The Wrath and The Dawn by Renee Ahdieh

I saw a lot of buzz from this book on booktube last year and then I read Flame in the Mist and felt like I had to read this series because I really liked Ahdieh’s writing, so I was preemptively excited. And whilst it didn’t quite live up to the hype this was still an enjoyable read.

content warning: whilst I wouldn’t consider their sexual relationship as rape, it could be trigger if you are a victim of sexual abuse, death, uhhhh I’ve forgotten what else there is but if you’re interested and have a trigger, message me and I’ll look into it for you!

Every time the Caliph, Khalid, takes a new wife she is found dead the next morning. Shazi decides that she will be the next bride after her best friend is killed, in a move that she plans to use to take vengeance. To put off getting killed Shazi tells the Caliph a story every night. But there is more than meets the eye with Khalid and slowly Shazi begins to discover that he isn’t the murderous brute she believed him to be.

The best part of this for me is the world building and the writing. The writing itself isn’t poetic, flowery or anything like that, it’s pretty to the point but it was sooo easy to read, and I read it so quickly that I had to read the novellas and take the second book out from the library immediately. The characters are super fleshed out as well. Shazi is a kickass lead who I loved reading from, Khalid is super dark and interesting and whilst I’m mixed about how I feel about him as a romantic leadI loved reading about him and his inner turmoils. I also just loved Jalal, he’s the perfect side character, who cares about the good of everyone involved.

I honestly don’t know how to explain my feelings about the romance in this book. It could be described as insta-love as it happens over the span of a few weeks, but because there is so much happening it feels like longer. On top of all that you have the weird way they have entered the relationship, knowing full well that every woman he has married has died. They have sex a few times before romance even happens, and for both of them it’s very much like procedural, they do it because they feel like they have to, it’s never romanticised at this point. There’s even a point where he asks if she wants to have sex and she’s like “we’ve done it before”, but he still asks. I just have very confused feelings. I was very wary of the sexual relationship before the romantic relationship that I have flagged every time they had sex prior to beginning to like each other, so again if you need warnings or anything let me know and I’ll read over these pages to make sure what’s involved.

One thing I would say is that if the story this is based on is a story you grew up knowing you might not want to read this as Fadwa told me that it’s changed a lot from the original story and what she’d heard about it she didn’t like so just bear that in mind.

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The Belles by Dhonielle Clayton | Blog Tour | Review

Synopsis

In the opulent world of Orléans, the people are born grey and damned, and only a Belle’s powers can make them beautiful. Camellia Beauregard wants to be the favourite Belle – the one chosen by the queen to tend to the royal family.

But once Camellia and her Belle sisters arrive at court, it becomes clear that being the favourite is not everything she always dreamed it would be. Behind the gilded palace walls live dark secrets, and Camellia soon learns that her powers may be far greater – and far darker – than she ever imagined.

THE BELLES is the book Dhonielle always wanted to write, a must-read critique of the way teenage girls are taught to think about beauty and body image.

Review

CW: death, people disillusioned with their own looks, mental illness.

I really enjoyed this book. The writing style fits perfectly, a lot of the time I struggle with fantasy because the writing style is too heavy, which is fine if you have the time for it, but I don’t. This isn’t full of flowery language or huge off-shooting paragraphs, it’s straight and to the point and I loved it.

Clayton writes the novel in a way that to begin with you’re a bit confused but she slowly lets you into the world until you completely understand what it’s about and what’s going on without having a big explanation chapter or being taken out from the story to be explained to. My one problem came from this though as I felt that because of the way it was done, the pacing struggled a bit. The last half of the novel was super fast paced but the beginning didn’t have much going on. However I feel like this makes it a really good first novel in a series, I think the next book is going to be super involved and have a lot going on.

The way Clayton wrote the world I am desperate to read more about it. I want to know more about the Belles, I want to find out how the world got to be the way it is, I want to know why people are born grey and discovered how Belles and Arcana existed.

I liked Camille enough, despite growing up in an oppressive environment where you are supposed to do just what you are told she goes against the grain. The character I loved the most, however, was Sophia, she was terrifying. She’s one of the most convincing villains I’ve read in a while. She’s only a teenager but she’s so unbalanced that you literally have no idea what she’s going to do next and it’s actually really scary.

Something else that stood out to me in this novel was how seamlessly LGBT+ characters were in it. People just spoke completely off the cuff about same sex relationships. This shouldn’t be a big thing, but for fantasy this is rare and it made me happy to see that in my favourite genre.

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Thank you to Stevie Finnegan for arranging the tour!

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Empress of a Thousand Skies by Rhoda Belleza

Princess Rhiannon Ta’an is about to become the Empress, but the night before her coronation someone tries to assassinate her. The rest of the world thinks she is dead but knowing her life is in danger she goes into hiding letting the world continue to think this as she figures out who tried to kill her. Alyosha is framed for the murder and also has to go on the run.

I really liked the dual POVs, we all know that multiple POVs can sometimes not work out and you end up hating on of them but this wasn’t the case with this book. Both characters were good to read from and Belleza wrote the chapters really well that every time the POV switched it was on a cliffhanger so you couldn’t put it down. It made the reading experience really fun.

The book is short-ish. I’m used to books of this genre being long, sometimes unnecessarily. Even though it is short it doesn’t feel like it, like it doesn’t feel like it’s going super fast and skipping details and it felt like it told the story it needed to tell and didn’t draw anything out.

This book is diverse and so well built. The cultures are super well constructed, there’s religion, different planets, different politics.

For a debut novel I’m impressed and I’m excited to read the sequel and see how Belleza’s writing progresses.

I really did like this novel and it did live up to the hype. It wasn’t a favourite and I think that’s just because it didn’t have that wow factor that I need from a fantasy/sci-fi Book.

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Invictus by Ryan Graudin

Thank you to netgalley and Orion for sending me a copy in exchange for an honest review. This was one of my most anticipated books of the year as I really enjoyed the Wolf by Wolf series from Graudin. And it didn’t disappoint.

Invictus follows a boy who was born out of time whilst his mother was travelling between centuries so he has no birth date which causes him a whole load of problems. When he doesn’t qualify to become a time traveller he takes matters into his own hands and finds a crew and a benefactor and goes time travelling himself. But then he comes upon a strange girl and his world starts unravelling… literally.

So if you are into paradoxes, time travelling and alternate universes then this is for you. At times this book was super confusing but not in a bad way, but in a way you felt a kinship with the characters. They didn’t know what was happening and I didn’t know what was happening.

I don’t really have any feelings for Far, the main character, I didn’t dislike him but I didn’t really particularly like him. What stood out for me were the side characters. They were so wonderful and well balanced. Priya was this wonderful, intelligent young woman who really was a huge driving force in my read of this novel. One thing that really stood out to me was that Priya was still very much involved in her cultural roots, this can be put to the side in futuristic novels as a lot of authors like to imagine a world where we all live irrespective of backgrounds which I personally think is a ridiculous notion. Also Graudin wrote “chai” instead of “chai tea” which just made me happy because chai tea is incorrect and just means tea tea.

Along with Priya my other favourite character was Gram, a geeky black boy who was pretty anxious and liked to keep to his technology but was an absolute sweetheart. There was an awareness I felt was obvious in this novel that Graudin knew she was writing POC time travelling and could get into some awkward and possibly racist situations, similar to Passenger by Alexandra Bracken. It can be easy for white authors to just ignore that kind of thing when writing POC characters because it isn’t something they’ve had to deal with.

My main issue with this book was the pacing. The first half was pretty slow and a bit heavy going whereas the second half was really fast paced. I don’t mind slow or fast but I’d rather have a consistent pace throughout.

I think this is a standalone novel and whilst I do love standalone novels for the lack of commitment involved compared to series, I would love to delve into this world more.

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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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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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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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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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