Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo – The Conclusion to End All Conclusions

I really don’t know how to talk about this book. Because it killed me. First of all, CW for starving, violence, death and addiction. This review will of course have spoilers for Six of Crows.

I was worried going into this because a lot of people had problems with the pacing, but thankfully I didn’t at all. Everything flowed so wonderfully. I had no idea what was going to happen next. I can’t believe the amount of twists Leigh put into this story that I had no idea were coming. I’m normally pretty good at guessing what happens next, but not with this book.

The character development is truly amazing in this. There is no loss of plot for the sake of characters. Honestly, I just felt so stressed out the whole book and thats a test to Bardugo’s skill in creating characters that I cared about. I was permanently worried about every single character. Not even just worried about deaths but about how anything was going to harm their emotional wellbeing. They’re all my kids who I hold close to my heart. I don’t know how it’s possible to create a character like Kaz Brekker. He’s so ridiculously multifaceted that I almost can’t bear it. I can’t help but love him even though he’s an evil genius.

After Six of Crows, Nina is addicted to Parem and something I absolutely adored in this book was the normalisation of addiction through this. Addiction is often shown in a bad light or treated like it’s something someone will eventually get over which is definitely not the case. People who are addicted to something will always be addicted and they’re still people, they’re not bad because they’re addicted and Bardugo really showed this through Nina.

I felt very emotional during this whole read through and I’m sad that I’m finished it because I want to feel those feelings again, and yes I can reread but obviously I won’t be reading it for the first time.

If you have any doubts about this series, don’t because it’s just absolute magic.

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Of Fire and Stars by Audrey Coulthurst – Yay F/F fantasy!!!! Boo Slow read

Denna has left her home land to get married to the man she has been betrothed to since childhood. However Denna has magic in a world that is so anti magic, and being away from home has put her in so much more danger. She needs to learn to ride a horse, leading her to spending time with the Princess Mare. But then a series of magic related killings take place.

I was in a bit of a slump when I read this. I wasn’t reading it fast enough to my liking and it just felt super sluggish. But I don’t know if that was me or if that was the book. I still enjoyed it but I feel like it took longer than it should’ve done. I will say that something about the pacing was a bit off. At times it felt like it was moving along ok and other times it was just super slow. I didn’t get that “I can’t put this down” feeling.

Whilst I did love reading a fantasy book with an f/f romance, there should definitely be more, I felt like there wasn’t enough of a burn. Obviously I knew who the romance was between so as I knew it was building, but it didn’t feel like anything was happening between the pair. It wasn’t believable for me. Maybe I personally just want more from romances in books.

The world building was great. There was heretics and illegal magic. There were different countries at war with each other and being political and everything I look for in good world building.

This is a stand-alone fantasy novel and I feel like if you’re going to do a stand-alone this is how you do it. And I’m glad it is as well because I’ve started too many series.

I felt like the characters could’ve done with a little bit more development. I think because it’s a stand-alone I couldn’t get the feel for them that I would normally get from fantasy. Denna felt a bit flimsy at times, like I wasn’t sure what she was wanting to do with herself.

In the end though, I am glad I read this because I always need more f/f in my life, especially in fantasy where it’s SO sparse.

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The Tiger’s Watch by Julia Ember – Gender Fluidity Rep Let Down by Poor Plot

I have a lot to say about this book. Thank you to netgalley and Xpresso Book Tours for a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. Please be aware that there is misgendering in this book and there is violence.

Tashi has to escape the capital as their life is in danger. They’re an inhabitor, which means they have a really close connection with an animal, to the point where they can inhabit the animals body. However when they go to a monastery it is quickly taken over by enemy forces and they decide to spy.

The world building was really good in the sense it had a really good religious system, which a lot of books skip over. The inhabitor part of this book was an interesting idea but the way it was written just didn’t read very well. I found it hard to distinguish between what was going on with Tashi and what was going on with the tiger.

Xian read really weirdly, he was complex but was just too complex. He didn’t know whether he was coming or going and it was just really annoying. Sometimes he came off really nice and then other times he was an absolute jerk, and I just can’t get behind him. It made it hard for me to read the scenes between him and Tashi.

Tashi is supposed to be in love with Pharo, who they ran away to the monastery with but it literally did not read like that at all. They never saw him or checked on him. And I get that it’s hard for them because they’re trying to be covert, but it barely felt like they liked him to be honest. It just felt completely underdeveloped.

Look, I think this book is super important because it has a gender fluid main character, but the plot could use a lot of work. I think this could be really good for people who are gender fluid, though I can’t speak for the representation, and I couldn’t find reviews from anyone who is gender fluid, but if you have read it and are gender fluid hmu and I’ll link to your review. C.W. also posted a review of this book and raised some issues about the Chinese coding of some of the characters so I would recommend checking that out.

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The Titan’s Curse by Rick Riordan – Everything’s Kicking Off

Annabeth has gone missing and it’s all kicking off. Percy and the newly awoken Thalia need to go find her with some new friends added to the mix.

I liked the change up in this novel of it not being set in the summer, it made it less repetitive. I don’t mind when novels are over the same period just a year later every time but sometimes it can get annoying.

I really enjoyed getting to know a few other demi-gods. For example we meet Thalia, Zoe and Nico who all were really well developed characters.

My one complaint with this book and generally with the PJ books as a whole up to this one is that I sometimes feel like things happen very quickly. The novels are quite short and they are made for 10-12 year olds so it’s totally fine for them to be like that. But sometimes I just wish things would last a little longer. Like some big dramatic scenes or fighting scenes are over pretty quickly, and whilst the threads are all tiedI just want more.

Overall I’m pretty happy with where this book went and I could feel the tone changing between this and the first couple. You can feel like this is the novel where you know it’s going to go pear shaped soon. Kind of like how I felt with the third Harry Potter. There was a slight change to the overall tone and I put this down and was excited to see what was going to happen next.

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Tales From the Shadowhunter Academy by Cassandra Clare, Sarah Rees Brennan, Maureen Johnson & Robin Wasserman

On the whole I really liked this anthology of Simon at Shadowhunter Academy stories, spoilers if you didn’t know Simon is a shadowhunter. I wasn’t sure how I’d feel about other people writing CC’s characters along with her but I think in this context it really works because it’s a different point of view to her other books and often there were little historical stories within each story that explained some lore.

The two stand outs were The Whitechapel Fiend and Born to Endless Night. I think because it mixed the stories of other characters that I knew in with Simon’s experiences. The Whitechapel Fiend really got me going because it was a little snippet into Will, Jem and Tessa’s lives after the events of Clockwork Princess and I’m always wanting more about those characters because I really fell in love with them. And Born to Endless Night is all about Magnus and Alec and it was so darn sweet that I just couldn’t deal with it.

Some of the stories were a little on the weirder side, like The Evil We Love which was about Robert Lightwood and reading the parts about him I felt very meh but it was intermingled with stuff that was going on with Simon and Izzy.

There were some pretty sad stories but it helped me understand a lot more of the politics in the world. And though I haven’t read it I’m aware that Lady Midnight deals with a lot of the political stuff so I feel like I’ve made the right decision by reading this first to prepare me.

This book also introduced a few new characters, one of the most memorable with George Lovelace. He was so loveable. He’s Scottish and I enjoyed reading him, which I don’t say often as a lot of authors really screw up Scottish characters, but he worked. He made me laugh a lot and he did actually feel Scottish. I commonly find reading characters who are supposedly Scottish just feel like the author has just thrown that in as a quirk and they don’t have traits that as a nation of people we have.

Though this is an anthology the main story of it is linear and so I’m just going to say that the end had me so upset I could see it coming but I was in denial and I don’t think I’ll forgive CC for it.

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Flame in the Mist by Renee Ahdieh

Thank you to netgalley and Hodder and Stoughton for a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. This was also the fairyloot book for May so I was inundated with copies, but I’m not complaining. The cover for the UK paperback has just been revealed as well and I kind of need it to be honest.

After Mariko is attacked in the forest on her way to meet her future husband she assumes a disguise of a male to find out who wants her dead and why and takes up living in the forest with a band of thieves.

This was probably one of my most anticipated books of the year and whilst it wasn’t a favourite it was really good. I really liked the main characters and the world building. It felt really cohesive and Ahdieh had put a lot of thought into the world. I find this applaudable in authors when they write very different fantasy world’s but have such good world building, as I’m aware Ahdieh’s other series is more Middle Eastern in inspiration and this is East Asian/mainly Japanese inspired. The magical parts really intrigued me as we don’t get to see much of it in this novel but there is definite murmurs of it and a bit of build up.

There was some mix up with the PR with this book where some people thought it was a Mulan retelling, which it isn’t, it has some inspiration taken from Mulan and there were definitely a couple parts that I picked up on this and really enjoyed when I realised. Like the scene in Mulan where she’s bathing and the guys all come along, that makes somewhat of an appearance.

There was a lot of Japanese terms in this book but Ahdieh presented then well enough that I rarely found myself going to the glossary because her writing gave enough context for the reader to understand exactly what she meant.

At times the book did feel a little bit slow, but it wasn’t hard to read. The pacing varied a bit so some parts I flew through and some parts were a bit heavier. Now I don’t have a problem with this but I just wanted to note it.

I cannot wait for the next book because I have no idea what’s going to happen but I know there’s gonna be some wild magic stuff in it.

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The Epic Crush of Genie Lo by F.C. Yee

This is one of the most fun books I’ve read all year. Thank you to netgalley and Abrams Kids for sending me a copy in exchange for an honest review.

Genie is focussing on getting into college until the new kid in school, Quentin, starts telling her all these wild tales about how she’s actually a powerful mythological entity. Of course Genie is very hesitant to believe him, but soon demons start popping up and she’s pretty much forced to realise Quentin isn’t lying.

The thing that really stood out about this book was how unapologetic it was about its Chinese influence. It’s entirely based on Chinese mythology so I think it’s the kind of book Chinese readers have been waiting for for a long time. But it never feels inaccessible, not that there’s anything wrong with books that are because some books are written specifically for people of a certain grouping to read and not for everyone and that’s ok, as a white reader who doesn’t really know much about Chinese mythology this was so easy to read. It was understandable and funny and explained background really well without feeling like as a reader I was being taught.

Genie is such a bomb character. She kicks butts of these hugely powerful demons between going to class and preparing for college.

Yes this book is a bit sill but that’s the whole point. It never takes itself too seriously, I mean how serious can you get with kids fighting demons in their school uniforms. In that respect it reminded me a whole lot of Sailor Moon.

I loved that this was set in the Bay Area because it made some of the more ridiculous moments of the novel even funnier. You have the image of these school kids beating up huge demons all with this metropolitan American city by the sea as the backdrop.

If you haven’t added this book to your TBR please do so because it’s one of the better books I’ve read this year.

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Gemina by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff

I took a break from this book halfway through as it was a library book and I wasn’t going to take it to Asia with me.

Hanna is the spoilt daughter of a ship’s captain and Nik is her drug dealer but when the ship gets attacked by an elite strike team Hanna and Nik are some of the only passengers left on the ship. Somehow they will need to use their teenage strength and resources to take the ship back before a wormhole opens in the middle.

I didn’t like this as much as Illuminae, partially because I found the main characters unlikeable. Not like in an unlikeable character way in that you like them even though they’re unlikeable, these two just annoyed me. I did like the space mob aspect and the kidnapped ship idea. And as the bad guys were dying we get a crossed off data file with their faces each time which was actually really good and helped build anticipation as they were gradually picked off.

What I thought was really good was that throughout my read of this this felt like more of a thriller than Illuminae. Due to certain aspects of the plot there was this constant feeling of doom because you knew there was something still lurking that could completely throw everything up in the air. However there were some twists that weren’t really twists as they felt like rip offs from Illuminae.

I absolutely adored when the cast of Illuminae were brought in especially Kady and AIDAN but man alive when they were brought in the book got so damn confusing.

Whilst the story was fairly easy to read because the format was so snapshot-y, told in all data files again so it was good to pick up and put down, it did get confusing sometimes and I felt like some of the action scenes could’ve used a little more work.

The one note I made to myself when reading was “laughing hysterically”, so at some point I found something in this absolutely hilarious but I have no recollection what, so there you go.

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The Bone Season by Samantha Shannon

I saw a lot of hype on this book and my friend Den recommended it to me so I decided to pick it up. And I have seen a lot of discussion on the possibility of there being a slave/master relationship and it’s a very difficult concept in this book as there’s so much more to it than that, however if you are not a fan of a slave/master relationship be careful with this book, it isn’t exactly that type of thing but certain parts could trigger you.

Paige is a clairvoyant in London, 2059 where it is illegal to be a clairvoyant. She works for the criminal underworld as that’s all she can really do without risk of being caught, though it comes with it’s risks regardless. One day she’s unlucky enough to be on a train with a raid and gets caught. But instead of dying she is taken to Oxford, which has been the home of aliens called Rephaites for 200 years as they’ve been gradually taking more clairvoyants.

This book was super complicated, it felt like I was reading a high fantasy even though it was more sci-fi/dystopian/paranormal, but for all the different jargon and terms I had a hard time remembering what everything was. The world building is incredible an there’s so much in it that it really does feel like it’s own world and not a variance of our own world but it is a bit hard to wrap your head around at times. It did take me about half the book to figure out what the deal was, though I don’t know if that was because I was reading it in Asia or not.

Whilst I remembered the main characters easily enough there were a lot of side characters and I found it really hard to remember who each of them were. Especially once Paige had moved to Oxford.

Whilst there was no romantic relationship between Paige and her owner, Warden, in this novel I could see it being built up which kind of annoyed me because it’s not necessary to always have a relationship just because they’re the main 2 characters. Never mind the fact that their relationship is so complicated, him being her owner after all. But as you go through the novel you find out that things are even more complicated and Warden isn’t exactly like the rest of his kind. This obviously doesn’t nullify the problematicness (is that even a word?) of the relationship being in fiction with the past the world has had with slave and owner relationships. I think it’s up to you where you stand on the issue, I’ve had POC friends find it really offensive and some who have adored it.

I’m scared to jump into the next book because I’m currently not really in the mood to read it but I worry if I leave it too long I’ll forget everything that happened in this book.

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The Diabolic by S.J. Kincaid

I got this book from the library as it was so hyped up last year but I wasn't sure if I would enjoy it as much as I hoped but man I did not expect this to be as good as it was. I don't read a lot of sci fi so hey maybe it's not the most original thing ever but it read as pretty original to me.

In The Diabolic the world allows for humans to be grown in labs to become killers, that's what Nemesis is. However these humans are made illegal and Nem's owner is supposed to kill her, but instead they send her to the capital pretending she is Sidonia, her owner and best friend in an effort to hide her in plain site and also to protect Sidonia.

For such a short book in terms of it's genre this book is so full of twists and turns you'll be gasping incessantly. You won't know who to trust, you think you know a character but you don't. And I would say this had some really good writing because I could not see some of the twists coming, and I watch a lot of drama and crime shows on tv because of my parents so I'm normally pretty good at guessing twists.

I think what I really enjoyed about this book was the subtle little hints about a romantic subplot that if you weren't paying attention you would miss them until it began to build up. I could see it happening and it was so good to read it becoming part of the plot more and more and I think that's just really great writing.

On top of this, I know this isn't something that should be celebrated and should just be human decency but we all know not all humans are decent, there was language that was just generally trans inclusive. Instead of asking someone what gender they were someone asked someone what gender they identified with. And I just found it really good to see language like that being used in fantasy when so many people make fantasy worlds that basically just ignore trans people (cough SJM cough).

The world building was fantastic. It didn't focus much on location and scenery but focused on building the political landscape. I really felt like a got a good grip of what kind of a world this is set in. Even though I don't know what it looks like, but often I find it hard to imagine anyway and I find the political climate or having a well established power authority or religion helps me understand the world much better.

I'm actually desperate to find it what happens in the rest of the series. I was kind of sad to find that the book was a series and not a standalone though because the ending would've been a really solid ending for a standalone but hey ho. If this is how the author wants to tell her story I'm still interested.

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