Thief of Cahraman by Lucy Tempest

The Selection meets Aladdin 

ONE MONTH. FIFTY CONTESTANTS. ONE PRINCE. AN IMPOSSIBLE HEIST.

You have been summoned to Sunstone Palace to compete in our search for the future Queen of Cahraman.

After years on the run, Adelaide thinks her lonely and dangerous life as a thief is finally over. But her world is upended when a witch steals her away to a faraway kingdom, to perform an impossible heist. If Adelaide fails, her newfound family would be sacrificed to a beast.

To complete her mission, she’s forced to assume the role of a noblewoman and enter a royal competition. The prize is the hand of the elusive Crown Prince. Elimination means certain death.

As the witch’s literal deadline approaches, Adelaide has one last gamble to save the day, and to escape to a new life with Cyrus, the handsome and mysterious fellow thief who stole her heart.

But everything falls apart when the prince finally reveals himself…

Fairytales of Folkshore is a series of interconnected fairytale retellings that starts with the Cahraman Trilogy. Ada’s story continues in PRINCE OF CAHRAMAN. “

-Synopsis taken from Goodreads

Hey guys! Meaghan here with another review!

First off, I would like to thank the publisher and author for providing me this ARC to review. Please note that the version I read was an advanced copy, and certain events/language may be changed in the published edition.

Stars (Out of 10): 5/10 Stars

I took a few days to think over this book, and what I thought of it, as different parts of this book spoke to me more than others. All in all, I’d say it had a pretty weak start, and didn’t play up the plot points I thought it would, but I still found myself sucked into the story by the end of it.

I’m just gonna start off by saying that the synopsis gives away the entire main twist of the book (I had guessed it before I had even started reading), and even when I started reading, the foreshadowing was a smidge too obvious. Since that twist ended up being the climax of the plot as well, it led to a subpar finale overall. It also made the book feel as if it didn’t truly have an ending, as both the knowledge of the twist and reveal of the twist made it feel like more was needed to tie everything together.

Additionally, the beginning was fairly weak too. We spend a few chapters learning a small bit of the world, and of the main characters in Adelaide’s life, as well as the mundane worries in her day to day life, including of wanting to be liked by a boy. It wasn’t an intriguing start at all, and the only thing that kept me reading was the whispers of something grander and more magical later on. Additionally, the beginning was so heavy with obvious fairy tale references that it became tacky, especially in regards to the Cinderella character. I assume this is to either introduce the author’s other future works in the world, but it felt out of place here, since she never came again, not even in the narrator’s thoughts.

While Adelaide was interesting in her unique motivations, wanting to settle rather than travel and explore, it didn’t make for as interesting a narrator. Adelaide wasn’t interested in learning about the rest of the world + her/her mother’s past, even as more and more clues were laid before her, which made the reader less interested in it all as well. Adelaide also has the tendency to steal, and is seen as a successful thief, due to her rough childhood after her mother’s death. However, I had two main issues with this. Firstly, she doesn’t seem to be all that successful at all. The book starts with her in the middle of a robbery, and she explains how long it took to plan, but she still makes a mistake (just to introduce the Cinderella character). Then, throughout the rest of the book, she almost never is able to be successful alone, in terms of stealing and sneaking, and always requires being led by other characters. Secondly, Adelaide seems to randomly steal things, even though she doesn’t need to in the competition, as she’s surrounded by gowns and jewelry that were given to her as well as entirely taken care of. Since her stealing habit was born out of need, it feels weird to see it continued as strongly throughout the book, though I get it is a habit. Additionally, it seems to be an active trait as well, in the sense that the author needs to continuously remind us that she does this, with the moments sometimes breaking the flow of the story.

In terms of plot, it felt like there was both too much in focus and not enough actually happening. We seem to have two main plots, the competition and the heist, but instead of blending together well, they fought with each other instead. And still, even with two main plots battling for the domination of a scene, there were many dull moments, of simply characters hanging around or just to show time is passing. Also, even though the pacing didn’t feel weird, in hindsight it all moved rather fast. There was more than a week between stages of the competition, but we almost never saw any of it, making it seem like people were getting eliminated every other chapter.

However, despite all the issues I had with it, I still ended up getting hooked into the story around 50% of the way in. Something about the writing kept interested in the story (once the competition started/Adelaide left Ericuria), and it all seemed to move by really fast, perhaps due to how the story was paced. Most of the individual parts were fairly well planned and written, I just wasn’t a fan of how it all came together to form the overall novel. I’m curious about where the story will continue to go, but I’m not sure if I’ll be picking the next books up yet.

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Warcross by Marie Lu

“For the millions who log in every day, Warcross isn’t just a game—it’s a way of life. The obsession started ten years ago and its fan base now spans the globe, some eager to escape from reality and others hoping to make a profit. Struggling to make ends meet, teenage hacker Emika Chen works as a bounty hunter, tracking down players who bet on the game illegally. But the bounty hunting world is a competitive one, and survival has not been easy. Needing to make some quick cash, Emika takes a risk and hacks into the opening game of the international Warcross Championships—only to accidentally glitch herself into the action and become an overnight sensation.

Convinced she’s going to be arrested, Emika is shocked when instead she gets a call from the game’s creator, the elusive young billionaire Hideo Tanaka, with an irresistible offer. He needs a spy on the inside of this year’s tournament in order to uncover a security problem . . . and he wants Emika for the job. With no time to lose, Emika’s whisked off to Tokyo and thrust into a world of fame and fortune that she’s only dreamed of. But soon her investigation uncovers a sinister plot, with major consequences for the entire Warcross empire.”

-Synopsis taken from Goodreads

Hey guys! Meaghan here again with another review.

“They think that you won’t hit back – that you’ll just lower your eyes and hide. And sometimes, to protect yourself, to make it go away, you do. But sometimes, you find yourself standing in exactly the right position, wielding exactly the right weapon to hit back.”

Stars (Out of 10): 7/10 Stars

Favorite Character: I ended up really liking Emika!

Spoiler Free: I picked this up on a whim after finished War Storm, as I had just come off of a wave of YA Fantasy and really needed a genre cleanse. This ended up being the perfect choice! Like most of Marie Lu’s books, the simple writing in combination with exciting plot/world ideas often leads to quite a quick, but extremely enjoyable, read, and Warcross was no exception!

Firstly, the plot was exciting and action-packed enough that putting the book down was always difficult, as I knew some intriguing or shocking revelation would probably come from the next few chapters. This, combined with the fairly short chapters, created a book that I never wanted to put down, and flew like a breeze. While the plot was fairly twisty, only the cliffhanger at the end actually managed to surprise me, as I was too suspicious to be all that surprised by the others (even if I didn’t exactly guess what was going to happen). Additionally, an action-packed plot also has its downsides, as it means the book almost moves too fast during some moments, and some moments don’t necessarily have enough build up.

Secondly, the world itself was quite thrilling, though many things felt unexplained, or nonsensical, but I feel that did not necessarily detract from the plot. I was entranced by the two sides of the world, real and alternative, and even by the two sides to the alternative world. The descriptions were enough to make me wish the Neurolink was a thing in our age, even if some certain scenes got repetitive (specifically the night sky imagery/usage).

Lastly, the characters themselves were also quite interesting, even if Emika was hard to connect with at first. Hideo was an interesting character as well, especially with the mystery surrounding his past and interest in Emika. I also became quite attached to the characters on Emika’s Warcross team, even if they didn’t really see the spotlight in this book! While none of them are the best developed nor interesting characters ever, they all complimented the world and plot really nicely, and made a nice balance within the book.

I’m quite excited to see what happens with the next book, Wildcard, and where the story continues from here! (Though I am sad it won’t contain the Warcross games, as I am always a sucker for books with a competition!)

Careful! Spoilers beyond this point!

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War Storm by Victoria Aveyard

Victory comes at a price.

Mare Barrow learned this all too well when Cal’s betrayal nearly destroyed her. Now determined to protect her heart—and secure freedom for Reds and newbloods like her—Mare resolves to overthrow the kingdom of Norta once and for all… starting with the crown on Maven’s head.

But no battle is won alone, and before the Reds may rise as one, Mare must side with the boy who broke her heart in order to defeat the boy who almost broke her. Cal’s powerful Silver allies, alongside Mare and the Scarlet Guard, prove a formidable force. But Maven is driven by an obsession so deep, he will stop at nothing to have Mare as his own again, even if it means demolishing everything—and everyone—in his path.

War is coming, and all Mare has fought for hangs in the balance. Will victory be enough to topple the Silver kingdoms? Or will the little lightning girl be forever silenced?

In the epic conclusion to Victoria Aveyard’s stunning series, Mare must embrace her fate and summon all her power… for all will be tested, but not all will survive.”

-Synopsis taken from Goodreads

Hey guys! Meaghan here again with another review!

“I am different from what my world demands I be. And I am not worse for it.”

Stars (Out of 10): 7.5/10 Stars

Spoiler Free: Surprising myself and everyone I know, I actually really enjoyed this book? Which is surprising considering I wasn’t a fan of book 2 at all, and book 3 ended up frustrating me a lot. However, that did mean I went into this book with either low expectations (in terms of characters/relationships/etc.) or no expectations (in terms of plot, as I never actually spent any time theorizing what would happen), and this could be the reason why I enjoyed it so much.

Firstly, I loved the plot itself. Due to aforementioned lack of theorizing, not only did I not have any idea what to expect going in, I also wasn’t stuck on certain hopes or wishes for how it would all go down. Additionally, this installment, compared to book 2 and 3, was much more action-packed, and didn’t have any of the lulls I had issues with the other sequels. The battles were really fun to read, as not only did all the Silver powers get showcased, but they got played off Ardent/Newblood powers in interesting ways. To continue, these battles also had twists within them as well, keeping my eyes glued to the page to see if these characters would make it out of these tense situations alive and well. I’m also quite happy with how it “tied up”, even though the ending leaves a lot of questions unanswered/open for developments.

Secondly, I both loved and hated the characters. To preface, the hate mainly comes from prior feelings in books 2 and 3, as everyone was at least bearable in this novel, whether it be bearable as a villain or as a hero (as I have different standards for each). I also loved how snarky everyone was towards each other, especially in the beginning. The constant tension and competition between the Silver/Newblood/Red Alliance was constantly offset with these sarcastic/snarky comments towards figures of authority/parents/each other, and it really helped with easing me back into the storyline. The romance was also an interesting one, and while I was extremely frustrated with it in the first few books, as I was trying to read it and cheer for it as a normal YA romance, I did not feel that same frustration in this book. While that may just come from me detaching from it/realizing it is a much more complex and complicated romance than most YA fantasy, I think I was also just happy with how it tied up/was used within the novel. Lastly, I also felt that most of the characters held to their ideals/developed in logical ways all throughout the book, meaning that this feeling also extended to their actions/how the book ended because of them.

Additionally, this book saw the introduction of a lot of new viewpoints, but I think Victoria also did this fairly well. She didn’t worry about balancing them at all, and only utilized them when it was actually necessary. For example, Cal and Maven only really had POV chapters near the ending, and it ended up adding to the story rather than making it seem more confusing. We also got quite a variety of viewpoints, and everyone sounded quite distinct within their own chapters. It gave us a larger view of the story and conflict as a whole, and how it would affect each individual party. I also enjoyed the addition of Iris as a POV, even if I don’t like her as a person/agree with her, as it added another level of depth to the new players on the battlefield that we otherwise wouldn’t have been able to get, especially considering the Lakelands didn’t play as active roles in the other books.

Lastly, I wasn’t the biggest fan of the world building. There was a lot introduced, and a lot that was skipped out on. Since this war contains almost all of the kingdoms/countries within the geographical area, we had a lot of culture and people to catch up on. While we did get some of this before, a lot of the countries hadn’t played all that big of a role yet, leading to readers needing to learn a lot. Not all of our questions were answered either, specifically about how the Silver and Red distinction even arose, and why Newbloods are suddenly appearing. This was such a hot topic for foreshadowing, especially by Julian Jacos, so I’m hoping we get a novella or something in the future that finally explains this, even though it was unfortunate that it didn’t make its way into the mainline story.

Overall, I’m really glad that this series ended on a good note (for me, it seems a lot of people are polarized by this book like the rest of the series), and that I’m able to say all that waiting and frustration was worth it in the end!

Careful! Spoilers beyond this point!

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Manga Classics: The Stories of Edgar Allen Poe

“‘The Tales of Edgar Allan Poe’ is a brilliant collection of some of his best-known stories:

‘The Tell Tale Heart’ (a murder s haunting guilt)
‘The Cask of Amontillado’ (a story of brilliant revenge)
‘The Fall of the House of Usher’ (an ancient house full of very dark secrets).

Also included in this collection are:

‘The Mask of the Red Death’ (horrors of ‘the Plague’ and the most famous of all his poems ‘The Raven’ (a lover s decline into madness).

“Best read in a dimly-lit room with the curtains drawn, Poe s brilliant works come to life in darkly thrilling ways in this Manga Classic adaptation.”

-Synopsis taken from Goodreads

Hey guys! Meaghan here again with another review! While this is not the normal genre I review/discuss on this blog, I did receive an ARC of this, and therefore took a step out of my comfort zone to try and write a review of a manga/comic! I also received Manga Classics: Jane Eyre, so look forward to that in the near future as well!

First off, I would like to thank the publisher and author for providing me this ARC to review. Please note that the version I read was an advanced copy, and certain events/language may be changed in the published edition.

The Tell-Tale Heart: Something about the added illustrations adds so much more horror to the story itself. The text itself seemed to be directly taken from Poe’s tale, but the depth and intensity of the illustrations, especially the narrator’s facial expressions, added a whole other layer to the tales.

The Cask of Amontillado: While I still enjoyed the illustrations, they didn’t add as much to the story as with The Tell-Tale Heart. This may be due to how well the original tale already was at inspiring horror, and the illustrations could not top that.

The Raven – While I liked the artistic style of this story, and the illustrations in general, I’m not sure if they were the best match for the story. The narrator/main character almost seems too young, and the lighting of most of the panels seems oddly white/bright for a spooky story. This led to the story being less scary, even though the sorrow and other emotions still came through.

The Masque of the Red Death – I had actually completely forgotten I had read this story until I recognized the opening scene. Once again, I quite liked the chosen illustrations for everything, and especially liked how well they brought to life the descriptions of the revels! However, with such bright color and joy pictured clearly, it obscured the gloom creeping up in the story, which may be both good and bad.

The Fall of the House of Usher: This seems to be the only tale I didn’t have prior experience with. I feel as if this made me focus too much on the text, and working to understand the story, rather than on the illustrations and how well they worked together. The main issue I did notice here was that the story itself is already extremely description heavy, so the illustrations sometimes felt unnecessary. However, the extreme caricatures of Usher definitely worked in the story’s favor, as it allowed me to much more easily picture and understand how affected he was.

Overall, I felt this was a quite solid “Manga Classic,” and I loved what it did for Poe’s legendary tales. Not only did the illustrations add (for the most part) to the dark and gloomy descriptions and settings of Poe’s tales, they also worked to pace the reader, and make us take time with each line, each image, truly letting the emotion and depth of the tale sink in before moving on to the next page.

Mirage by Somaiya Daud

“In a star system dominated by the brutal Vathek empire, eighteen-year-old Amani is a dreamer. She dreams of what life was like before the occupation; she dreams of writing poetry like the old-world poems she adores; she dreams of receiving a sign from Dihya that one day, she, too, will have adventure, and travel beyond her isolated moon.

But when adventure comes for Amani, it is not what she expects: she is kidnapped by the regime and taken in secret to the royal palace, where she discovers that she is nearly identical to the cruel half-Vathek Princess Maram. The princess is so hated by her conquered people that she requires a body double, someone to appear in public as Maram, ready to die in her place.

As Amani is forced into her new role, she can’t help but enjoy the palace’s beauty—and her time with the princess’ fiancé, Idris. But the glitter of the royal court belies a world of violence and fear. If Amani ever wishes to see her family again, she must play the princess to perfection…because one wrong move could lead to her death.”

-Synopsis taken from Goodreads

Hey guys! I’m (finally) back with another review! Sorry for the small hiatus, I went on vacation and got way less reading than I expected done, and had no time to actually write any reviews!

First off, I would like to thank the publisher and author for providing me this ARC to review. Please note that the version I read was an advanced copy, and certain events/language may be changed in the published edition.

“The crown of Dihya had been stripped from me, my face changed, my body broken. But I was not a slave and I was not a spare.”

Stars (Out of 10): 9/10 Stars

Favorite Character: Amani

I was approved for this ARC months ago, and I hate that I only just now got to it! It beat all of my expectations, and I can’t wait to see what’s in store for the rest of the series.

From the beginning, Mirage hooked me. Something about Amani, our main character, felt so genuine and real, yet she was still an incredibly kind and likable person. She’s the type of main character I haven’t seen in a while, as most YA Fantasy narrators seem to all be “stubborn” and “strong” lately, so it was really refreshing to read something new. Additionally, Amani was quite a layered character. She had a heart of gold that truly cared about those hurting around her, regardless of their race, but she was also still a strong character, making decisions for herself and her own happiness. At the same time, she was still touched by the influence of power, and this led to some great inner monologue as Amani struggled between the identity of her past and the girl she was forced to become.

Not only does Mirage have a fantastic main character, the supporting cast is extremely fleshed out as well. The love interest is more than just his looks/love for the main character, but is also seen grieving for his family, and also struggling between his childhood identity and the one first upon him by the conquerors and his need to stay alive. (Also, I must say that this romance feels really well done, as it isn’t the main focus of the novel/does not define either of the characters, but rather adds and builds upon the characters and story that is already there). Additionally, we also have the cruel princess that Amani is a body double for, and while at first she gives off the impression of your standard evil princess, she ends up being so much more. She faces an internal struggle just like everyone else, and reading that was one of my favorite parts of the book.

All of this leads to a book that is rather character driven. The effects of colonialism in this world is explored through the personal effects on the characters, as well as the overarching effects on the native culture of the planet. It gives a new perspective on this topic, compared to recent YA Fantasy novels that deal with this topic, as it aims to show us the pain of the conquered through less overtly violent means. While there is still action and violence, it is mainly kept in the beginning of the tale, and the story seems to move towards a different way of losing yourself in a world conquered.

I also really loved the world and culture built into this book. While we don’t learn a lot at all about the conquerors, the Vath, we do learn a lot about Amani’s own culture and religion. Amani specifically is an extremely religious character, and the stories and poetry built into her culture and religion is a large driving force in the personal narrative of Amani, and even some of the other stories taking place in the book. It adds a whole other layer to Mirage, and works to fully immerse you in both the world and the story, since it is so well intertwined.

The only reason I dropped my rating a little was due to certain aspects of the plot and the pacing of the story. The plot itself was wonderful and interesting, but just occurred rather passively. Most of the events in the story are enacted by others around Amani, rather than herself, and she mainly seems to be reacting towards everything and following the actions and plans of others. However, this is the most realistic option, as Amani is in no position to be making her own plans and choices for most the book. My other issue was pacing. In terms of that, this book felt almost like a flat line. It was an incredible read nonetheless, but there weren’t really moments of surprise or increased intensity, and even the ending had me reading at the same speed and pace as the beginning of the book.

All in all, I absolutely loved this debut, and am so lucky to have gotten the chance to read it early! I highly recommend this novel to those that have found some YA Fantasy novels falling short lately, and want to be reminded what makes the genre so great.

The Queen’s Rising by Rebecca Ross

“When her seventeenth summer solstice arrives, Brienna desires only two things: to master her passion and to be chosen by a patron.

Growing up in the southern Kingdom of Valenia at the renowned Magnalia House should have prepared her for such a life. While some are born with an innate talent for one of the five passions—art, music, dramatics, wit, and knowledge—Brienna struggled to find hers until she belatedly chose to study knowledge. However, despite all her preparations, Brienna’s greatest fear comes true—the solstice does not go according to plan and she is left without a patron.

Months later, her life takes an unexpected turn when a disgraced lord offers her patronage. Suspicious of his intent, and with no other choices, she accepts. But there is much more to his story, and Brienna soon discovers that he has sought her out for his own vengeful gain. For there is a dangerous plot being planned to overthrow the king of Maevana—the archrival kingdom of Valenia—and restore the rightful queen, and her magic, to the northern throne. And others are involved—some closer to Brienna than she realizes.

With war brewing between the two lands, Brienna must choose whose side she will remain loyal to—passion or blood. Because a queen is destined to rise and lead the battle to reclaim the crown. The ultimate decision Brienna must determine is: Who will be that queen?”

-Synopsis taken from Goodreads

Hey guys! Meaghan here again with another review!

“That is a true gift, to help others see the world in a different way.”

Stars (Out of 10): 9/10 Stars

Favorite Character: Cartier or Brienna!

Spoiler Free: I’ll admit, for some reason, I had low expectations going into this book. Even though the synopsis seemed quite intriguing, and unlike other books I’ve read before, I kind of expected it to just read like any other YA Fantasy, and the world and plot to be fairly standard as well. In the end though, I absolutely loved this book, and it hooked me much more than some of my other recent reads. From the first few chapters I was hooked, and kept wanting to read this instead of my other current read at the time.

For me, the book owes its success to its lush and intriguing world as well as fantastic characters. I was wholly invested in Brienna and her story, from how she balanced herself between her two worlds/two kingdoms to her relationships and role in the plot itself.

In terms of the world, I thought the author did a fantastic job of building both kingdoms as well as the passion and magic systems. While magic and kingdoms and tyrant kings are nothing new, Ross definitely put her own spin on this world, and I found myself quite intrigued by how everything worked. For example, magic exists, but it doesn’t dominate the structure of the kingdoms, as only a single family has it. Furthermore, to avoid a dominance of said family, the magic is a fickle thing, and should not be used for violence/harm if the user wants to stay sane. Additionally, the combination of this magic with a different sort of talent, passions, balanced the world while also adding another interesting system. While the story could have technically been told the same with passions removed, these passions did make the world feel more deep, and more thought through. It also just added hobbies to a fantasy world, which oddly, isn’t a thing most fantasy characters have. Lastly, the two kingdoms themselves were quite distinguishable, but not so different that it became hard to believe. For example, differences stemmed from the systems the country were built upon, as Maevana is a country built on physical strength and therefore their customs are less “refined” and both women and men are trained, while in Valenia, a country built more on the system of passions and refining talents in schools, is the more polite of the two kingdoms.

Additionally, the characters and their relationships with each other were also well done. Not only does Brienna form strong female friendships with most of the women she meets, promoting support and friendship instead of competition, she also struggles with a lot of familial relationships. Since she is an illegitimate child whose mother died when she was young, and whose father she knows nothing about, a lot of the story deals with Brienna defining herself through her blood and chosen families, and her navigation of these relationships feels extremely realistic. Additionally, the romance was also done quite well in the story. It wasn’t the main focus by far, and spends about half of the book in the background, but it was a constant thread throughout the story. It was reliable in the story rather than volatile, but it was still extremely sweet and full of love, and blended really well with the beauty of the relationships in this story in general.

The plot itself was also intriguing, even if it wasn’t altogether too surprising or intense. It was also resolved rather easily, without much loss, but then this is also the first book. I was quite surprised at a few twists, but others were a bit too obvious, or given away by the information/maps/genealogy charts in the beginning of the book. However, it wrapped up extremely nicely, so I am curious how Ross will draw more of a story out of this, especially if Brienna is to be the main character again.

Overall, I’m really happy with this book as a whole, and really enjoyed this read! I cannot wait to read what Ross does next, as this world is one I’d love to dive into again.

Sea Witch by Sarah Henning

“Everyone knows what happens in the end.
A mermaid, a prince, a true love’s kiss.
But before that young siren’s tale, there were three friends.
One feared, one royal, and one already dead.

~~~~~~~~~~

Ever since her best friend, Anna, drowned, Evie has been an outcast in her small fishing town. A freak. A curse. A witch.

A girl with an uncanny resemblance to Anna appears offshore and, though the girl denies it, Evie is convinced that her best friend actually survived. That her own magic wasn’t so powerless after all. And, as the two girls catch the eyes—and hearts—of two charming princes, Evie believes that she might finally have a chance at her own happily ever after.

But her new friend has secrets of her own. She can’t stay in Havnestad, or on two legs, unless Evie finds a way to help her. Now Evie will do anything to save her friend’s humanity, along with her prince’s heart—harnessing the power of her magic, her ocean, and her love until she discovers, too late, the truth of her bargain.

The rise of Hans Christian Andersen’s iconic villainess is a heart-wrenching story of friendship, betrayal, and a girl pushed beyond her limits—to become a monster.”

-Synopsis taken from Goodreads

Hey guys! Meaghan here again with another review!

First off, I would like to thank the publisher and author for providing me this ARC to review. Please note that the version I read was an advanced copy, and certain events/language may be changed in the published edition.

Stars (Out of 10): 4/10 Stars

Favorite Character: Nik

Spoiler Free: I really wanted to love this book. From the gorgeous cover to the fact it was about mermaids and witches and magic, my hopes were high. Unfortunately, there were just way too many awkward moments for me, and the plot wasn’t all that surprising (especially considering the fact that we already knew how it was going to end.) While I was intrigued by the world and small village, and was hooked during certain portions of the plot, there were overall too many meh moments for me.

I’ll start with the characters and their relationships with each other. This, for me, was one of the weakest parts of the book. While I generally liked the friendship Nik and Evie had, especially in the beginning, it became less and less enjoyable as the book went on (and jealousy started tainting every relationship). The relationship that Evie has with Iker is also extremely shallow, and was not presented in a good way at all. I understand that the romance needed to start early, but we barely got any background to their relationship before suddenly that was a thing. And everything got worse as the story went on in terms of relationships, as as I mentioned above, almost every single relationship becomes dominated by jealousy. Evie is jealous of Annemette taking Nik’s time, Evie is jealous of the status of everyone else, Evie is jealous over the ease with which Annemette uses magic, Iker is jealous of Nik, Nik is jealous of Iker, and it goes on and on. It makes all the relationships and friendships seem extremely shallow, as no one seems actually happy with their friends/the person they’re with.

The plot also just fell flat. Everything was extremely predictable (which I’ll discuss more in the spoiler section) and the ending also didn’t fully line up with all the events of the story. Besides this, I can’t discuss more of the plot without spoilers, but saying it was predictable and weak about sums it up.

I was intrigued by the world, however, and Evie’s conflict to fit into a town that was not accepting of her, even without knowing she was a witch. The festival and setting felt very realistic and full of the essence of the sea, but without the characters and plot to carry this setting, it felt wasted.

I also quite enjoyed the third person, and I may have even dropped the story without them. I’m always a sucker for these kind of cuts into the book, where they explain past events in a mysterious way that provides both context and foreshadowing for the rest of the story.

Overall, I can’t say I was a fan of this book, and I was overall extremely disappointed. While reading, the awkward character relationships were definitely the most distracting, and after reading I found a lot of issues with the plot and how it was wrapped up. It just wasn’t for me.

Careful! Spoilers beyond this point!

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Ash Princess by Laura Sebastian

Theodosia was six when her country was invaded and her mother, the Fire Queen, was murdered before her eyes. On that day, the Kaiser took Theodosia’s family, her land, and her name. Theo was crowned Ash Princess–a title of shame to bear in her new life as a prisoner.

For ten years Theo has been a captive in her own palace. She’s endured the relentless abuse and ridicule of the Kaiser and his court. She is powerless, surviving in her new world only by burying the girl she was deep inside.

Then, one night, the Kaiser forces her to do the unthinkable. With blood on her hands and all hope of reclaiming her throne lost, she realizes that surviving is no longer enough. But she does have a weapon: her mind is sharper than any sword. And power isn’t always won on the battlefield.

For ten years, the Ash Princess has seen her land pillaged and her people enslaved. That all ends here. ”

-Synopsis taken from Goodreads

Hey guys! Meaghan here again with another review! I recently read this book for the YA Lit Discord book club (if you’re interested in joining, here is the invite link -> https://discord.gg/jYEEbxq )

“Maybe they have broken you, but you are a sharper weapon because of it. And it is time to strike.”

Stars (Out of 10): 8/10 Stars

Favorite Character: Soren

Spoiler Free: I ended up enjoying this a lot more than expected to, especially considering the reviews claiming it was fairly tropey, and used a lot of traits that have become extremely common in YA Fantasy in general. I do agree with this, but the way the book was written, for me personally, used the tropes in an interesting and new way.

The main thing I enjoyed about this book was how it made me feel conflicted. Since our main character, Theo, can not easily make decisions on what she wants and who she’s willing to hurt/save, it makes it harder for me, as the reader, to decide what I want to happen. Especially when it came to her childhood friend, I was often found stuck on what path I wanted Theo to take, either one of a badass queen (who burned everything in her way) and a caring queen (who had a higher chance to fail).

The romance also followed this path. We have a standard love triangle, but it feels different than other love triangles I’ve read. The opposing choices aren’t unique, we have the childhood friend and the prince of the conquering kingdom. However, I normally do have a choice by the first book, of who I would prefer, but that isn’t the case here. It is written in such a way that you feel as conflicted as Theo, and the ending does even more to enhance this feeling.

Additionally, I really enjoyed the plot and the way it was written. Theo, after a certain point, becomes an active player in the kingdom, in her story, and yet we still manage to be surprised by some of the things she does, as the author did a good job of showing us enough of Theo to like her and cheer for her, but not everything that’s in her head, leaving some twists able to surprise us. I also really like where the ending went, and the setup it provided for the rest of the series (honestly really excited by the antagonist that the ending created).

I also liked the world, and the use of stones as bearers of magic. I especially liked how the magic system worked alongside the stones, and how the combination of both a strong belief, luck, and the stones themselves all worked together to create varying levels of magic users. It added another sort of hierarchy that went against the standard royal one.

The story was also rather dark, including a lot of the extreme hardships that the enslaved people had to face. While these moments are often unnecessary to the books, I feel it was necessary to the story in this case, as becoming less blind to those hardships was an integral part in forming Theo as a character, a rebel, and a queen.

In the end, I am really excited to see where this story continues to go, and cannot wait for the next installment!

Royal Bastards by Andrew Shvarts

Being a bastard blows. Tilla would know. Her father, Lord Kent of the Western Province, loved her as a child, but cast her aside as soon as he had trueborn children.

At sixteen, Tilla spends her days exploring long-forgotten tunnels beneath the castle with her stablehand half brother, Jax, and her nights drinking with the servants, passing out on Jax’s floor while her castle bedroom collects dust. Tilla secretly longs to sit by her father’s side, resplendent in a sparkling gown, enjoying feasts with the rest of the family. Instead, she sits with the other bastards, like Miles of House Hampstedt, an awkward scholar who’s been in love with Tilla since they were children.

Then, at a feast honoring the visiting princess Lyriana, the royal shocks everyone by choosing to sit at the Bastards’ Table. Before she knows it, Tilla is leading the sheltered princess on a late-night escapade. Along with Jax, Miles, and fellow bastard Zell, a Zitochi warrior from the north, they stumble upon a crime they were never meant to witness.

Rebellion is brewing in the west, and a brutal coup leaves Lyriana’s uncle, the Royal Archmagus, dead—with Lyriana next on the list. The group flees for their lives, relentlessly pursued by murderous mercenaries; their own parents have put a price on their heads to prevent the king and his powerful Royal Mages from discovering their treachery.

The bastards band together, realizing they alone have the power to prevent a civil war that will tear their kingdom apart—if they can warn the king in time. And if they can survive the journey . . . ”

-Synopsis taken from Goodreads

Hey guys! Meaghan here with another review!

First off, I would like to thank the publisher and author for providing me this ARC to review. Please note that the version I read was an advanced copy, and certain events/language may be changed in the published edition.

Stars (Out of 10): 8/10 Stars

Favorite Character: It flipped a lot, Zell at first, and Jax by the end

Spoiler Free: I went into this book not really knowing what to expect. I’ve been reading a lot of fantasy lately, and it seemed like this one might just fall into the category of fantasies that just begin to blend together after a point. While there were some things I didn’t really like in this book, it did still stand out to me for a few reasons.

Firstly, I am really intrigued by the magic system. At first, it just seemed as if the mages used rings to cast magic, but as the story grew on, we kept getting tidbits here and there on how complex the system actually was, and how limited it is as well. While we seem to have only scraped the surface of understanding the magic system, I am definitely intrigued by it!

Secondly, I really liked the characters. From the beginning I was a fan of Jax, of his humor and way of looking at the world, but I also loved Tilla’s complexity, her inner turmoil between wanting what she can’t have to just accepting her life as a bastard. We see similar conflicts occur in almost all the characters, with Zell battling tradition vs. what is right, and Lyriana’s conflict with her upbringing and a more free sense of living. In the end, all of these conflicts were interesting to read, and I don’t think we’ve seen their resolutions yet!

Additionally, the book had some pretty dark moments. It wasn’t a “dark” fantasy by any means, but there were quite a few shocking moments that really hammered in how messed up certain things about the world were. It gave the book an extra level of gravity, of realness.

Lastly, I thought the world was also quite interesting. It’s the general fantasy world of conquered kingdoms ruled by a single, strong king, with the standard unrest thrown in. However, the perspective we are given on said world is an interesting one, as we are not automatically aligned with one side due to the circumstances around the beginning of the book. This was one of the most unique parts of the book probably, and the inner and outer conflict this caused was super interesting to read!

On the other hand, I wasn’t the biggest fan of the romances in the end. While they seemed to be heading down the slow burn path, and I was really into both of them, it ended up moving way too quickly at the end of the book, a trend I’ve been seeing more and more in YA fantasy. Just slow down sometimes guys! Romance doesn’t need to resolved in the first book!

All in all, I did really enjoy this though, and am excited to move on to book 2 now! There’s definitely a lot of ways this series can go!

A Thousand Beginnings and Endings Anthology

Star-crossed lovers, meddling immortals, feigned identities, battles of wits, and dire warnings. These are the stuff of fairy tale, myth, and folklore that have drawn us in for centuries.

Fifteen bestselling and acclaimed authors reimagine the folklore and mythology of East and South Asia in short stories that are by turns enchanting, heartbreaking, romantic, and passionate.

Compiled by We Need Diverse Books’s Ellen Oh and Elsie Chapman, the authors included in this exquisite collection are: Renee Ahdieh, Sona Charaipotra, Preeti Chhibber, Roshani Chokshi, Aliette de Bodard, Melissa de la Cruz, Julie Kagawa, Rahul Kanakia, Lori M. Lee, E. C. Myers, Cindy Pon, Aisha Saeed, Shveta Thakrar, and Alyssa Wong.

A mountain loses her heart. Two sisters transform into birds to escape captivity. A young man learns the true meaning of sacrifice. A young woman takes up her mother’s mantle and leads the dead to their final resting place. From fantasy to science fiction to contemporary, from romance to tales of revenge, these stories will beguile readers from start to finish. For fans of Neil Gaiman’s Unnatural Creatures and Ameriie’s New York Times–bestselling Because You Love to Hate Me. ”

-Synopsis taken from Goodreads

Hey guys! Meaghan here with another review!

First off, I would like to thank the publisher and author for providing me this ARC to review. Please note that the version I read was an advanced copy, and certain events/language may be changed in the published edition.

Stars (Out of 10): 8/10 Stars

Favorite Story: It’s a tie between “The Crimson Cloak”, “The Daughter of the Sun”, and “Eyes Like Candlelight”

Least Favorite Story: “Code of Honor”

Overall: While I haven’t read all that many anthologies, I’d have to say this is the strongest anthology I’ve ever read. None of the stories would fall under a 2/5 rating, and all at least somewhat captured my attention in some way or the other. For the most part, a lot of these stories would be rated as a 4/5 for me!

Additionally, this anthology did something unique at the end of each short story (like what Because You Love To Hate Me tried to do), as the author added a note to the end of their own stories, explaining the original myth and explaining their motivation for choosing/changing that myth. It really added to the overall anthology, and even saved some stories in my eyes.

I came in expecting retellings of myths in the standard way, short stories that are written like fantasy books. I expected a lot of third person stories that felt ancient and magical, and while some of the stories met this expectation exactly, others surprised me. A lot of tales felt like snippets of contemporary novels, and many were very modern, but I found myself enjoying them all the same! This led to a blend of ancient and modern, contemporary and fantasy, all bound by ancient myths. I honestly really loved this compilation.

Forbidden Fruit (Roshani Chokshi): I still have yet to read one of Roshani Chokshi’s novels, but I’ve loved all of the short stories I’ve read in anthologies from her so far! While this tale was quite short, I still managed to become somewhat invested in it! I also really like that the authors give a background on the story at the end, and on why they chose that myth! (4/5)

Olivia’s Table (Alyssa Wong): I really liked how much this story seemed to contain in only a few pages. There wasn’t a true plot, but getting a peek into the culture and Olivia’s life was really nice to read! I would definitely like to read a narrator like her! (4/5)

Steel Skin (Lori M. Lee): I liked what this story tried to do, and liked the deviation the author made from the myth, but certain portions felt a bit rushed, probably due to the length limitations. I still really enjoyed it! (3/5)

Still Star-Crossed (Sona Charaipotra): This one was shorter than the others, but the length worked perfectly! I think this one of my favorite contemporary style stories, as I hadn’t guessed the twist, and it didn’t feel rushed either! (4/5)

The Counting of Vermillion Beads (Aliette De Bodard): This story was short and sweet, even if the beginning was a bit rough (it was hard to see exactly what was going on in the world at first). But reading the author’s note at the end really made me appreciate the retelling more! (3/5)

The Land Of The Morning Calm (E. C. Myers): I really liked this one! It blended modern and myth really well, and I loved all the characters involved! Additionally, the story itself and meaning behind it was also quite beautiful, and I really enjoyed the video game setting used to enhance that meaning.  (5/5)

A Smile (Aisha Saeed): I really liked how much we got to learn/see of the characters in such a small amount of pages. Once again, the author’s note at the end also made this story all the more interesting, by how it was connected to the myth. (4/5)

Girls Who Twirl And Other Dangers (Preeti Chhibber): I quite liked this story too, and how the myth blended in with the actual story taking place! It connected modern and myth in a new way, even if I wasn’t the biggest fan of all of the characters. (3/5)

Nothing Into All (Renee Ahdieh): I think this is one of my favorites, but mainly due to how it was written! I like the distance third person creates, allowing us to see the story/myth more fully. I also just really enjoyed reading the sibling bond. (4/5)

Spear Carrier (Rahul Kanakia): I think this one is the toughest to get into at the beginning, as you are literally thrown into the action, but I was able to catch on after a few pages. I wasn’t a fan of the ending though, until I read the author’s note at the end and learned of the original story it was based on. (3/5)

Code of Honor (Melissa de la Cruz): This story didn’t really click with me at all, and it felt out of place compared to some of the other tales. While it is based on Aswangs, it felt entirely like another vampire story. It was also way too predictable, in my opinion. (2/5)

Bullet, Butterfly (Elsie Chapman): I really loved this story! The romance was developed well in a short time, and even the friendships were. The world was also an interesting one to get a peek at, even if it was a quick one. (4/5)

Daughter of the Sun (Shveta Thakrar): Oh man I absolutely loved this one! It was so wonderfully written, and I loved both main characters too. The story itself was also beautiful. (5/5)

The Crimson Cloak (Cindy Pon): All my favorites seem to be at the end! This one also exceeded my expectations, and I absolutely love how it was able to capture me in so few pages. Definitely another favorite. (5/5)
Eyes Like Candlelight (Julie Kagawa): I loved this one as well, and it was a wonderful note to end the anthology on!! These last 4 stories were definitely my favorites from this anthology though. (5/5)