Friday, 3 September 2021

Review: Terciel and Elinor by Garth Nix

In the Old Kingdom, a land of ancient and often terrible magics, eighteen year-old orphan Terciel learns the art of necromancy from his great-aunt Tizanael. But not to raise the Dead, rather to lay them to rest. He is the Abhorsen-in-Waiting, and Tizanael is the Abhorsen, the latest in a long line of people whose task it is to make sure the Dead do not return to Life.

Across the Wall in Ancelstierre, a steam-age country where magic usually does not work, nineteen year-old Elinor lives a secluded life. Her only friends an old governess and an even older groom who was once a famous circus performer. Her mother is a tyrant, who is feared by all despite her sickness and impending death . . . but perhaps there is even more to fear from that.

Elinor does not know she is deeply connected to the Old Kingdom, nor that magic can sometimes come across the Wall, until a plot by an ancient enemy of the Abhorsens brings Terciel and Tizanael to Ancelstierre. In a single day of fire and death and loss, Elinor finds herself set on a path which will take her into the Old Kingdom, into Terciel’s life, and will embroil her in the struggle of the Abhorsens against the Dead who will not stay dead.

📌 Publication date: 02/11/2021
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Sabriel was one of the first YA fantasy books I read. I read it so long ago that I can't remember a lot about the plot, but I do recall really enjoying it. Terciel & Elinor is the prequel and it centers around Sabriel's parents. It gave me old school YA fantasy vibes, and I found it to be equally enjoyable. 

Terciel & Elinor is essentially about two awkward teens trying to find themselves and their place in the world. Both are easy to root for as they find themselves facing down an enemy, who will be familiar to those that have read Sabriel. It also features the ever mischievous, Mogget!

While it didn't blow me away, it was still a comforting read. Perfect for autumn/winter. 


Wednesday, 11 August 2021

Review: The Color of Dragons by R.A. Salvatore & Erika Lewis

Magic needs a spark.

And Maggie’s powers are especially fickle. With no one to help her learn to control her magic, the life debt that she owes stretches eternally over her head, with no way to repay it.

Until she meets Griffin, the king’s champion infamous for hunting down the draignochs that plague their kingdom.

Neither has any idea of the destiny that they both carry, or that their meeting will set off a chain of events that will alter every aspect of the life they know—and all of history thereafter.

📌 Publication date: 19/10/2021
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Described as a "romantic pre-Arthurian tale of the origins of magic and Merlin" The Color of Dragons was a quick and easy read. 

The book alternates between Maggie and Griffin's point of view. Maggie was a bit of a frustrating character. We're told she has street smarts, but throughout the the book she just throws herself recklessly into situations without thinking. Griffin was Maggie's opposite, complementing her perfectly. 

The world building was enough for me to get a general picture of the land. Plus, the magical ability Maggie had that was tied to the moon was interesting. However, if you're reading this for the dragons I personally found it a bit underwhelming in that aspect.  

While The Color of Dragons doesn't bring anything new to the YA fantasy genre, I found it to be a fun, if not forgettable read. 



Tuesday, 6 July 2021

Review: Witchshadow by Susan Dennard

War has come to the Witchlands . . . and nothing will be the same again.

Iseult has found her heartsister Safi at last, but their reunion is brief. For Iseult to stay alive, she must flee Cartorra while Safi remains. And though Iseult has plans to save her friend, they will require her to summon magic more dangerous than anything she has ever faced before.

Meanwhile, the Bloodwitch Aeduan is beset by forces he cannot understand. And Vivia—rightful queen of Nubrevna—finds herself without a crown or home.

As villains from legend reawaken across the Witchlands, only the mythical Cahr Awen can stop the gathering war. Iseult could embrace this power and heal the land, but first she must choose on which side of the shadows her destiny will lie.

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Two years after the release of Bloodwitch, book four in The Witchlands series, Witchshadow, is here. I have to admit that it got off to a rocky start for two reasons. The first is that I couldn't remember the events of the previous book. However, that was quickly resolved, because Dennard has kindly provided a summary here, which helped. The second reason is that the story switches from the past to the present. It was confusing and hard to follow at first, but once I got into the book it started to flow better. 

After that initial hurdle I was sucked into the story. We have multiple points of view again and as with any book with this there's going to be characters who you're more interested in than others. For me that's Iseult and Aeduan. Apparently the next book is the last in the series. If that's the case I really hope there's more scenes with Iseult and Aeduan together. There was not nearly enough of them in Witchshadow and their slow burn was torture!

Romance aside, we finally get answers to some burning questions and learn more about Leopold who I have been very intrigued about. Witchshadow is ultimately Iseult's book and she goes through a lot of growth. I've liked her from the start, so I didn't think it would be possible to love her anymore than I already do, but alas, Dennard made it so. She is, no doubt, my favourite character.

I can't wait for the next (and maybe last?) installment in the series!


Monday, 10 May 2021

Review: Within These Wicked Walls by Lauren Blackwood

Andromeda is a debtera—an exorcist hired to cleanse households of the Evil Eye. When a handsome young heir named Magnus Rochester reaches out to hire her, Andromeda quickly realizes this is a job like no other, with horrifying manifestations at every turn, and that Magnus is hiding far more than she has been trained
for. Death is the most likely outcome if she stays, but leaving Magnus to live out his curse alone isn’t an option. Evil may roam the castle’s halls, but so does a burning desire.

📌 Publication date: 09/11/2021
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I love Charlotte Bronte's, Jane Eyre, so, my interest was peeked when I read that Within These Wicked Walls was an Ethiopian inspired re-telling. Having now read it I would say it's a loose re-telling as Lauren Blackwood has made it her own. The story is about Andromeda, who is a debtera, someone whose job it is to expel the Evil Eye. She's hired to do such from an isolated house in the middle of the desert. 

Some books are just easy to fly through and Within these Wicked Walls is one of them. I was having so much fun reading it that I didn't realise what percentage of the way through I was, which is something I usually notice. The haunting descriptions create a gothic vibe, making this the perfect autumn/winter read. 

Andromeda is a feisty main character who isn't afraid to speak her mind. The romance between her and Magnus is very wholesome and cute, I enjoyed their banter. On the other hand, the father/daughter type relationship between is Andromeda and Jember is very complicated. Although it's not the healthiest relationship there were moments that filled me with awe.

You know when you finish a book feeling thoroughly satisfied? That's how I felt with Within These Wicked Walls. 


Monday, 12 April 2021

Review: The Prison Healer by Lynette Noni

Seventeen-year-old Kiva Meridan has spent the last ten years fighting for survival in the notorious death prison, Zalindov, working as the prison healer.

When the Rebel Queen is captured, Kiva is charged with keeping the terminally ill woman alive long enough for her to undergo the Trial by Ordeal: a series of elemental challenges against the torments of air, fire, water, and earth, assigned to only the most dangerous of criminals.

Then a coded message from Kiva’s family arrives, containing a single order: “Don’t let her die. We are coming.” Aware that the Trials will kill the sickly queen, Kiva risks her own life to volunteer in her place. If she succeeds, both she and the queen will be granted their freedom.

But no one has ever survived.

With an incurable plague sweeping Zalindov, a mysterious new inmate fighting for Kiva’s heart, and a prison rebellion brewing, Kiva can’t escape the terrible feeling that her trials have only just begun.

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📌 Publication date: 13/04/2021

It took me a while to finish The Prison Healer. The story is quite slow paced and  repetitive at times. The elemental trails Kiva had to face should have been thrilling, but ultimately they were a let down. Although the tasks were terrible, they felt rushed and there was no real sense of danger. This is because after the first one it was obvious, at least to me, what the outcome was going to be for the rest. 

While the story dragged at some points I still found it interesting enough to continue on. Kiva was a very easy main character to like. Throughout her ten years as a prisoner she endured many hardships at the hands of both the guards and prisoners alike. Yet she still held on to her selfless drive to care for and look after everyone. The Prison Healer deals with a lot of dark themes, so I would advise looking up content warnings. In terms of secondary characters, I loved Tipp, a young boy who helps Kiva with her healing duties. Their relationship was that of siblings and it was beautiful and heart breaking. 

I didn't care for the budding romance between Jaren and Kiva. The reason being that I found Jaren to be a cardboard cut out of a typical YA love interest. No personality expect the kindness he showed Kiva. There is, however, room for character development in the sequel when we see more of the world. 

I admit I was torn about whether I would be reading the sequel until the plot twist at the end. I honestly didn't see it coming and was shocked. That being said, it didn't really make sense to me. I can't say more without spoilers, but given that we were in Kiva's head the whole time it felt like she became a bit of an unreliable narrator. 

Overall, The Prison Healer was a decent read and I'm curious about the sequel given the plot twist at the end. 


Wednesday, 17 March 2021

Review: The Wolf and the Woodsman by Ava Reid

In her forest-veiled pagan village, Évike is the only woman without power, making her an outcast clearly abandoned by the gods. The villagers blame her corrupted bloodline—her father was a Yehuli man, one of the much-loathed servants of the fanatical king. When soldiers arrive from the Holy Order of Woodsmen to claim a pagan girl for the king’s blood sacrifice, Évike is betrayed by her fellow villagers and surrendered.

But when monsters attack the Woodsmen and their captive en route, slaughtering everyone but Évike and the cold, one-eyed captain, they have no choice but to rely on each other. Except he’s no ordinary Woodsman—he’s the disgraced prince, Gáspár Bárány, whose father needs pagan magic to consolidate his power. Gáspár fears that his cruelly zealous brother plans to seize the throne and instigate a violent reign that would damn the pagans and the Yehuli alike. As the son of a reviled foreign queen, Gáspár understands what it’s like to be an outcast, and he and Évike make a tenuous pact to stop his brother.

As their mission takes them from the bitter northern tundra to the smog-choked capital, their mutual loathing slowly turns to affection, bound by a shared history of alienation and oppression. However, trust can easily turn to betrayal, and as Évike reconnects with her estranged father and discovers her own hidden magic, she and Gáspár need to decide whose side they’re on, and what they’re willing to give up for a nation that never cared for them at all. 

📌 Publication date: 08/06/2021
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The Wolf and the Woodsman is a stunning standalone adult fantasy novel. The writing is haunting and beautiful in a way that is not flowery. However, be warned that it is not for the faint of heart, a list of content warnings can be found on the author's website here. If you're a fan of action packed stories then this might not be for you. Having said that although the first half of the book is spent travelling, it's not slow paced or boring. The enemies to lovers, slow burn romance between Evike and Gaspar is expertly crafted. Even when they arrive at their destination there's not a ton of action, yet it's still thoroughly engaging. The core of the book is about understanding the different nuances of culture, finding yourself, and rising up against oppression.    


Friday, 20 November 2020

Review: The Masking Falling by Samantha Shannon

Paige Mahoney has eluded death again. Snatched from the jaws of captivity and consigned to a safe house in the Scion Citadel of Paris, she finds herself caught between those factions that seek Scion’s downfall and those who would kill to protect the Rephaim’s puppet empire.

The mysterious Domino Programme has plans for Paige, but she has ambitions of her own in this new citadel. With Arcturus Mesarthim – her former enemy – at her side, she embarks on an adventure that will lead her from the catacombs of Paris to the glittering hallways of Versailles. Her risks promise high reward: the Parisian underworld could yield the means to escalate her rebellion to outright war.

As Scion widens its bounds and the free world trembles in its shadow, Paige must fight her own memories after her ordeal at the hands of Scion. Meanwhile, she strives to understand her bond with Arcturus, which grows stronger by the day. But there are those who know the revolution began with them – and could end with them.

📌 Publication date: 26/01/2021

After nearly 4 years, The Mask Falling, book four, in The Bone Season series is due to be released in 2 months. It's definitely been worth the wait! 

Recuperating in a safe house in Paris, Warden and Paige spend some time together as she recovers from the horrors she endured at the mercy of the Rephaim. I loved the first quarter of the book where Warden and Paige play house, with Warden attending to Paige's needs, bringing her heat pads, hot drinks and generally taking care of her. Their relationship further develops and grows. I've been rooting for Paige since The Bone Season, she has suffered a lot but still continues to fight for what she believes in. 

In terms of plot the stakes are even higher in The Mask Falling. We see Paige as she attempts to ally The Mime Order with the French syndicate in order to take down Scion. She also has the mysterious Domino Programme to deal with. I enjoyed the Parisian setting and exploring a different Scion controlled country. The picture Shannon painted made me want to visit Paris, something I've only done when I was younger but feel would appreciate more now that I'm older. I remember being skeptical when I first heard that it was going to be a seven book series, unsure if that many books were needed as I tend to prefer trilogies. The reason being because I find that the story drags and I lose interest. However, I see now why they are needed, the world Shannon has created is extensive and begs to be further explored.  

Overall , The Mask Falling is another great addition to the series. I can't wait for my signed pre-order to arrive, so I can add it to my bookshelf.