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.

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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!

Continue reading

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)

A Study in Charlotte by Brittany Cavallaro

“The last thing Jamie Watson wants is a rugby scholarship to Sherringford, a Connecticut prep school just an hour away from his estranged father. But that’s not the only complication: Sherringford is also home to Charlotte Holmes, the famous detective’s great-great-great-granddaughter, who has inherited not only Sherlock’s genius but also his volatile temperament. From everything Jamie has heard about Charlotte, it seems safer to admire her from afar.

From the moment they meet, there’s a tense energy between them, and they seem more destined to be rivals than anything else. But when a Sherringford student dies under suspicious circumstances, ripped straight from the most terrifying of the Sherlock Holmes stories, Jamie can no longer afford to keep his distance. Jamie and Charlotte are being framed for murder, and only Charlotte can clear their names. But danger is mounting and nowhere is safe—and the only people they can trust are each other.”

-Synopsis taken from Goodreads

Hey guys! Meaghan here with another review!

“Truth be told, I liked that blurriness. That line where reality and fiction jutted up against each other.”

Stars (Out of 10): 7.5/10 Stars

Favorite Character: Jamie

Spoiler Free: I recently (finally) watched all the currently released season of BBC Sherlock, and I’m still on kind of a Sherlock Holmes high since then, and was dying to read all sorts of mystery! I’ve seen this series around for the longest time, and after some convincing from some of my book friends, I finally picked it up! (It helped that, at my time of interest, I was able to snatch the first three books in mainly hardcover for like, $15)

In the end, I quite enjoyed it. I was a fan of the writing style, and the plot kept me guessing, but I did miss the feeling of suspense that usually accompanies mystery books. Instead of feeling more and more tension as the story got further along, my feeling of suspense and intrigue seemed to flatline. It may just be the fault of how I paced the reading of this book though, as I limited myself to two chapters a day since I was reading with a buddy. Regardless, this is what lowered the book to 8/10 though.

Going back to the writing though, I was quite fond of the style. A contemporary, regardless of subgenre, grabs me most when there’s something unique about the style, whether it be an intrigued first person voice or just an odd, mysterious third person one. In this case, however, our Jamie Watson was an odd, sometimes aloof, voice, and I still really enjoyed seeing everything from his point of view. His personality was just different from the standard YA contemporary protagonist, but also still not a copycat of other “oddball” YA voices, and this is part of what hooked me!

Additionally, I quite liked the characters themselves. The author did a good job of building their personalities and ensuring the characters stuck to it. Jamie is a fairly friendly, forgiving guy, and this is held true throughout. On the other hand, Charlotte is often distant and strange, but still quite a strong character, and nothing changes this, even a little hint of romance. Even the side characters are quite interesting, and none seem to fall into stereotypical tropes (except for a few… exceptions).  

I guess the plot is where it failed the most, mainly due to the lack of suspense build-up. I couldn’t guess what was going to happen next at all, but that may be due to the lack of foreshadowing (unless I entirely missed all the hints that were being dropped). Since this is a Sherlock Holmes retelling, and we are looking only through the eyes of Jamie (a much lesser detective by far), we really only know what Charlotte wants us to know, which didn’t seem to ever be enough to guess what was going on. Charlotte was the one with the background knowledge to know who it was, so when it was finally put together in front of her, we got the answer straight away.

Regardless, I’m intrigued as to how this series develops, as while this story could have definitely stood alone, there were more than enough loose ends to be knotted up, so I’m excited to see where those all go!

 

Through The Dark by Alexandra Bracken

“Don’t miss this breathtaking collection of stories set in the world of the New York Times best-selling Darkest Minds trilogy. Featuring ebook original novellas In Time and Sparks Rise, and a gripping, brand-new novella, Through the Dark is a must-have for fans of the Darkest Minds. This collection contains three novellas: In TimeSparks Rise, and Beyond the Night, as well as a sneak peek at the first novel in Alexandra Bracken’s new series, Passenger.

IN TIME
Gabe’s life has been devastated in the wake of the economic crash. The only option left for someone like him to escape his tragic past is to leave his small town behind and to attempt to become a skiptracer. This already almost-impossible task is made all the more difficult by his first “score,”a young girl who won’t speak, but who changes his life in ways he could never imagine.

SPARKS RISE
Sam didn’t think things could get worse at Thurmand rehabilitation camp. Then the Reds arrive. Everyone assumed the kids with firepower had been killed years ago. Instead they were taken away, brainwashed, and returned as terrifyingly effective guards. To her horror, Sam recognizes one of them: Lucas, the one spark of light in Sam’s dark childhood. Lucas has a deadly secret–he beat the brutal training that turned his fellow Reds into mindless drones. When Sam defends herself against an attack by a vile PSF guard and faces a harrowing punishment, Lucas must risk everything to save her.

BEYOND THE NIGHT
The government-run “rehabilitation camps” have been shut down, but kids with Psi powers are anything but free. Sam would rather be on her own than put in the care of a foster family and given the “cure”–a dangerous procedure that unclaimed kids across the country are being forced to undergo. But there’s more at stake than just her own safety. Sam once made someone a promise, and the time has come to fulfill it. Now that she’s out of her camp, Mia only has one thought in her head: finding Lucas, her beloved older brother.”

-Synopsis taken from Goodreads

Hey guys! Meaghan here with another review!

“One day we will ignite and create a blaze that no one can put out, ignore, hurt. We will move forward as one, and in time, rise like sparks beyond the night.”

Stars (Out of 10): 7/10 Stars

Favorite Character: Lucas

There will be spoilers for the main books within the short stories that take place after.

Spoiler Free: Well, this is it for now. I’ve reached the end of the currently released Darkest Minds world, and my heart is heavy. I’ve closed this long opened series in my life, and I absolutely loved getting the chance to read it now. But I explained a lot of my feelings for the series in my In The Afterlight review, so I’ll spare you here!

Unfortunately, while I enjoyed getting to see other parts of the TDM world, the novellas didn’t click with me as much as the main books did. I’ll break down this review into each of the three novellas!

In Time (Novella 1.5): I had actually read this novella once already, back when I first read The Darkest Minds, and I remember it hitting me really hard back then. The feelings I associated with this novella were stronger than the ones associated with the first book itself, at least in memory. However, while the first book did hold up to a reread, “In Time” just didn’t seem to. It seems like when I know how it ends, it kind of ruins the journey to get to that ending. Regardless, that doesn’t change that the first read through of this novella is an amazing experience, and gives an interesting new side to the world! Overall, this story was probably a 5/5 for my first read, and a 3/5 for my second.

Sparks Rise (Novella 2.5): I really enjoyed getting to see how life in Thurmond carried on after Ruby escaped, especially from Sam’s point of view. While Ruby was able to give a pretty good first-hand experience of the camps already, she didn’t showcase a character being broken, as Ruby was always fairly subdued compared to Sam in the camps. However, we see how different Sam is now, after that extra time in Thurmond, in this novella. Ashley and Ruby are gone now, and we see Sam stripped of her original courage and bravery, her fire. It was a hard voice to read from, to get used to, but I quite enjoyed the perspective in this point of view. The story itself is fairly tragic, like most of the world is, but the interweaving of hopeful moments made the tragedy even harder to bear. Additionally, we got to see even more of the fucked up stuff in the camps, as it seems to increased as time goes on with still no fix to the psi problem. Overall, this story was probably a 4/5 for me!

Beyond The Night (Novella 3.5): Overall, I’m not 100% what I feel about this novella. There were some really deep and introspective parts of it, where the kids thought more on their situation, but there was also too much action contained in certain moments. I think it just felt paced weirdly, in a sense. I also wasn’t the biggest fan of the narration in this novel. I never really clicked with Mia, as I found her a bit too aggressive towards Sam/Liam/the others at points, but then again she didn’t know the background behind some of the actions she was angry about. It was also just hard to read Sam’s character at points, because of how broken she is after the main books and the second novella. It makes complete sense for her fire to be hidden, for her to lean towards cowardness at points, but it didn’t make it any easier to read. The book did seem to pick up around the final two chapters, and that was where the novella moved from a more actiony plot to a more emotional/mental one. I think another part that made this novella harder to read was the hope that it extinguished in me. This takes place after the liberation of the camps, when the world is rebuilding after the decade of suffering and pain. But it just doesn’t seem to be getting any better for these poor kids. Both before and now they are trapped by their age, their powers, still under the thumbs of adults when they’ve been surviving independently for a long time now. It just hurts to think how the work may have been for nothing, that they may just suppress the abilities or hide the kids in another camp-like setting until the abilities disappear. But I guess that would book 4 will help resolve! Overall, this novella hovers between a 3/5 and 4/5.

 

In The Afterlight by Alexandra Bracken

“Ruby can’t look back. Fractured by an unbearable loss, she and the kids who survived the government’s attack on Los Angeles travel north to regroup. With them is a prisoner: Clancy Gray, son of the president, and one of the few people Ruby has encountered with abilities like hers. Only Ruby has any power over him, and just one slip could lead to Clancy wreaking havoc on their minds.

They are armed only with a volatile secret: proof of a government conspiracy to cover up the real cause of IAAN, the disease that has killed most of America’s children and left Ruby and others like her with powers the government will kill to keep contained. But internal strife may destroy their only chance to free the “rehabilitation camps” housing thousands of other Psi kids.

Meanwhile, reunited with Liam, the boy she would-and did-sacrifice everything for to keep alive, Ruby must face the painful repercussions of having tampered with his memories of her. She turns to Cole, his older brother, to provide the intense training she knows she will need to take down Gray and the government. But Cole has demons of his own, and one fatal mistake may be the spark that sets the world on fire.”

-Synopsis taken from Goodreads

Hey guys! Meaghan here with another review!

“Now isn’t the time to change yourself to fit into the world. You should be changing the world to accept you. To let you exist as you are, without being cut open and damaged.”

Stars (Out of 10): 10/10

Favorite Character: I just love everyone

Spoiler Free: I don’t think I can be okay again after this book. I don’t know what made this series stand out compared to the other dystopians I’ve read lately (which is not many), but I think this will be one of those series that sticks with me for a very long time.

This book will stick with me because it is honest, it is dark, and reveals to us the shadows that hide in our world. I don’t doubt for a second that if this were to actually happen that our world would react in a very similar way, and that what makes this series so hard to read sometimes.

The characters were also phenomenal, just like in books 1 and 2. Almost all the characters are layered in such a phenomenal way, given motivations and flaws, weaknesses and strengths. They are also all individuals, and while there is overlap in the reactions to certain events, there is not overlap in why they reacted that way. This series seemed to have some of the most realistic representations of humanity that I have read in a while, and it had this great representation in almost all of the characters.

It was this realism that allowed me to connect with this story, to fall into it, as much as I did, even if that had some emotional consequences on my end (I kept getting so sucked into the story that I felt as if I was the one experiencing the story itself, and led to me having some pretty rough anxiety at points, and a dream here and there). This connection made some of the deaths/rough parts even more hard hitting, as you feel for the characters as if they were your friends.

Once again, the pacing of the plot was also really well done as well. This series in general did a really good job of pacing out the twists so there was always something more shocking to learn about the world, and this lead to me being even more hooked by the story, as I kept wanting to learn more and more about the reasoning and mystery behind the world. Additionally, the plot itself was also just really interesting as well. While some of the events themselves are ones that commonly occur within dystopian/rebellion books, the way in which it was written made it all feel new. There was also a well-balanced blend of emotional and political tension throughout the entire book, making it interesting on a variety of fronts.


Lastly, the ending was both heartbreaking and happy at the same time. It was hopeful, yet realistic, which matched the rest of the series really well. It managed to make me smile while stabbing me in the heart.

Overall, this series has cemented itself in both my brain and my heart as one of my favorites, and has proven to hold up over time (to me, at least). It’s been a while since every book in a series has blown me away, and managed to consistently keep me happy. This is a series that I am happy to just have been able to experience, and I am incredibly thankful for that. (This review is bringing tears to my eyes, I don’t want to say goodbye!)

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Never Fade by Alexandra Bracken

“Ruby never asked for the abilities that almost cost her her life. Now she must call upon them on a daily basis, leading dangerous missions to bring down a corrupt government and breaking into the minds of her enemies. Other kids in the Children’s League call Ruby “Leader”, but she knows what she really is: a monster.

When Ruby is entrusted with an explosive secret, she must embark on her most dangerous mission yet: leaving the Children’s League behind. Crucial information about the disease that killed most of America’s children—and turned Ruby and the others who lived into feared and hated outcasts—has survived every attempt to destroy it. But the truth is only saved in one place: a flashdrive in the hands of Liam Stewart, the boy Ruby once believed was her future—and who now wouldn’t recognize her.

As Ruby sets out across a desperate, lawless country to find Liam—and answers about the catastrophe that has ripped both her life and America apart—she is torn between old friends and the promise she made to serve the League. Ruby will do anything to protect the people she loves. But what if winning the war means losing herself?”

-Synopsis taken from Goodreads

Hey guys! Meaghan here with another review!

“Life isn’t fair. It’s taken me a while to get that. It’s always going to disappoint you in some way or another. You’ll make plans, and it’ll push you in another direction. You will love people, and they’ll be taken away no matter how hard you fight to keep them. You’ll try for something and won’t get it. You don’t have to find meaning in it; you don’t have to try to change things. You just have to accept the things that are out of your hands and try to take care of yourself. That’s your job.”

Stars (Out of 10): 9.5/10 Stars

Favorite Character:

Spoiler Free: So I’m an idiot and put off this review until after I finished the series. However, this book has a pretty big event at the end, so I should be able to distinguish what happens in this one and what happens in book 3!

Let’s start with by commenting on the trend that this series seems to have: it likes to fuck with your feelings and make you cry, a lot.

Originally, I put this book aside because of how upset I was by the ending of book 1, and how scared I was of the series, and the tone of the series, changing now that Ruby was working with the Children’s League, and that the side characters I had grown so attached to didn’t seem to be making an appearance in this book. I was worried for no reason. This is one of those series that seems to get better as it continues on and as it develops, rather than expending all its interesting twists in the first book.

Having Ruby working with the Children’s League puts her in a position to show more of the world to the reader, and expand her knowledge past what the kids are feeling in the crisis, as she now regularly sees how the adults are handling the change as well. This book just seems to expand the reach of the characters, and gives us some of the puzzle pieces that were missing in book one.

Like I mentioned above, I was at first worried at how Ruby, and the story itself, would change now that she wasn’t on the run. I had gotten used to this free and in charge Ruby, and was worried that putting her back under the thumb of someone else would make her lose her strong will again. This was not the case, and Ruby actually seemed to blossom in the Children’s League, at least in the sense that she learned more control over her abilities and strengthened her body and mind. Now she wasn’t just a girl with a fierce personality, but had the skills to back it up. Additionally, she never bought into some of the bullshit of the Children’s League, and therefore it gave an interesting perspective on the rebellion, one we don’t often get to see in dystopias. Normally, the rebellion is seen as the single shining star in a dark world, pure and full of hope. Often, that’s not the case, as every light casts a shadow, creates a darkness. Having Ruby as our eyes into this instance of rebellion gave the entire book a really interesting perspective.

Additionally, another worry was losing all our side characters and having to meet new ones that I assumed I would not like as much. Not only does the book one cast play a large role in this book, the new characters we are introduced to are also just as layered as Chubs, Liam, Zu, and Clancy were. Ruby is also less trusting of them at first, as she had recently been burned by Clancy, which also made the process of befriending Nico, Vida, Jude, and Cate an interesting one to follow. The variation in the characters also meshed really well together, and meshed well with the personalities of the old cast as well. Additionally, they all felt really well established, and there wasn’t really an overlap in personality/character. They all felt like actual individuals.

The plot was, once again, really well paced and action-packed. Something about the way this series is planned and written manages to keep you on the edge of your seat the entire time, but in a way that doesn’t overwhelm you. I never noticed a true lull in the book, and whenever I started getting bored of a setting, or it started to feel repetitive, the book changed things up once again.

Overall, I loved this installment just as much as book 1, if not more! It tied together so many characters and so many elements, and I am just constantly amazed by what this series accomplishes.

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Circe by Madeline Miller

In the house of Helios, god of the sun and mightiest of the Titans, a daughter is born. But Circe is a strange child–not powerful, like her father, nor viciously alluring like her mother. Turning to the world of mortals for companionship, she discovers that she does possess power–the power of witchcraft, which can transform rivals into monsters and menace the gods themselves.

Threatened, Zeus banishes her to a deserted island, where she hones her occult craft, tames wild beasts and crosses paths with many of the most famous figures in all of mythology, including the Minotaur, Daedalus and his doomed son Icarus, the murderous Medea, and, of course, wily Odysseus.

But there is danger, too, for a woman who stands alone, and Circe unwittingly draws the wrath of both men and gods, ultimately finding herself pitted against one of the most terrifying and vengeful of the Olympians. To protect what she loves most, Circe must summon all her strength and choose, once and for all, whether she belongs with the gods she is born from, or the mortals she has come to love. ”

-Synopsis taken from Goodreads

Hey guys! Meaghan here with another review!

“He showed me his scars, and in return he let me pretend that I had none.”

Stars (Out of 10): 9.5/10 Stars

Favorite Character: Circe!

Spoiler Free: Madeline Miller has done it again! I don’t know how she manages to write so beautifully, but this book has been no exception to the trend. She manages to both retell the myths in an enticing way as well as connect it to modern times, and this was especially the case in Circe.

In comparison to Song of Achilles, the story covers a much broader span of time, and involves many more myths and powerful characters. The story is also less focused on one specific set of events, but rather covers so many that Circe’s growth throughout all of them is the true story. It almost feels like an anthology at points, lots of small tales and stories, just connected by a larger, overarching theme. However, even with this difference in plot, the emotion behind the story, and how much the ending affected me, was still in line with Song of Achilles.

The character of Circe was a very interesting one to explore. She didn’t seem to belong in any societal sphere, not fully belonging with mortals due to her immortality and not fully belonging with the gods due to her lack of “godliness” and power, and not fully belonging with the other nymphs due to her lack of beauty. She was the outcast in almost every situation, and her desperation to be accepted was one many could relate to. It also led to a very nice starting point for a novel about acceptance and growth, and seeing this change was almost more beautiful than the words it was written with.

Like I mentioned above, in terms of world and plot, the story seems to tie in a large variety of tales and myths. In almost all of these mini-retellings, Circe was always a minor player within them, making her mark gradually over time rather than through a single heroic tale. This led to the existence of a multi-faceted character with a very interesting history, a history which often came back into play over and over. It felt like a living and breathing entity, her history, and played a large role in shaping her actions and reactions, and I loved that.

I also love how, as Circe grows and learns to be more confident and accepting of who she is, the story seems to center more on her as well. Yes, she has always been the focus of the story, but not necessarily the focus of the events she acts within. As the story goes on, and Circe becomes more assertive, she also begins to assert her place within her story, and mythology as a whole. We start getting Circe-centered stories, and she flourishes within them.

Overall, I absolutely loved this book, from its writing to its character development, and cannot wait to see what Madeline Miller writes next!

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