Review: Caraval by Stephanie Garber

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Title: Caraval

Author: Stephanie Garber

Publisher: Flatiron Books

Date: 31st January 2017

Blurb:

Remember, it’s only a game…

Scarlett Dragna has never left the tiny island where she and her sister, Tella, live with their powerful, and cruel, father. Now Scarlett’s father has arranged a marriage for her, and Scarlett thinks her dreams of seeing Caraval—the faraway, once-a-year performance where the audience participates in the show—are over.

But this year, Scarlett’s long-dreamt-of invitation finally arrives. With the help of a mysterious sailor, Tella whisks Scarlett away to the show. Only, as soon as they arrive, Tella is kidnapped by Caraval’s mastermind organizer, Legend. It turns out that this season’s Caraval revolves around Tella, and whoever finds her first is the winner.

Scarlett has been told that everything that happens during Caraval is only an elaborate performance. Nevertheless she becomes enmeshed in a game of love, heartbreak, and magic. And whether Caraval is real or not, Scarlett must find Tella before the five nights of the game are over or a dangerous domino effect of consequences will be set off, and her beloved sister will disappear forever.

Welcome, welcome to Caraval…beware of getting swept too far away.

For the last few months, I had been in a ready slump. I attempted to read 3 different books and got through 30-50% of them all and stopped there. I wasn’t sure what it was, but none of them was catching my attention. Feeling fed up, I went to twitter and set up a poll where people could decide what book I should read to pull me out of the slump. Caraval ended up winning by quite a bit, so I started it that night. Two days later and I had finished it and was left wondering where this book had been my whole life.

I honestly can’t remember the last time a book swept me away and transported me to a world where I forgot about everything else in my life. It was the most magical book I’ve ever read with gorgeous prose, incredible characters I cared about and twists & turns I didn’t know were possible. While I was reading I had this warm feeling throughout and struggled to put the book know when it was time to go to bed or finish my lunch break. I was hooked and left wanting more when I turned the last page.

Let’s start with the world of Caraval because it was spectacular. I loved the way Garber describes her settings because I can see it so clearly in my head, full of vivid colours and delightful scents. Some people might not like purple prose, but I for one love it and this book has a lot of it. There are strange and wonderful shops full of secret entryways and if you want access to them or to buy gorgeous gowns it all comes at a price, something that matters to the players such as a secret. The premise of Caraval being a game that is to be played by multiple people drew me in straight away, everyone fighting for a chance to win a wish. As you’re reading, it’s hard to tell what is real and what is an illusion, but that makes it even more fun to read. There are so many secrets waiting to be uncovered and you never know what will happen until it does.

The story is told from Scarlett’s perspective, a girl who is supposed to be getting married but is instead whisked off to Caraval and has to participate in the game to get her sister back. At first, I was unsure about Scarlett as she can be a bit over the top at times, but as the story progressed I found myself rooting for her. She gets caught up in the game, something that often has consequences for her, but she is determined to find her sister and win the game, whatever it takes. After being taken to the island by a sailor called Julian, she spends a lot of time with him and a romance soon blossoms. I say romance lightly because it is more of an insta-love in this book, but that might change in the sequels. Either way, I enjoyed the dialogue and scenes they shared together, showing their chemistry. I was invested in their journey together and was pleasantly surprised by some things that occurred near the end of the book. Julian is definitely one of my favourite characters, mainly because he’s rugged, hilarious and kind of the bad-boy type. Who doesn’t love that?

There were a number of side characters who make appearances throughout and who I’m sure will feature more in the other books. Scarlett’s father is awful and infuriated me with how cruel he is, but the only character I’m not sure on is Tella, Scarlett’s sister. She didn’t feature much in the book, but early glimpses showed her as being a little selfish and impulsive, but towards the end, we are shown a different side of her. I won’t spoil it for you because it is one of the bigger twists in the book.

The twists and turns were so incredible, I almost got whiplash. I think they are part of the reason why the pace was so quick. Something happened in every chapter that made me invested in the story and the characters. I kept saying to myself ‘just one more chapter’ but it was never just one and before I knew it, I was finished! There were even a few times where I gasped out loud while reading. It was that shocking.

I’m not sure what else I can say apart from I adored it. Nothing I say will do it justice, but I tried my best to articulate my thoughts. I finished it a week ago and it’s taken me that long just to get my thoughts in order. This atmospheric mystery is one of my favourite reads for the year so far and I am so excited to buy the remaining two books in this series to see what Garber does with the world and characters.

This is easily a five-star read for me!

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Blog Tour Review for Wicked Saints by Emily A. Duncan

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 Title: Wicked Saints

Author: Emily A. Duncan

Publisher: Wednesday Books

Release Date: 2nd April 2019

Genre: YA Fantasy

Buy From Macmillan

 

A girl who can speak to gods must save her people without destroying herself.

A prince in danger must decide who to trust.

A boy with a monstrous secret waits in the wings. 

Together, they must assassinate the king and stop the war.

In a centuries-long war where beauty and brutality meet, their three paths entwine in a shadowy world of spilled blood and mysterious saints, where a forbidden romance threatens to tip the scales between dark and light. Wicked Saints is the thrilling start to Emily A. Duncan’s devastatingly Gothic Something Dark and Holy trilogy.

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I’d like to say thank you to Wednesday Books for giving me a chance to review Wicked Saints in exchange for an honest review during this blog tour. Over the last few months, I have heard a lot of amazing reviews about Emily’s debut novel, so of course, I was over the moon when I was given an eARC to read. The danger with a lot of hype surrounding a book is that it may not always live up to the expectations, but luckily for me, Wicked Saints did.

Kalyazin and Tranavia have been at war for a century, with the Tranavian heretics slowly growing in power. The gods have always listened to Nadya when she prayed and only she is strong enough to go against the blood magic of her enemies. When her monastery is invaded, she goes on the run to escape the High Prince, Serefin, who is the strongest of his kind. While travelling she meets two refugees and a Tranavian blood mage called Malachiasz who has rebelled against his order, the Vultures. Going against the wishes of the gods, Nadya forges an alliance with them in the hopes of travelling to Tranavia to kill the king and stop the holy war before it destroys them all. However, not everything is as it seems and Nadya begins to question everything she has been told about blood magic and her gods.

“We’re all monsters, Nadya,” Malachiasz said, his voice gaining a few tangled chords of chaos. “Some of us just hide it better than others.”

As an atheist, I normally tend to stay away from books with religious themes but I was intrigued by Wicked Saints, mainly because it was so different from anything I’d read before. The idea of gods choosing clerics who can hear them was interesting, especially because Nadya can hear all of them, the only one of her kind.

We’re thrown right into the action from the very beginning and I flew through the first quarter of the book. It was really enjoyable and I became more invested as I went along. It took me a little while to connect with Nadya as a character, probably because it dived into the action straight away, but I have to say I enjoyed the banter between her and the gods and it had me smiling on more than one occasion. I love the fact that her opinions never stayed the same and she questioned everything. She struggled, she made mistakes, but that is what makes her real. What teenager doesn’t struggle with their identity and beliefs at some point?

The world building was probably my favourite aspect of this story, as it was based on Russia and Poland. I could feel the chill of the mountains thanks to Emily’s descriptions and felt immersed in the story. Wicked Saints doesn’t read like a debut. It’s intriguing and full of atmopshere. Each new chapter opened with snippets about the history of the saints, clerics and gods of Kalyazin, giving insight into just how violent their world is. While the story takes place in Kalyazin and Tranavia, we also meet two characters from the desert lands of Akola, Parijahan and Rashid, who I really enjoyed reading about in this book. Hopefully, the world will expand more in the rest of the trilogy because I really liked what I read.

Blood magic is rife in Wicked Saints and I loved the new take on it. The mages have to cut themselves (TW: self-harm) and then press the pages of their spellbook against the cut to work the magic, which is something I have never read before. This is a dark book with dark themes (TW: torture, abuse, gore and blood), although I think part of me was expecting it to be more brutal and darker. However, Malachiasz is a blood mage who caught my attention instantly because I wasn’t sure what he was going to do. Nothing is as it seems with this book and it was fun watching Nadya try to handle this monster boy who makes her question everything. Malachiasz is a bit of mystery and it was good to see the secrets unravelling in a way I thought they would. There is nothing better when a plot twist happens the way you expect, showing it was well thought out.

As far as romance goes, I kind of wish it hadn’t stayed so close to the trope of enemies-to-lovers as I didn’t feel Nadya really had a reason to hate him and there was a lot of focus on him. I never once felt that it wasn’t Nadya’s story, but I wasn’t as invested in the romance as I thought I would be. However, I did enjoy their characters and can’t wait to see what becomes of them later on. Now, Serefin…he’s my favourite. He is morally grey, loves to drink and is always tired, which makes him the best kind of character in my eyes. Some people say the amount he drinks is unrealistic but they’ve clearly never been to a house party in the UK (I won’t say how much I used to drink). I really loved his character arc in Wicked Saints and I’ve been left with a lot of questions after the ending. There are other side characters who I loved reading about as well and who also offer some LGBTQ rep in the book, as well as disability, so there is something for everyone.

I’m glad Wicked Saints was a fast-paced book because it meant I was flying through the chapters, but sometimes I felt as if things moved too quick at times. The first 25% and the last 25% were my favourite parts as there was a lot going on, but I wish there had been more than just travelling in between that space. I also wish there had been more to read because of how much I enjoyed it. Saying that, now that the world has been set up, I’m sure there will be more twists and turns in the sequel which I cannot wait for. The ending left me feeling very excited to see what these characters get up to because I have questions. I don’t know what’s going to happen next, but I can’t wait to find out.

Overall, I really enjoyed Wicked Saints and felt it was a great debut for Emily A. Duncan and showcased her style of writing perfectly. It was unique with the world building, it had interesting characters, dark themes and plot twists, which are always my favourite parts of a story. I’m giving Wicked Saints a solid 4 stars!

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Praise For Wicked Saints

“Prepare for a snow frosted, blood drenched fairy tale where the monsters steal your heart and love ends up being the nightmare. Utterly absorbing.” – Roshani Chokshi, New York Times bestselling author of The Star-Touched Queen  

“Full of blood and monsters and magic—this book destroyed me and I adored it. Emily is a wicked storyteller, she’s not afraid to hurt her characters or her readers. If you’ve ever fallen in love with a villain you will fall hard for this book.” – Stephanie Garber, New York Times bestselling author of Caraval 

“This is the novel of dark theology and eldritch blood-magic that I’ve been waiting for all my life. It’s got a world at once brutal and beautiful, filled with characters who are wounded, lovable, and ferocious enough to break your heart. A shattering, utterly satisfying read.” – Rosamund Hodge, author of Cruel Beauty and Bright Smoke, Cold Fire

Wicked Saints is a lush, brutal, compelling fantasy that is dark, deep, and bloody—absolutely riveting! With a boy who is both man and monster, mysterious saints with uncertain motives, and a girl filled with holy magic who is just beginning to understand the full reaches of her power, this gothic jewel of a story will sink its visceral iron claws into you, never letting go until you’ve turned the last page. And truthfully, not even then -the explosive ending will haunt you for days! ” – Robin LaFevers, New York Times bestselling author of the His Fair Assassin trilogy

“Dark, bloody, and monstrously romantic. This is the villain love interest that we’ve all been waiting for.” – Margaret Rogerson, New York Times bestselling author of An Enchantment of Ravens

“Seductively dark and enchanting, Wicked Saints is a trance you won’t want to wake from. Duncan has skillfully erected a world like no other, complete with provocative magic, sinister creatures, and a plot that keeps you guessing. This spellbinding YA fantasy will bewitch readers to the very last page.” – Adrienne Young, New York Times bestselling author of Sky in the Deep

About The Author

Emily A. DuncanEMILY A. DUNCAN works as a youth services librarian. She received a Master’s degree in library science from Kent State University, which mostly taught her how to find obscure Slavic folklore texts through interlibrary loan systems. When not reading or writing, she enjoys playing copious amounts of video games and dungeons and dragons. Wicked Saints is her first book. She lives in Ohio.

 

 

Website: https://eaduncan.com/
Twitter: @glitzandshadows
Instagram: @glitzandshadows
Tumblr: http://glitzandshadows.tumblr.com/

Review: Circe by Madeline Miller

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Title: Circe

Author: Madeline Miller

Publisher: Little, Brown and Company

Date: 10th April 2018

Circe was the first book I’ve read for 2019 and I am so glad it was because this book is incredible. Words cannot even describe how much I enjoyed and loved this book. Greek mythology has always been something close to my heart. I’ve read many books about it, anything from fantasy to historic and it always captures my attention. I even started writing my own Greek mythology inspired story at one point (which I am inspired to go back to now). I’ve read about many of the gods and goddesses, but I had never heard of Circe before now, but she is definitely one of my favourites.

Circe is a nymph and the daughter of Helios, god of the sun and one of the Titans who sided with Zeus in the battle between the Titans and the Olympians. She isn’t as powerful as him, nor is she as alluring and mysterious as her mother. Circe is an outcast among her kind and so she turns to the mortals, feeling more like them than her own family. It is during her time with them that she discovers she isn’t powerless, that she is, in fact, a witch. Using her will, she can turn her rivals into monsters and cause the gods to fear her so much that she is sent to live in isolation on the island of Aeaea. While there, she hones her crafts, tames the wild animals of the island and meets some of the most famous figures in history such as the Minotaur, Medea and even Odysseus. However, she is not safe on her island and goes up against one of the strongest and most brutal of the gods and goddesses. If she wants to protect that which matters most to her, she must use all her strength and decide where she belongs; among the gods or the mortals.

I don’t even know where to begin with describing how much I loved reading Circe. I guess the best place is to start with the character herself. It isn’t often where I feel strongly for a certain character, but I did with Circe. She was an outcast and I could relate to that so much. When I was younger I felt like I was on the outside at times and it was awful reading how the other gods and goddesses, her own siblings, treated her. I wanted her to be happy, and when she thought she had her chance, it was taken away from her. Before reading this, I did a little research to find out who Circe was and found out that she was mentioned in The Odyssey, where she turns men into pigs. We find out later on in this story why she does this.

After discovering her powers by turning her rival into a monstrous sea monster, Circe is sent by Zeus to live on an island by herself, where she starts to discover who she truly is. While there, she learns more about her craft and how she takes control of her life. She isn’t perfect by any means, she has flaws like all of us, but that only made her more likeable. I also enjoyed reading about her interactions with her siblings, mainly her sister Pasiphaë, who is famous for giving birth to the Minotaur, which is as disturbing as you think it is. That led to her meeting Daedalus and eventually learning about his son, Icarus, and we all know what happened to him. She is told about the outside world by Hermes, who often visits her, and we realise how lonely it must be for her, but she doesn’t let that loneliness cripple her.

It wasn’t always easy and when men started arriving at her shores, looking for help, I had an inkling that something bad would happen (trigger warning: rape). However, she doesn’t allow what happened to her to define her and bring her down. Instead, she becomes strong and whenever she is threatened, she turns the men into pigs, until she meets Odysseus. Their story was one of my favourite parts of this book. If you want to know what their relationship is like, then this quote sums it up quite well.

“Odysseus, son of Laertes, the great traveller, prince of wiles and tricks and a thousand ways. He showed me his scars, and in return he let me pretend that I had none.”

I enjoyed reading about their time together and how it shaped Circe, eventually gifting her with a child who she would protect at all costs against Athena. This part of this story was also one of my favourites because it showed the lengths a mother would go to protect her son. While I could mention what happened, I don’t want to because I want you all to read this book and see the incredible story-telling that is written in Circe. Circe embraces who she is and will not let anyone tear her down, which is why I love her character so much. This is a story about her life, the pain she went through, the love she felt, all the heartache and desire that clouded her emotions and it is a story about motherhood.

When it comes to world-building, I think that Madeline Miller is one of the best. I could picture everything, from the Oceanus, where she grew up, to her adventures out in the world and on her little island. I could smell the salt of the sea and feel her emotions as if they were my own, it was honestly magical. Circe is a book I know I will read again in the future as there is so much detail that I want to read more of, to find out more that I may have missed. I didn’t want to put this book down at all and when that happens, I just know it is a story that will forever stay with me.

I could go on and on about the masterpiece that is Circe and how much I loved every second of reading, but I think the best way for you to understand how good it is, is to read it yourself. The easiest 5 stars I have ever given and probably in my top 5 favourite books of all time. It is seriously that amazing!

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Review: Mirage by Somaiya Daud

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Title: Mirage

Author: Somaiya Daud

Publisher: Flatiron Books

Date: 28th August 2018

I was given a chance to review this book on NetGalley, but the first time I tried reading it I was in a reading slump. However, I knew I wanted to read this book as the premise sounded interesting and I left it to a later date. Overall, I enjoyed reading Mirage, but it wasn’t my favourite book and I think that is because I had been reading so many amazing 5-star reads, it was hard to keep up with them. I love that this is inspired by Middle-Eastern culture, which definitely came across in the writing and I love the sci-fi edge that this book had.

Amani’s home is ruled by the Vathek, a brutal empire who invaded the star system and sent her family into poverty. She dreams of being able to escape her life and go on an adventure, but one day she is kidnapped by the Vathek and brought to the home of the half-Vathek Princess Maram. It is there that she discovers the two of them look identical and how they plan to use Amani as a body double in dangerous situations. Amani has to become the princess if she wants to keep her family safe, which means she is thrust into a world full of politics and beautiful palaces, with Maram’s fiance, Idris, by her side.

I will start off by saying that I found the worldbuilding to be quite interesting at times, such as how it is set on a completely different planet, but it was also a little confusing. There was quite a bit of info-dumping at the beginning, which I don’t mind too much but it slowed the book down a lot. Some things were mentioned and never really explained properly, so I just had to have a guess at what they were. I think it was too much at times and it didn’t need to be as the idea itself is interesting enough to capture my attention, as well as the characters.

This is definitely a character-driven book, which is something I enjoyed as I loved reading about Amani. I felt her pain as she was taken away from her family and thrust into this unknown world. The first meeting between Amani and Maram doesn’t go well, as can be expected with a cruel princess who doesn’t care about anyone but herself, but along the way we see something growing between the two. We begin to realise why Maram acts the way she does and I might even say that it made her likeable towards the end of the book.

Something else that I enjoyed was the romance. It isn’t epic like some of the other books I have read, but it was pleasant enough and has made me excited to read more about the characters. While Idris might be engaged to Maram, you can see that he really cares about Amani and they both share their own stories of how the Vathek had ruined their lives.

While there are sci-fi elements in this book, it reads like a fantasy book, which is one of the reasons why I liked it. If you’re looking for an action-packed book, this isn’t the one for you. It is a lot slower, focusing on the history of the world and the relationships between the characters instead. I really enjoyed the unique setting and would be interested in reading the sequel to see what happens. Overall, I’m going to give Mirage a solid 3 stars.

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Review: Sea Witch by Sarah Henning

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Title: Sea Witch

Author: Sarah Henning

Publisher: Harper Collins UK

Date: 31st July 2018

I would like to start this review off by saying thank you to Harper Collins for giving me a chance to review this book on NetGalley. As soon as I heard about the synopsis for Sea Witch I instantly thought it could be something I would enjoy. I love the Little Mermaid and books that are loosely based on fairy tales are very in at the moment, but this was different. Instead of focusing on Ariel, it would be the character that would become Ursula in the Little Mermaid, but with a twist.

Evie was always the outcast, which was made worse when her best friend Anna died four years ago in a tragic accident. But Evie has a secret and when she meets Annemette, who bears a striking resemblance to her friend that drowned, Evie realises she must keep more secrets from her friend Nik, the prince. Annemette cannot stay on land for long, having cast a spell to change her fin into legs that will last four days, until she can find true love with the prince. Evie will do anything to help her new friend, even if it means harnessing her magic and risking it all.

It took me a little while to read this book and I think it’s because I was going through a reading slump, which might have affected my views on this book. I really liked certain aspects of this book, especially the setting which takes its inspiration from Copenhagen and places like that. There is even a place mentioned in the book that is real, which I thought was really cool. However, this is a very slow book until you get to the last quarter and I think that is why I struggled.

I had a hard time connecting with the characters, especially the main character Evie as it is her point of view we see from. I really wanted to love this book, but it fell a little short for me. With the premise of witches having been hunted in the past and having to hide in secret, I expected more magic and for it to be darker. Unfortunately, not a lot happens in the first two thirds apart from characters having conversations and going to parties.

However, while I had mixed feelings about Evie, I really enjoyed the scenes with Nik in them because he was sweet and charming. Exactly the kind of Prince we need in a story and it was interesting to read his interactions with both Evie and Annemette. You always get the feeling that there is something off with Annemette and as the story unravels we learn more about her, which was quite the shock later on. I love a good plot twist in a story and this had plenty!

I won’t lie, I almost stopped reading this book twice, but as it was an ARC I persevered and was rewarded with the last quarter of the book. I would actually say that the wait is worth it because it was fast paced, intriguing and there was so much going on. I was actually shocked at some of the revelations and I felt that it had the perfect ending with the epilogue.

If you are thinking about picking up Sea Witch, then you need to know that it is quite slow and not a lot of action/magic happens for the majority of the book. If you are okay with that then give this a go because the ending is worth it. I struggled trying to come up with a rating for this but I think a solid 3 stars works well.

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Review: Thunderhead by Neal Shusterman

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Title: Thunderhead (Arc of a Scythe #2)

Author: Neal Shusterman

Publisher: Walker Books

Date: 3rd May 2018

I think I found it, my favourite book I have ever read. No, that’s not right. This is my favourite series I’ve ever read. I find it funny how I was wary when I started reading Scythe, mainly because I’m a fantasy girl, but this story has blown me away. Everything about it is incredible! The writing, the characters, the plot twists, and the world building is on another level. I’ve never read another series like this, and I’ve even convinced my dad to give it a try, which is a feat in itself as he doesn’t read many books. Be warned, there will be spoilers for the first book in this review of Thunderhead, but you can check out my review for Scythe here.

Thunderhead picks up a year after the events of Scythe, with Citra becoming known as Scythe Anastasia, gleaning with compassion in an unorthodox way with Scythe Curie as her mentor, while Rowan has gone off the grid, hunting down corrupt scythes under the guise of Scythe Lucifer. The Thunderhead sees all that is happening in and around the Scythedom, some of which he is pleased about and others he is not, yet he is powerless to intervene. But when it becomes clear that Citra and Scythe Curie’s lives are being threatened, the Thunderhead must decide if it should intervene in the only way it can. Greyson Tolliver has grown up under the guidance of the Thunderhead, his parents abandoning him at a young age, and the Thunderhead has plans for the boy that will make him question everything. Unfortunately for the Scythedom, there will be times where the all-powerful Thunderhead finds himself powerless to help the world that is beginning to crumble around them.

I finished Thunderhead a couple of days ago and I am still reeling from having finished it. The ending was incredible, with the last fifty or so pages filled with so many plot twists and revelations. All I could do was stare as I reached the last page and curse the fact that the third book isn’t out yet. How can I wait for so long after a cliffhanger like that? Scythe was such an incredible read and I knew it would be tough to follow it up, but somehow Thunderhead did just that. I felt that the plot was more intriguing for the second book, with so many moving pieces that I had no idea what was going to happen until it was all unfolding before me.

Something that I loved about this sequel was that we got to delve deeper into the Thunderhead and what it feels about the world and the Scythedom. This was done in the form of journal entries, replacing those in the first book that were from the scythes. We get to see more emotion from the Thunderhead and see that all it wants is the best for humanity, making it a benevolent force in the story, which is refreshing given that most AI is portrayed as being the ‘bad guy’.

Each entry gave little hints as to what was to come in the story and it really helped to expand on this incredible world that Shusterman has created. We got to travel with Citra and Scythe Curie as they were on the run from those wanting to kill them, and visit Texas, where the Thunderhead doesn’t enforce the rules, which was interesting to read about. Not only that, but we are introduced to the Unsavories, people that the Thunderhead has branded as being rebellious and a disruption to society, which has an important role to play within the story. There are also the Tonists, who we were introduced to in Scythe, and are the only religious faction left in the world who are searching for the Great Resonance.

I would say that the only downside to Thunderhead is that I didn’t get to read more about Citra and Rowan, as we had new characters making an appearance, such as Greyson. I was unsure what his role in the story would be, as it progressed quite slowly, but gradually everything began to make sense. I think that is what I love about Shusterman’s writing. He can weave a story so easily, with so much detail, and when everything finally fits together it genuinely shocks you that you didn’t see if before. There are some massive shocks in this book that I can’t talk about, because spoilers, but the stakes are so high in the sequel.

While I didn’t see as much of Citra and Rowan as I wanted to, it was wonderful to see how they had changed since the events of Scythe. Citra has become a strong woman with opinions that challenge those of the other scythes. She doesn’t back down and that is one of the things I love about her. Not only that, but we also see a different side to her relationship with Scythe Curie, one that is caring and sweet. Sacrifices are made in this book, and as heart breaking as they were, it only grew my love for the characters. Scythe Faraday also features in Thunderhead as he embarks on his own quest to discover if there is a way to save the Scythedom from destroying itself due to the corruption of the New Order scythes. While there are questions left unanswered, I am sure that the third book will give them to me.

I could go on and on talking about this book and the series. I can’t remember the last time I fell head over heels like this for a book and it is so refreshing. Arc of a Scythe is definitely a series that I could read again, which will most likely happen before the final book ‘The Toll’ comes out next year. I just don’t know how long the wait will be, considering there isn’t a final date proposed yet. However, I am looking forward to seeing what the cover for The Toll will be as the other two are some of my favourites!

Overall, this book is amazing and a worthy sequel to Scythe. If you haven’t read this series then get out there and buy them, because I can assure you that you won’t regret it! 5 out of 5 stars for me, but if I could give it more I would.

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Review: Empire of Storms by Sarah J. Maas

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Title: Empire of Storms (Throne of Glass #5)

Author: Sarah J. Maas

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Date: 6th September 2016

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Brace yourselves…this is a long one.

I finished this book a couple of days ago and I still can’t put into words how much this blew me away. It was amazing. Everything fell into place, and I couldn’t believe how it all fit together. We were reminded of events that took place back in the first book and I was just shocked at how Sarah J. Maas had planned it all. This is a series that has had so much thought put into it, and into every character that Aelin has come into contact with from the very beginning. Empire of Storms saw some of my favourites finally meeting, under some pretty tense circumstances mind you. There will probably be some spoilers from the previous books mentioned in this review.

After finally defeating the King of Adarlan and winning the throne for Dorian, Aelin sets out to Terrasen with Rowan, Aedion and Lysandra by her side, ready to face whatever waits for her. With darkness growing in Morath, Aelin knows she must build an army if she ever hopes to defeat Erawan, but the path isn’t easy. With Prince Rowan at her side, she believes she can do anything it takes, sacrifice whatever she has to. Other forces are working against her, pushing in from all sides, and Aelin realises she will have to do the unexpected if she is to keep those she loves alive.

This is a huge book and so much happens that I’m finding it hard to figure out where to start. The world building, as always, is amazing and I loved that we got to see more of Erilea in Empire of Storms. We got to see the infamous Skull’s Bay, where there a pirates and a great battle that was too awesome for words (Lysandra really shines in this part) and we get to visit the eerie Stone Marshes where Aelin’s search for help takes her. I love the descriptions and I can always picture everything perfectly.

I won’t lie though, there were some parts of this book where I was worried. It dragged for a little during the beginning to middle, where not a lot happened. Well, it kicked into an extremely high gear once I passed the halfway point and I didn’t want to put it down. There is so much action and magic being wielded by the characters, and everyone gets their chance to shine. While Aelin is incredibly powerful, and always looking for ways to extend her magic to last longer, it was great to see more of Dorian and how he has been affected by what’s happened. His magic is probably the most interesting to me, and I hope to see more of it in the future.

I love a fantasy book with good romance, and Empire of Storms has just that (with some steamy sex scenes too). I have grown to love Aelin and Rowan together (even though I was firmly team Chaol for the first two/three books) but I felt like it was too much. Rowan was a bit too clingy and always wanting to be around her, which I understand is a Fae male thing, but I didn’t like it that much. I think my favourite would be what happens between Dorian and Manon (who is my favourite character). Ever since she saved Dorian, he has had her on his mind and I loved reading their interactions. They way he calls her Witching, and she calls him Princeling, just makes me very happy. There is a little slow burn romance going on between two characters and another love to hate one, but I don’t want to spoil the fun too much.

Empire of Storms has a huge cast of characters, and if I were to talk about every one then I would be here forever (and I don’t think you’d want to hear me rambling on). Let’s start with who is probably the most important. Aelin was…a struggle for me in this book. I want to like her but she does some stupid things and isn’t a great person at times. I just found myself getting a little bored of her and I’m not sure why. Maybe it’s because I felt the other characters had more to offer. However, the revelation that was about her just blew my mind and I have no idea what is going to happen to her. I could feel how tense I was when reading and when I reached the end…well, I’m just annoyed that I don’t find anything out about what happens in Tower of Dawn because I know it’s just about Chaol.

Enter the second strongest female character in the series, Manon Blackbeak. I love her and everything she stands for. Her character arc was incredible in the book and I have loved seeing her grow as a woman throughout the last three books, and how her views on the world are constantly changing. Some shocking events took place that changed her in this book, mainly being renounced as the Blackbeak heir (but I won’t say how), and this is all about her finding out who she is and what she wants. It doesn’t disappoint and I hope to see a lot more of her in Kingdom of Ash.

We also see a lot more of Elide in this book, having escaped the clutches of Morath and journeying to find Celaena Sardothien, with a little help from Lorcan, one of Maeve’s subjects. They were very interesting to read about and I enjoyed learning more about them, especially because they are fairly new characters to the series. Then there was Aedion and Lysandra, two more amazing supporting characters. While Aedion is amazing and cares so much for Aelin, it is Lysandra who will truly do anything for her Queen. She goes through hell and proves just how strong she is, which was inspiring to read.

I don’t want to mention about the evil forces too much, mainly Erawan and Maeve, because I don’t want to spoil what happens, but I will say this…Maeve is the worst and a tyrant. What she does…I can’t even think about it. If you’ve read this book then you’ll know what I’m talking about. The second half of Empire of Storms is the best, and just kicks everything up a notch. We have a few surprise characters that make an appearance, which I wasn’t expecting, and we finally learn why all of it has been happening to the characters.

Overall, I really enjoyed this book and it really progressed the series. In a book this big, so much happens that it’s hard to talk about it all. I could probably go on for a while, but I can honestly say that I am so excited to read the next two and to find out what will happen. I just want a happy ending for some of the characters, that’s all I ask. I’m going to give Empire of Storms a solid four stars.

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Review: Ruin and Rising by Leigh Bardugo

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Title: Ruin and Rising (Grishaverse #3)

Author: Leigh Bardugo

Publisher: Henry Holt and Company

Date: 17th June 2014

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I had been waiting to finish this trilogy off since I read Siege and storm a little while ago and it was great to finally do so. Ruin and Rising was everything I wanted it to be, and the ending was perfect for me. It’s always bittersweet to say goodbye to characters, but at least I can carry on reading about the world in Six of Crows and find out more about Nikolai when King of Scars comes out next year (which I am super excited for).  As this is the third in the series there will be spoilers, as I reference events that happened previously.

After the attack in Siege and Storm, Alina and her followers have been pushed underground while the Darkling rules over Ravka. Hiding within a network of tunnels, the Sun Summoner is under the protection of the Apparat and those who worship her, but they do not know that she is broken. Unable to conjure the light, she must wait until her plan to escape takes place. She has to find the firebird, the third and final amplifier, so that she can rise against the Darkling and save Ravka. There is also the matter of finding the outlaw prince, who is said to be causing havoc above ground. A desperate race begins as they all put old rivalries aside to find the one thing that can save them all, but it will come at a cost.

After the second book, which was a little slow in places, I felt that Ruin and Rising set a great pace from the beginning, building with each chapter as we anticipate the final battle between Alina and the Darkling. You could feel the desperation of Alina and her friends, as well as the torment that they endure at the hands of the Darkling. So many lives have been lost throughout the series, and we can see how broken the world is. I’ve always loved the way Bardugo makes the world so vivid, and I think that she is a great writer. Not the best where this series is concerned (I read her collection of tales first) but I have really enjoyed the trilogy, and how each book focuses on finding one of the amplifiers.

There were definitely some unexpected events, mainly to do with Nikolai and the search for the firebird. I love that I never really knew what was going to happen and during the last 50 or so pages, when the battle was taking place, I found myself reading even quicker to find out what would happen. It didn’t disappoint in the slightest and the characters got the ending that they deserved. I also liked the way the Darkling was portrayed in this final instalment and the way we got to see another side of him (but I won’t spoil that for you).

Alina has had quite a bit of development from when we first met her in Shadow and Bone, where she was a lot weaker and didn’t always speak her mind. Now she can’t seem to stop, and while she was harsh in places it was interesting to see how she handled the power that she had. With the fate of Ravka resting on her shoulders, she became obsessed with finding the third amplifier, as anyone would in her position. She has lost a lot during the course of the series and the third book isn’t any different, with a final sacrifice that I wasn’t expecting.

Then we have Mal, a character I grew to dislike very much in the second book, but seemed to do a massive turn around in this book. While he used to be selfish and a bit of an ass, it was great to see him become more caring. It was also interesting to see Mal and Alina trying to mend their strained and slightly broken relationship. Of course, I absolutely love Nikolai, although I didn’t love some of the things that happened to him. The fact that he is getting his own series is the best news ever because I need more of his sass and charm.

The dialogue between the characters is amazing and I feel that is where Bardugo really shines. I always find myself smiling and laughing at the banter between the characters, and Zoya really surprised me as I found myself beginning to like her. And of course, we have Baghra making her appearance with her snarky comments which never fail to make me chuckle. I wished I could’ve gotten to know the other characters more throughout the series, and seen more of their interactions.

Overall, I felt that Ruin and Rising was a great way to end the trilogy, and it has made me so excited to move onto Six of Crows next. I can’t get enough of this world that Leigh Bardugo has created! This is a five star read for me!

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Review: Ace of Shades by Amanda Foody

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Title: Ace of Shades (The Shadow Game #1)

Author: Amanda Foody

Publisher: Harlequin Teen

Date: 10th April 2018

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I am so grateful that I got the chance to read Ace of Shades, and a big thank you to HQ Young Adult for approving me on NetGalley. I was sent the UK edition to review (this cover is the US one) and although I missed reading it before the release date (17th May) it didn’t stop me from really enjoying this book. I flew through this in less than 48 hours, that’s how great this story is.

Enne Salta is poised and proper, having been brought up the right way by her mother to become a lady. The last place she would ever be seen is New Reynes, the City of Sin, but that’s exactly where she needs to go. When she realises that her mother has gone missing, Enne travels to the last place that she visited, unsure of what she will find. There she asks for help from Levi Glaisyer, street lord to one of the three gangs of New Reynes, the Irons. Levi has his own motivations for wanting to help, mainly taking compensation from Enne to dig himself out of some trouble with the mafia. Mysteries begin to unravel as they visit the casinos, cabarets and alleys searching for clues, until they are led to the clutches of the mafia donna. It’s a race against time for both of them and they’ll both need to play their cards right if they’re to get out alive.

When it comes to the writing, I thought it was very well written with a great pace that kept me hooked. I loved the mystery that surrounded the characters, especially Enne, and how we were drip fed bits of information here and there, which kept me hooked and invested in the story. I am a big fan of multiple POVs in books and I really enjoyed how the perspectives switched between Enne and Levi so we got to see more aspects of the world that we wouldn’t have seen otherwise.

The world of New Reynes felt so real thanks to the descriptive writing and I definitely got Las Vegas vibes from it. The casinos and cabarets were described perfectly and I felt as though I was there with the characters, thanks to the colour and imagery. There’s a bit of info-dump in the beginning, but eventually I managed to wrap my head around the way the world works. There are three gangs that rule the streets, the Doves, the Irons and the Scarhands, and then we have the two major crime families; the Augustines and the Torrens. Each gang specialises in something unique that makes them all as deadly as each other.

The fantasy aspect of this book was so interesting. Everybody has an ability of some kind. Some only have one, but most of two with one being secondary to the other. Your surname predicts what your ability is, such as Salta, which means that you have a dancing ability. This features quite a bit in the story and makes up some of the mystery that surrounds the characters as not all is as it seems. There are also talents that are more magical, such as having an affinity for fire or being able to read minds, etc. It’s a very intriguing system that may seem complicated at first, but I can’t wait to see how it develops in the second book.

At first I wasn’t sure about Enne, but when the story got going I found myself being able to connect more with her. She definitely had great character development, especially towards the end, and it was interesting to see how she reacted to everything that was going on around her. Then we have Levi, the gang leader who isn’t anything like I thought he would be, and that’s a good thing! He was incredibly protective of those he cared about and only wanted the best for them, even if he couldn’t give it to them. In the story Levi has gotten himself into some trouble with the Torrens that he is desperate to get out of and we see that desperation grow throughout the story, bringing him down. Another fact about Levi is that he is also bisexual, which is great to see that representation in novels for people like him, and I feel it made him more interesting as a character.

I loved all the mystery that surrounded Enne’s mother, Lourdes, and the way her story unfolded. Even though she wasn’t present in the story, I still had a great idea of who and what she was through the eyes of the other characters. As with every good fantasy story, we have some great villains who are devious and wicked. The head of the Augustine family was particularly nasty with a spiteful nature that rang true. I can’t wait to find out more about these characters, especially a certain one that was introduced right at the very end.

No book is ever perfect and Ace of Shades doesn’t pretend to be. There are some things I would have liked to know more about, but I am hoping they can crop up during the sequel. Overall, I thought that this book was a fun and interesting read, with characters that intrigued me enough that I want to know more. I am going to give this a solid four stars.

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Review: Scythe by Neal Shusterman

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Title: Scythe (Arc of a Scythe #1)

Author: Neal Shusterman

Publisher: Walker Books

Date: 1st February 2018

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I finally did it. I finally found a sci-fi book that I fell head over heels for. I had heard of so many people loving this book, and while I was hesitant at first I decided to give it a try. I don’t read a lot of sci-fi, mainly because I can’t get into it, but from the get go I was hooked by Scythe. It is such a unique book, with an incredible world that feels so similar, yet foreign to us as a reader. There were little references to things we have into our world now, and Shusterman has created characters that I rooted for and that I cared about.

All of the world’s problems have been solved. There is no more hunger and poverty, no war and disease, no more pain and death. The Thunderhead has created a perfect world that is safe for everyone in it. To curb over-population the Scythedom was created, granting Scythes the power to ‘glean’ people. Due to strange circumstances, both Citra and Rowan have been chosen to become scythe apprentices under Honorable Scythe Faraday. Neither wanted this, but now they must master the art of being a Scythe in order to save their lives. For it has been decided that only one can become a fully-fledged Scythe and must glean the other.

I really enjoyed learning about how the Thunderhead came about. It was once the ‘cloud’, which I’m assuming is a reference to software we have now, and it grew to become this all-seeing thing. It has taken control from the governments who are no more, and it protects its citizens, although people are still scared of it. However, the Thunderhead has no control over the Scythedom, which is a really interesting concept given what happens in this novel.

The idea that there is no death is so strange. Of course, accidents do happen but there are revival centres that can bring you back to life. And if you reach the age of 80 and dislike the way you look, you can take a ‘turn’ and go back to being young again. Essentially you could live forever, and it made me wonder what it would be like to live in this world. Honestly, I’m not quite sure I would like it.

Scythe Faraday was a really interesting character, especially with his approach to gleaning. Each scythe has a different technique that they use to glean, and his involves a lot of data and using lots of different weapons. It’s actually quite fascinating how he chooses the people to glean by seeing the statistics of certain deaths in our day and age, then choosing someone who fits into them. He was a really unexpected character that I wish to see more of.

Something that I thought was a great addition to the story was the diary excerpts from infamous Scythes that were before each new chapter. The content in them was often reflected in the story and the people who wrote them eventually feature in the story prominently. I won’t give too much away, but those characters were so intriguing, and I hope I can find out more about them in the sequel.

Then we have Citra and Rowan. The book is mainly in their perspectives, and shows how they handle the circumstances they have been thrust into. Something happens that causes them to drift and from that point on the story is tense because we have no idea what is going to happen. Even towards the end there are plot twists that I didn’t see coming and I loved every one! I think Citra was my favourite, mainly because she was fierce and didn’t take any crap, although I felt sorry for Rowan at some points in the story.

This book is so addictive and I couldn’t get enough of the world. The ending hooked me and I couldn’t order Thunderhead quick enough! On the front cover of my edition, Maggie Stiefvater said that it was a ‘true successor to The Hunger Games’ and I agree with her. I definitely got that kind of vibe so if you enjoyed that series and love dystopian sci-fi worlds, I would recommend reading Scythe. It was so easy to give this book a solid five stars.

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