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.”
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Review | Daughter of the Siren Queen by Tricia Levenseller

Daughter of the Siren Queen by Tricia Levenseller

Published by: Feiwel & Friends

Publication Date: February 27, 2018

Genre: Fantasy, Romance

Page Count: 352

Rating: 4.5/5

Source: Purchase

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Alosa’s mission is finally complete. Not only has she recovered all three pieces of the map to a legendary hidden treasure, but the pirates who originally took her captive are now prisoners on her ship. Still unfairly attractive and unexpectedly loyal, first mate Riden is a constant distraction, but now he’s under her orders. And she takes great comfort in knowing that the villainous Vordan will soon be facing her father’s justice.

When Vordan exposes a secret her father has kept for years, Alosa and her crew find themselves in a deadly race with the feared Pirate King. Despite the danger, Alosa knows they will recover the treasure first…after all, she is the daughter of the Siren Queen.


“I may not have been born in the sea, but I was born to rule it. I am the daughter of the siren queen.”

Alosa is back, and she is ready to defend what is hers. Going into this sequel, I wasn’t sure if it could top my love of the first. Oh, how was I thoroughly mistaken. Daughter of the Siren Queen reminds me why I love sirens and pirates. Tricia captures what intrigues you in Pirate King, then cranks up the thrill factor.

One downfall of the Pirate King is that it doesn’t explore the rich world Tricia has created. And while reading it, I hoped for more world building. But do not fret. Tricia comes through and shows us a devious world ripe for the taking. She makes being bad fun. And some authors don’t always achieve that feeling. But she weaves a wicked tale that will hook you in and make you want to slit some throats. I got lost in this finale, and I want the world to know this series is worth the risk.

As Alosa recovers the final pieces of the map that will lead to the lost treasure, her father’s secret surfaces, and she and her crew must race against the pirate fleet and her father in order to claim the treasure as her own.

Tricia beautifully executes a fast-paced thrill ride that keeps you on the edge. It’s almost as if you can smell the sea breeze, hear the flap of the sails, and feel the sword in your hand. She blends together loyalty, friendship, strength, and feminism to create a truly imaginative novel. And yet she squeezes in just a bit of romance, and I’m left breathless.

Even though this sequel is plot-heavy, I feel that the characters drive the overall novel. From little Roslyn to Niridia, they are the beating heart, and I fell in love with all of them. I left a special piece of myself with the crew of the Ava-Lee. I must say, though, Alosa and Riden are what solidify Siren Queen into such an enjoyable read. Both their chemistry, banter, and growth make my heart swell with pure happiness. And the way they connect with the crew is magical. However, Alosa’s development stands out the most though. She will be one of my cherished characters.

The author introduces us to more siren mythology and Alosa’s history, which is much darker than I anticipated. But what I adore is how she doesn’t make the sirens purely bloodthirsty. They’re more regal, majestic, and otherworldly. And Alosa reflects their qualities and characteristics while she internally battles with both sides of herself. That inner turmoil speaks volumes.

Daughter of the Siren Queen is one of the most enjoyable sequels I’ve read this year. Do not take another moment debating to read this series. You need to read it. Now.

“Your enchantments last long after your song fades.”

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 | 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

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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.”

Top Ten Tuesday | Loathsome Characters from My Favourite Books

 

For this week’s Top Ten Tuesday, created by The Broke and the Bookish and now hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl, we get to talk about our most loved characters in our least favourite books/series. I’ve debated over and changed this post twice. Twice. I first thought I’ll go the easy route, then I changed my mind at midnight. Here are the characters I hate (or strongly dislike). So prepare for a hate-filled post.

I warn you now that there may be some SPOILERS ahead. Look at the header of each book before you proceed.

 

Evangeline in King’s Cage

I wanted to talk about how Victoria has done Shade wrong. He is, by far, my favourite character in the series. Then she kills him off. But I want to talk about the metal-manipulating character who loves to hate anything that breathes. I absolutely hated Evangeline in the first two books, but once I read King’s Cage, I grew to understand her, and I don’t hate her so much now.

 

Mirabella from Three Dark Crowns

Oh, I shouldn’t have picked this book. I’m a huge emotional reader, and Three Dark Crowns made me angry. I love the story. But Mirabella, the elemental, decided to steal another woman’s man. I get that she didn’t know he was taken the first time she slept with him, but she just couldn’t stop. I can’t stand the character, and I hope she dies horribly. 🙃

 

Jarek from The Last Namsara

Jarek, the Commandant of the Dragon King, may just take the cake. I wanted a dragon to eat this bastard. Feel my anger? Yeah. He saved Asha, now the dragon hunter, and for his reward, he gets to marry her. He subtly and not so subtly threatens Asha and contorts his power, then uses it to bring turmoil. I felt Asha’s fear when I read the scenes between the two. He creeped me out.

 

Marcus from A Torch against the Night

Again, I can easily go the quick way and choose the Commandant, who I’d like nothing more to see dead. Okay, I’d love for her to get gutted, dismembered, beheaded, and skinned, but I’m talking about Marcus here. He’s the new Emperor and would love to break Helene, his Blood Strike. You witness how he falls apart, yet he retains his wickedness. I do not look forward to what he’ll do in A Reaper at the Gates.

 

Callum Harker from This Savage Song

When I think of this series, I want to cry all over again. The ending of Our Dark Duet bloody gutted me. And I’m holding back tears right now. Verity is a place to avoid. I wouldn’t want to visit it even if I could see August. I love you, boy. But with my luck, I’d get sucked dry by a monster. Now Callum freaks me out. He brings shivers down your back when you think of him. He sees no point to make his city better. He thrives on hate and has shaped his daughter into his image. A large part of me was happy when he died.

Review | The Wicked Deep by Shea Ernshaw

The Wicked Deep by Shea Ernshaw

Published by: Simon Pulse

Publication Date: March 6, 2018

Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy

Page Count: 320

Rating: 4/5

Source: Purchase

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Welcome to the cursed town of Sparrow…

Where, two centuries ago, three sisters were sentenced to death for witchery. Stones were tied to their ankles and they were drowned in the deep waters surrounding the town.

Now, for a brief time each summer, the sisters return, stealing the bodies of three weak-hearted girls so that they may seek their revenge, luring boys into the harbor and pulling them under.

Like many locals, seventeen-year-old Penny Talbot has accepted the fate of the town. But this year, on the eve of the sisters’ return, a boy named Bo Carter arrives; unaware of the danger he has just stumbled into.

Mistrust and lies spread quickly through the salty, rain-soaked streets. The townspeople turn against one another. Penny and Bo suspect each other of hiding secrets. And death comes swiftly to those who cannot resist the call of the sisters.

But only Penny sees what others cannot. And she will be forced to choose: save Bo, or save herself.


Love is an enchantress—devious and wild. It sneaks up behind you, soft and gentle and quiet, just before it slits your throat.

Hell has no fury than witches hell-bent on revenge. Shea Ernshaw’s debut novel The Wicked Deep is just as enchanting as it is haunting. For days to come, I’ll be mourning over this poignant and heartbreaking tale.

I will always have a penchant for witch stories. Witches have created the foundation of my love for fantasy books. Unfortunately, they’ve lost their luster over the years, but Shea will remind you why lore of witches is the backbone of a great novel. She’ll remind you why you love them.

I find writing this review hard. I’m an emotional reader even though I don’t like admitting that fact. And this beautiful and eloquent debut novel tore at me, and reading it took much longer than I thought it would. The Wicked Deep ensnares you, wraps around your heart, then rips it out, and all the while, you still have a smile on your face. I needed breaks while reading it.

Sparrow, Oregon is haunted by witches. In the 19th century, whether they’re witches or not, three sisters—Marguerite, Aurora, and Hazel Swan—who charmed the men of the town lost their lives when they were convicted of witchcraft and drowned for their crimes. And every year since, they torment the town by possessing the daughters who then, in turn, drown the sons. When an outsider, Bo Carter, wanders into town, Penny Talbot knows she must protect him even if the both of them are hiding secrets.

This town is perched on the edge of tragedy and revenge. The sisters’ death is woven throughout the fabric of the town as the residents and tourists flock to the water’s edge to celebrate the Swan season, the time when the sisters return. The Wicked Deep depends on the folklore of the town. Shea doesn’t incorporate a lot of world building, but Sparrow itself is a character that walks within this story. She injects an atmospheric tone that delivers a morbid and eerie storyline, one I haven’t seen in awhile. But what I enjoyed is the characters though.

Penny is an outcast who cares for her mother, who mourns over the disappearance of her father. She’s content with her life even if her friend wants her to leave. But Bo changes everything for her. They both complement each other. Their relationship is built on delicate layers of lies, hasty trust, and intense yet rushed attraction. But I would prefer for a better set up though. It has an insta-love feel, which leads to the story’s predictable climax. I was hoping to see more of the sisters though, but Shea does include flashbacks to the past.

I could rave about Shea’s writing for days. She’s has a wonderful talent that I hope to see more of. And I’m counting down the days to her next story. The Wicked Deep is a captivating novel steeped in whimsical lore. It will take you on an emotional journey that may surprise you. I recommend this as your next read. Sparrow will capture you just as much as it has me.

But how do you let yourself unravel in front of someone, knowing your armor is the only thing keeping you safe?

Review: The Cruel Prince by Holly Black

The Cruel Prince by Holly Black

Published by: Little, Brown Books

Publication Date: January 2, 2018

Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy

Page Count: 370

Rating: 5/5

Source: Purchase

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


Of course I want to be like them. They’re beautiful as blades forged in some divine fire. They will live forever.

And Cardan is even more beautiful than the rest. I hate him more than all the others. I hate him so much that sometimes when I look at him, I can hardly breathe.

Jude was seven years old when her parents were murdered and she and her two sisters were stolen away to live in the treacherous High Court of Faerie. Ten years later, Jude wants nothing more than to belong there, despite her mortality. But many of the fey despise humans. Especially Prince Cardan, the youngest and wickedest son of the High King.

To win a place at the Court, she must defy him–and face the consequences.

In doing so, she becomes embroiled in palace intrigues and deceptions, discovering her own capacity for bloodshed. But as civil war threatens to drown the Courts of Faerie in violence, Jude will need to risk her life in a dangerous alliance to save her sisters, and Faerie itself.


Instead of being afraid, I could become something to fear.

I don’t usually find a book that renders me useless when writing its review. But Holly Black’s The Cruel Prince does all that and more. I struggle writing it because I wonder how I can possibly match the level of creativity in this book. I certainly hope so, but let’s get one fact straight: I am an instant Holly fan. And I want to go back to Elfhame.

Political power plays, deception, and betrayal beautifully introduces you to a wicked and depraved world where deceitful acts are a way of life in Faerieland, and you must be brutal to survive this magnificent yet threatening landscape.

Holly brings you complex and multi-faceted characters who outwit their enemies and betray their family. What do you expect from the fae? In this harsh world though, humans are sometimes no better than the faeries who trap them in Faerieland.

Most of all, I hate you because I think of you. Often. It’s disgusting, and I can’t stop.

Jude—whether villain or heroine—adapts rather well even though the fae man who brought her and her sisters killed their parents in front of them. Forced to live in this surreal land, she lets her revenge guide and forge her into a warrior, and her ambition to never be weak again shapes her into a clever and devious main character. She kept me guessing her every move. And her development and scheming make this book captivating.

Cardan, the broken prince with a past to hide, surprises me. Yes, at first, I couldn’t stand how he treats Jude and her twin sister, Taryn. But this world has molded him into the wicked prince he is. But that reason is not an excuse though. And yet this character conceals more than what he shows though. I’m intrigued to see how his character development unfolds.

The family dynamic builds throughout the story. Taryn often warns Jude not to offend or to draw attention from any of the fae, especially from Cardan. The three sisters’ relationship is rather complicated, I find though. Vivienne, the oldest sister who is half-fae, infuriates me since she doesn’t shield her siblings from her world. But these siblings grow to love General Madoc, which murdered their loved ones. In the end, Jude wonders who she can trust. Will blood betray her, or will she be forced to deceive them?

Even though Holly’s writing is inspiring, it never stops you from seeing the seedy underbelly of the fae and their land. The vicious behaviour faeries show toward humans harshly contrasts against the elegance of this world. Holly reminds you that even though they are stunning, with a smile on their face, they’ll always find a way to slit your throat. This constant threat heightens the storyline. And I have to admit, that I love that.

With court and political intrigue, a budding dark romance, and atmospheric writing, Holly Black’s The Cruel Prince reveals the dark side of Faerie. It is one of the most gratifying books I’ve read in a long time. And now I’m counting down the days until I have The Wicked King in my hands.