery, it was an interesting take on an unsolved mystery, with a compelling protagonist and gripping writing and I look forward to seeing where Audrey Rose and Thomas go in the next book.

My Rating: 4/5

My next review will be of my October #RockMyTBR book, The Last Namsara, by Kristen Ciccarelli.

Into The Crooked Place (Into The Crooked Place #1) Review (ARC)

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Book: Into The Crooked Place (Into The Crooked Place #1)

Author: Alexandra Christo

Published By: Hot Key Books

Expected Publication: 8th October

Format: Physical copy, paperback

BECHDEL TEST: PASS-Saxony, Karam and Tavia’s conversation on the train, they talk about Crafters and their families and make jokes about the train.

Thanks to Hot Key Books for giving my friend Hannah a free copy of this book, and thanks to Hannah for lending it to me! This in no way influenced my opinion of it.

I read Alexandra Christo’s debut, To Kill A Kingdom earlier this year as part of my #RockMyTBR Challenge, and I loved it, it’s one of my favourite books I’ve read this year, so naturally when I heard that she had a second novel, coming out this year, I knew I had to read it. My friend Hannah (who also loved TKAK) won an ARC of this at YALC and she was kind enough to let me borrow it when she was done. I’m happy to say that I really enjoyed this one, perhaps not quite as much as TKAK, but it was still really good and I’m so excited to get the next one when it comes out, hopefully next year! Here is a short synopsis of the book:

Magic rules the city of Creije Capital and Tavia Syn knows just how many tricks she needs up her sleeve to survive. Selling dark magic on the streets for her kingpin, she keeps clear of other crooks, counting the days until her debt is paid and she can flee her criminal life.

But then, one day, with her freedom in sight, Tavia uncovers a sinister plot that threatens to destroy the realm she calls home. Desperate to put an end to her kingpin’s plan, Tavia forms an unlikely alliance with three crooks even more deadly than her:

Wesley, the kingpin’s prodigy and most renewed criminal in the realm

Karam, an underground fighter with a penchant for killing first and forgetting to ask questions

And Saxony, a Crafter in hiding who will stop at nothing to avenge her family

With the reluctant saviours assembled, they embark on a quest to put an end to the dark magic before it’s too late. But even if they can take down the kingpin and save the realm, the one thing they can’t do is trust each other.

The first thing I want to talk about with this book is the writing style, because I really, really love Alexandra Christo’s writing. Like with TKAK, she starts with a killer first line, and the writing through the rest of the book is just stunning as well, dark and immersive, it really fits the tone of the book. I also love the way she does dialogue, there’s plenty of witty banter between the characters (though not quite to the same level as Lira and Elian in TKAK) which of course I loved, particularly between Tavia and Karam. She also balances the four POVs really well, each character has such a distinct voice that you’re never confused as to whose chapter it is (although there are of course chapter headings).

I also really enjoyed the magic system, I thought it was very creative. Basically you have Crafters, who have true magic, and are the only ones who can create new magic and then you have Buskers, who basically use these kind of magic tricks, that are just a shade of what the Crafters can do, and I thought that was really interesting, I’ve not seen a magic system like that before. What I will say though, is while I thought the magic was done well, I’d have like a little more world-building in other respects. We get a decent idea of what Crejie was like, but we don’t really learn about the rest of Uskhanaya or any of the other realms and I’d like to see more of that in the next book.

The pacing was a bit uneven, it’s quite slow paced to start off with and takes a long time to get to the exciting part of the book, and then towards the climax, it starts to feel a little rushed. I didn’t find the pacing a massive problem, because I loved the characters and the payoff was good, but I hope in the next book, the pacing is a bit more even throughout.

I loved the characters, they are all various shades of morally grey, there’s no one you could really consider a hero in this book, they all live in the anti-hero realm which I have to say I loved. Tavia and Saxony were my favourites of the four, I think I found their stories most captivating and I just really loved their humour, but I also enjoyed Karam and her biting wit. It took a bit more time for Wesley to grow on me, he’s quite closed off and it takes a while to really see what’s under his gang boss bravado, but I found he became more endearing to me as the book went on.

I loved the dynamic between the group, they’re four very different people, united by one shared goal and that made for very interesting interactions between them. I loved the friendship between Saxony and Tavia, but it was Karam and Tavia and the development of their friendship through the book that really caught my eye. They go from enemies to friends and that’s not something I really see a lot between two female characters in books, so I really appreciated Christo turning girl-girl hate on its head and showing how two women who start out as enemies can become friends. It was also quite interesting to see how Arjun, Karam’s Crafter friend from home, changed the dynamic of the group.

You can sometimes find with groups like these that the characters often get separated out, and you don’t always see everyone interact, but I think Christo did a great job of establishing all the different relationships between the characters in the quartet, I didn’t feel like at the end of the book, “Oh that pair didn’t really get explored” so I loved that too.

There was great diversity in this book as well, out of the four protagonists, I think three of them are POC, Karam, Saxony and Wesley, which is awesome, and Saxony and Karam are LGBTQ+ as well, which is great.

I loved how everyone’s families played into this book as well, though the parents are largely absent (classic fantasy), we get to see how everyone’s family experiences and backgrounds have played into how they got to where they are which I really liked. Though there is romance, and well done romance as well, I feel like the friendships/enmities between the group, and their differing family relationships played much more of a role than the romances which I liked. I also really loved that we got to see a platonic male/female friendship here, even if it did occur in the context where one of them is gay, because they are so ridiculously rare.

Speaking of the romance, I really loved how this book explored a couple that had been in a relationship previously, and who were broken up at the start of the book, exploring their feelings, because so often YA is about first relationships so it was quite interesting to see a pair, especially an LGBTQ+ pair who were previously a couple, exploring their new dynamic, and finding their way back to each other. I did like the slow burn romance between Wesley and Tavia as well, I thought it was well done, there, but not overshadowing the main action of the plot.

There were twists and turns throughout, I did guess one of the big ones, so I wasn’t quite as shocked when that was revealed, but there was a great twist that I definitely didn’t see coming, so I loved that (I’m going to do a blog post about twists and whether seeing them coming is a good thing or not, because I know there are some differing opinions about that in the book community).

I thought Christo was really great at capturing the emotions of these characters and making me feel something as a reader, with each of the character’s backstories and the things they have to face throughout the book, I really felt for them all, especially in one particular section towards the end, which I thought was really well done, but I don’t want to spoil things here by talking about why!

The Kingpin kind of disappointed me, I didn’t find him particularly scary as a villain, he’s just this kind of shadowy figure that we don’t really know much about, so it was hard to invest in him as this all-powerful villain. I understood the gang’s motives for wanting to kill him, and I supported them in achieving their goal, but the actual Kingpin himself, I could take or leave.

I loved the ending, that final chapter got me so excited for the next book, and waiting till next year to find out what’s going to happen next is going to be very difficult!

Overall, I really enjoyed this book, the pacing & world building could have been better, but I loved the characters and writing and I am really excited for the sequel in this duology!

My Rating: 4/5

My next review will be of Stalking Jack The Ripper, my September #RockMyTBR book, which I just finished, so my review of it should be up tomorrow.

 

Lair of Dreams (The Diviners #2) Review (Audiobook)

Lair of Dreams (The Diviners, #2)

Book: Lair of Dreams (The Diviners #2)

Author: Libba Bray

Format: Audiobook

Narrator: January LaVoy

BECHDEL TEST: PASS-Ling and Wei Mei (I think that’s how her name is spelt, I don’t know since I listened rather than read) talk about the dreamscape and how to control things in it.

After reading the first Diviners book back in July, I enjoyed it, but had kind of mixed feelings. I was unsure whether to continue with the series, but my friend Nicola assured me that the series did get better, and less confusing in the later books, so I decided to try the other two books. I’m glad I did, because I did enjoy this book a lot more than the previous one, the narrative felt more cohesive, the many disparate characters more joined together, and there were more seeds for future books being set up, it definitely seemed to drive the series forward more than the last book.

Here is a short synopsis of the book:

After a supernatural showdown with a serial killer, Evie O’Neill has outed herself as a Diviner. Now that the world knows of her ability to “read” objects, and therefore, read the past, she has become a media darling, earning the title, “America’s Sweetheart Seer.” But not everyone is so accepting of the Diviners’ abilities…
Meanwhile, mysterious deaths have been turning up in the city, victims of an unknown sleeping sickness. Can the Diviners descend into the dreamworld and catch a killer?
 

Like the last book, I definitely think my favourite thing about this book was the narration. January LaVoy is brilliant at making these books come to life, she really captures the spooky feeling, and is wonderful at different voices to boot, so it’s easy to keep track of who is who, which is no mean feat when you’re dealing with such a sprawling cast of characters.

Libba Bray’s writing is also lovely and evocative, it really sets the scene and though I’m not very good at picturing things in my head, I definitely got the feeling of being in New York in the 1920s with all these spooky, paranormal things going on, so mission accomplished in that respect. The 1920s slang still kind of annoyed me, but it didn’t feel like there was quite as much of it in this book, and one of the characters even made fun of it, so it felt a bit more self referential this time, which was good.

Then we get to the characters. Obviously there is a very large cast of them, but I feel like this book does a better job of having an ensemble cast, rather than having four leads and other characters that just seem to pop up occasionally. Where the first book was largely Evie’s, this book focuses more on Henry and new character Ling, who are dreamwalkers and I liked them quite a bit more than Evie, so I wasn’t annoyed by the shift in focus. There are still characters that feel somewhat circumstantial for most of the book, largely Memphis and Theta, but they do all come together in the end and it was nice to see them all work together. Mabel, who was quite flat in the first book, came into her own a lot more in this one, and I was glad she finally stood up for herself.

We get a lot more of Henry and his backstory in this book, which I loved because I really like Henry, I’ve always had a soft spot for musicians and Henry is lovely and charming & I really felt for him after learning more about his backstory. I also find his friendship with Theta really lovely, how supportive of each other they are, and how much they genuinely love each other (in a platonic way, Henry is gay) and even through their ups and downs in this book, it’s clear how much they care.

We also meet new character Ling Chan in this book, who is a biracial (Irish/Chinese) dreamwalker and I really loved her. She has such a dry, sarcastic sense of humour, which of course I loved & her friendship with Henry was definitely a standout part of this book for me. She also uses crutches and leg braces, as her legs were affected by infantile paralysis, and it was so awesome to see a disabled character where their disability was important, but it their entire story wasn’t centred around that. Also a disabled character in a historical fiction book? YES. Ling, I think, is my favourite character in this series, maybe tying with Sam, she’s very serious and into science but also has great humour and I really loved that.

Evie still frustrated me in this book, in fact probably more than in the last book. I appreciated that Bray showed the effects that the events of The Diviners had on her, and the fact that she’s clearly suffering from PTSD but I still found her pretty frustrating. She’s a terrible friend, she’s selfish, she thinks drinking and partying will solve all her problems, I just found it quite frustrating watching her self-destruct. I did appreciate that in this book though, her friends were more willing to call her on her bullshit, especially Sam, because it was about time that someone mentioned her drinking problem.

The love triangle once again frustrated me, because I think Evie and Sam have so much more chemistry than Evie and Jericho and honestly Jericho is just dull? Sam is charming and cheeky and just a lot more fun than Jericho and I think Evie and him bounce off each other much better than Evie and Jericho. I also think that they bring out the best in each other, as neither is afraid to call the other out when they’re being stupid. Also I actually really enjoy Sam and Jericho’s friendship, it’s strange but it works and I don’t really want the love triangle to ruin it.

Speaking of Sam, I liked that in this book, we got to see a lot more of his past and his family background, I really liked getting to see how he came to be the person that he is, and I really enjoyed his investigations with Evie into Project Buffalo.

I definitely think this book leaned into the supernatural powers more, we get to see the full range of everyone’s powers, it’s not just Evie and her object reading that we get to see in this book, we have dreamwalking, we have invisibility, we have healing, prophecy, burning things….there’s a large range of supernatural powers to enjoy. Dreamwalking is definitely my favourite one though, I thought it was so cool!

I thought the mystery was much better done in this book, whilst I still worked out what was going on before it was revealed, there were clues throughout the book and you could work it out, it wasn’t as out and out obvious from the beginning as it was in the first book.

I also enjoyed the diversity in this book, we have POC, LGBTQ+ and disabled characters, and unlike the first book, this book actually explored what those characters would have faced in the time period in a deeper way which I appreciated. There was however some employment of the tragic gay stereotype and whilst I did feel the emotion from the story, it definitely does play into stereotypes about historical gays. Bray doesn’t sugarcoat the realities of the 1920s, particularly when it comes to race, and I definitely appreciated that.

I thought it was a shame that Will had basically no role in this book, as I liked learning a little more about his role in Project Buffalo, and I also like seeing parental figures play more of a role in their teens lives, so hopefully he is more involved in the next book.

There are quite a lot of story threads to keep track of in this book, and whilst it was easier than in the first book, it still got a bit confusing at times. Memphis still seems to be largely separate from the others, where Theta is linked through Evie and Henry to the rest of the group, Memphis doesn’t really have any real connection, so he still seems somewhat on the sidelines.

I’m really not a fan of Jericho, he’s very severe and serious, and unlike Ling, doesn’t have the deadpan humour to make up for it. I also really hated what Jericho did to Mabel, I thought it was really unfair of him to lead her on when he knew he liked Evie.

I still have a lot of questions about the overarching plot, I’m intrigued by Project Buffalo and would love to know more, I assume the guys named after the Founding Fathers are involved? Why are they studying Diviners? Why are there so many of them? Why are they stronger together? Who is the Man in the Stovepipe Hat? Who is the King of Crows? How was Will involved? I have so many questions and this book didn’t really answer any of them, so I’m hoping the next book will! I also want to know why Sam doesn’t remember any of the Project Buffalo testing as it seems like he was old enough to.

I hope Theta gets a bit more of a plot in the next book, she is involved here, but largely in relation to Memphis and Henry and in the next book, I’d love it if she got more of her own storyline, she has such an interesting past and I’d love the next book to explore that more, it definitely seems like it will from where she ended up in this book.

I did feel like it was a little overly long, it was over 20 hours, and it still didn’t feel like there was enough content to fill that. In addition it was quite slow paced, and only really started to pick up about halfway through.

Overall, I enjoyed this book, I thought it was a lot better than the first book in terms of balancing the characters, a better developed mystery and a lot more work done to further the overarching plot of the book, though I still felt that it was overly long!

My Rating: 4/5

My next review will be of Into The Crooked Place, by Alexandra Christo, which will probably be up next week, prior to its release date on the 8th October.