Realm Breaker by Victoria Aveyard // Book Review

Realm Breaker by Victoria Aveyard // Book Review

Tomorrow, Realm Breaker will be out in the world for everyone to read! Gah, it’s always so exciting to be writing a review for a book months in advance. I feel like it’s been forever since I read an up-and-coming novel that has a lot of highly-anticipated readers with a huge dedicated following from her previous book series. I think the last was The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue last year. I guess this is my yearly “getting-on-the-train-early-and-waiting-for-it-to-take-off” and I’m glad to be on board. While I haven’t read Victoria Aveyard’s first fantasy series, Red Queen, I think this new one from her will be more my style especially as an epic YA fantasy.

Here’s More About Realm Breaker

A strange darkness grows in Allward.

Even Corayne an-Amarat can feel it, tucked away in her small town at the edge of the sea.

She soon discovers the truth: She is the last of an ancient lineage—and the last hope to save the world from destruction. But she won’t be alone. Even as darkness falls, she is joined by a band of unlikely companions:

A squire, forced to choose between home and honor.
An immortal, avenging a broken promise.
An assassin, exiled and bloodthirsty.
An ancient sorceress, whose riddles hide an eerie foresight.
A forger with a secret past.
A bounty hunter with a score to settle.

Together they stand against a vicious opponent, invincible and determined to burn all kingdoms to ash, and an army unlike anything the realm has ever witnessed.

My thoughts

It’s been a while since a book’s lived rent-free inside my head. I spent my weekend thinking about Andry, Dom, Corayne, and Sorasa and the adventures they get into throughout Realm Breaker. It was a pretty easy read in comparison to some bigger named epic fantasy titles and the multiple POV provides excellent detail on a specific scene from multiple angles. I really loved this world and the strange magic within it.

I love that this is a group of random strangers all somehow related to the royal world they live in. Their worlds are all different, but they all have skin in the game of taking down the royalty. Corayne is the daughter of an infamous pirate and a very famous mortal who’s blood and sword can open realms called “Spindles.” It felt a little like alternate universes with people from a specific bloodline having the ability to open them. Dom is an immortal who’s worked alongside Corayne’s father. Andry is a squire who watched as Corayne’s father was killed. Sorasa is an assassin, but working closely with Dom and therefore becomes a part of the group.

This book was action packed! Either they were traveling through some wild parts of the map or they were faced with giant sea creatures, there weren’t many moments where you weren’t entertained. Even the characters themselves turned out to be intriguing and you wanted to know more about them. They were all flawed as well and this is what I really enjoyed about the novel; nothing came easy. Plans got messed up or something big and twisted happens to keep you pushing for the heroes to win. I love a good battle where people think they have everything under control, but everything turns out like trash regardless.

I’m also a huge fan of “royalty gone wrong” stories where the corruption within the royalty is what sets off this group of randoms to fight against it. And they are sinister. I was surprised because there are sections where the Queen has her own POV, but when the twists started for her side of the story, I was floored by where Victoria Aveyard took it. It made sense with the story, but it surprised me nonetheless.

The only other thing I wanted more of was the relationships between these characters. At first, I thought Andry, Dom, Corayne, and Sorasa were going to be the main characters in the group. They had a rapport especially with each other and I can see hints of possible romantic connections in future books. I can also see some more natural friendships developing, but overall, I wanted there to be some more moments of downtime where the group can get to know each other rather than moving onto the next task.

But as the story moved along, more characters were introduced and became very integral for the movement of the plot. I wish they were introduced much earlier (they were introduced pretty much in the middle of the book), so that we can follow along with them. Also, there were characters that had their own POV, but I wasn’t completely sure its relevance to the story. You get hints here and there, but it felt weird to be reading components that didn’t really fit with the rest of the book. I’m assuming they’ll be introduced in subsequent books, but I kept these character POVs in mind in case they came up later in the story. I don’t think they really do.

Overall, this was a great start to a brand new YA fantasy series. I’ll probably be following along as Victoria Aveyard publishes the rest of the titles for this series and rereading this one again in the future. I look forward to seeing what happens next!

I received a copy of this book from Epic Reads for free in exchange for an honest review. My opinions have not been influenced by the publisher or the author.

I’ve Outgrown Sarah J Maas

I’ve Outgrown Sarah J Maas

No, this isn’t some salacious post about Sarah J Maas or the ACOTAR series. I’m just over her books and wanted to come on here and talk about why. This post isn’t a drag. This is just a reader who’s grown out of Sarah J Maas and her work.

If you’re new to the fantasy genre, Sarah J Maas is one of those authors people pick up in hopes of finding love in the genre. For the most part, people pick up SJM and gush over the characters, especially the male characters. They love the bad ass females set in these Fae worlds. And for a really long time, I also really loved Sarah J Maas for the same things.

Over the holidays, the cover for A Court of Silver Flames was revealed and while at that point I was really excited about the book, I wasn’t too excited for the cover. It didn’t match the covers of the past three books, but matches the new covers set out for them. So I could get a copy of this book, but would probably have to buy the rest of the series in the new covers to match. You know the bookshelf aesthetic; every book in a series must match.

But truthfully, it doesn’t matter what the cover looks like because we get a new book in the series, right? And while I was waiting for the newest story, I read Crescent City as well as numerous other fantasy novels over the course of 2020. I thought Crescent City was wildly entertaining filled with characters you’ll love and a story that keeps moving for all 800 pages of that chonker. But there was a waning feeling; a sense that perhaps SJM doesn’t speak to me as much as she used to.

And I love seeing folks picking up her books for the first time. I love seeing people who don’t normally read fantasy books find something of interest in her books. But something happened to me between finishing Crescent City, seeing the cover for A Court of Silver Flames, and everything in between. My love for SJM wanes a little everyday and my interest in her new book isn’t as much as it used to be.

At this point in my life, I’ve read some great fantasy books that I would much rather read than SJM’s books. Perhaps what I’m feeling is that I’m growing up and some of the books that I loved when I was younger will be fondly remembered, but no longer followed closely. I’ll most definitely appreciate SJM for writing some great stories that thrust me into the YA fantasy world. I appreciate the fact that she’s written something digestible with characters worth investing your time and energy into and keeping me on my toes from book to book to book. But it’s time to finally put her away, read other books, and find other worlds beyond this one. Because like many parts of our lives, our reading lives are ever evolving journeys between worlds. We grow tired of one and then move onto the next one with great respect for the books that got us here. You can say I’m setting off into the sherbert-colored sunset tipping my hat to the author who started off my love for fantasy.

Again, I’m not hating on SJM and the folks who absolutely love this series and her books. I encourage everyone to pick up this book, but what I’ve concluded after writing this post is that I’ve outgrown her work. I’ve moved beyond Sarah J Maas to other authors that I want to put my effort into.

Legendborn by Tracy Deonn // Book Review

Legendborn by Tracy Deonn // Book Review

When Instagram raves about a book, it’s hard not to give into the hype. Influence is strong over there and when people are telling you to read a specific book because it was incredible, it’s hard to ignore. This goes double when friends who don’t have a bookstagram account are telling you to read the book as well.

To be honest, I have a vague understanding of Arthurian legends. I know about King Arthur and the Round Table, Merlin, the Guinevere and Lancelot debacle, and Excalibur, but I don’t remember much else. But you don’t need to remember everything because this book turned those stories on its head. And it gets a definite twist.

Here’s More About the Book

After her mother dies in an accident, sixteen-year-old Bree Matthews wants nothing to do with her family memories or childhood home. A residential program for bright high schoolers at UNC–Chapel Hill seems like the perfect escape—until Bree witnesses a magical attack her very first night on campus.

A flying demon feeding on human energies.

A secret society of so called “Legendborn” students that hunt the creatures down.

And a mysterious teenage mage who calls himself a “Merlin” and who attempts—and fails—to wipe Bree’s memory of everything she saw.

The mage’s failure unlocks Bree’s own unique magic and a buried memory with a hidden connection: the night her mother died, another Merlin was at the hospital. Now that Bree knows there’s more to her mother’s death than what’s on the police report, she’ll do whatever it takes to find out the truth, even if that means infiltrating the Legendborn as one of their initiates.

She recruits Nick, a self-exiled Legendborn with his own grudge against the group, and their reluctant partnership pulls them deeper into the society’s secrets—and closer to each other. But when the Legendborn reveal themselves as the descendants of King Arthur’s knights and explain that a magical war is coming, Bree has to decide how far she’ll go for the truth and whether she should use her magic to take the society down—or join the fight.

My Thoughts

I really enjoyed this one. I felt like Tracy Deonn really took her time to write this story and putting together this beautiful world that exists within the real world. It’s obvious from the way it’s written that a lot of research went into it. Everything from how King Arthur made his way to the Americas to even Bree’s family lineage all the way back to enslavement were well executed and breathed a real feeling into it. While King Arthur might be legend, this story really brings that legend to life.

The real world components of being a young Black girl living in the American South and going to UNC – Chapel Hill felt very realistic, which is really nice because sometimes with urban fantasies, it’s like the characters live in some sort of vacuum. I loved that the real world was still very much real despite the Arthurian legends coming true. Bree had to face scrutiny and discrimination because of the color of her skin and her background. You can see that she has her guard up for some people, but when she takes her guard down, she’s loyal and sensitive and the fact that she’s struggling with her mom’s death really hit me in the heart gut.

It also dealt with grief, which as a young person asks a lot of questions. I love that Bree mentioned her “before” and “after” version and how after-Bree can sometimes lash out or cry while thinking about her mom. It felt like her mother was very much a part of the story despite her not actually being there. I can only imagine trying to go through this by herself. She has her dad and her best friend, Alice, there by her side, but I completely understand that there are some things you have to go through alone. I wanted to just hold her hand and be there for her as she did it.

But let’s talk about the actual Arthurian tale. I liked how Tracy Deonn created this magical lineage for the Knights of the Round Table. And I loved the whole secret society component. I’m a huge fan of secret societies in schools, so when I read this one had one, I was totally in love with the book! It then blew me away by having a competition for squire positions and scions! I love complex magic systems and while it does take me a second to figure it out, once I figure it out I love it. It always surprises me when YA Fantasy books don’t go deeper into the magic worlds or the world building, but I felt like Tracy Deonn put a lot of care and work into the magic as much as the rest of the story.

For most of the story, I couldn’t figure out how the legend connects with Bree’s magic. One’s this really old tale from Western Europe that made its way to America through the colonies while the other was created in America while through the struggles of enslavement. Even the mention of root magic vs. aether made me think that maybe they’re not connected. That was until they were and that reveal probably made the most sense. OMG! When it finally comes together (and it will. Trust me), it just made sense.

There were some YA tropes that I wasn’t a huge fan of. Things like how Bree just accepted this Arthurian world existing below the grounds of her university. I also wasn’t a fan of the weird love triangle vibes between her, Nick, and Sel, but I also figure this is a nod to the original love triangle in the story despite the fact that there was no Guinevere bloodline. And the pacing was a bit off for me. However, these tiny little things are really me nitpicking because the story makes up for all of it.

This story was emotional and beautiful. While it reads like a YA story, it didn’t lack in heart and beauty. I absolutely loved the characters in the story, how inclusive it was, and the big surprises waiting for you at the end. I highly recommend it to anyone who loves Arthurian tales, secret societies in school, the chosen one, competitions, and coming-of-age.

You can find Legendborn on Bookshop.org

Into the Heartless Wood by Joanna Ruth Meyer // Book Review

Into the Heartless Wood by Joanna Ruth Meyer // Book Review

It feels like ages since I’ve written book reviews for the blog, but this year I decided to make my blog a place where I can store all of them. I’m still using Goodreads, but I much prefer having my own system of collecting my book reviews digitally and I want that to live on my site. That being said, I’m welcoming book reviews back to my blog with one for Into the Heartless Wood by Joanna Ruth Meyer.

I’ll be honest, I went into this book with very little knowledge about what it’s about. Yeah, I read the synopsis, but it never gives you a full feeling on what you’re about to read. But as I was reading, I most definitely was hooked.

Here’s More About the Book

The forest is a dangerous place, where siren song lures men and women to their deaths. For centuries, a witch has harvested souls to feed the heartless tree, using its power to grow her domain.

When Owen Merrick is lured into the witch’s wood, one of her tree-siren daughters, Seren, saves his life instead of ending it. Every night, he climbs over the garden wall to see her, and every night her longing to become human deepens. But a shift in the stars foretells a dangerous curse, and Seren’s quest to become human will lead them into an ancient war raging between the witch and the king who is trying to stop her.

Epic, heartbreaking, and darkly atmospheric, Into the Heartless Wood is the story of impossible love between a monstrous tree siren and a boy who lives at the edge of her wood.

My Thoughts

When I first started reading, I thought this would be an interesting fantasy story about two people who become unlikely friends. I didn’t imagine there to be a romantic element, but it was so well executed. The relationship between Owen and Seren felt so natural despite being natural enemies. I loved how they started off as fearful of each other, but they kept their minds opened and fell in love with each other over the course of the story. It was really nice to see their relationship grow as the story did as well.

Of course, there was a little bit of animosity especially with the people surrounding Owen and Seren, but I loved that they went against the wishes of their minders and went after each other anyway. Their love definitely had that innocence factor to it and there wasn’t anything beyond a few stolen kisses throughout the story. I felt like the main focus of this book was these two characters. While there was conflict to be had, it felt almost secondary to knowing these characters and the decisions they make to save each other.

The story itself felt like a fairy tale. I’m surprised it didn’t start off with “Once upon a time,” because the atmosphere really conveys that fairy tale-esque dreaminess. It’s also pretty dark with a lot of gore, blood, and death. I loved that it had this dark element to it despite feeling like a light read. It was poetic especially in Seren’s chapters that are written in what looks like a rhythmic meter. I really loved using a specific writing style to convey Seren’s chapters. As a tree person, it definitely showed you how she’s not wholly human, but as you continue to read you see how that really changes with the style. I liked that touch a lot.

While I really loved this story, there were a couple of things I couldn’t overlook. The first thing was that there’s very little information about the villains. Both the Soul Eater and the witch had a backstory that put them in the positions they are in now, but not a lot of it was fleshed out. I don’t think it was very important for the rest of the story, but I feel like it would have brought a level of depth to it. I wanted it to be one of those “don’t make the same mistakes I did” story, but that didn’t happen.

Also, I’m not a fan of convenient plots and some of those components were obviously convenient. Knowledge on how to defeat someone before even looking into it doesn’t really compel me to keep reading. But again, it didn’t seem that important in the context of the story because the story was so focused on Owen and Seren.

Overall, I loved this story. I loved the characters and the little romance between them. Honestly, this story read like a novella, but when I realized it was over 350 pages long, I was surprised. Perhaps it’s a nod to how compulsive this read was and how it kept me entertained and within the story. But I really wish there was more to it.

I would highly recommend this book to folks who love a love story filled with drama and suspense. It’s a heavy read with the level of gore and death, but at the same time enjoyable while I read it.

Thanks Netgalley and Page Street YA for this gifted e-ARC. My opinions have not been influenced by the publisher or the author.

Find Into the Heartless Wood on Bookshop.org

A Reaper at the Gates by Sabaa Tahir // Book Review

A Reaper at the Gates by Sabaa Tahir // Book Review

The third book in the Ember in the Ashes series! With every book I read, I approach the ending of this series and I don’t know if I’m ready to let this one go. It’s been a long time since I’ve been enamored with an entire series (the last one being Throne of Glass, which didn’t work for me). I’ll be sad when the series is finally over, but I’m so ready for its exciting and twisty conclusion!

Here’s More About A Reaper at the Gates

Helene Aquilla, the Blood Shrike, is desperate to protect her sister’s life and the lives of everyone in the Empire. Yet danger lurks on all sides. Emperor Marcus, haunted by his past, grows increasingly unstable and violent, while Keris Veturia, the ruthless Commandant, capitalizes on the Emperor’s volatility to grow her own power—regardless of the carnage she leaves in her path.

Far to the east, Laia of Serra knows that the fate of the world lies not in the machinations of the Martial court, but in stopping the Nightbringer. During the hunt to bring him down, Laia faces unexpected threats from those she hoped would help her, and is drawn into a battle she never thought she’d have to fight.

And in the land between the living and the dead, Elias Veturius has given up his freedom to serve as Soul Catcher. However, in doing so, he has vowed himself to an ancient power that demands his complete surrender—even if that means abandoning the woman he loves.

My Thoughts

Once again, I’m just so impressed by Sabaa Tahir and this world she’s created. It’s a nonstop action-packed story that moves. I was worried with this one being the third book in a four-book series that it would be a filler between the second and the fourth book. However, there was so much happening in this one that I didn’t even imagine could take place.

In many ways, it is a filler. There’s the downfall of a major city that The Blood Shrike, Elias, and Laia are all working towards. However, that’s only the tip of the iceberg for what will happen next. So you can say that this book fills the space between the second and the fourth novel, but it does it in a way that will entertain you and digs deeper into the world and the characters. I’ve read so many books in the middle of the series where it pushes you nowhere until the very last 50 pages and then it moves like fire.

I’m so glad Sabaa Tahir’s got that ability to tease and taunt you throughout the novel, make you keep reading her book, and then surprise you. She’s got a lot of tricks up her sleeve in this one and they didn’t disappoint.

I know many folks had issues with Laia and her involvement in the story, but at the same time it makes sense to her character. She doesn’t know how to fight. She’s not strong like Helene or Elias, but she has that will. I think her will to find her brother and her will to stop the Nightbringer is what really makes her interesting to me. I also love the fact that this doesn’t come easy for her. She’s losing friends left and right. Her plans never go perfectly. She tries her best, but I find I’d rather see a character fail and get back up then succeed at every attempt. She’s definitely no Mary Sue (thank God), but I love that despite her shortcomings she’s still able to keep her head up and use what she has available to her. She’s a very interesting character despite her not doing much.

And the surprises keep rolling out. Seriously, I feel like I’m watching a soap opera and every single turn there’s some bigger twist that shocks me to the point where I’m yelling at imaginary characters. They weren’t just devices to keep you guessing or surprise you, but really made the world much more complex.

I could not get enough Nightbringer. While he didn’t get a dedicated narration during the book, I absolutely loved how he popped up everywhere. It almost felt like this book showed you the dance the Nightbringer has been dancing for thousands of years. Knowing how important the story is with his specific story line made me keep a close eye on him. I think the final book will definitely have more Nightbringer and I think it’ll be really fudging good.

Wicked Fox by Kat Cho // Book Review

Wicked Fox by Kat Cho // Book Review

There’s this mythological creature that lives within the East Asian countries. China, Korea, and Japan all have myths about this wild beast and so many interpretations. I’ve seen Chinese, Korean, and Japanese tv shows including this character. It is the nine-tailed fox. And this story written by Korean American, Kat Cho, is most definitely that tale come to the States. I couldn’t be more excited.

Here’s More About Wicked Fox

Eighteen-year-old Gu Miyoung has a secret–she’s a gumiho, a nine-tailed fox who must devour the energy of men in order to survive. Because so few believe in the old tales anymore, and with so many evil men no one will miss, the modern city of Seoul is the perfect place to hide and hunt.

But after feeding one full moon, Miyoung crosses paths with Jihoon, a human boy, being attacked by a goblin deep in the forest. Against her better judgment, she violates the rules of survival to rescue the boy, losing her fox bead–her gumiho soul–in the process.

Jihoon knows Miyoung is more than just a beautiful girl–he saw her nine tails the night she saved his life. His grandmother used to tell him stories of the gumiho, of their power and the danger they pose to humans. He’s drawn to her anyway.

With murderous forces lurking in the background, Miyoung and Jihoon develop a tenuous friendship that blossoms into something more. But when a young shaman tries to reunite Miyoung with her bead, the consequences are disastrous . . . forcing Miyoung to choose between her immortal life and Jihoon’s.

My Thoughts

I’m going to be honest with you, this book read like a K-drama. That’s not a bad thing! I absolutely love a good K-drama. It was filled with its tropes, but it also has one of my favorite Asian folklores; the nine-tailed fox! There were even moments in this book where I thought I was watching a dramatic moment in a K-drama. If you’re a fan of K-dramas, this might be the book for you. As much as I love the tropes in K-dramas, I’m not sure if they worked in this particular fantasy story.

In many ways, it felt like this book was grappling between being a Korean drama and being a YA fantasy story. The juxtaposition took me out of the story a few times especially when the focus became more about Jihoon and Miyoung’s budding romance. In those instances, it felt like a drama; getting drunk at the children’s playground in the middle of the night (no children present), almost being hit by a car with the headlights beaming right before the dude pushes her out of the way of the car. Even Jihoon’s grandma owning a stew shop was so reminiscent of the older “rich girl/poor boy” trope.

As for the YA fantasy components, I really liked them. I wasn’t a fan of how Kat Cho presented the world building through truncated stories between chapters, but it did give you an idea of where this particular nine-tailed fox story came from. I was definitely intrigued by that part of the story and I really wanted more world building and more development in this area. I think my main issue with this story is that it felt like it didn’t know what it was itself. In some cases, it was a story about mythical beasts among us, but in other instances it felt like a budding romance between Jihoon and Miyoung. And it felt like jumps between story. One minute they’re concerned about some mythical thing happening, but then the next minute they’re getting drunk at a children’s playground in the middle of the night.

That all being said, I did really enjoy the story and the immersion into a story that took place in Seoul. There aren’t many Korean-based YA fantasy stories out there, so I’m glad that this one is included. While I wish this didn’t read so much like a debut novel, I’m very excited for the books in the series after this. I think Kat Cho’s potential can only go up from here.

Pub Day Picks // August 11, 2020

I’m so excited about this pub day. While I only have one book to highlight, I’m very excited about it. So excited that I’ll even be doing a spotlight on it this weekend on Instagram. I love that there are more South Asian authors coming out and this one isn’t one you should sleep on.

Star Daughter by Shveta Thakrar

You had me at Neil Gaiman meets Hindu mythology. And if you guessed this was the book I was extremely excited about, you are most definitely right. This book sounds so good and I’m so excited because I received it from Epic Reads over the weekend and I’m so ready to read it. Sadly, it won’t be until next month, but I’ll just stare lovingly at the gorgeous cover until then.

This gorgeously imagined YA debut blends shades of Neil Gaiman’s Stardust and a breathtaking landscape of Hindu mythology into a radiant contemporary fantasy.

The daughter of a star and a mortal, Sheetal is used to keeping secrets. Pretending to be “normal.” But when an accidental flare of her starfire puts her human father in the hospital, Sheetal needs a full star’s help to heal him. A star like her mother, who returned to the sky long ago.

Sheetal’s quest to save her father will take her to a celestial court of shining wonders and dark shadows, where she must take the stage as her family’s champion in a competition to decide the next ruling house of the heavens–and win, or risk never returning to Earth at all.

Brimming with celestial intrigue, this sparkling YA debut is perfect for fans of Roshani Chokshi and Laini Taylor.

An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir // Backlist Reads

I’ve been quietly collecting Sabaa Tahir’s books for years, but it wasn’t until recently when I heard her final book for the Ember in the Ashes series was coming out. That alongside a partnership with Penguin Teen has me finally picking up this series and reading it. Let me tell you something, folks, this book did NOT disappoint. Usually, I end up giving the first book in a new (to me) series 3 or 4 stars. It’s not a bad thing, but usually I feel like first books need to establish a ton of world building, introduce the characters, have some growth, and also include some plot devices to move the story forward.

With this particular story, I felt like this was next level. The world building was probably the most minimal part of this story, but I’m figuring that with the other books in the series that will easily be remedied. Here’s more about the book (CW: Rape and sexual harassment threats):

Laia is a slave. Elias is a soldier. Neither is free.

Under the Martial Empire, defiance is met with death. Those who do not vow their blood and bodies to the Emperor risk the execution of their loved ones and the destruction of all they hold dear.

It is in this brutal world, inspired by ancient Rome, that Laia lives with her grandparents and older brother. The family ekes out an existence in the Empire’s impoverished backstreets. They do not challenge the Empire. They’ve seen what happens to those who do.

But when Laia’s brother is arrested for treason, Laia is forced to make a decision. In exchange for help from rebels who promise to rescue her brother, she will risk her life to spy for them from within the Empire’s greatest military academy.

There, Laia meets Elias, the school’s finest soldier—and secretly, its most unwilling. Elias wants only to be free of the tyranny he’s being trained to enforce. He and Laia will soon realize that their destinies are intertwined—and that their choices will change the fate of the Empire itself.

My thoughts

I am so amazed and impressed by this novel.

This story is told through dual POVs alternating between chapters. There is some backtracking on some of the chapter starts because simultaneous scenes happen.

First, the pacing. It feels so natural and moves quickly without overlooking the details. I felt like each event led up to the next. I read some reviews where people thought Elias and Laia’s relationship was forced, but truthfully it didn’t feel like that for me. I thought their progression towards becoming friends was natural. I think it helped that there was an immediate physical attraction to one another. Ahhh young love.

The gradual growth on Laia’s part was my favorite. She starts off as this meek young woman who lived her existence pretty quietly. The experiences she faced while being enslaved to the Commandant really toughened her up. Granted, no one should experience what Laia experienced, but it did lend to her growth and strength. If anything, I would have loved to see more of Laia’s thought process and how she defied the Commandant than just see her pick up a knife and get right to it.

Elias was also a great and complicated character. I felt like the book emphasized Elias’s story much more especially with the surprises about his family, his upbringing, and the decisions he needs to make during the trials. I was way more enamored with Elias’s chapters than with Laia’s. Don’t worry, though. Laia goes through her own personal trials and they aren’t ones to be scoffed at.

I think the only issue I had was that there were a lot of sexual harassment and rape threats. While I understand this is the world that Sabaa Tahir creates, I thought it was weird that the only thing soldiers were interested in doing with women was forcing sex on them. Isn’t that weird? Maybe that’s just me.

I also loved that this book doesn’t end on a cliffhanger. It was the perfect stopping point to get you pumped for the next book without making you wait a million years to see what happens. I felt no rush to get into the next book aside from my own personal excitement.

Overall, I really loved the story and the introduction to this world. I hope that with the next book Tahir will dive a little bit further into this world, but for a first book in a new (to me) series I’m very impressed.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Incendiary by Zoraida Cordova // Book Review

Incendiary by Zoraida Cordova // Book Review

Earlier last week, I did a promotion for Incendiary by Zoraida Cordova. I was so excited about this book that I decided to read it right there and then even though the book comes out in April 2020. While I absolutely loved this book, I struggled with sharing my thoughts way too soon. However, looking at Goodreads, I can see a few folks have already read the book and since it was offered as a giveaway ARC at YallFest, some folks have already written their reviews. So, what’s stopping me?

But you know me, I need to break down this book and share with you not only the plot but the whole universe. Here’s what goes down in Incendiary.

In this world, there used to be a powerful group of people with abilities to mess with your mind. There are people who can create visions in your head, persuade you to do something you didn’t want to do, read your lies, and steal your memories. However, these people were close to extinction by an opposing group who found these magics to be a source of evil. They were slaughtered to near extinction pushing those with magics into the dark as a new King works to get rid of all the magics in the world.

Renata Convida is a young person who has the very rare ability to steal people’s memories. As the ward of one of the Royal Justices, she used her power to create Hollows; humans who have been removed of all their memories creating a hollow shell. Their deaths are eminent after being hollowed out. Renata has hollowed over 100 people before she escaped the Justice and went to live with people like her. However, the others don’t really trust her as her power to remove memories can happen with a single graze of her finger. Renata is willing to prove herself worthy to be with the other magics.

When their leader’s son and Renata’s lover, Dez, is taken prisoner by the king and sentenced to death by public execution, Renata’s friends aren’t worried. They know Dez will easily escape death. But what Dez and the rest don’t know is Renata’s accidentally took Dez’s memories on how to escape. After watching him die brutally at the hands of the prince, Renata vowed revenge in the only way she knew how; returning to the Justice she ran away from. While the justice believes Renata’s return to be a good sign, Renata’s working on the inside to find out about the King’s plans to destroy all magic people. As she looks for these weapons within the castle walls, Ren finds a much bigger truth hidden inside the palace.

When thinking about this, it reminds me a lot of Fireborne (which I read earlier this year). Both stories are about a group of people marginalized because of their abilities or because someone else came into power. This isn’t me criticizing this trope because it’s a big one and it happens often, but I love that more stories like this are popping up in the universe.

When I first read the description of this book, someone mentioned that its beginnings remind you a lot of Game of Thrones. I’m here to confirm that yes, it has this Game of Thrones quality in the beginning but that’s about where it ends. Come for the Game of Thrones, but stay for the departure from Game of Thrones. I’ll admit I wasn’t surprised at all by the twists, but that doesn’t mean they were bad. In fact, the twists made me want to read more and find out why they’re happening. Zoraida Cordova really knows how to write an intriguing novel filled with suspense and intrigue. I was definitely drawn in when the truths started coming up.

Ren is also an extremely complex character. She doesn’t remember parts of her childhood and has worked as a weapon for the King for most of her life. Every time she comes up with a plan, she runs into it without a second thought only to be captured. Her so-called friends are weary of her despite being on the same side. She has immense power, but hates what she has done with it (or forced to do with it). Honestly, she’s a wreck of a human and you’ll root for her like a mom rooting for her kid. She’s not perfect, but you also don’t care as long as she finds someone to trust and care for.

The writing style is also breezy. It’s not convoluted or overwrought with a lot of fancy language. There is a lot of world building in this story, but luckily you won’t have to remember a host of character names or remember a lot of thematic pieces. It’s high fantasy, but definitely a lot easier to read than most high fantasy.

I absolutely loved this story. Filled with people of color and marginalized voices, it was definitely a departure from the other fantasy stories I’ve been reading lately and I’m here for that breath of fresh air. I will say there are lull moments while Ren scopes out the castle looking for clues on how the King is removing magic from folks like her, but aside from that this story is so solid.

I received a copy of this book from Glasstown Entertainment for free in exchange for an honest review. My opinions have not been influenced by the publisher or the author.

Welcome to My Fall Fantasy Kick-Off!

Welcome to My Fall Fantasy Kick-Off!

Welcome to a new week and welcome to FALL! Well, I know fall officially started last month, but I don’t feel fall until October. I grew up in New York where summer lasted through all of September and you don’t really feel fall until mid-October. Because of that, I feel like the only time I deem worthy to be fall is mid-October. And here we are!

This year, I don’t get to experience all the magic of fall. Living in LA means sacrificing those beautiful changing seasons, but that’s okay. The weather drops enough to warrant sweaters and I’m hoping that winter will be more like fall and I don’t mind an entire winter of fall.

Of course I’m drinking my pumpkin spice, making apple everything, and reading what I love to read during the fall; FANTASY.

For me, fantasy reads and fall weather go hand-in-hand. I think it has a lot to do with those late nights waiting to see the new Harry Potter movie or Lord of the Rings. Somehow, my brain has mapped fall with fantasy and I’m so excited about it.

I’ve collected a pretty good number of fantasy reads that I’ve been dying to read for a few years now. I think this will be the perfect season to finally catch up and maybe level up my fantasy reading. I’ll share my list in a couple of days.

What are you excited about reading this fall?