Review | Crown of Midnight by Sarah J. Maas

Crown of Midnight by Sarah J. Maas

Published by: Bloomsbury

Publication Date: August 15, 2013

Genre: Fantasy

Page Count: 418

Rating: 4/5

Source: Purchase

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Celaena Sardothien is the king’s Champion-yet she is far from loyal to the crown, for the man she serves is bent on evil. But working against her master in secret is no easy task. As Celaena tries to untangle the mysteries buried within the glass castle, she can trust no one, not even her supposed allies Crown Prince Dorian, Captain of the Guard Chaol, and foreign princess Nehemia.

Then, an unspeakable tragedy shatters Celaena’s world. She must decide once and for all where her loyalties lie…and whom she will fight for.


“But death was her curse and her gift, and death had been her good friend these long, long years.”

With badassery, betrayals, and deadly secrets, Crown of Midnight cements Sarah’s place in the fantasy world. Since I’ve had some time to control myself after reading this spectacular book, I can finally write my review. The foreshadowing master has done it again by writing a sequel that surpasses its predecessor. Am I surprised? No. Am I completely at her mercy? Yes. I’m here to stay, TOG fandom!

I lost count of how many times my emotions took a hold of me. And I somehow put myself together so I could move on to the next book. You know I’m dedicated when I can’t stopping reading a series. Sarah threads multi-layered arcs and brings them together to craft a well-executed story.

The Throne of Glass series is one of my favourites. And I truly don’t know how properly to explain my love for it. I had strong expectations with this sequel. I wanted everything her debut novel has to offer and more. And Sarah doesn’t fail. Having won the tournament, Celaena Sardothien is now the King’s Champion and must do his bidding, whether she wants to or not. As she uncovers secrets that should be left unburied, she faces a devastating loss.

Did I honestly believe I could love a character more? Clearly, I was wrong. I adore Celaena and her journey. You get to see more backstory with this cleverly thought-out character. And I can’t help but respect how multi-faceted she turns out to be. Death and heartache are not done leaving scars on her. And this book just shows how much she has suffered and continues to do so.

Like I’ve previously said, the secondary characters impress me. And I wasn’t sure what to expect from Chaol, Dorian, and Nehemia. I knew Chaol and Calaena explore a relationship, but I never knew it would tear strips into my already fragile heart. I shipped them hard. I loved his character arc, and the banter between the both of them made me so happy. Even though Dorian isn’t the love interest, he does play a strong role. And the tension between Nehemia and Calaena may be the hardest part of this book though.

Sarah slowly reveals this deadly and cutthroat world. You don’t want to live in Erilea. You don’t want to survive here. And yet she consistently proves how strong her characters are. Her storytelling improves as she uncovers the horrors of this continent. And I wonder how anyone ever lives in such a terrifying environment. Now, she intertwines fantasy into a magicless world. And I love that it builds suspense into her worldbuilding.

As I continue reading this series, I don’t know how I can love the next book more than the last. But I do. Sarah creates believable characters who I want to find freedom. And she unfolds a beautifully told story I’ll continue to admire.

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Review: A Gathering of Shadows by V. E. Schwab

A Gathering of Shadows by V. E. Schwab

Published by: Tor Books

Publication Date: February 23, 2017

Genre: Science Fiction, Fantasy, Adult

Page Count: 512

Rating: 4/5

Source: Purchase

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It has been four months since a mysterious obsidian stone fell into Kell’s possession. Four months since his path crossed with Delilah Bard. Four months since Prince Rhy was wounded, and since the nefarious Dane twins of White London fell, and four months since the stone was cast with Holland’s dying body through the rift–back into Black London.

Now, restless after having given up his smuggling habit, Kell is visited by dreams of ominous magical events, waking only to think of Lila, who disappeared from the docks as she always meant to do. As Red London finalizes preparations for the Element Games–an extravagant international competition of magic meant to entertain and keep healthy the ties between neighboring countries–a certain pirate ship draws closer, carrying old friends back into port.

And while Red London is caught up in the pageantry and thrills of the Games, another London is coming back to life. After all, a shadow that was gone in the night will reappear in the morning. But the balance of magic is ever perilous, and for one city to flourish, another London must fall.


 

“Magic and magician must between them balance. Magic itself is chaos. The magician must be calm. The fractured self must be a pure vessel for power, spilling power without focus measure from every crack.”

I never thought I’d love this series this much when I first picked up A Darker Shade of Magic. But as I write this review, I know Shades of Magic will be one series I’ll cherish over others. The magic, the thrill, and the friendship will always bring me back. And I want more time to revel in Red London.

Victoria is an author to marvel at. She creates these complex and highly detailed magical worlds and systems. She unravels an intricate and layered story that makes you love storytelling all over again. And her characters stand on their own yet complement each other beautifully. I adore how each character has developed from the aftermath of the first book.

Kell must live with the actions of saving his brother, Rhy, and bringing a deadly magic to their world. Both the king and queen have lost their trust in Kell, and he feels that loss and resentment when they force more restrictions on him. Rhy and Kell’s bond though is what anchors the both of them, and I loved their interactions together. I also enjoyed how Kell’s entire perspective of his life changes. He struggles with his choices that bound his life with Rhy’s. And that internal battle builds depth to his character.

Lila, the stab-happy and would-be pirate, adapts well to Red London. She is one character who I loved reading in the ADSOM. And even though I want to rant about how her stubbornness gets in the way of growth, I can’t help but admire her badassery. Alucard Emery, the captain of Night Spire, just adds a little flare to everyone’s life. I thought I’d hate him, but he’s such an exciting addition.

The worldbuilding expands in this sequel. As the Essen Tacsh begins, magicians compete against each other. Over five days, thirty-six contenders must battle each other out until a competitor is crowned the winner. I absolutely loved seeing different magicians from other regions of Red London. You see how each country wields magic. But while people are enchanted by the Element Games, an old threat reappears.

What stands out the most is Victoria’s writing. She ensares your love of magic and shows you how beautiful yet dangerous it is. I was entranced the entire time, and I knew I need more from this world. Victoria doesn’t rely on romance to tell her story. She allows the magic to envelop her readers, and I’ll forever respect her series.

Review | Smoke in the Sun by Renée Ahdieh

Smoke in the Sun by Renée Ahdieh

Published by: G. P Putnam’s Son

Publication Date: June 5, 2018

Genre: Fantasy, Romance, Historical

Page Count: 415

Rating: 4/5

Source: Purchase

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The highly anticipated sequel to Flame in the Mist—an addictive, sumptuous finale that will leave readers breathless from the bestselling author of The Wrath and the Dawn.

After Okami is captured in the Jukai forest, Mariko has no choice—to rescue him, she must return to Inako and face the dangers that have been waiting for her in the Heian Castle. She tricks her brother, Kenshin, and betrothed, Raiden, into thinking she was being held by the Black Clan against her will, playing the part of the dutiful bride-to-be to infiltrate the emperor’s ranks and uncover the truth behind the betrayal that almost left her dead.

With the wedding plans already underway, Mariko pretends to be consumed with her upcoming nuptials, all the while using her royal standing to peel back the layers of lies and deception surrounding the imperial court. But each secret she unfurls gives way to the next, ensnaring Mariko and Okami in a political scheme that threatens their honor, their love and very the safety of the empire.


“Ours is a love stronger than fear and deeper than the sea”

I’ve been waiting to come back to this beautiful, rich, and detailed series. Renée combines fantasy, historical touches, and romance that will make her readers swoon. Smoke in the Sun doesn’t disappoint.

I’ve been putting off this review for awhile. Now, I’m still not sure if I can express the thoughts I feel about this book. When I started reading it, I was anticipating high action and deadly battles. And while we do see that more toward the end, Renée offers a story that creeps up on you, draws your attention, then attacks your every emotion. By the final book, I’m invested in these well fleshed out characters who I adore and who bring a different perspective to the novel.

Women who seem to play more of a background role are truly the hidden force and the backbone of the series. I’ve been craving a book where women will risk everything, even their own lives, to fight for a better world. And Renée beautifully illustrates that the power they have to offer.

The worldbuilding relies much more on court politics. And that is where Renée’s writing shines. Betrayals, deceptions, an unstable leader, and familial bonds intertwine to make a complex and layered storytelling. I wasn’t sure what to expect from one chapter to the next. And I loved living in the thrill of finding out. And I enjoyed how she spines her intricate tale. But her characters may just surpass her writing though. Each one adds to the depth of the story itself, and I can’t help but rave about them.

Mariko—who survived an assassination attempt, fell in love with the enemy, and outwitted even the Black Clan—is a well-developed main character. Along with persuading her betrothed and her brother, she must protect Okami and discover who wants her dead. I adore her development in Smoke. Sometimes, you need to read of a quiet yet forceful character who surprises you.

Okami, oh my heart, suffers so much. And yet his strength and determination are what make him an outstanding character. He doesn’t let the empire or the emperor break him. I thought I loved him in Flame, but I was wrong. I don’t always comment on secondary characters, yet I feel that they deserve at least a mention. Each one brings a new dynamic to the story.

I knew coming into this duology that I would want more sequels, more storylines, and frankly more everything. Yet Renée offers a satisfying conclusion to an already thrilling series. You need to read it.

“Our deepest truths are usually the hardest to conceal.”

Review | Bruja Born by Zoraida Córdova

Bruja Born by Zoraida Córdova

Published by: Sourcebooks Fire

Publication Date: June 5, 2018

Genre: Fantasy, Magic

Page Count: 352

Rating: 4.5/5

Source: Purchase

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Three sisters. One spell. Countless dead.

Lula Mortiz feels like an outsider. Her sister’s newfound Encantrix powers have wounded her in ways that Lula’s bruja healing powers can’t fix, and she longs for the comfort her family once brought her. Thank the Deos for Maks, her sweet, steady boyfriend who sees the beauty within her and brings light to her life.


Then a bus crash turns Lula’s world upside down. Her classmates are all dead, including Maks. But Lula was born to heal, to fix. She can bring Maks back, even if it means seeking help from her sisters and defying Death herself. But magic that defies the laws of the deos is dangerous. Unpredictable. And when the dust settles, Maks isn’t the only one who’s been brought back.


“This is a love story. At least, it was, before my sister sent me to hell.”

Magic, lost love, tragic deaths, consequences, and one spell that changes everything, Bruja Born enchants readers who weren’t entranced by Labyrinth Lost. Going into this sequel, I had no expectations, but I can’t imagine skipping it now. I cried. I laughed. And I wanted more. Please, Zoraida, never let it end.

I wanted to love Labyrinth Lost, but it never hooked me like I wanted it to. With the sequel though, I finally understand why people love her work. I’ve been counting down the days when I find a witch story I love. And when it’s here, I am screaming for the final book.

Lula Mortiz tries to heal from the traumatic events that took place in Los Lagos, the in-between dimension her sister, Alex, sent her and their entire family to. I admit that I didn’t like her in Alex’s book. However, her vulnerabilities and her pain are what draws me to her now. And I love her character development. Losing her boyfriend, Maks, overpowers her every thought and self-control though. And the consequences to bring him back are more than she can handle.

The Latina magic system has always intrigued me. And Zoraida reveals more of this intricate world, which is what I’ve been hoping to see, and she raises the stakes. I loved travelling to Los Lagos. And seeing the universe she has created pulls me deeper into this richly layered series. What makes me love this book is how the author effortlessly crafts a believable world and family structure. Even though magic is a strong theme throughout her writing, the Mortiz family is the core. And sisterhood means more than anything to the Mortiz girls.

This fast-paced sequel is what I needed to convince me to stick with Brooklyn Brujas. The mythology wraps around you and sucks you in, and the diversity just makes the story that more compelling. Characters keep the storyline flowing, and I cannot remember the last time I’ve laughed at all the one-liners in a book. The sisterly bond makes my heart swell, but the fantasy finishes off a spellbinding novel.

Bruja Born may start off with a love story, but it ends with the strength of three sisters who defy the gods themselves. If Labyrinth Lost didn’t persuade you to take a chance on Brooklyn Brujas, reconsider. I want to read it again so I can step back into this magical place.

What do you look for in a series that contains witches? Which ones are your favourites? Let’s chat!

Review | Legendary by Stephanie Garber

Legendary by Stephanie Garber

Published by: Flatiron Books

Publication Date: May 29, 2018

Genre: Fantasy, Romance

Page Count: 464

Rating: 4.5/5

Source: Purchase

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A heart to protect. A debt to repay. A game to win.

After being swept up in the magical world of Caraval, Donatella Dragna has finally escaped her father and saved her sister Scarlett from a disastrous arranged marriage. The girls should be celebrating, but Tella isn’t yet free. She made a desperate bargain with a mysterious criminal, and what Tella owes him no one has ever been able to deliver: Caraval Master Legend’s true name.

The only chance of uncovering Legend’s identity is to win Caraval, so Tella throws herself into the legendary competition once more-and into the path of the murderous heir to the throne, a doomed love story, and a web of secrets, including her sister’s. Caraval has always demanded bravery, cunning, and sacrifice. But now the game is asking for more. If Tella can’t fulfill her bargain and deliver Legend’s name, she’ll lose everything she cares about-maybe even her life. But if she wins, Legend and Caraval will be destroyed forever.


“Every good story needs a villain. But the best villains are the ones you secretly like.”

Sometimes a book captivates all your senses where you taste the candy apple on your lips, hear the music trickle out from every store, and watch the stars dancing above you. So how can Legendary top my love of Caraval? I’m still trying to catch my breath from Stephanie’s debut novel, but I recapture it with this book. And I want nothing more than to crawl back into this world all over again.

With Scarlet’s story, you rediscover magic. It tastes enchanting, and it doesn’t disappoint you. With Tella’s story though, this magic morphs into a dark, bone-chilling, ancient enchantment. It scares you, but you want more. Once again, Stephanie takes you on a magical yet emotional adventure. And I honestly thought I couldn’t love the sequel as much as the first. But I do.

Legend first shows you what magic can be in a world filled with pain. Now, he gives you the thorns along with the roses. New mythological creatures, the Fates, begin to weave themselves in the beloved and sought-out Caraval. And even though you should believe everything is a game, it isn’t now. The stakes are real. Magic comes with terrifying consequences Tella isn’t sure she can pay.

I thoroughly love jumping back into this world. I love trying to find out what will happen to my two favourite sisters, who Legend might be, and how this game plays out. But did I expect to be picking up the pieces of my heart once I finished the book? No.

In Caraval, I didn’t like Tella. But she develops into a strong-willed character who I was hoping for. She discovers that her mother is alive but trapped in a set of cards, the Deck of Destiny. But along the way of trying to save her, Tella uncovers buried secrets and owes a debt to a man who may rival Legend himself. This game demands sacrifice, and she must either save her mother by destroying Caraval and giving up Legend or save the game everyone lives for. But the girl who doesn’t want love may have it completely change the course of her entire life.

Dante is one character who I didn’t think would play a larger role in the sequel. However, even though I despised him in Caraval, I love him now. His complexity and depth are what make him one of my favourite characters.

The writing and storytelling hook onto your every whim and dream. You want to be a part of Caraval as much as the characters. And the suspense to reach the end is nerve-wracking. I adore how Stephanie crafts a single sentence that will break your heart but make you believe in this world. Love, sacrifice, betrayal, political intrigue, and ancient forces create an enthralling performance. I cannot wait to find the next ticket to Caraval.

Review | War Storm by Victoria Aveyard

War Storm by Victoria Aveyard

Published by: HarperTeen

Publication Date: May 15, 2018

Genre: Fantasy, Dystopian

Page Count: 672

Rating: 3.5/5

Source: Purchase

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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 demolish 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?


“I am less than his crown, but he is less than my cause.”

With betrayal and heartache, deadly politics and a revolution, War Storm has the makings of a truly spectacular ending. I cannot remember the last I eagerly awaited for the finale in a series. And while War Storm is one of my most anticipated reads of 2018, I want more. Even if I’ll always hold this series in high regard, I am disappointed. Perhaps I simply expect too much from it.

When I first bought Red Queen, this series immersed me into such a politically charged world. And yes, I admit that the tropes Victoria uses may not sit well with everyone. I cannot fault her for that though. However, I love her writing. And I love how I evolved my reading because of her storytelling. But I want her to take more risks and give Mare the ending she deserves. The finale seems underdeveloped. And I walk away from this series asking for more. Am I the only reader who feels this way? I don’t know.

I think sometimes we readers gamble with stories. We cannot predict what may happen to the characters we love. And we cannot dictate what happens. The story is the author’s design. And Victoria has taken chances many readers do not like. But this ending feels, to me, unfinished. Even though I leave this series disappointed, I credit Victoria for achieving what she has done. I respect her for sticking to the story she decided to write. And she forges her own path.

She weaves in current political issues that affect us today and creates multi-layered, albeit scary, world. And she writes real and conflicted characters readers can relate to. Mare has grown up from the thief roaming the Stilts to the poster child of the revolution. I‘ve cried with her, screamed at her, yet she’ll be one of my favourite characters. Now with Cal, I still want to throttle him. His crown comes before anything, but he soon realizes it isn’t worth the pain.

But Victoria misses an opportunity to make Maven outshine even his own mother. While I hate him, the author doesn’t explore the internal struggle he faces because of what Elara did to him. She offers you glimpses, but I want more from this troubled character.

Evangeline, the magnetron I wish suffered horribly, surprises me the most. And one reason why I enjoyed this book is because of her. Her character growth and overall arc make me root for her. And even though, at first, she’s an unlikeable character, I’ve grown to like her. Was I expecting this? No. Two years ago, I never would have uttered those words.

I will always respect what authors want in their stories. I may not agree with the final product, and I may too high expectations, but the story is their own. The Red Queen series will always have a place on my shelf, but maybe I expect too much from War Storm.

What are your thoughts on the final installment of Red Queen? Did you leave disappointed? What did you love the most from it?

Review | To Kill a Kingdom by Alexandra Christo

To Kill a Kingdom by Alexandra Christo

Published by: Feiwel & Friends

Publication Date: March 6, 2018

Genre: Fantasy, Retelling

Page Count: 342

Rating: 5/5

Source: Purchase

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Princess Lira is siren royalty and the most lethal of them all. With the hearts of seventeen princes in her collection, she is revered across the sea. Until a twist of fate forces her to kill one of her own. To punish her daughter, the Sea Queen transforms Lira into the one thing they loathe most—a human. Robbed of her song, Lira has until the winter solstice to deliver Prince Elian’s heart to the Sea Queen or remain a human forever.

The ocean is the only place Prince Elian calls home, even though he is heir to the most powerful kingdom in the world. Hunting sirens is more than an unsavory hobby—it’s his calling. When he rescues a drowning woman in the ocean, she’s more than what she appears. She promises to help him find the key to destroying all of sirenkind for good—But can he trust her? And just how many deals will Elian have to barter to eliminate mankind’s greatest enemy?


“He belongs to the ocean. He is made from it, as much as I am.”

Alexandra Christo’s To Kill a Kingdom makes my little black heart sing. When I picked this book, I wasn’t sure I was waiting for it. And I cannot imagine my life without it. Alexandra gives you a reason to love villains.

Only a few books have achieved this feat, but To Kill a Kingdom slays every expectation. And it instantly finds its rightful place on my favourites list. This loose reimagining is wicked, brutal, and tempting. If you’re looking for villainous main characters, this book is your next read.

I bought this book a whim. It snuck into my life when I needed just a taste of badassery. And let me tell you: I love it. Alexandra captures the true essence of sirens. You don’t get the PG version we 90s kids were force fed. You see their merciless side, and you’ll be wanting more once you’re done. These sirens will watch as you drown, then tear out your heart. So do not expect any singalongs. Even when life called me back, I didn’t want to put down the book.

The characters beautifully complement the storytelling. Lira, the Prince’s Bane, is a ruthless and royal siren who will get what she wants: the heart of Prince Elian. But the Prince-turned-pirate desires nothing more than to rid his world of sirens. Yet when he finds her adrift in the ocean and doesn’t know who she is, they must work together to find a way to kill the Sea Queen. I adore hate-to-love relationships. I don’t care what anyone says. This trope has value, and it creates a dynamic story. Now, I don’t always enjoy the secondary characters. But with Elian’s crew, I can’t help but do so.

Both Elian and Lira are savage in their own way. But you see glimpses of who they truly are. I enjoyed seeing a prince who doesn’t want a crown. Instead, he craves the sea, and no matter the cost, he’ll protect it and his crew. Lira’s past will give you a better understanding as to the reason why she’s cruel. Yet even with a vicious mother, she holds onto her humanity, and Elian knows how to tease it out of her.

I don’t also buy standalone books. I enjoy visiting a series and reliving my favourite scenes. So I’m a little disappointed we don’t get a sequel. However, if you’re looking for stunning world building and stellar characters with a wicked side, look no further. But if you’ve come for the Disney version of My Little Mermaid, turn back now. The savagery is what intrigued me, but I love the masterful storytelling.

Review | A Court of Frost and Starlight by Sarah J. Maas

A Court of Frost and Starlight by Sarah J. Maas

Published by: Bloomsbury

Publication Date: May 1, 2018

Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy

Page Count: 272

Rating: 3.75/5

Source: Purchase

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Feyre, Rhys, and their close-knit circle of friends are still busy rebuilding the Night Court and the vastly-changed world beyond. But Winter Solstice is finally near, and with it, a hard-earned reprieve. Yet even the festive atmosphere can’t keep the shadows of the past from looming. As Feyre navigates her first Winter Solstice as High Lady, she finds that those dearest to her have more wounds than she anticipated–scars that will have far-reaching impact on the future of their Court.


“Stars flickered around us, sweet darkness sweeping in. As if we were the only souls in a galaxy.”

You all know I love the ACOTAR series. I cannot get enough of it, so when I heard Sarah is expanding this world, I haven’t been that giddy for such a long time. So if you’re a dedicated fan like me, A Court of Frost and Starlight is on your most anticipated books of 2018.

I wasn’t expecting huge revelations in ACOFAS, but I hoped for more spunk and spark displayed in her previous books. This novella is more toned down. But again, my expectations shouldn’t be high. But they are, and that is where I’m conflicted with this book. The story takes place six months after the war. The Night Court is still healing. Scars and destruction cling to all the courts. So when the Winter Solstice arrives, Feyre and her family are determined to celebrate it.

This character-driven novella is beautifully written. And I easily fall into this world. I adored reading the lighthearted scenes. And Sarah opens up and gives you heartwarming glimpses of characters you’ve grown to cherish. The four aspects that make ACOFAS such a memorable story are the storytelling, character developments, personal healing, and Nesta.

Yes, Nesta. Her growth will shock you as it does me. And while some readers may say she doesn’t deserve Cassian, somehow their pain, anger, and strength complement each other. And let’s be honest: I ship Nessian. I haven’t shipped a couple this hard before (other than Feysand). I had an inkling that Sarah might take Nesta down this path. This author somehow perfectly demonstrates the human condition. She weaves together these complex emotions into layered characters arcs I haven’t seen before. So I’m dying to see how Nesta lets Cass in and allows herself to move past her agony. Or I will riot.

Now onto my number one OTP: Feysand. I hear the collective sigh and squees from here. Yes, I came for the smut, but I stayed for the love. Do you know much much I adore and envy their relationship?! I’ve been rooting for them since ACOTAR (even though the word mate is excessive), and finally, they get their future. Cue the ugly crying! And while their past still haunts them, they somehow grow stronger. This book is a perfect ending to their story.

A Court of Frost and Starlight is a tale of healing, love, ghosts, and pain. It reminds you why you keep coming back to the ACOTAR series. And while I didn’t enjoy the pace and some other scenes, I wouldn’t give us this series for another.

Review | The Last Namsara by Kristen Ciccarelli

The Last Namsara by Kristen Ciccarelli

Published by: HarperTeen

Publication Date: October 3, 2017

Genre: Fantasy

Page Count: 432

Rating: 5/5

Source: Purchase

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In the beginning, there was the Namsara: the child of sky and spirit, who carried love and laughter wherever he went. But where there is light, there must be darkness—and so there was also the Iskari. The child of blood and moonlight. The destroyer. The death-bringer.

These are the legends that Asha, daughter of the king of Firgaard, has grown up learning in hushed whispers, drawn to the forbidden figures of the past. But it isn’t until she becomes the fiercest, most feared dragon slayer in the land that she takes on the role of the next Iskari—a lonely destiny that leaves her feeling more like a weapon than a girl.

Asha conquers each dragon and brings its head to the king, but no kill can free her from the shackles that await at home: her betrothal to the cruel commandant, a man who holds the truth about her nature in his palm.

When she’s offered the chance to gain her freedom in exchange for the life of the most powerful dragon in Firgaard, she finds that there may be more truth to the ancient stories than she ever could have expected. With the help of a secret friend—a slave boy from her betrothed’s household—Asha must shed the layers of her Iskari bondage and open her heart to love, light, and a truth that has been kept from her.


“Once there was a girl who was drawn to wicked things.”

Beautifully detailed and rich in storytelling, Kristen’s Ciccarelli’s The Last Namsara will compel even the most jaded fantasy lover. It reminds me why I take chances on stories.

I have heard a lot of great reviews from several book bloggers, but I was still hesitant buying this book. I don’t always take risks with new authors, but Last Namsara has been sneaking up on my TBR list for awhile now, so I took the plunge. And I cannot believe I waited this long to read it.

One of my hesitations is the fact that Asha—the claimed Iskari, who brings pain and heartache to the world—is a dragon killer. Dragons have always charmed me since I was young. So hearing that she kills them didn’t sit well with me. However, this story is brimming with betrayal, politics, hidden pasts, enchanting history, and human strength. Kristen captivates you from the first sentence. Her writing appealed to me quite early on in the book. And one strong aspect of this book is the storytelling.

Asha lives in a world where legends bring fear to the people of Firgaard, stories are forbidden and outlawed, and wickedness governs over all. Asha—who is disfigured by the feared Kozu, the first dragon—swears she will rid her world of these beasts. She must. Years ago, she befriended Kozu, and when the old stories killed her mother, and her city almost perished, she feels it’s her duty and her penance. I first thought I wouldn’t like her. But her inner power made me love her more. She isn’t afraid to show her scars. And while she’s defiant by telling the old tales to lure the dragons out, I’ve gained a lot of respect for this character.

I was hoping for more stronger secondary characters in this high fantasy. Dax, Asha’s brother, doesn’t jump out at me as much as I wanted him to. Her father, the dragon king, stays more in the background. Two characters stick out from the rest though: Jarek and Torwin. Jarek is the commandant and Asha’s betrothed, and he uses his position as a way to intimidate and control her. And his brutality cements his place in this wicked city. Torwin, Jarek’s slave, brings out something in her. I loved reading their banter and their relationship evolution.

Now Kristen plays with the hierarchy in society. You see a clear divide between the rich and the lower caste. I thoroughly enjoyed seeing how it opens up this cruel world. You don’t witness a lot of world building until the latter half of the book though. So I hope to see more of that in the next books.

If you’re a Throne of Glass, And I Darken, and An Ember in the Ashes fan, you’ll easily fall in love with this book. Don’t hesitate like I did. Go read this book!

“Then may Death send his worst. Cold to freeze the love in my heart. Fire to burn my memories to ash. Wind to force me through the gates. Time to wear my loyalty away. I’ll wait for you at Death’s gate.”

Review: The Hazel Wood by Melissa Albert

The Hazel Wood by Melissa Albert

Published by: Flatiron Books

Publication Date: January 30, 2018

Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy

Page Count: 368

Rating: 3.5/5

Source: Indigo Teen

Goodreads | Indigo | Amazon CAN | Amazon US | Book Depository


Seventeen-year-old Alice and her mother have spent most of Alice’s life on the road, always a step ahead of the uncanny bad luck biting at their heels. But when Alice’s grandmother, the reclusive author of a cult-classic book of pitch-dark fairy tales, dies alone on her estate, the Hazel Wood, Alice learns how bad her luck can really get: Her mother is stolen away-by a figure who claims to come from the Hinterland, the cruel supernatural world where her grandmother’s stories are set. Alice’s only lead is the message her mother left behind: “Stay away from the Hazel Wood.”

Alice has long steered clear of her grandmother’s cultish fans. But now she has no choice but to ally with classmate Ellery Finch, a Hinterland superfan who may have his own reasons for wanting to help her. To retrieve her mother, Alice must venture first to the Hazel Wood, then into the world where her grandmother’s tales began-and where she might find out how her own story went so wrong.


I won this book from an Indigo Teen’s giveaway, which doesn’t affect my review. Thank you, Indigo Teen and the author.

 

“I remembered less from my own life than I did from the books I read.”

With dark and beautiful storytelling, Melissa Albert introduces you to an eerie fairy tale. The Hazel Wood is a good start to a well-thought-out series. And as much as I wanted to fall in love with the lush writing, I couldn’t. This Alice in Wonderland retelling doesn’t quite capture my imagination.

I truly wanted to like it more. But while reading, I felt that the story dragged on for more than half the book. And once you get to the Hazel Wood and Hinterland, the storyline fractures into pieces that I found too distracting. I knew this book threw off a lot of readers who thought it’s not set in our modern world. So thankfully, I knew that coming into Hazel Wood.

I hate writing negative reviews. So much work goes into creating a book. And I have to give respect where it is due. Melissa beautifully creates a spooky world. And her writing draws you into her storytelling. You see her dedication to her craft. But I didn’t build a connection to the story or the characters. And I was expecting more world building in this kind of novel.

Alice has survived from one bad situation to the next. She never seems to find good luck in her life. As she and her mother live on the road, Alice has always been fascinated by her grandmother, who wrote the infamous Hinterland. I wanted to like this character, and while I loved her sarcasm, I felt that she puts herself and others into certain circumstances that she can’t get out of. She can easily prevent this problem from occurring, but she doesn’t stop to think what the consequences will be before doing said action.

Now I had my doubts about Ellery Finch, a fan and collector of Hinterland. I thought I couldn’t trust him, but I was wrong. Surprisingly, I enjoyed his character later in the story, and I think he might be the reason why I’d read the sequel.

If you’re looking for a peculiar and strange take on Alice in Wonderland, then The Hazel Wood should be your next read. While I loved the design of the book, the fairy tales in Hinterland itself, and several secondary characters, I feel that Hazel Wood may not the book for me. But the storytelling makes up for some of my disappointments. With her writing, Melissa will surprise you.

“And while they’re being told, stories create the energy that makes this world go. They keep our stars in place. They make our grass grow.”