ARC Review: Ash Princess by Laura Sebastian

ash princess

Title: Ash Princess

Author: Laura Sebastian

Publisher: Delacorte Books (Macmillan Children’s Books in UK)

Date: 24th April 2018 (14th June 2018 for UK)

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I was lucky enough to have been approved to read an ARC of Ash Princess from Macmillan Children’s Books on NetGalley. While this book doesn’t come out until June, I thought it best to post my review now for those who are in the US and those who can buy the book on Book Depository. I was drawn to this because it sounded like some other YA fantasy books that I loved in the past and I wanted to see if it would live up to them. In the end I found myself really enjoying Ash Princess and while it had a few tropes (love triangle anyone?) I didn’t actually mind them. If anything, I thought it was quite refreshing.

When she was six years old, Theodosia saw her mother brutally murdered when her kingdom was invaded by a tyrant known as the Kaiser. Since then he has kept her captive and either slaughtered or enslaved her people. Whenever they tried to start rebellions he took it out on her, whipping and beating her to send a message to her people. To them she is just the Ash Princess, a mockery, but she can only keep up the pretence for so long. When her last hope dies, she seeks out revenge and with the help of her people she concocts a plan to murder the Prinz. But as she grows close to him she realises that her feelings may not be as fake as she wants them to be. In the end, only she can decide what she will do to save her people.

There are a few traits of this story that relate to another famous series, but it was also unique in its own way. It starts off a little slow, as most fantasies do, but the world is slowly built up and we gain an understanding of what happened to Theo’s home, Astrea. Sebastian creates a brutal world where there is no hope until one girl decides to fight back. Throughout the book we find out more about the world, but one aspect I enjoyed was the magic and how it came about. Some Astreans have magical powers gifted from their Gods and they are enhanced with gems that come from the mines, which of course the Kaiser would harvest for himself, even though they cannot wield the magic in the same way.

I will warn you that there are some tough topics in this book, which include abuse, slavery and hints of rape. There were scenes that were tense and horrible to read, especially towards the end of the book, but they led to Theo’s penultimate decisions. Race plays a part as well, as the Kaiser and his people are fair haired with pale skin and the Astreans have olive skin with dark hair, something that is pointed out a few times within the book.

Unable to keep the name Theodosia, she became known as Thora, as the Kaiser wouldn’t allow her to use her royal name, and instantly we know that her life is one that has been spent walking on eggshells, cowering from the Kaiser and his men, and one that was torturous. But as the story goes on we see her finding the willpower to fight back and to be stronger than she has been. There was definitely some great character development and I enjoyed seeing her embrace her heritage.

The other characters in this story were likeable, especially Cress, the daughter of the man who killed Theo’s mother, but who treated her like a sister. Their friendship was sweet in places, especially in the beginning. However, as Theo became closer to the Prinz, you could see cracks start to form. Soren, the Prinz was a complicated character. I wanted to like him, but at the same time I was always waiting for him to become his father. The love triangle enters the story with Blaise, an Astrean who lived at the palace when Theo was young. As far as love triangles go, this one wasn’t hard to stomach and I’m looking forward to the second book where I’m sure it will feature more.

Overall, I found myself flying through Ash Princess and when I was past 75% I didn’t want to stop reading! The ending was great and sets up the second book up perfectly. It will be intriguing to see what happens to all the characters and how their stories will weave in to each other. Ash Princess was a great debut and manages to reach four stars in my opinion.

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WWW Wednesday – Hitting 250 Followers!

WWW Wednesday was originally hosted by A Daily Rhythm, and was taken over by Taking on a World of Words.

I just want to start by thanking the 250 people who follow my little blog. While the number may not seem huge, I’m just grateful that there are 250 of you who care about my thoughts and feeling on books. I’m hoping to do a giveaway when I reach 500 followers because that’s my next big goal.

Also, just a little heads up. My laptop has been playing up for the last few days (it keeps freezing, coming up with an error page) so I may have to send it off to see what is actually wrong with it. If that is the case then I may not be able to blog as much, but if my sister is nice enough I can borrow hers for a little bit. So that’s how my week is going so far. However, I have been reading an amazing book I can’t wait to finish.

What Are You Currently Reading?

ash princess

I am currently 72% through this ARC and oh my, it has gotten so good! It was a little slow to start with but the plot is coming together and I love the characters, especially a few in particular. Our Main character, Thora (or Theo as we find out) has lived a terrible, sad and brutal life under the strict rule of the Kaiser, a tyrant who came and took over her land, killing her mother. I recently just read a scene where I found myself holding my breath because it was so tense. I can’t wait to read the rest of it!

What Did You Recently Finish Reading?

the oracle queen

The last book I finished was the novella called The Oracle Queen and you can find my review here. It was good for a novella and I really enjoyed finding out about this particular Queen. The Oracle Queen is a sad tale, but I didn’t feel it offered much to the story of the three Queens. Honestly, I just read it because I need something to fill in the time until Two Dark Reigns comes out later on this year.

What Do You Think You’ll Read Next?

nevernight

The next book I will be reading will be to finish off Nevernight, which I am currently a third of the way through. I put it to the side to finish Ash Princess as there is only two weeks lefts until it gets released and I want to get a review up soon. However, I have been enjoying Nevernight and cannot wait to dive back into the story again.

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I hope you have all been having a great week so far and that you’re enjoying whatever book you are reading!

Review: The Oracle Queen by Kendare Blake

the oracle queen

Title: The Oracle Queen

Author: Kendare Blake

Publisher: Macmillan Children’s Books

Date: 3rd April 2018

I am one of many people that have fallen in love with this series. It isn’t often that I will go out and buy all the novellas that are associated with a book, but when it comes to Three Dark Crowns I can never get enough. Once an email came through from Amazon asking me if I wanted to pre-order, I was as quick as lightning to buy it and then proceeded to read it in a whole day.

Throughout the series we have heard mentions of The Oracle Queen, a Queen that was driven mad by her visions and had to be locked away to keep herself from destroying Fennbirn and its people. Since then all queens with the gift of the sight have been drowned. But is the tale really what it seems? Was she as crazy as everyone made her out to be? Or was there something larger, more sinister at work?

The Oracle Queen tells the story of Elsabet and her fall from grace due to her maddening visions. However, that wasn’t the case and the truth was something I hadn’t expected. She herself was often insecure and treated poorly, especially from those she loved, and it was sad to see. I wanted to root for her, to know that everything would work out, but we all know that it doesn’t.

While we know that the politics and groups in Fennbirn are corrupt, namely the Arrons who are as awful as the recent generation, and it seems that things weren’t so different all those centuries ago. While some aspects of this were a little predictable, I really enjoyed watching the relationships between the characters play out. There is still hostility between those of differing abilities, but there were also friendships between some, especially Elsabet with her War-gifted friend.

While this wasn’t my favourite novella (I much preferred The Young Queens, which you can read about here) I did enjoy reading it. I must have if I flew through it in one sitting. If you love this series as much as I do then make sure you check it out. Overall, I am going to give The Oracle Queen 3.5 stars.

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See where it all began with Three Dark Crowns:

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Review: Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman

norse mythology

Title: Norse Mythology

Author: Neil Gaiman

Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company

Date: 7th February 2017

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Before picking up this book (or rather, switching on my Kindle) I had never read anything that Neil Gaiman had written. I have heard of him (although I didn’t realise some of the books he had written, such as Coraline) but I never thought to read his work. Everyone said how masterful he was and I figured I would get around to it eventually. Well, eventually did come around when I saw Norse Mythology on offer for £2, which is a great buy.

I have always been intrigued by mythology, especially Greek mythology, and I had a few text books that I once used for a story idea (I never finished it) and I loved reading YA inspired by it. One of my favourite adult series was Goddess Summoning by P. C. Cast, in which different Gods and Goddesses feature. When I saw Norse Mythology, I realise that I didn’t know much apart from what Marvel had taught me (which doesn’t even feature all of the God’s or even Odin’s favourite, which is Balder).

So, I dived into the stories and I loved them. People weren’t wrong when they said that Neil Gaiman is a master of storytelling. There was so much detail woven into the tales and he breathed life into them, making them so vivid in my mind. All the tales were building to the end of days, Ragnarok, and it was so interesting to see how all the parts fit together.

Thor is very different to the one that Chris Hemsworth plays. For one, he is a redhead, and the second is that he isn’t the brightest, often letting pride and ego get in the way. I loved reading about Loki and all the tricks he played, always getting himself and others into trouble, but somehow making things right again. Not to mention, I finally found out what happened to Odin’s eye and why it was gone.

Freya, one of the Goddesses, featured prominently, often put into situations thanks to the Gods, none that she was pleased about, and she often fell out with Loki. We learnt about Balder, Odin’s favourite son, who was the sun for all, and how Loki betrayed him. We learnt about how Thor’s hammer came to be, as well as other gifts given to the Gods, and I found myself wanting to read more.

While this book was very informative, written so that I thought it could have been real, it was also funny in places, with action and drama. I loved the narration that featured throughout, making it seem more real and I was able to connect with the stories. Overall, this was a great read and I think 4 stars is the perfect rating.

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Review: Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi

children of blood and bone

Title: Children of Blood and Bone

Author: Tomi Adeyemi

Publisher: Macmillan Children’s Books

Date: 8th March 2018

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It isn’t often that I buy into the hype of new books. It can be dangerous because sometimes they can let you down and not be as good as you would have hoped. That wasn’t the case for Children of Blood and Bone. This debut fantasy novel was everything I hoped it would be and more. Words can’t even describe how much I adored this book. I soaked in every detail, every page that was full of action and I have to say that it is probably the best book I have read so far this year. It isn’t often that a book goes straight into the number one spot on the NYT bestseller list.

There was once a time when magic flowed freely through the Maji in Orisha, when the ten clans wielded their powers and thrived. Then one day, the magic disappeared altogether. They were left defenceless and slaughtered by the King, wiping out all traces of their heritage. Zelie was left alone with her father and brother when their mother was killed for them to see. All hope was lost as the people kept to themselves, especially the Maji with their white hair. By chance, Zelie comes across a rogue princess who just might hold the key to bringing magic back to Orisha, and so they embark on a dangerous quest to restore it. They must outrun the prince who is hot on their trail and hell bent on following the King’s orders, before time runs out.

The world that Adeyemi has created is one of a kind, inspired by West African mythology, and the history is explained in so much detail that I felt as if I was there with the characters. The information was weaved into the story effortlessly and I never felt that I was in overload. When it comes to writing a story that is intriguing, captivating and fast paced, Tomi Adeyemi has it down to a tee. I don’t think I’ve ever flown through a book of this size so quickly (it isn’t a small book by any means with over 500 pages). And I can’t forget to mention how incredible the magic system was, and unique as well. I loved how there were different types of magic that people could specialise in as well.

Some of the history in the book is heartbreaking, especially when it comes to the slaughtering of the Maji and it has echoes of what happened in real life to African people, as well as the oppression that is still happening in the world. We are made to feel every emotion in this book and I was kept on the edge of my seat, waiting to find out if our characters were successful in their bid to restore magic.

All of the characters that feature in this book were fully fleshed out, as though they could step out of the pages and into real life. I laughed with them during the dialogue, I rolled my eyes at some of their actions and I was cheering them on. Zelie was a wonderfully strong protagonist, a fierce warrior guided by her emotions and someone I was rooting for. You could really see her growing throughout the book, learning about magic, and it was great to read about her relationships. Amari, our rogue princess, was just as great and quite a surprise later on. She really grew into herself and showed that we all have courage within us. While Amari and Zelie’s relationship was a little rocky to begin with, it was great to see the friendship blossom.

I can’t forget about the villain of the story, the King who was cruel, vindictive and awful to the people of Orisha. His son, Inan, was a tough one for me. You want to hate him, but at the same time you can’t seem to. Something I loved was the way the perspectives of the story switched between Zelie, Amari and Inan. It provided me with so much more information than I would have had if there was just one main character.

I still can’t get over this book and it’s been nearly a week since I finished reading it. I need more of this incredible world and the amazing cast of characters, especially after that ending. I have a feeling there is so much more to explore and more adventures to be had. If you are looking for a YA Fantasy story that is full of action and magic, then this is the story for you. The easiest five stars I have ever given out.

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Review: Siege and Storm by Leigh Bardugo

siege and storm

Title: Siege and Storm

Author: Leigh Bardugo

Publisher: Henry Holt and Company

Date: 4th June 2013

I started Siege and Storm as soon as I finished Shadow and Bone, because how could I not? I wanted to find out what would happen to the characters and I have to say that the second book didn’t disappoint at all. It was full of action from the get go and I felt this book was a great follow up. I cannot wait to see how it will all pan out for the characters that I have grown to love (some of them at least).

Running from the Darkling, Alina and Mal sail across the seas to make a new life for themselves, but it isn’t easy. While they had hoped the Darkling died on the Fold, they soon realise he is closing in on them and his plans have only grown more dangerous. To beat him she has to return to Ravka, with the help of a mysterious privateer who isn’t what he seems, and search for the power that can stop the Darkling once and for all…but at what cost?

As with the first, I loved the writing style that was fast paced and full of great descriptions that helped me to vividly picture the world around the characters. The story itself has been progressing nicely and the character development is there for a couple (not all) of the characters. Bardugo knows how to make you feel emotion, whether it is good or bad, and that is always a great thing. Sometimes you need to dislike characters, to roll your eyes at what they say and be annoyed by their actions (which I was when it concerns a certain love interest).

It was great to see Alina taking charge of the situation more in the second book, whereas in the first she was a little weak and moaned a lot. While there were some things I didn’t agree with, it was clear to see that she has had a lot of character growth and has become more sure of herself in her role as the Sun Summoner. The way she interacts with the other characters and Grisha was very interesting, especially the latter. She went from being the girl no one wanted to be around, to the one that would lead them.

From the end of the first book the relationship between Alina and Mal grew, but their ‘honeymoon period’ was bound to end soon. This is my least favourite romance I have read and it has to do with Mal. He wasn’t very likeable and honestly, he annoyed the hell out of me with some of the things he did that ended up hurting Alina. It will be intriguing to see what happens to them during the final book.

However, there was the introduction of a new character that I ended up really liking, and that is Nikolai. He is hilarious, a little arrogant (you find out why), but he does have good intentions. I loved the banter between him and Alina, which left me smiling and feeling warm inside. I hope we get to see a lot more of him in the final book. I can’t forget about the Darkling and his evil ways. It’s funny how I was beginning to like him in the first one and then everything just went south. I want him to be redeemable but I just don’t think it will happen. Saying that, I can’t wait to see what will happen to him, especially after that ending!

Overall, I really enjoyed Siege and Storm, and I am so excited to read Ruin and Rising, where I hope we can have a great ending to the story. I am going to give this four stars, just like the first one.

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WWW Wednesday – West-African Inspired Fantasy

WWW Wednesday was originally hosted by A Daily Rhythm, and was taken over by Taking on a World of Words.

The long Easter weekend is coming up and I am so ready for a few days away from work, catching up on sleep and going out shopping for bits for our new home. I’ve already bought a lot of stuff but I feel like I haven’t even made a dent in the list. Not to mention the fact that everything seems so expensive *crying emoji*.

I’m also going to be doing a lot of reading over the five days I have off and if I can read a couple of books I will be more than happy. And do some editing of my WIP, obviously.

What Are You Currently Reading?

children of blood and bone

I have less than 100 pages to read and I can tell you now, this is my favourite book of 2018 so far. There have been some amazing debuts already this year, but this story is special. I was hooked from the beginning by the world that is cruel and dangerous, yet mystical. The characters are incredible and I have so much love for Zelie and her journey. I can’t forget to mention that the writing is amazing, so fast paced and the descriptions are great. I cannot wait to finish it tonight (because I will stay up late if I have to).

What Did You Recently Finish Reading?

siege and storm

I finished Siege and Storm a few days ago, but have yet to write a review for it. Hopefully I can get around to it tomorrow, but I really enjoyed the second instalment and am looking forward to seeing how it all ends for the characters, especially after that ending.

What Do You Think You’ll Read Next?

As you can see, I’m a little undecided on what to read next. As much as I want to carry on with the Throne of Glass series, I really want to start ACOTAR because everyone says how good it is. I will be reading Norse Mythology on my Kindle so I just have to decide between the other two. I’m sure you’ll find out which one I chose whenever a review gets uploaded.

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What have you been reading so far this week?

WWW Wednesday – Fantastical Worlds

WWW Wednesday was originally hosted by A Daily Rhythm, and was taken over by Taking on a World of Words.

Considering I read two books last week I have been taking it a lot slower this week, mainly because I have been super busy with some personal stuff. I guess I can talk about it because it will actually be happening, but I am moving house at the end of April. My boyfriend and I just got accepted to rent a property that we really wanted and I am so excited! It’s gonna be a little stressful because we have to buy all the furniture but I am looking forward to it!

Apart from that, I’m also making my way through the working week. For our birthdays we get a gift day from work and if it falls on the weekend (like mine does this year) then we can take it either on the Friday or the Monday. I chose Friday obviously, so I can’t wait to get tomorrow out of the way.

Now to talk about books!

What Are You Currently Reading?

siege and storm

I’m still reading Siege and Storm, but I am 70% of the way through and I have a feeling I will be finishing it tomorrow. I love this world, the story and its characters. We’ve been introduced to a few new ones (I love Nikolai, he’s amazing) and I find myself smiling at the dialogue and enjoying where the story is going. I feel like there’s going to be some twists and I can’t wait to finish off the trilogy.

What Did You Recently Finish Reading?

shadow and bone

The last book I finished reading was Shadow and Bone, which was just over a week ago and you can find my review here. I can see why so many people love this series because it’s amazing and Bardugo’s writing is mesmerising.

What Do You Think You’ll Read Next?

children of blood and bone

After doing my Top Ten Tuesday post on the books I want to read in Spring, it was very difficult to choose. However, I have settled on the debut novel that everyone seems to be talking about and one that debuted in the top spot on the NYT bestseller list. I can’t wait to dive into it!

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What are you currently reading? Let me know in the comments!

Wrapping Up The Week (12th March – 18th March)

It’s been one of those weeks where it was very tiring and I needed a couple days of doing nothing towards the end of the week. I was hoping to have finished 3 books this week but instead it was only 2. I’m still happy about that though. With my birthday weekend coming up and the Easter bank holidays I am sure I’ll be getting a lot of reading done.

As you all probably know, I finished writing my novel a couple of weeks ago but I haven’t begun the editing process yet. I still have it running around in my head, thinking of new ways to change the story, to make it better. I might also be putting it off because it’s such a big task and I’m not really sure where to begin. Maybe a little research on the art of editing is in order.

Books I read and reviewed…

tokillakingdom

Even though I finished To Kill A Kingdom last week, I finally got the review up and submitted it to NetGalley as well. It was such a great read and very enjoyable, with fleshed out characters and a lot of action as well. If you’re a fan of pirates and sirens, you definitely have to check out this imaginative spin on the tale. You can check out my full review here. 

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I want to say that this is the best book I have read so far this year. Words can’t even describe how much I loved this collection of deliciously dark tales. I can’t even believe that I managed to read it all in less than 24 hours. It’s pretty much unheard of now thanks to all the responsibilities of adult life. If you would like to see what I thought, click here

shadow and bone

Once finishing The Language of Thorns I decided to move on to the Grishaverse trilogy because of how much I fell in love with the world that the fairy tales were set in. While Shadow and Bone started off a little slowly, it was very intriguing and a great introduction to this magical world. I cannot wait until I get to read the Six of Crows duology later on. Click here to check out my review in full.

I am currently reading…

siege and storm

After the ending of the first book I just had to buy the second one! I am about a third of the way through so far and it’s started off great with some action and betrayal. I am hoping that I enjoy it as much as the first, if not more, but hopefully I can finish it by Wednesday and have a review up as well.

Posts from the week…

Top Ten Tuesday: Books That Took Me Completely By Surprise

WWW Wednesday – Goodbye Reading Slump

Managing to write two blog posts as well as three reviews counts as a good week for me so I’m happy. I’m getting back into the swing of things and have a couple of ideas planned. I might start a weekly feature to talk about my writing and as it is my birthday on the 24th I will be doing a birthday blog post (and possibly show off the books I get).

My WIP…

Like I said earlier, I have taken a break from the novel that I need to edit. However…I may have had an idea for another novel…And I might have already created a Pinterest board. This always seems to happen to me when I am about to edit. Something new and shiny comes along, but this time I want to write it as well as editing my previous work. Hopefully it can offer a nice, creative break from the editing which will probably feel torturous. Also, stay tuned for a book aesthetic for the new novel idea in the upcoming week. I can’t wait to share it!

Other Fun Stuff…

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This week my boyfriend and I marathoned The Lord of the Rings trilogy and it was amazing to watch them again. It must have been years since I last saw them and I was reminded why they are one of my favourite film series ever. We watched the first two Saturday night and the last one today before football was on. We enjoyed some tasty popcorn and chocolate, and I have no regrets about the amount of calories consumed.

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And that was my week in a nutshell! I hope you all had a great one as well. Let me know what your favourite book of the week was in the comments below!

Review: Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo

shadow and bone

Title: Shadow and Bone

Author: Leigh Bardugo

Publisher: Henry Holt and Company

Date: 5th June 2012

I feel as if I am very late to this series considering it has been out for six years now, but better late than never right? The reason I decided to read the Grishaverse trilogy a go is because I keep hearing everyone talking about Six of Crows, and then I found out there’s a series beforehand and I figured it would be best to start at the beginning. Shadow and Bone was amazing. I read it all within two days and I can honestly say that I think Leigh Bardugo is one of my favourite authors now, especially after reading The Language of Thorns as well, which you can read about here.

Alina Starkov is from Ravka, a nation that was torn in two by the darkness of the Shadow Fold, a place where no light exists and creatures made of nightmares attack whoever enters. Alina is with her regiment crossing the Fold when they are attacked and her best friend, Mal, is injured. He would have been killed if she hadn’t somehow saved him with powers that had been dormant for all of her life. Once they have been discovered she is whisked away by the Darkling, a powerful Grisha who wishes to teach her their ways, for she could be the key to saving Ravka. She soon learns that nothing is as it seems and a dark force is looming in the distance.

When it comes to world building, I don’t think I’ve seen anyone do it better than Leigh Bardugo. We are thrown straight into it, with new words, places and people cropping up, but it was done in a way so that it wasn’t information overload. I loved the Russian influence on the names and the setting which made it feel very authentic and real. I became so immersed in the world that I didn’t want to stop reading. I wanted to know more and I cannot wait to see more of these incredible Kingdoms in the following books.

The magical elements of this book were so different to what I had read before and I loved how there were different types of Grisha, all specialising in certain abilities. There were Summoners, like the Darkling who conjured darkness, and there were others that could manipulate the weather. It was very interesting to see how Alina fit into the elite group after living such a mundane life beforehand, one where she was a nobody.

All of the characters in this book are wonderful in their own way and they were fleshed out so they were relatable and real. Alina was a great protagonist, with a strong voice and her character arc was great as she set out to discover who she really is. Yes, she has self-doubt and wonders whether she can be the person everyone expects her to be, but once she stops moping, she turns out to be a badass. Something else I enjoyed reading about were the other Grisha characters that feature and play a role in the story. Genya was someone who Alina grew close to and it was great to see a female friendship that was genuine.

Mal didn’t feature in the book a lot to begin with and I didn’t have much of an option of him, but it was interesting to see his relationship with Alina. The Darkling…He was the most mysterious character out of the whole book and I found myself wanting to know more. His voice was strong and intriguing, with a few twists and surprises that I didn’t expect. You can’t help but like the bad ones and he definitely has hints of that in him. And like with most good Young Adult novels there is some romance in this story and it was wonderful.

Shadow and Bone was a great story overall. While it may have started off a little slowly, the ending was amazing and made me excited to start the second book. If Siege and Storm continues on being as amazing as the first, I have a feeling it will become one of my favourites. I’m going to give this a solid four stars.

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