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The Trunk of this Tree – a review of Graceling by Kristin Cashore

Traditional high fantasy is something I stayed away from like a bad smell. This book was gifted to me and for a few months it was the prettiest book I owned. I had the full intent of reading it and expecting something vanilla.

But vanilla is my favourite scent. So who am I to be hypocritical now over a classic view of the genre?

After saving an old prince, Lady Katsa is soon to meet someone else who was looking for him. Thereafter the two of them grow curious as to why he was captured in the first place. With her strengths in the art of killing and her new friend Po’s own royal connections and battle talents, the two of them team up to travel through kingdoms to find answers. And the ones they do find may unearth one of the seven kingdom’s greatest corruptions hidden behind the most powerful being unknown to anybody.

The first act was borderline boring. I will straight up say that. I get it, you have to build up and explain the world and establish motivations. But I feel like a bit too much was spent on such matters. So much drawled on about Katsa’s relationship to the king and her reputation in the court. So much was waiting to happen without actually happening. I was so close to putting this book down for good.

I am so glad I didn’t DNF Graceling. I kept going and found riches.

Because when we get to the second act that was where I truly got hooked. The plot takes a simpler turn and it gives so much a chance to shine. From the plot and what happens to the characters as they become fugitives of kingdoms, how they wind up bonding and developing, seeing the natural world and how beautifully Cashore made it. For such high stakes the second act felt so cozy, and then the high action parts where things turn sour felt all the more crucial to get through as a result.

This was because of how much our main characters, Katsa and Po, truly shined. These two carry the whole story with their arcs, their banter and their relationship as it develops. They are the trunk of this tree of a story. Everything great in this story builds up from them, every scene they share and every time their motivations cross. They create something very calming and cozy throughout this whole novel. They epitomise the vibes.

This being the start of an anthology in the same world, I look forward to diving in to the rest of this place. Let’s see what Cashore has to offer. I’ll let you know if more riches come.

Graceling gets a score of 4/5. When something ends so sweet, you forget how sour it was to start.

Every Heart a Doorway

Not Your Storybook Ending- a review of Every Heart A Doorway by Seanan McGuire

Has a premise ever hooked you so much that you just had to read that book? Something so abnormal and unheard of that provides the best insights never delved into before?

I found that book. Hear me out:

What happens when you return from Wonderland? Eleanor West’s Home for Wayward Children cares for children who have returned from other worlds, offering them education and therapy to help them return to their normal lives. Nancy is the newest student, having returned from an Underworld and having her entire being changed as a result. And she learns she isn’t the only one to experience this. But with her arrival death is close behind, and now the school must find the source of the untimely deaths before the school is shut down.

Instantly this premise charmed me, more so as a writer of a portal fantasy series and a fan of The Wizard of Oz and Alice in Wonderland and the like. The whimsy of these worlds and the entrance and exit out of these portals overshadow what happens when these children return. How does one begin to explain the madness they saw and how they were changed by it? This all dealing with mental health surrounding getting evicted from a place you once belonged was a very interesting insight and the main dealings with the introduction of this world.

The characters were quite unrealistic, but that was the point. Abnormal worlds affected their personalities and turned them all mad, and each wound up mad in a different way. The worldbuilding even had systems for it. This felt like a mixed bag at times, because while these characters were unlike anything I’d ever seen their quirks overshadowed their depth at times. In fairness, it is very difficult to balance the two to the extent that is required for this book.

To combat the complexities of these characters, the simple plot of a murder mystery really helped to balance things out. It was a genuine shock to me in a very sensible way. The stakes were solid within this plot and left me constantly guessing who would die next or who was behind it – was it magic or mundane? This made for a very engaging story.

The ending was not something I was fond of however because of how disconnected things were. The ending was only partly solved by our main character Nancy, and the lesson she wound up learning to get her perfect ending was disjointed from the main plot. For things that were so promising to start with and something really compelling, this really brought it down for me.

Every Heart A Doorway gets a score of 4/5. Fairytales don’t end in the nicest ways once you look beyond the pages.

Falling Through

Cousin of Stranger Things – a review of Falling Through by Ben Pick

I’m not only happy to be reviewing another Indie book, but the book of another author I know. For proof, I was in the acknowledgements of this novel and needless to say that touched me. Made me feel kind of guilty for reading it so late, but I’m glad to be reading this nonetheless.

Because I’ve yet to read another book anything like this one. Well, until the sequel comes out.

Derek’s developed powers beyond his imagining. When he shows this off to his best friend Tracy, he brings forth a monster into their town that gives him the chills every time he’s near it. Still, Tracy ushers him to train and experiment despite the damage he’s doing to himself and those around him. And when it gets too far, he drags him and his friends into a journey across time to fix his own mistakes and many others they made throughout history.

This book has one of the tightest plots I have ever read. This was absolutely the strongest suit for Pick and showed a bunch of effort and care as threads got tied and Chekhov’s Gun got fired multiple times. Not only that, but is was a very easy story to follow. The magic system, character relationships, arcs… everything was solid.

It was refreshing to see two sides of teen characters that people complain don’t get seen enough or claim is unrealistic. We see both the characters who care about their grades and the characters wanting to truly embrace their powers and not think of the consequences of them. Both are underrepresented in the contemporary and urban fantasy books I have come across, and it was such a delight to see those sides here in this book.

That being said, the one things that wasn’t realistic in all this was dialogue. It quite often felt clunky and screamed that this dialogue wasn’t written by a teen. A lot of teen characters are of course not written by teens, but with this book you could really tell. It painted the teen characters as mature with some lines, which there is nothing wrong with, but then the following dialogue lines felt like they came out of someone much younger than seventeen.

I didn’t mind when the vibes of this novel were so strong! I’d describe this novel’s vibes as the cousin to Stranger Things, where it is different for sure but with enough similarities to entice fans of the series. The small town vibes, monsters versus superpowered teens, family amongst friends… See what I mean? Now pair that with the magic exploration and journeys across time in so many different formats and you get Falling Through. Good vibes.

All in all a strong debut and career-started for Ben Pick. Look out for what’s next for sure.

Falling Through gets a score of 4/5. El would be envious of what’s happening in this book.

Yours in writing

Amy

Red Queen

The Great Switcheroo – a review of Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard

BookTok has been very divisive about this book. And still the premise intrigued me. And for the time it remained on my TBR the debates on this book plagued me.

And I now understand why it’s so divisive because I also feel the same way after reading this.

The powerful and magically enhanced Silver blooded put the Red blooded into poverty. And after a series of events involving petty thievery and employment in court, Mare discovers that she is just as powerful as the Silvers despite being Red. The crown claims her as a long lost Silver, clearly afraid of the consequences this may cause especially with a rebellion of Reds seeking to take them down. And Mare is a part of it, yet she falls for a pair of Silver princes seeking equity for Reds. But what will her rebellion do to them?

While I liked the worldbuilding it was very confusing to visualise it. This is because it felt both modern and old at the same time, whether by districts or even within individual locations. I guess it’s too unique to visualise slums with generators fueling homes close to a modern and industrial arena with Superbowl jumbo screens. As a very visual person this was very annoying. Every story I’ve read I could get a visual vibe from very easily and this one kept me second guessing when this was comparably set to modern day histories and cultures.

The plot itself was well done. I love myself some political intrigue and learning the ways of a world being run while attempting to take it down in the process. Mare had a very good lens and adaptability for this as a result. This made the scenes within court very entertaining to watch. Shame that it took a while to get there, but once we did I very much enjoyed it. And Mare was making allies! Quite often it is a game of making enemies in these situations, but making allies was a good thing to see in this story.

The characters themselves are great for the most part. You could get their motivations pretty easily and while some of them were tropey I didn’t mind. They were made in a way that still made them enjoyable and had them still hold depth, have agency and so much more. This was good character writing.

And now the bad side of this coin. This turned me away from continuing the series like nothing. There is a twist villain, but it’s almost a Hans from Frozen level of a twist villain. The former not villain had their entire personality go through a switcharoo that I’m convinced it was an evil twin and not the actual character we came to know about. I have never seen such a bad way to tell a story. I’ve read good twist villains in The Dragon Lords and and this mocks them.

As a result the way this novel ended broke my enjoyment. I realised that to continue this series I would be reading something that I would not enjoy. The story changed drastically. I won’t be reading this series.

Red Queen gets a score of 3.5 out of 5. Don’t pull a switcheroo on me like that, you know how much I hate it.

Yours in writing

Amy

Rebel

Mundane, Not Magical – a review of Rebel by RJ Anderson

Trust your younger self. That is the lesson I got after reading this novel – and trying to read it – for the second time.

Oh, I didn’t get that lesson from the actual book itself. In fact, when I first tried to read the sequel to the cozy and pure urban fantasy Knife I did not finish it because it lost my interest. I thought that was a product of my age. It wasn’t. I should’ve taken that as a warning to never try book 2 in this series again.

Timothy doesn’t know that his older cousin and his wife are protecting a fairy’s home. Not until he runs away with one desperately needing his help. With the magic from the oak where she resides fading away, Linden seeks Timothy’s help to find anything to restore the magic in London or beyond. But new histories of fairies meet Linden’s ears as she learns the true story of her people, and now she has more than she own home to save.

The plot kept fluctuating between interesting and dull. Well, more so dull. Because when I thought it could be interesting the direction taken was such a bad and predictable cliche that made this novel’s plotline feel like a copy of every existing novel ever, even outside of the genre. It was left with such disappointment on this emotional rollercoaster.

All the character and magic that the first book had was lost. And I don’t even mean that in terms of plot! The predecessor had such rich worldbuilding in such a small location with such a great fairy aesthetic that felt super raw. This one felt like every generic fish out of water object quest I have ever seen in the media. I do not know how all of the character from the previous novel got so drastically drained from what was once magical! And the irony is there were buttloads more magics in the sequel.

As for the characters themselves, they lost their personality the longer the novel went on. That was such a shame for lead character Tim because he had such a promising start as a lead – prone to fights, music lover, struggling with his faith and fitting in after moving from South Africa… all that was lost the minute a bland ass do-gooder fairy named Linden (clear Mary Sue material against all but the BBEG) entered his life.

I’ll just say read Knife as a standalone. You don’t need to know about the rest of the world at all. The bigger the world gets, the duller it becomes.

Rebel gets a score of 1.5//5. Not the lowest rated, but easily the most disappointing read in a very long time.

Yours in writing

Amy

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It’s Not the End! – a review of The Song Rising by Samantha Shannon

It feels like a relief to review a third book in a series and have it not be the final installment. Aren’t you sick of the number of trilogies on shelves lately? Thank goodness Samantha Shannon exists and decided to make a seven book series (to my knowledge). We’re almost halfway through and it ain’t even fully published yet, but here we go reviewing book three!

Clairvoyants are under threat as SCION rolls out technology to detect lower classes of clairvoyants, making them easier to kill on sight. And this is just the start. As the Clairvoyants of London go underground, Mime Queen Paige Mahoney steps up. She seeks out the locations they’re building these devices to work out the root of the problem and destroy it. All the while she meets a new enemy who knows everything about her, and she’s always one step ahead of Paige as she races against one of the coldest human minds in the world.

This had the strongest plot, and by far my most favourite, out of the series thus far. You know what you’re getting from the start, and it delivers like we wish delivery companies wish they would. The goals are clear, the consequences of failure are equally clear and it makes for a very tight plotline. It made for the best pacing in the series yet as each problem Scion’s technology created was solved to the best of the character’s ability.

It was good to see the world built out across the UK and Ireland. As I’ve mentioned again and again, worldbuilding is a strong point of Shannon’s work. And you can tell it with each city Paige and her Mime Order visits. Each had uniqueness and character to distinguish them from each other while still being under the same government and control systems. From the polluted streets of Manchester to the militant Edinburgh and the cultural influences both had. It really brings a lot more character to this dystopia that other novels fail to do or differentiate to a comedic degree. Shannon knows what she’s doing.

Character was starting to fall flat a little bit however. While I like how Paige’s main arc surrounds her newfound leadership position and the decisions she makes surrounding it at times of crisis, it felt underutilised. It disappeared after the first act. Combine that with some other weird decisions she makes to have conflict for the sake of it which winds up being redundant in the end, and you get Paige’s odd arc. Side characters blended together too and were more recognised for their roles than their personalities.

In spite of characters falling flat their relationships were very well grounded and explored. That was where Paige and the other characters shone – with each other. How they each helped with their arcs, betrayed each other, made decisions. That was really engaging. It wound up being very gripping in the climax for spoilery reasons.

All in all, three books in I’m glad I gave this series a chance. Here’s to reading book four in a couple of months!

The Song Rising gets a score of 4/5. We’re continuing very happily with this series.

Yours in writing

Amy

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It’s Fine – a review of Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo

There’s been a trend so far with me picking up BookTok favourites. I say that but this is only the second one I’ve picked up. BookTok books just aren’t for me.

Once a soldier, now the key to saving her kingdom. Alina reveals a radiant magic hidden within her in a life or death moment. This captures the attention of the crown prince, also renowned for his magic, who whisks Alina away to a life of both luxury and vigorous training. Alina must find her purpose in court, her magic she struggles to unlock and the solution to quelling the dark magic that has split the land in two. But the problem may be bigger than what she’s been told.

The main character was an interesting case. I cannot tell you a thing about her personality because it was either so generic or changed so much. Alina was passive one moment and snappy the next, willing to fight the villain and then surrender the next. You couldn’t tell much about her personality beyond how she saw herself and other people. But she wasn’t annoying. And thank god she wasn’t defined by her career or hobbies which just added small details to her. Her decisions still makes sense, and she’s far from the sassy stereotype most heroes follow in YA fantasy. So while she does the job, Alina doesn’t quite feel compelling for me.

The worldbuilding and cultural inspirations intrigued me. While I usually roll eyes or ignore European inspired worldbuilding found in most fantasies, the Slavic inspirations in Shadow and Bones felt evident and refreshing. Especially the time periods they took on where firearms are used and introduced – early to mid 1800s I think? It works excellently with the theme, with the cold wintery vibes and environments linking to the dark period of history the world has succumbed to. This made the world feel refreshing as a fantasy world.

That being said, the plot felt generic, superficial and predictable. While the world had character above and beyond, the story did not. I’m wondering if this is something that fantasy classics have made us misinterpret about the fantasy genre – that the worldbuilding makes the story. It didn’t here. Even stuff framed as a plot twist or something climactic felt doable or obvious and it just made me disappointed. An ‘Oh, of course!’ filtered in every couple of chapters, y’know? Maybe the way tropes paired up gave me that perspective.

But the writing style was a huge plus. It made many great descriptions and helped visualise that world very well. I wouldn’t feel the way I did about the world and characters and the plot for the most part if it weren’t for the narrative voice. That was the most solid and consistent throughout and made the experience all in all ethereal in spite of a lot of common tropes paired together.

All in all, this is again a book that will be good for somebody else. But that someone isn’t really me. I’m not calling anyone boring for liking this, because this is just fine. And just fine is not something I’m willing to attach myself to.

Shadow and Bone gets a score of 3.5/5. I’m just fine. So is this book.

Yours in writing

Amy

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It’s About Damn Maritime – a RE-view of The Sea of Monsters by Rick Riordan

Life was at its peak when I was 11 years old, and I don’t think anything best resembles this peak or symbolises it than the Percy Jackson series, which I read at that age. And we’re continuing that journey with one of the best books in the series.

Percy, demigod son of Poseidon, must return to Camp Half Blood as his home away from home is in peril. The magical defenses that protect the camp are deteriorating and his best friend Grover has gone missing. Their only salvation is the trap that Grover has fallen into – the Golden Fleece. Percy, along with Annabeth and his long lost half brother Tyson, sets out on a quest off the coast of Florida to retrieve his friend and the fleece.

Back in 2011 when I first read this book this is what truly got me hooked into the series, with so many surprises, laughs, smiles and shockers throughout. That being said, I didn’t remember much about it all these years later. Or not as much as I’d have hoped. You just get left with a lot of feelings instead, and this novel had it all. So much to get you excited. That’s all that I remembered before going into it, aside from Nobody and Monster Donuts.

My god did I have so much more to look forward to.

We’ve got character strengths galore in this novel! They own the whole novel. Percy with his narrative voice, quirkiness and relatability. Annabeth’s maturity and traumas being brought to life. Tyson being introduced and having so much heart and power from the get go. And this is just the golden trio of this novel. There is so much more that needs talking about about the villains and gods without mentioning spoilers. And yes, I’m leaving out spoilers even though this book has been out for ages because I want people late to the party to still enjoy it like mad. And also with the web series coming out.

As usual, the worldbuilding was well done and super rooted into American and Greek cultures. I don’t know how Riordan is able to do this, to come up with a way to link every myth to something in the USA, but he does, taking a maritime and marine turn in this obviously maritime and marine story. My personal favourite was Circe’s incorporation into the world and the developments that were brought out as a result.

What needs to be talked about here is how Riordan master quirkiness and heart. Compared to the Greek God and Greek Hero retellings, where the balance of the two is off kilter, it is absolute perfection in Sea of Monsters. He recognises the spectacle and unusual nature of Greek myth in the modern day and makes it so much fun. But to balance it out and not make it seem like such a camp fest, he gets so deep into the characters we know, love and hate. That’s when you know you’re in a damn good series in my books. It makes sense how this aligns with some of my other fantasy favourites, as it makes the quirkiness and comedy such a normal part of their world. Comedy is such a natural part of life that a lot of stories just seem to remove and thus make it fall flat.

But Riordan knows what he’s doing. He knows it so well.

The Sea of Monsters gets a score of 5/5. I felt 11 years old again reading this.

Yours in writing

Amy

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Gaslighters – a review of Tears of a Marigold by S.D. Huston

This may be a bit of a highlight. This post marks me reviewing an entire series by an Indie Author! As I strive to read more Indie books, I take victories where I find them while striving to make each one bigger than the next.

And this time around, the victory was pretty solid.

To save the worlds, magical and mundane, one of three sisters whom are fractured parts of the Morrigan must lose their soul. When Marigold, Rose and Lily all reunite this will spell out the end of the world. And the worst part of it is that the man destined to do it once he gains his powers back is the husband of Marigold, the one who saved her from death. She must choose between her new family and her old family’s best interests to decide the fate of all things living while her sisters fight to save her from the man she loves.

As usual, character was the strongest suit with this novel. Huston knows what makes each of them tick and makes each of them so different even in the most subtle ways. From the heart of Marigold to the resolve of Lily and the brains of Rose, each grew so far beyond that when it came to their arcs, decision making. and more.

The character that truly shined in this novel was the villain. Kronos was a villain that, in Huston’s interpretation, was a manipulative charmer that at times truly disgusted me. It is very rare for a villain to make me emote, feel and want to tear my own skin off. And Kronos absolutely achieved that. This was further enhanced by the relationship he had with our protagonist and how often Marigold was gaslit in their time together. He was very compelling and a threat even in his weakest moments because of that cursed silver tongue.

Now one thing I was a little less fond of this time was worldbuilding. I still enjoyed the way that Greek and Roman mythology met, though it was less prevalent in this installment. What made me a bit uncomfortable and confused was the specifics of one thing within the magic system. For gods to gain magical strength it involves sexual acts. Now this wasn’t described in detail and was faded to black a lot of the time, but still the fact that it happened unsettled me especially when done between certain people. While it does kind of make sense considering mythology and stuff, it doesn’t change the fact that it weirded by prudent self out. Especially with this being the instance it was introduced as far as my memory served.

The plotlines the sisters followed were once again imperially compelling. And this time it really tested the previously introduced Lily and Rose. You could really feel the stakes with how personal they got, saving their beloveds and the world. I love when plotlines get this personal and test the characters. Especially when what tests them is the traits that defines them. Rose’s brains being tested as she plans to infiltrate her sister’s prison, Lily’s strength and physical will being tested and Marigold’s heart being tested between what is right and what’s best for her beloved. These characters couldn’t be tested in more perfect ways. I can’t say the same for the Morrigan and I still don’t know the connections between the two plots aside from their souls being the same.

This still marks a very solid end to the series thanks to such great characters driving the plot.

Tears of a Marigold gets a score of 4/5. You had the Gaslighter and the Girlbosses present, what can I say?

Memes aside, it’s yet again time to review a series.

Blood of the Lily – 4/5, a beautifully done retelling of a hidden favourite fairytale.

Soul of a Rose – 4/5, Irish and Greek mythology collide in the best ways here especially.

Tears of a Marigold – 4/5, the characters steal the show. Every single one. of them.

Characters with depth, a well-thought collision of mythologies, retellings of tale you’ve never even heard of… no more Beauty and the Beasts and Cinderellas when S.D. Huston is on your shelf! And even then the tales are so different from their sources it becomes so refreshing. Combine that with a cast of characters that stray from cliches and really make you feel, and you get Clash of Goddesses.

Clash of Goddesses gets a score of 4/5. This one is a keeper.

Yours in writing

Amy

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It’s Corn! – a review of Renegades by Marissa Meyer

One of my friends might hate me for this. She recommended this book to me and I’m about to put it to shame. Sorryyyyyyyy.

Those born with superpowers walk either the line of the hero or the villain, and in the age where the Renegades govern and protect their people the line draws finer. Nova, an Anarchist whose hatred for the Renegades stems from them not coming to save her family, seeks to take them down and for humanity to lose their apathy within a crisis. Meanwhile Adrian poses as a vigilante alongside his Renegade position, taking the steps and measures the Renegades don’t have the guts to due to a corrupt code. These two keep their secrets tight when their paths cross, each preventing a terrible fate to their respective allies as plans unfold.

Worldbuilding served well in this novel. It became very clear the way this world worked from the get go, and exploring various hierarchies and law within the Renegades who govern it was very clear a lot of thought was put into this. The psychology and social studies of a world run by heroes was very clear and very well done, seeing regular humans gain apathy and putting blind faith into superheros who may not deserve the powers they hold.

While the characters had good motivations, I couldn’t pinpoint personality for a lot of them. The good guys acted the same, the bad guys acted the same. A lot of their personalities hinged around their powers, some of them in great ways and others in bizarre ways. It was a very mixed bag altogether, making these characters feel like a cartoon you’d catch on Saturday morning in the nineties.

This didn’t help with how corny this is. It felt Meyer was getting a lawsuit if she didn’t mention superheroes or villains every chapter. Or mention good and evil. Have characters contemplate or deny what side they stood on. God, it felt like I was being talked down to. The superhero genre saturates modern media enough for me to get the points she’s making with this novel and I kept wishing the story would move along and get to action like in the actual blockbusters showing in the cinemas right now.

Yes, you heard me. The plot was so freaking slow. It took forever to get into the second act of the novel because the lead female was too scared. Not to mention how many decisions the two characters made based on random affection for each other that was only there to move the plot along it felt like. Said affection, which I should add, had no payoff. And then not enough change happen to warrant this book as a fully fledged three act structure. My god, did the ending feel off and pessimistic.

I just realised that the longer I write this review the more mad I get about this book. Better stop writing before I rate it once star because a smidgen of good was in this.

Renegades gets a score of 2/5. Say superhero one more time. I dare you.

Yours in writing

Amy

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The Largest Hidden Gem – a review of Bad Faith by Jon Hollins

Finishing a series is much like tossing a coin. It will ruin the series for you or make it. It would be simple to just say that this final installment in the Dragon Lords trilogy had what the other books did and more. But you want details, so I must oblige.

The world is taken over by a single god whom outlaws order and embraces anarchy. Death and neglect spreads across the land under his guidance, or lack thereof. A rebellion dwindles in attempts to take him down, lead by a sorcerer balancing vengeance and the greater good. She will need help from first, the tyrants who once ruled the land wanting to take it back again, and second, allies that helped her free Kondorra for at least a year. The only problem is those allies are trying to escape the afterlife with enough power to kill a god again.

We gotta talk about how dark this novel was compared to the previous ones. Starting the series you would have never expected it to end like this, but it works so damn well I cannot express it enough. The cliffhanger the final book left you on was only the door to this darkness, which hit so hard even with the absurdity of so much more. What made you laugh before felt nearly sarcastic and maddening in this novel. Oh my god, was it entrancing.

Morality, greater good and power were central to this novel. And that was central to everyone’s character arc. Ethical frameworks was a favourite paper for me to study in university, and to see it in a fantasy world was like chocolate without the guilt. I was indulging in everyone’s arc and how they coped and battled with their morals. I love stories where people follow the same arc in different ways.

Lastly we need to talk full circles. This plot created a full circle moment in events, in characters and so many more moments. The entire plot was just plain brilliant. So much fell into place and made sense from the get go, combining with characters so cunning that the line between plot driven story and character driven story is blurred beyond recognition. This is a magnum opus of storytelling.

Such a magnum opus that I don’t know why it isn’t more popular. But more on that when we get to the series review.

Bad Faith gets a score of 5/5. That is how you finish a fucking series.

So now let’s into the series rating. Man, it’s been a while since I’ve done one of these. The last one was Arc of a Scythe which I completed back in January.

Fool’s Gold – 5/5, a D&D inspired wild ride of chaos and coin.

False Idols – 5/5, a perfect sequel and continuation of the motley crew’s lives as things get serious.

Bad Faith – 5/5/, going full circle in darkness and grit.

If five stars across the board didn’t convince you to pick up the series right now, maybe my anger that this series isn’t talked about more will. Not only does it have some of the most popular fantasy tropes right now (found family and dragons) but this series is totally unafraid and unfiltered. It makes you laugh until you piss yourself, shake your hands in fear and drop the book in shock. This will be my number one fantasy recommendation for literally any fan of the genre – Tolkein fans, those looking for a high fantasy gateway, D&D nerds… the list goes on and on. I will fight to get this the most talked about series in the world and knock Sarah J. Maas off her throne.

The Dragon Lords gets a score of 5/5. This is prized on my bookshelf.

Yours in writing

Amy

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No Longer New – a REview of The Monster of Portland by Garth Nix and Sean Williams

Woo boy, it’s been a while since I read my first RE-view. It took long enough for me to get to the second book in the series, but here we are. We’re diving back into my pre-teen favourite!

Well, not quite. And I think my opinion still stands.

Jack and Jade Shield, now under the training of their grandma, have much exploring of their newfound powers to do. As these powers create much antics and they keep this secret from their mother and newfound school friends, other magical anomalies catch their eye. Rumors circulate about the fabled monster of Portland sightings, cats within the town are on the brink of war, and the twins soon learn that The Evil they vanquished may still remain in their new home.

I remembered this novel being the weakest out of the four books in this series. Still enjoyable, yes, but ultimately the first book beat it by a lot. Maybe it’s to do with when the world was first being explored back in the first Troubletwisters book the true magic and whimsy of the series came forth, and now all that’s left is to expand the world.

The characters improved a lot here, especially as Jack and Jaide start to come of age and become their own people. They were truly becoming their own people here as their insecurities took over, onces gained from the trauma of the previous book. And they weren’t dumbed down either thanks to their shared curiosity and selflessness. A perfect balance of youth and maturity for their age. The supporting characters were great as well, those knowing of The Evil and those ignorant really built up the world. Tara was a favourite of mine, especially when she connected with the twins.

Although in spite of that the plot was lacking. This novel almost felt like filler. Or maybe it is there to set up what’s coming in books 3 and 4. Regardless, the twins more or less started and finished in very similar places. They gained a best friend at school I guess and are able to understand their powers and the world around them better, but altogether finishing the book in terms of plot was just a massive and kind of happy “oh”.

I say almost like filler because there was some good worldbuilding and things being revealed here. This was what wound up being the most fascinating part of the novel to read. To learn more about how The Evil works was one thing, especially with it owning one of my favourite villain tropes. But we met more Wardens and learned about their abilities too! I think some parts of the worldbuilding felt insignificant as I don’t remember them ever coming up again, but they were fun in the moment.

That would summarise this book – fun in the moment. But it did kind of leave me wanting more, something a bit more substantial. Luckily two books remain, which if my memory serves me were pretty dang good.

The Monster gets a score of 3/5. I hope this world hasn’t gone stale that fast because it still captured me a bit.

Yours in writing

Amy

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Fairy Grit – a review of Knife by R.J. Anderson

It’s yet another pre-teen throwback! This was the first in the trilogy that I never wound up reading all of. I’m not entirely sure why. It might have been due to my library rental period running out? Ah well, at least as an adult I can get the book for myself again.

I found myself loving this book for reasons my younger self didn’t see prior.

Bryony is a fairy living in the great oak who longs for adventure in spite of the dangers outside, one such longing that lead to her encountering a human. Her years of punishment and ostracization over it come to a close when she become the apprentice hunter for the clan. However, her outside discoveries leave more questions than answers as she comes across question after question – why do fairies look so similar to humans? Why don’t they have magic anymore? Why does she feel depressed every day she’s away from her newfound human companion?

The premise of this book hinges on not being like other fairy stories. When I was younger this wound up perfect for me having read a hundred fairy related books when I was under 10 and was starting to get into grittier middle grade fantasy books. This book served as the perfect way for me to continue reading about fairies without “childish embarrassment”. It serves very well for that even today. I haven’t read a book with a pixie or fairy in it for ages and it felt so good to again with this mature take. I love a fairy that isn’t all sunshine and rainbows.

Character is a strong suit of Anderson’s, if not her strongest. It is very easy to get motivations of a character when you learn about them, which is by far the most important part of a character. She nails that like nothing. Those motivations become the building blocks for every character in this novel, from Bryony’s want to live a life unprotected by her queen to Paul wanting his life to have purpose again.

It was also fascinating for a world so small to be built out so much. To built out the scope for you, a majority of this novel took place in a house and backyard. But my god does this house and backyard have such a history built on so little! I don’t want to spoil a single detail. But as the series does suggest, this is no ordinary fairytale. It is never what you would expect, so I’m giving you no expectations but to expect that. This single tree that all of fairykind lives in, pun intended, has deep roots.

This novel had so many different kinds of plots in it to entertain you. Fantasy romance? You got it. Political mystery? Hell yes. Woodland mushroom fantasies? Metric buttloads. This is without a doubt the perfect bite sized book to get people into contemporary fantasy. Lore that’s easy to memorise and take in, a romance that’s easy to root for, an easily explained magic system and of course wacky hijinks. Who doesn’t love wacky hijinks?

So childhood me was right with book one. Now I have the remainder of a trilogy to complete for the first time…

Knife gets a score of 4.5/5.I’m so glad my childhood love of fairies made me pick up this book.

Yours in writing

Amy

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Better Politics Than Reality – a review of The Mime Order by Samantha Shannon

My endeavor into this BookTok recommended series continues. So far it has been on the up and up. I will say that this book has improved from its predecessor, The Bone Season, so it intrigues me still.

But you want the juicy details, don’t you?

After returning from Sheol I and escaping the slavery of the Rephaim, Paige knows that the rest of London’s clairvoyant gangs need to stop this force that has aligned with their already oppressive government. But her gang lord Jaxon threatens her to keep her mouth shut or get flung out onto the streets. She must instead find a new way to circulate information by teaming up with other escapees, finding new allies amongst rival gangs and betraying her own. But how deep does this corruption go when the price on Paige’s head keeps rising?

Shannon absolutely shines in her worldbuilding, which finally got a chance to flourish in full in this book. While it was an interesting choice in the series to introduce the magic before the world (which I have seen in common beat sheets or at least seen comparisons of), it perfectly makes sense in the story and the world to do it in that order. The worldbuilding and when things were revealed helped us learn of the threat followed by what was at stake. And what was at stake was both bleak and beautiful at the same time. So much character was brought into the world and you can tell how much has been carefully put into Scion-ruled London and what is found within their shadows.

This is yet another book that made me realise how much I love sci fi and fantasy based politics. That is frankly ironic considering I want to be more knowledgeable on real life politics but I can never be bothered to pay attention until election season. Maybe if magic and monsters were involved I would be more interested, like in this novel! Gang wars and power balances were prominent in this world as Paige tried to work out how to save her allies in the underworld. And boy, does some juicy stuff happen – let me tell you.

Characters and their relationships greatly improved in this novel compared to The Bone Season. This may have been because Paige returned to relationships that she already established, but it was still great to see her connect and think over her new allies around the city. It was good to see Paige not as isolated and ostracized as she was fighting with in the previous book. She felt so much stronger and defined as a character with these connections she had made, fought for and against.

In spite of all these highs, I found the main fallback to be pacing. And that being quite a low. Too many points were reiterated too many times, and a few of the days that went by many of them could be skipped. This made some parts of the novel a slog as it told me things were happening and being set into motion, which they weren’t. A lot happened but it’s difficult to tell what was worthwhile aside from what coalesced in the climax.

Speaking of the climax, it left on quite the note. I eagerly await the chance for me to read book three.

The Mime Order gets a score of 4/5. The main lesson from this novel is that politics needs magic and monsters.

Yours in writing

Amy

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Feminazi Agenda – a review of The Merciless Ones by Namina Forna

I have never been in a position where I have waited for the next book in a series to come out so desperately until I read The Gilded Ones. And was I ever so glad to pick up the next book in the Deathless series after waiting for over a year since I read book one.

Was it worth the wait? Hell and back again, yes.

Deka awakening the Gilded Ones in a bid to free females from the patriarchy was meant to solve all problems, not bring more war and death to her kind. Still, as the Nuru it is her and her friends’ duty to fight for it. However, after rescuing another divine figure from oppression she discovers that the oppressors may have something more powerful than the goddesses she follows. It is now her duty to find out more about these potential weapons and priests to stop them. However, more about the world gets brought to her eyes the deeper she searches, and lies about all she knew come to light.

The action in this was phenomenal and always had me on the edge of my seat! What really captivated me this time was how in these action scenes there was always so much more to focus on than just the task at hand. Forna knows how to emphasise stakes and dive into a character’s mind during battle, be it fear or curiosity, and to shape the battle to recite a character’s mindset.

Character was another strong suit in this novel. Trauma was a common adversary amongst Deka and her allies, which was fascinating to explore amongst all of them. And even then each had their own arcs to follow. Deka and Britta were favourites of mine for their friendship alone. I want a best friend like what they’ve got going on. Minus the whole bloodshed and warrior lifestyle maybe.

Worldbuilding was expanded upon so well. So much was culturally and politically shared during this is made my heart sing to see the world expanded. The world was clearly reacting to the events of the previous book in the series and it impacted the plot so well. No single decision or repercussion was ignored. And the mythos of this world too! Such a great mythos and exploration of magic along the way.

All in all, in the way the plot and themes were developed this book is a perfect sequel. It all made great sense in developing the discussion of feminism and non-male rights. I haven’t read a book, or a series, that talked about this topic so well, so insightfully and so un-campy. Which makes sense considering Forna’s educational background. It is a blessing for her to bring her studies and her own insights into this book for people to read. Minus the triggers, I think anyone should be reading this for the valuable insights it contains about feminism and not feminazis.

The Merciless Ones gets a score of 5/5. A perfect score for a perfect sequel that left an impact on my feminist viewpoints.

Yours in writing

Amy