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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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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A Court of Wings and Ruin by Sarah J. Maas

Honestly if you loved ACOMAF don't even bother reading this because it's about 500 pages of waffle and not much else. I was so hyped up for this book when I finished ACOMAF because I had no idea what was going to happen, but then there was a lot of discussion in the community about SJM and her lack of diversity and I gradually felt less and less excited. But when the book came out and arrived at my door I was still anticipating what would happen and how it would end.

And the end was good. The last 150 pages or so were really enjoyable. It's just a shame that the majority of the book prior to that was just a lot of nothing. I love Feyre and Rhysand but there was just so much couple stuff from them that did not need to be there. I found myself rolling my eyes a lot. I feel like Maas has the kind of style that after a while begins to feel pretty repetitive. You seem to notice the same phrases used a lot and whilst it's good to have a grasp on your own style you need to find a balance.

Maas began to pair up everyone as it was coming to a close and for some reason a lot of mainstream fantasy writers do this. They can't bear to have single characters left. What I did find interesting though was that there was unrequited love from one of the guys as Mor comes out as being a lesbian at the end of the novel, or it read like that but I was a bit confused as to what she considered herself. If you consider this a spoiler fight me, people's sexualities are not spoilers. And whilst I was glad that she wasn't straight it kind of felt like Maas was doing it just for the sake of it.

There is a character in the book who is bi though he is not one of the main 6 it's still good to have representation. But I saw a lot of comments on how he as a character was too stereotypical of bi people as he slept around a lot and had threesomes and I completely understand the criticism but that doesn't mean it's not ok to be bi and sleep around. The problem is that Sarah is not bi herself or at least hasn't came out as bi so for her to have a character with that stereotype as opposite to an own voices author writing from experience is harmful.

Something I was quite glad of in this book was that Maas had clearly listened to criticism a little bit and had clarified that the Illyrians were not white and had darker skin. Obviously it's a bit too late on that front but at least it was mentioned at some point. Just a shame it was in the final book and people might have given up on the series before this point.

I still loved the characters they still felt true to themselves and I loved seeing Feyre grow into her powers more and feel better about herself and her place in the Night Court. I also enjoyed getting to see characters from different Courts are the previous 2 books had mainly focussed on Spring and Night. I liked getting to see the different personalities and attitudes cultivated by living in different places.

Honestly I don't think I'm going to buy the next 3 books in this series as I just don't have an interest anymore. Which makes me sad because ACOMAF was so good but oh well.

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The Shadow Queen by C.J. Redwine

This is a retelling of Snow White where the huntsman is a dragon and Snow White is an enchantress. 

There was so much potential with this book but I just spent the majority of it bored. I normally write my reviews like a month or 2 after I finish reading because I have such a build up but also it’s good because it lets me stew things over but I genuinely can’t remember some of what happened in this book. I just feel like I was on autopilot reading it. 

The MC was just so up herself, like think Celaena Sardothien except can’t actually do any fighting but acts like she’s the best ever. 

I felt like the main villain wasn’t scary in terms of she didn’t truly feel like it she fought the MC she wouldn’t really be hard to beat. Her actual villain qualities were how evil she was and manipulative she was. 
One thing that I just felt really agitated about was that all the names for magic and places were just unnecessarily confusing and long. When you have a super long glossary you know you need to chill out with it. It’s one thing to have some weird names but ones that are literally unpronounceable is just trying too hard. 

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A Torch Against the Night by Sabaa Tahir

If you’ve read An Ember in the Ashes but haven’t got around to this yet I’m just going to warn you that this book features genocide. If scenes of that nature or talking about it upsets you, you should be aware before reading because it’s brutal. There’s also torture and a bunch of other possible triggers so please be aware and if you want info ask me.

Where the first book was very much about the military parts of the world and getting to know how the world worked politically, this book was about really beginning to get a feel for the magic system, through the absolute nightmare happening to the people.

I felt like I finally really got a feel for the characters in this book. I don’t think I’ve ever felt so bad for a character as I have for Helene Aquilla; she has to hunt down the boy she’s in love with so she knows he’s okay but somehow along the way figure out a way to keep her job and family in tact that doesn’t require her killing Elias. Elias has to try and figure out how to beat his mother whilst he is slowly dying. And Laia is along with him trying to just live while the rest of her race are being murdered in cold blood. This book is not your nice teen fantasy, there is so much heavy stuff going on. It took me a while to read just because I had to keep putting it down and taking a breath.

The magic system in this book was honestly so strange. Like it felt like magical realism inside a high fantasy world at times. It was dark magic that wasn’t just commonly used, it wasn’t a system I was used to. It mostly dealt with death and destruction whist was really interesting to read.

For a lot of this book I felt it was moving quite slowly but then the end happened and it just completely threw me and I needed to read it all. I’m not really sure about the pacing to be honest, but I’m now desperate to read the next book after it was left off the way it was.

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Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo

How do you write a review of a book which means so much to you?

This book is all based around a heist made by 6 teenagers in order to get a sum of money beyond their wildest dreams. The problem is, despite these kids being incredibly sneaky the place they need to break into is like Alcatraz and is apparently impossible to break into.

The characters in this book meant so much to me. You have Inej who is POC and believes in her religion without embarrassment. Kaz is like the biggest bad boy around but he has such a troubled past and he continues to be a kingpin of the underworld even though he has no family left and has a limp. Nina is also POC and she takes no shit and is such a boss character and I just felt such a connection to her. There also some same sex flirtation and a bi/pan character. They’re so diverse but I felt like I could connect to all of them even if they had a different background to me. Normally when you have a book with multiple points of view you can find yourself leaning more towards other certain characters chapters and feel like you skip some character’s chapters to get to other but I didn’t have that problem with this. I enjoyed every characters POVs, even the characters I wasn’t as fond of.

At times there was some really smart twists that Bardugo had obviously spent a lot of time planning this book. Though I have to say I felt like I guessed them before they happened but I think that was probably just me, or really good foreshadowing. I watch a lot of TV with plots and twists, and obviously you know if you’ve been following me a while that I like fantasy novels so I feel like I’m actually pretty good at guessing what’s going to happen next, more than the average reader anyway.

This book read like a teenagers Ocean’s Eleven. Everything was so planned, down to even minute details that Kaz felt like Danny Ocean. Confusing even the people who were on his side because he was just always 2 steps ahead of everything else. And because of this I really felt like the pacing was really good.

One random thing I noted to myself when readig was that I absolutely adored the descriptions of Ketterdam. I felt like I could so vividly imagine it, like the leaning buildings and the dirt filled streets. It was like a movie in my mind at times.

I don’t know if I can bring myself to read Crooked Kingdom because I don’t think I’m ready for it. But I’m also dying to read it.

I don’t need to tell you to read this book because I’m sure it’s already on every single one of your TBRs since it’s been one of the most hyped up books in YA in the past couple year’s. But it’s hyped for a reason and I hope if you were umming and ahhing about whether to buy it that my review has swung you.

 

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An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir

I loved this book. I loved the characters. I loved the writing style. I loved the world. I just loved it.

In order to save her brother’s life after he is arrested for treason Laia makes a deal with the rebellion to become a slave to spy for them so they will find him. Elias is in training to be the governments version of police but no longer believes in the cause and wants to leave but can’t due to his family. The two find their lives intertwined in more ways than they think.

I don’t understand how this is a debut. It’s so good?

I really loved the characters in this book. Every single person was so well developed, the main villain was so believable I wanted her dead. It’s hard to get me to feel like that about a villain, many have redeeming factors but the commandant didn’t have any. She’s an awful person and that’s only highlighted by the way she treats her son. I loved how Elias was a bit morally grey at times, he obviously wants to get out of the life he’s living but to begin with didn’t seem to have the ambition to do so and it was great to see him grow. He was my favourite POV to read from because not only did you have his internal struggles but you also got to see him taking part in the trials and the few fantastical elements. It made me excited to see where Tahir goes with it as I enjoyed getting to get little snippets of the magic without being overwhelmed. There was times where Laia was really naive but she grew from her errors and you could really feel her need to save her brother. She isn’t your typical “strong” female YA lead, she’s strong in her own way but she’s not a bold character, she’s not a big fighter, itwas really nice to read a character like that.

THE PACING WAS SO GOOD. It wasn’t ridiculously fast that it missed or skipped over things but it wasn’t slow. It slowed down when it needed to slow down it sped up when it needed to. I could not put it down.

There was romance but it wasn’t central the plot in anyway, it just happened and was a thing but didn’t become to the only thing that was important. Tahir could’ve made it so much more but didn’t preferring to focus on the actual story and I really respect her for that.

The world building was so good, I could perfectly imagine everything. As I previously said I loved getting to see the magic in little ways instead of being thrown in the deep end. I also really liked learning about the different lands beside the one focussed on in this novel, I can tell that in A Torch Against the Night that there is probably going to be travelling to the different lands and getting to see the cultures hinted at. There were some really horrible themes dealt with in this novel, like slavery and rape but it never once felt like Tahir was glancing over them, they were shown in a bad light and never romanticised. This world is brutal, it’s so violent but that’s part of the world.

I went to my library when I returned it and was like “so hey do you have the sequel in stock if not ORDER IT NOW”.

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The Black Prism by Brent Weeks

What an interesting world Brent Weeks has built with this world. I want to read the rest of the series but the books are so big that I just can’t hack it right now, but I just want to see what else happens.

The Prism, Gavin Guile, finds out he has an illegitimate child which could literally throw everything in his life into a state of flux. On top of that there is rising frustration in one of the kingdoms towards the ruling power and means that Gavin is heading into a war.

Something I really loved about this book was how women are regarded in the world. They aren’t just side characters, they hold most of the power. Generally women have better powers and are better respected, the only man who is in a big position of power is Gavin himself and that’s only because he’s the Prism. ON TOP OF ALL THIS there is talk of periods (you know I love talk of periods) and not just “oh yeah I’m bleeding” but diarrhoea, cramps, fainting, the things that the majority of people who have a period go through. AND there’s a bit of female masturbation. It’s clear that Weeks isn’t afraid of women like some male writers are, he isn’t afraid to think of women being involved in things that are “taboo”.

Another thing that was kind of different from the norm was our token “chosen one” type character, Kip, was a fat kid. You never see that. I really liked reading the scenes where he struggled with something due to his weight or inactiveness, it presented issues that aren’t usually found in fantasy books with big quests etc. because it’s always people who are skinny or fit.

There is so much humour in this, I was killing myself laughing at times. Some of it is dark, some of it is smart and some of it is just silly but it made me read through so much more enjoyable.

There’s so many well thought out characters and everyone had their own voice. I find with many high fantasy reads the author gets so bogged down in creating millions of character (*cough* GRRM *cough*) and as a reader it can be really hard to remember every single person. With this book I didn’t struggle with that. Yes there was a few characters, but there wasn’t too many, and the important ones really stood out and I knew exactly who they were.

There’s so many damn twists and turns in this book I never know what was going to happen next. So many times I sat there going WTF. I often can see twists before they happen but man so many of these left me reeling. It made reading even more satisfying.

This was another book with a huge spider in it WHY

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Sabriel by Garth Nix

If you want classic YA fantasy, Sabriel is one of the first ones to come to mind. Garth Nix has been in the YA game for what seems like centuries, so I thought I would finally give one of his books a go.

Sabriel’s father, Abhorsen, has crossed to the other side and Sabriel, despite being a teenager and never having done anything of the manner must journey into The Old Kingdom on her own to clue together exactly what has happened to her dad and

One thing I really found interesting about this book was the world. It’s split in 2 separated by only a wall but the 2 places couldn’t be any different. On one side you have Ancelstierre, which I imagine is something like early 1900s earth, but we don’t really see much of it, and on the other we have The Old Kingdom which is like your classic High fantasy kingdom, medieval kind of style with magic and monsters etc. The world building was absolutely fantastic, I could imagine everything perfectly

This felt slow at times, it was a bit heavy going. The writing was really good but at times I needed to read things over a couple of times just to figure out what was actually happening.

I loved all the characters, Nix created a wonderful cast of people. Everyone had a really strong voice and I found it funny often, mainly Mogget’s interactions with everyone, it was so sarcastic and I loved it.

There’s a few twists and turns that were expected or not expected but even when I did expect them it was fun when the reveal happened.

Looking at other reviews I’ve seen a general feeling of enjoying it but feeling a kind of disconnect with it which I guess is how I feel. I could have really loved this book but something just didn’t feel quite right about it (not that there’s anything wrong just that it wasn’t right with me). I’m definitely going to continue with this series but I’ll be expecting more out of it the further the series goes.

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