Review: Bone Crier’s Moon by Kathryn Purdie

bone criers moon

Title: Bone Crier’s Moon

Author: Kathryn Purdie

Release date: March 3rd 2020

Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books

Star rating: ★★★★.5

Purchase: Blackwell’s (Affiliate Link)

Blackwell’s offers free shipping worldwide and includes a free bookmark with every order! Please consider purchasing your books through there as they have really competitive prices and you’d be helping to support a small chain of UK indie bookstores ♥

Summary (Taken from Goodreads)

Bone Criers have a sacred duty. They alone can keep the dead from preying on the living. But their power to ferry the spirits of the dead into goddess Elara’s Night Heavens or Tyrus’s Underworld comes from sacrifice. The gods demand a promise of dedication. And that promise comes at the cost of the Bone Criers’ one true love.

Ailesse has been prepared since birth to become the matriarch of the Bone Criers, a mysterious famille of women who use strengths drawn from animal bones to ferry dead souls. But first she must complete her rite of passage and kill the boy she’s also destined to love.

Bastien’s father was slain by a Bone Crier and he’s been seeking revenge ever since. Yet when he finally captures one, his vengeance will have to wait. Ailesse’s ritual has begun and now their fates are entwined—in life and in death.

Sabine has never had the stomach for the Bone Criers’ work. But when her best friend Ailesse is taken captive, Sabine will do whatever it takes to save her, even if it means defying their traditions—and their matriarch—to break the bond between Ailesse and Bastien. Before they all die.

Review

Bone Crier’s Moon is, in a word, addicting.

The book is set in a world where a secretive group of women — Leuresses, or Bone Criers — ferry the dead to the afterlife in order to prevent them from wreaking havoc on and harming the living.  I adored the lore and mythology of the Leuresses world: in fact, it was probably my favourite part (which is unusual, as the characters are usually my favourite. They were a very close second here!). Bone Criers gain the ability to ferry the dead by gaining three ‘graces’, or abilities from the animals they kill, and are then tasked with killing their soulmate as a show of their dedication and loyalty to the cause.  Throughout the book I found myself wishing there was a quiz I could take to see what my graces would be, in the vein of the Pottermore Patronus test.  I loved how original and unique the magic system and settings were, and the French inspirations sprinkled throughout the world; it was clear to see that, as she says in her Acknowledgements, Bone Crier’s Moon really was Kathryn Purdie’s ‘love letter’ to France.

There are multiple POVs present in Bone Crier’s Moon, but the book primarily focuses on Ailesse (pronounced eh-less, in case you were wondering).  Ailesse is a leuress and begins the book collecting her third grace in preparation for her rite of passage (where she will kill her amouré, or soulmate). I adored Ailesse as a character: she’s fierce and protective and bold and a little bit snarky and a whole lot badass.  She has some character development throughout the book as she spends more time outside the bubble of leuresses she has grown up with, and I hope this development is expanded upon in the sequel, Bone Crier’s Dawn.  As I mentioned previously, there are other points of view within the book: Sabine and Bastien.  Sabine is a leuress, like Ailesse, but at the start of the book has only one grace bone, from a fire salamander.  She is more timid and less certain being a bone crier is what she wants for her life, hating the thought of killing animals, let alone her fated one true love. I thought Sabine received the most character development in the book, as she really came into her own by the end of the book.  I’m particularly looking forward to Sabine’s chapters in the sequel, as I loved the internal conflict Purdie began to hint at towards the end of this instalment, as a result of the grace bones she acquires.  I really enjoyed the friendship and sisterly bond Ailesse and Sabine share.  While there could have been, there wasn’t really any competition between them (like there often is between female characters in YA), and this was a refreshing change.  Despite their circumstances, and having to kill a boy in order to fulfil their duties, they were still able to make light of their situation and joke around, often engaging in humorous ‘girl talk’ about what their dream amouré would look like.  Finally, Bastien: Ailesse’s amouré.  Having watched his father be killed by a bone crier as a young boy, Bastien begins the book determined to get revenge and take the life of one of their own. Throughout the plot, Bastien struggles with his burgeoning love for Ailesse and his desire to kill her and get his revenge (a struggle Ailesse also shares). His inner turmoil was excellently written, and was one of my favourite parts about his POV chapters.  Of course, there are other non-POV characters present in Bone Crier’s Moon, in the form of Jules and Marcel, Bastien’s companions who are also seeking revenge of their own.  I didn’t feel particularly strongly about either of them, but I liked the character development Jules received as the plot progressed. Marcel received a tad less page time, and so that could be why he wasn’t as well-developed, and so apart from being the ‘brains’ of the group, his character felt a little flat for me. I didn’t dislike the pair of them by any means though, they simply weren’t my favourite side characters I’ve read about.  I enjoyed Odiva, Ailesse’s cold, cunning mother and leuress matrone, as an antagonist, despite her motivations, which could be construed by some as ‘tropey’.  The ending of Bone Crier’s Moon left her in a rather uncertain place, in regards to her appearances in the sequel, but (spoiler alert), she will return in Bone Crier’s Dawn; the question remains, though, how this will be made possible.  There is, of course, romance present in Bone Crier’s Moon.  For me, the romance and relationship between Ailesse and Bastien can best be described as a mix-up of insta-love, yearning, star-crossed lovers and enemies-to-lovers.  I know, that’s a lot to take in and mash together, but it works!  As I mentioned before, Ailesse and Bastien spend most of the book contemplating if/when and how to kill the other while simultaneously being drawn to the other in ways they can’t explain.  Because of this, their relationship can definitely be classed as a ‘slow burn’, as there was only a few ‘romantic’ scenes sprinkled throughout, but I’m sure Bone Crier’s Dawn will develop upon their relationship and the romance between them more.  There is a little bit of a love triangle present, in the form of Jules/Bastien and Ailesse/Bastien, which I wasn’t the biggest fan of (most likely because I wasn’t the biggest Jules fan), and so I hope Bone Crier’s Dawn addresses (and resolves!) this — not that I imagine Jules (or the ending!!!!) will keep Bastien and Ailesse apart for long, given their romance is a main part of the concept for the book/series.

I loved the plot of this book!  What starts off as a ritualistic killing gone wrong is masterfully unravelled into something so much more complex and darker (and full of female independence and girl power!).  The book also ended on a cliffhanger, giving readers a taste of what to expect in Bone Crier’s Dawn, as well as potentially hinting at a new villain/antagonist.  Bone Crier’s Moon is also wonderfully written.  I appreciated the relatively even split between POVs, ensuring each of the three main characters got enough page time, both to develop their own characters and the plot.  As well as letting readers experience the plot from multiple perspectives, having 3 POVs also helped expand the world and worldbuilding, which I enjoyed, as I couldn’t get enough of it (as I suggested earlier in this review)!  It made me wish for a virtual reality game set in this world, so I could wander off on my own and go exploring!  Bone Crier’s Moon has fast pacing, which probably lended itself to my inability to put this book down!  Never once while reading it did I feel bored or tempted to skim ahead to see what was coming: Purdie’s writing entranced me from the very first page!

TL;DR: All in all, Bone Crier’s Moon is an absolutely incredible novel that I couldn’t get enough of.  From a distinct, endearing cast of characters and a star-crossed, enemies-to-lovers romance to the French-inspired world and original magic system, Bone Crier’s Moon has something for everyone, and it completely captivated me for the time I spent reading it.

Next review: An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir.

Review: The Inheritance Games by Jennifer Lynn Barnes

TheInheritanceGames

Title: The Inheritance Games

Author: Jennifer Lynn Barnes

Release date: September 1st 2020

Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers

Star rating: ★★★★★

Purchase: Blackwell’s (UK paperback, Affiliate Link)

Blackwell’s offers free shipping worldwide and includes a free bookmark with every order! Please consider purchasing your books through there as they have really competitive prices and you’d be helping to support a small chain of UK indie bookstores ♥

Summary (Taken from Goodreads)

A Cinderella story with deadly stakes and thrilling twists, perfect for fans of One of Us is Lying and Knives Out.

Avery Grambs has a plan for a better future: survive high school, win a scholarship, and get out. But her fortunes change in an instant when billionaire Tobias Hawthorne dies and leaves Avery virtually his entire fortune. The catch? Avery has no idea why–or even who Tobias Hawthorne is. To receive her inheritance, Avery must move into sprawling, secret passage-filled Hawthorne House, where every room bears the old man’s touch–and his love of puzzles, riddles, and codes.

Unfortunately for Avery, Hawthorne House is also occupied by the family that Tobias Hawthorne just dispossessed. This includes the four Hawthorne grandsons: dangerous, magnetic, brilliant boys who grew up with every expectation that one day, they would inherit billions. Heir apparent Grayson Hawthorne is convinced that Avery must be a con-woman, and he’s determined to take her down. His brother, Jameson, views her as their grandfather’s last hurrah: a twisted riddle, a puzzle to be solved. Caught in a world of wealth and privilege, with danger around every turn, Avery will have to play the game herself just to survive.

Review

I buddy read The Inheritance Games with my wonderful friend Lucy @ Sunstar Books and we had the best time. I finished this book in around 7 hours (with breaks), and as a slow reader, I’m pretty sure that set a record for me – as well as telling you just how much I enjoyed this book!

The Inheritance Games has a large cast of characters, but the plot primarily focuses on Avery Grambs, a student whose only goal is to make it through high school so she can get into college to get a well-paying job. Seems easy enough, right? Avery’s plans are upended though when she receives word that she’s the inheritor of $42 billion, courtesy of a stranger’s will. I adored Avery as a protagonist; she’s gritty, level-headed and incredibly smart and isn’t about to let the Hawthorne family take advantage of her. Speaking of: I loved the Hawthorne boys. There are other family members, of course, but the four Hawthorne grandsons are the book’s main focus. I found it a little tricky to tell them apart at first, only because there are so many of them, but Barnes gave them all such distinct voices that it quickly became easy to tell who Avery’s scene partner was. I’m partial to both Grayson and Jameson, although I like that Nash and Xander both had their own roles to play in the larger plot as well. There is a love triangle in this book, and though I wish there was more development in Avery’s relationships with the two boys in question, the romances weren’t the main focus of the plot, and so these will likely be touched upon more in the sequel.

 

The Inheritance Games is the perfect read for Autumn-time. Maybe it’s just because of the thriller genre, but there’s certainly a dark, gloomy feel to this book at times with a mystery hanging over everyone’s heads. The world – or more accurately, Hawthorne House – is excellently developed. Barnes goes into an exceptional amount of detail when describing the mansion, which really helped to bring it to life – especially when, like Avery did at times – it would be easy to get a little lost.

The Inheritance Games is so tightly plotted with lots of breadcrumbs sprinkled throughout – I adored it. The Knives Outsimilarities are definitely there, but that’s one of my favourite movies anyways so I’m certainly not complaining! Despite these comparisons though, it’s very much an original story, which can stand on its own. Avery’s inheritance isn’t the only thread weaving its way through The Inheritance Games: throughout the book Barnes carefully introduces side-plots and backstories through flashbacks and dialogue that come together at the end of the book for one gigantic, “oh my God”reveal, leaving you on a huge cliffhanger that will have you clamouring for the sequel. The Inheritance Games’ tight plot also lends itself to its fast pacing. There wasn’t a single boring scene or a moment where I found myself skimming ahead to see what happens next. Believe me when I say I was hooked!

 

Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed The Inheritance Games. I’ve even added it to my Goodreads favourites shelf! Whether you’re new to thrillers like I am or you read them on a regular basis, this is a book I’d recommend to anyone. It has a good, solid cast of characters (you’ll find yourself having a favourite, whether you want to or not!) and one of the best plots I’ve read in a long time, with a mystery that will leave you second-guessing everything you think you know. An easy 5/5 for me!

November 2020 TBR

Hi everyone! I hope you’re doing well and having a good day.

 

Today’s post will be my November TBR! I did pretty well, as far as my TBR’s go, last month, reading most of the books I wanted to get through in October. I’m planning a buddy read with Lucy @ Sunstar Books for one of her personal favourites, so I’ll at least get one of these read! Uni will start to pick up a bit this month with coursework, so I likely won’t have as much time to read, but I’m hoping I’ll still be able to squeeze at least some of these books in!

 

I like to keep my TBR posts short and sweet, so let’s get into the books! As always, I’ve included the Blackwell’s link for the books featured in today’s post. Blackwell’s is a small chain of indie bookshops in the UK and they offer free worldwide delivery. 

 

Fable by Adrienne Young [Carried over from last month]

Fable

Purchase

Goodreads summary:

For seventeen-year-old Fable, the daughter of the most powerful trader in the Narrows, the sea is the only home she has ever known. It’s been four years since the night she watched her mother drown during an unforgiving storm. The next day her father abandoned her on a legendary island filled with thieves and little food. To survive she must keep to herself, learn to trust no one, and rely on the unique skills her mother taught her. The only thing that keeps her going is the goal of getting off the island, finding her father, and demanding her rightful place beside him and his crew. To do so Fable enlists the help of a young trader named West to get her off the island and across the Narrows to her father.

But her father’s rivalries and the dangers of his trading enterprise have only multiplied since she last saw him, and Fable soon finds that West isn’t who he seems. Together, they will have to survive more than the treacherous storms that haunt the Narrows if they’re going to stay alive.

Welcome to a world made dangerous by the sea and by those who wish to profit from it. Where a young girl must find her place and her family while trying to survive in a world built for men. Fable takes you on a spectacular journey filled with romance, intrigue, and adventure.

 

An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir [Buddy read with Lucy]

anemberintheashes

Purchase

Goodreads summary:

Laia is a slave. Elias is a soldier. Neither is free.

Under the Martial Empire, defiance is met with death. Those who do not vow their blood and bodies to the Emperor risk the execution of their loved ones and the destruction of all they hold dear.

It is in this brutal world, inspired by ancient Rome, that Laia lives with her grandparents and older brother. The family ekes out an existence in the Empire’s impoverished backstreets. They do not challenge the Empire. They’ve seen what happens to those who do.

But when Laia’s brother is arrested for treason, Laia is forced to make a decision. In exchange for help from rebels who promise to rescue her brother, she will risk her life to spy for them from within the Empire’s greatest military academy.

There, Laia meets Elias, the school’s finest soldier—and secretly, its most unwilling. Elias wants only to be free of the tyranny he’s being trained to enforce. He and Laia will soon realize that their destinies are intertwined—and that their choices will change the fate of the Empire itself.

 

All Your Twisted Secrets by Diana Urban

allyourtwistedsecrets

Purchase

Goodreads summary:

This thrilling debut, reminiscent of new fan favorites like One of Us Is Lying and the beloved classics by Agatha Christie, will leave readers guessing until the explosive ending.

Welcome to dinner, and again, congratulations on being selected. Now you must do the selecting.

What do the queen bee, star athlete, valedictorian, stoner, loner, and music geek all have in common? They were all invited to a scholarship dinner, only to discover it’s a trap. Someone has locked them into a room with a bomb, a syringe filled with poison, and a note saying they have an hour to pick someone to kill … or else everyone dies.

Amber Prescott is determined to get her classmates and herself out of the room alive, but that might be easier said than done. No one knows how they’re all connected or who would want them dead. As they retrace the events over the past year that might have triggered their captor’s ultimatum, it becomes clear that everyone is hiding something. And with the clock ticking down, confusion turns into fear, and fear morphs into panic as they race to answer the biggest question: Who will they choose to die?

 

The Tiger at Midnight by Swati Teerdhala 

thetigeratmidnight

[Not available for purchase from Blackwell’s]

Goodreads summary:

A broken bond. A dying land. A cat-and-mouse game that can only end in bloodshed.

Esha is a legend, but no one knows. It’s only in the shadows that she moonlights as the Viper, the rebels’ highly skilled assassin. She’s devoted her life to avenging what she lost in the royal coup, and now she’s been tasked with her most important mission to date: taking down the ruthless General Hotha.

Kunal has been a soldier since childhood, training morning and night to uphold the power of King Vardaan. His uncle, the general, has ensured that Kunal never strays from the path—even as a part of Kunal longs to join the outside world, which has been growing only more volatile.

Then Esha’s and Kunal’s paths cross—and an unimaginable chain of events unfolds. Both the Viper and the soldier think they’re calling the shots, but they’re not the only players moving the pieces. As the bonds that hold their land in order break down and the sins of the past meet the promise of a new future, both rebel and soldier must make unforgivable choices.

Drawing inspiration from ancient Indian history and Hindu mythology, the first book in Swati Teerdhala’s debut fantasy trilogy captivates with electric romance, stunning action, and the fierce bonds that hold people together—and drive them apart.

 

Fire with Fire by Destiny Soria [eARC]

FireWithFire

Preorder

Goodreads summary:

Dani and Eden Rivera were both born to kill dragons, but the sisters couldn’t be more different. For Dani, dragon slaying takes a back seat to normal high school life, while Eden prioritizes training above everything else. Yet they both agree on one thing: it’s kill or be killed where dragons are concerned.

Until Dani comes face-to-face with one and forges a rare and magical bond with him. As she gets to know Nox, she realizes that everything she thought she knew about dragons is wrong. With Dani lost to the dragons, Eden turns to the mysterious and alluring sorcerers to help save her sister. Now on opposite sides of the conflict, the sisters will do whatever it takes to save the other. But the two are playing with magic that is more dangerous than they know, and there is another, more powerful enemy waiting for them both in the shadows.

 

And that’s it! What books are on your November TBR? Let me know in the comments or on Twitter!

 

Review: Where Dreams Descend by Janella Angeles

Where Dreams Descend

Title: Where Dreams Descend

Author: Janella Angeles

Release date: August 25th 2020

Publisher: Wednesday Books

Star rating: ★★

Purchase: Blackwell’s (Affiliate Link)

Disclaimer: I received an eARC of this book for free from Netgalley and Wednesday Books, when it was available for a short period of time on “Read Now“.

Summary (Taken from Goodreads)

In a city covered in ice and ruin, a group of magicians face off in a daring game of magical feats to find the next headliner of the Conquering Circus, only to find themselves under the threat of an unseen danger striking behind the scenes.

As each act becomes more and more risky and the number of missing magicians piles up, three are forced to reckon with their secrets before the darkness comes for them next.

The Star: Kallia, a powerful showgirl out to prove she’s the best no matter the cost

The Master: Jack, the enigmatic keeper of the club, and more than one lie told

The Magician: Demarco, the brooding judge with a dark past he can no longer hide

Where Dreams Descend is the startling and romantic first book in Janella Angeles’ debut Kingdom of Cards fantasy duology where magic is both celebrated and feared, and no heart is left unscathed.

Review

Where Dreams Descend had promise and potential, but unfortunately for me, it didn’t live up to the hype and its execution fell flat. I wanted to like Kallia as a protagonist: she has ambition and won’t let anyone put her down, but at times I felt she was overly confident and arrogant. Of course, she’s far more powerful than any of the other magicians encountered, but we’re never given a reason why. Readers are also never told why female magicians are so rare, and the rules for the magic system are never established. What can a magician do or not do? How does the magic work? These are key questions I would have liked to be answered, fairly early on. It seems as though any problem could be presented and magic could very easily solve it without there being some kind of cost.

Once Kallia makes her way to Glorian after escaping the Hellfire House, she enters a competition for magicians. It’s never established why she wants to enter this competition, and the stakes are only introduced much later on. She auditions for a panel of judges who clearly don’t like her, but she seems eager to please them nonetheless. It is clear, from the repeated demonstrations of Kallia’s power, that she’s going to win the competition and solve any problems thrown at her, so without her struggle to achieve her goals, it was difficult to care and made reading Where Dreams Descend more of a struggle than I’d have liked.

There are, of course, other characters in the book besides Kallia. Two “of note” are Aaros, a pickpocket who Kallia hires to be her assistant immediately after he tries to rob her, and Demarco, a retired magician, POV character and Kallia’s love interest. Aaros is featured in the first half of the book and then promptly disappears and I found Demarco to be incredibly bland. I wasn’t invested in his and Kallia’s romance at all, sadly (as a romance is usually one of my favourite things about a book, if done right).

I thought things would start getting a bit more interesting and enjoyable once some of the competitors started disappearing, but that was not the case. We’re given little description of the competitors and never get to see any of their performances, only Kallia’s. The rest of the plot, by this point, was boring and I found myself reading super quickly just to get the book over and done with.

I really, really wanted to like Where Dreams Descend. It seems, from looking at others’ opinions that I’m in the minority here. Perhaps I’m just not the right reader for this story? It’s safe to say, though, that I won’t be picking up the sequel, but I might, depending on what she writes next, read more of Janella Angeles’ work in the future.

Review: Greythorne by Crystal Smith

Greythorne

Title: Greythorne

Author: Crystal Smith

Release date: September 1st 2020

Publisher: HMH Books For Young Readers

Star rating: ★★★★★

Purchase: Book Depository or Blackwell’s (Affiliate Links)

Summary (Taken from Goodreads)

Princess Aurelia’s life is turned upside down when the kingdom she thought she saved turns to ruin, a loved one is tragically killed in a shipwreck, and her home country refuses to respect her brother’s legitimate claim to the throne. With no place left to call her own, Aurelia returns to Greythorne Manor—her best friend’s family mansion—only to get swept up in a coup d’état on the night of her brother’s coronation.

With everyone turned against her and enemies closing in on all sides, Aurelia has nothing left to lose in a mad fight to protect the only people she has left—her family. But in her darkest moments when all seems grim, will Aurelia find a spark of hope from a love she thought long lost?

Review

Today’s challenge appears to be “how many times can Ellie write the name of the book in a single blog post” hahah

At the time of writing this review, it’s been no more than 10 minutes since finishing this book.  Holy heck. THIS BOOK.  As I said in a tweet right after I finished, Greythorne is a master class in storytelling and Crystal Smith is a genius.

This is going to be a very hard review to write, but I’m going to try my best. It will be spoiler-free for Greythorne, but will, of course, contain spoilers for Bloodleaf, so you should definitely go and read that first (if you’ve just happened upon this post). My review for it can be read here.

If you’ve read my review of Bloodleaf, you’ll know that I had a few issues with it – picky little things, that were likely patched up in the final copy (I read an ARC of it) – and so I am very pleased to report that Greythorne does not suffer the same problems. In fact, I’d go as far as to say that it’s superior to it’s predecessor in almost every way.

I loved every minute of this book.

Greythorne features the same endearing cast of characters as Bloodleaf while introducing some new ones. Aurelia begins the book grieving for Zan, who she believes died in a shipwreck a few weeks prior, but as the plot progresses, she regains her strength to return to the same feisty, stubborn Princess readers know from before. I loved Aurelia in this book. I thought that she made a few too many stupid decisions in Bloodleaf, and while she might jump headfirst into a few situations in Greythorne, she’s certainly grown a lot since then, hardened by the deaths she has inadvertently brought about as a result of the blood bond, and the responsibility and guilt she now carries because of it.

I don’t want to say too much about the other characters, for fear I’ll accidentally give something away, but know that there’s a lot of backstory uncovered in this book when it comes to our side characters (Kellan and Onal fans, I’m looking at you!) and certain characters play much larger roles than you’d have thought. Greythorne also introduces (or brings back, depending on who you ask) one of my favourite side characters possibly ever: Rosetta, who had a cameo in Bloodleaf (although not in the way you’d expect), but makes her full appearance here. She’s key to introducing feral magic into the story, and is a character that commands your attention when you’re reading. I can’t wait to see her again in Ebonwilde.

Greythorne also plays host to new antagonists: Isobel Arcenaux, a former favourite of Toris de Lena and Biggest Hater of Witches, and Dominic Castillion, an Achlevan seafaring tyrant, thought to have caused Zan’s shipwreck. Main antagonist Isobel is so cunning and manipulative; she made for such a fantastic villain. She has quite the backstory, which is revealed slowly throughout the book, and finding out more about her was one of my favourite parts of the plot. Too often, book villains have no or flimsy motivations, but Isobel certainly does not fall into that camp. First Toris, now Isobel: surely I can’t be the only one wondering what horrors await us in Ebonwilde? Our secondary villain, Dominic Castillion, has less page-time than Isobel, but he was an interesting character I wish we had seen more of, and he definitely plays an important role in the end of the book!

The romance does return in Greythorne, but not in the way readers might be expecting. Aurelia and Zan are largely kept apart in this instalment for ‘plot reasons’, but their relationship is no less angsty than before. If the romance between them was your favourite part in the first book, you shouldn’t find yourself too disappointed with how this second book plays out. There are also hints of romance between two other characters towards the end, but I don’t want to spoil anything, so you’ll have to read to find out who ;).

I can’t get over this plot. THIS PLOT! It’s soooo good. Greythorne is action-packed and has some of the best plot twists/reveals I’ve read about. There were so many times reading this book that I audibly gasped or thought “oh my GOD”. I really really don’t want to give anything away, so my word of warning to fellow readers will be: Greythorne is just as heart-breaking as it is heart-warming, ending on a HUGE cliff-hanger that has left me (and likely other readers) desperate for Ebonwilde.

TL;DR: Greythorne will absolutely delight fans of this trilogy’s first instalment. Bloodleaf’s stellar main cast of characters return, with a few new faces to boot, in a fast-paced adventure full of angsty romance that takes Aurelia and friends all over the Western Realms. Equally mesmerising and haunting, Greythorne is a story that will stick with you long after you’ve read it’s final pages. Ebonwilde is sure to be one for the ages.

Author Interview: Dana Swift

Hi everyone!

Today’s post is a very exciting one!

I was fortunate enough to read an eARC of Dana Swift’s debut YA Fantasy novel, Cast in Firelight, and on top of that, have the opportunity to interview Dana herself! My review for Cast in Firelight (which I gave 5/5 stars, by the way) won’t be posted until early January, shortly before the book’s release, but I couldn’t wait to share this interview. I emailed Dana with a bucketload of questions (whoops!) and she kindly picked out a few to answer for you all.

A quick apology for the formatting of this post — I’m still getting used to WordPress’s ever-annoying new block editor, meaning I’m not able to properly put spaces between the paragraphs as I’d like to. I hope it’s doesn’t affect your reading experience of this post too much! If any of my fellow bloggers have any tips for getting around this… irritating … feature, please DM me! ❤ 

Before I share my questions and Dana’s answers, here’s some more information on the wonderful Cast in Firelight:

Cast in Firelight

The first book in an epic, heart-pounding fantasy duology about two royal heirs betrothed to be married, but whose loyalties are torn, and a ruthless enemy who threatens their world, perfect for fans of Sabaa Tahir, Hafsah Faizal, and Renée Ahdieh.

Adraa is the royal heir of Belwar, a talented witch on the cusp of taking her royal ceremony test, and a girl who just wants to prove her worth to her people.

Jatin is the royal heir to Naupure, a competitive wizard who’s mastered all nine colors of magic, and a boy anxious to return home for the first time since he was a child.

Together, their arranged marriage will unite two of Wickery’s most powerful kingdoms. But after years of rivalry from afar, Adraa and Jatin only agree on one thing: their reunion will be anything but sweet.

Only, destiny has other plans and with the criminal underbelly of Belwar suddenly making a move for control, their paths cross…and neither realizes who the other is, adopting separate secret identities instead.

Between dodging deathly spells and keeping their true selves hidden, the pair must learn to put their trust in the other if either is to uncover the real threat. Now Wickery’s fate is in the hands of rivals..? Fiancées..? Partners..? Whatever they are, it’s complicated and bound for greatness or destruction.

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Thank you for answering my questions! Could you briefly introduce Cast in Firelight, for readers who may not be familiar with it?

Thank you for having me! I’m so excited to answer these amazing questions you’ve prepared.

Cast in Firelight is my young adult, high fantasy debut coming out January 19, 2021 with Delacorte Press. In short it is about two teens, Adraa and Jatin, who are arranged to be married and are not too happy about it. When they meet again years later, they mistake each other for someone else and join forces as masked vigilantes to stop the underground drug ring and the mystery of where Adraa’s invention, Firelight, is being taken and why.

You mentioned in your Author’s Note that there were many ideas, both old and new, that influenced what Cast in Firelight came to be. Can you talk about what some of those ideas were?

Oh yes, what I mean by that was different elements of the story have different inspirations from different periods of my life. For instance, the romantic character dynamics came from a combination of the animated movie, Swan Princess, especially the first song in the movie as the two characters grow up and from young superhero duos I wanted to see more of like Robin and Batgirl bantering and fighting crime together. Some of the other more romantic elements come from rom coms like You’ve Got Mail. Many of the action scenes came from my favorite action movies, fantasy books and my own experience fencing saber in college. Then I really wanted to interject the narrative with humor and fun. I think the voice and writing style is simply how I’ve honed my own craft over the years.

Inspiration in general for me is taking your favorite stories elements and tropes and twisting or combining them into something completely new. I love to create different worlds and magic, but I like my characters to have flaws and problems readers can relate to.

Did you prefer writing from Adraa or Jatin’s POV?

This is interesting question because while Adraa’s voice came quicker, Jatin had more scenes that I was interested in writing. Adraa’s main internal conflict is fear of failure and not living up to the expectation’s others put on her and she places on herself. Jatin, on the other hand doesn’t grapple with self confidence in the same way but in lack of connection and fear of being alone and unloved. Thus, if you take a look at each of their alternating scenes Jatin actually gets more of the romantic subplots from his point of view. In summary I love writing them both. Adraa for her spunk, snark, and drive and Jatin for narrating my favorite plot points and moments in the book.

If you were Touched, which colour magic would be your forte?

I’ve thought about this a lot and hope to one day to ask readers this question as well. For those that don’t yet know Cast in Firelight’s magic system and to give a brief overview of the colors and what they mean, here is the list:

Red Forte – Fire

Orange Forte –Enhancing yourself (ex: senses, strength, speed)

Yellow Forte – Air

Green Forte – Plants

Blue Forte – Water

Purple Forte – Creating shields, boundaries, weapons

Pink – Healing

Black Forte – Illusions

White Forte – Ice

Now to properly answer: if I was in the world of Wickery I think orange magic would be the most useful and amazing. Enhancing your senses like eyesight, or other aspects like your strength would feel most like a superpower to me. A close second would be yellow magic because that’s how you are able to fly. But if I were living in present day, I think I’d have to go with pink healing magic, but that might be the pandemic talking and me wishing there was magic to help those with this terrible illness.

You mentioned on Goodreads that you’re a fan of action and superhero movies (which is certainly evident while reading Cast in Firelight). I have to ask: who is your favourite superhero and why?

This is a really hard question and my favorites actually depends on my mood. I was a huge Batman: The Animated Series fan growing up and then watched and loved Smallville when I was a teen. And then I love Flash’s comedic relief and personality when he appears in team-ups like the Justice League. So overall my childhood favorites were more DC, but I love all the Marvel movies as well. In fact, one of the reasons I wanted to write this book was because I loved the action of the Marvel movies, but the romances were too much of a subplot. I wrote Cast in Firelight to have equal parts action and romance and really delve and dive into both.

In regard to what makes me love superhero characters and why I gravitated more to DC as a child and now is the idea and having dueling identities within one person. You see many of these superheroes changing their personalities when embodying different parts of themselves and as a kid I did that a lot, code switching when I was around different groups of friends or family. Many might see Clark Kent putting on glasses as a form of pretending and his true self as Superman, but in reality, I see him as multilayered. That’s why I love superhero stories so much. Secret identities are more than just a fun mysterious plot device, for me they are an avenue to looking at ourselves and understanding we can be more than one thing and “finding yourself,” especially as a teen, means embracing different sides of your self-expression.

Can you give any hints as to what’s coming in the sequel? Personally I’d like 400 or so pages of Adraa and Jatin being happy but given all you put them through in the first book, I can’t imagine that’s in the cards..?

I would love to write only happy scenes for fans, but much of a good story revolves around conflict and I like to explore what it means and how to overcome conflict. The sequel deals with the consequences of the climax of Book 1. I didn’t end Cast in Firelight on a huge cliffhanger in my opinion, but there are certain things that need to be dealt with. I can’t say too much more than that in terms of big plot points, but it is fast paced with lots of fight scenes, shorter chapters and in my opinion a more twisty plot. I really hope fans of Cast in Firelight like it.

I know Cast in Firelight isn’t out yet, but I just couldn’t help myself asking about the sequel! Those of you that have also been fortunate enough to read an advance copy will understand, haha!

Thank you so much to Dana for gifting me with an eARC of your amazing book and taking the time to answer my questions!

If you’ve enjoyed reading Dana’s answers to my questions, you can follow her on Twitter and Instagram! And, of course, don’t forget to preorder Cast in Firelight and submit your preorder receipt for awesome goodies!

Review: Blood & Honey by Shelby Mahurin

Blood and Honey

Title: Blood & Honey

Author: Shelby Mahurin

Release date: September 1st 2020

Publisher: HarperTeen

Star rating: ★★★.8

Purchase: Book Depository (Affiliate Link)

Summary (Taken from Goodreads)

After narrowly escaping death at the hands of the Dames Blanches, Lou, Reid, Coco, and Ansel are on the run from coven, kingdom, and church—fugitives with nowhere to hide.

To elude the scores of witches and throngs of chasseurs at their heels, Lou and Reid need allies. Strong ones. But protection comes at a price, and the group is forced to embark on separate quests to build their forces. As Lou and Reid try to close the widening rift between them, the dastardly Morgane baits them in a lethal game of cat and mouse that threatens to destroy something worth more than any coven.

The hotly anticipated sequel to the New York Times and IndieBound bestseller Serpent & Dove—packed with even steamier romance and darker magic—is perfect for fans of Sarah J. Maas.

Review

I’ll preface my thoughts with this: Blood & Honey is a difficult book to review.

I had seen the Goodreads rating prior to starting the book and was aware of the divided opinions online about it. Half the people who read the book give it 5 stars, while others mull around 3-4 stars and call it “100% filler”.

Unfortunately, I find myself in the latter camp.

I wanted to love Blood & Honey so much, after adoring Serpent & Dove when I read it earlier this year. (Side note: wow, it doesn’t feel like so little time has passed since then. 2020, huh?).

It would appear, however, that Blood & Honey falls victim to “second book syndrome”. Originally a duology, this series was made into a trilogy at the last minute and, sadly, it shows. The plot is slow to start – our cast of characters do not even change location until around the 100 page mark – and once it does start, the pacing is muddled, being mostly slow while speeding up a little at the end towards the climax and that cliffhanger, which, to my dismay, I wasn’t as shocked at as I would have liked to have been. Don’t get me wrong, of course, I was certainly surprised, but I think by this point I had just wanted to get the book over and done with (having read the previous 500 or pages of lacklustre plot) that I wasn’t gasping like some readers clearly were.

I didn’t particularly care for any of the characters in this sequel as much as I did in the first book. Lou and Reid spend most of the book at odds with each other, and Coco, Beau and Ansel mostly fade into the background. There are some new additions of course, and only one of them I found I had any interest in – Claud Devereaux, for those of you that have read the book – but for the most part I found them either annoying (Nicholina, which I assume was supposed to be the point but there were a few occasions where it was grating) or I simply didn’t care enough about them (the werewolves). There were also plenty of mentions of mermaids in this book, which we didn’t see any of. I can only assume we will see them in the third instalment, seeing as they were brought up so frequently. There was some character development in this book – primarily pertaining to Lou and Reid – and I can only hope Mahurin will build on this in the third and final book.

I was also expecting more ‘romance’ between Lou and Reid than we got in this book – only a handful of scenes. Given the reviews and blurbs I’d seen for this book, Blood & Honey was made out to be the even steamier big sister of Serpent & Dove, but I didn’t find this to be the case unfortunately. Granted, as I mentioned earlier, they spent most of the book not in each other’s favour, despite their repeated reassurances they both loved the other and would move past their differences, but given what this series has seemingly promised readers, I felt a little let down.

Despite all of this, I do plan to read and review the third and final book in this series. I don’t know whether it’s my love for the first book in general or these characters and their world, but Mahurin certainly knows how to captivate her readers – even when, it seems, she disappoints some of them. I hope the third book is as strong as it needs to be, both to make up for this filler book, and to uphold the silent promises Serpent & Dove made.

Given this review has been mostly negative, I cannot find it in myself to rate Blood & Honey higher than 3.8 stars, a possibly-generous rating made possible only by my love for its predecessor and its characters.

October 2020 TBR

Hi everyone!

 

I’m back from my hiatus, and my first post back will be a TBR! 

 

Now, I know what most of you are thinking: “you never ever read all the books on your TBR!”. Well, this time I’m fairly confident I’ll be able to. I’m keeping it quite small this month, as I begin my second year of university on October 8th! 

 

This month I’m mostly focusing on reading my eARCs, so that in future months I can focus on reading new releases, or physical copies of books that are on my shelves (that I can’t wait to get to).

 

Onto the books —

Continue reading “October 2020 TBR”

Review: Vicious Spirits by Kat Cho

Title: Vicious Spirits

Author: Kat Cho

Release date: August 18th 2020

Publisher: G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers

Star rating: ★★★★

Purchase: Book Depository or Blackwell’s (Affiliate Links)

Disclaimer: I received an advanced finished copy of this book for free. This does not influence my review, which is honest and spoiler-free. Thank you to Sam at Penguin Random House for sending me a copy!

Summary (Taken from Goodreads)

New romance and dangers abound in this companion to the crowd-pleasing Wicked Fox.

As Vicious Spirits begins, Miyoung and Jihoon are picking up the pieces of their broken lives following the deaths of Miyoung’s mother, Yena, and Jihoon’s grandmother. With the support of their friend Somin, and their frenemy, Junu, they might just have a shot at normalcy. But Miyoung is getting sicker and sicker by the day and her friends don’t know how to save her. With few options remaining, Junu has an idea but it might require the ultimate sacrifice and, let’s be honest, Junu isn’t known for his “generosity.” Meanwhile, the events at the end of Wicked Fox have upended the forces that govern life and death and there are supernatural entities lurking in the background that will stop at nothing to right their world.

Review

At first I was confused as to why Vicious Spirits was being marketed as a companion novel and a sequel to Wicked Fox, but it didn’t take me long to realise both why this was, and that it was something I want to see more of with series. Vicious Spirits carries on the story introduced to readers in Wicked Fox, and Miyoung and Jihoon are certainly present here, but they share page-time with two new POV characters I certainly didn’t expect to like as much as I did: Somin and Junu, whose story helps to add another layer of dimension to the world Cho writes in.

Introduced as side characters in the first book, Somin and Junu find their story – and their complicated and back-and-forth relationship – a focal point of this book. Somin is a feisty, human girl who would do anything for those she loves, and Junu is a dokkaebi with a bit too much charisma and a tragic past – the necessary ingredients, it seems, for a ‘bookish boyfriend’ in 2020. The character growth for Somin and Junu felt natural, and the eventual development of their relationship – and the personal growth that came with it – was one of my favourite aspects of the book.

Fans of Miyoung and Jihoon from the first book should not hesitate to read this book, however, as the pair are still present in the story, following the events at the end of Wicked Fox, where Miyoung continues to be haunted by her recently-deceased mother, Yena, and the disappearance of her fox bead. They certainly no longer take centre stage, and so have less page-time, but still have scenes together which many readers will enjoy.

I found the plot of Vicious Spirits resonated with me more than that of Wicked Fox, dealing with heavy themes of grief and loss, compared to the more light-hearted tone of its predecessor. Through the lens of a romantic, fun (if not dangerous, at times) adventure, Cho explores the aftermath of death, the regrets many of us are left to deal with and the often-struggle to find the ability to move on. For me, at least, this book was extremely poignant, and I can’t help but think this was a story I needed at this particular time. Steering away from its themes though, Kat Cho was sure to implement many a plot twist, both big and small, throughout the novel, and if readers cannot connect to its themes in the way that I did, then they should at least delight in the fact that Vicious Spirits offers them the fun escapism that Cho’s debut did.

TL;DR: Vicious Spirits is a worthy successor to Wicked Fox, and cements Cho as one of publishing’s more under-appreciated and under-hyped writers with her ability to delicately weave heavy themes into a story which some would likely write off as ‘just another fantasy romance book’. Rather, Cho spins a beautiful tale of love and loss against a background of Korean folklore that I would urge anyone to read.

Throne of Glass Characters as Fonts: Part 2

Hi everyone!

 

Today’s post is something a little bit different: I’ve collaborated with Lucy @ Sunstar Books to bring you Throne of Glass characters as fonts. Yes, you read that right. I can’t take any credit for the idea though – Lucy was kind and gracious enough to allow me to contribute my ideas to this, but she certainly did most of the leg work!

 

This is Part 2 of our Throne of Glass characters as blog post, and you can find Part 1 on Lucy’s blog here!

 

All character art is by morganaOanagrom and was found on the Throne of Glass wiki page.

 

Without further ado, let’s get into the fonts!

Continue reading “Throne of Glass Characters as Fonts: Part 2”