Beyond the Empire

The Best Golden Trio – a review of Beyond the Empire by K.B. Wagers

This was the final series I was able to finish in 2022, and it’s quite wholesome with the values this series holds. This is the first non-dystopian sci fi series I’ve ever liked and I’m so glad I found this on a reading list somewhere and scored the first book second hand. We’ll talk more about the whole series in a bit, but first we half to talk about the book that closed it all.

Empress Hail Bristol now has her sights sets on killing Wilson, the man responsible for the death of everyone in her family. When he knows everything about her and her every move, this proves a difficult task. Even more so when she still has to return home and thwart the forces keeping her away. Hail has to put faith in her allies despite the pain of losing them in order to work out more about Wilson, any weakness he may have, and kill him before she gets to her beloved. Then her.

Hail, Zin and Emmory continue to be highlights as the three main characters. Still their vibes are so good and undeniable, feeling like they’ve known each other for years when Hail was only a part of this for months. Every single time these characters and their interpersonal conflicts, though on the resolution end of their arcs, always feel the realest and Wagers has a clear passion for these guys.

Other characters are still lacking in comparison to the main three. They blend together a little too easily where some of their deaths don’t make the impact they do as I struggle to remember who they are. This may be a product of me not binging the series all at once, but it still got problems nonetheless. Big casts are hard to manage after all, for author and reader alike.

The third act was the clear highlight of the novel. It really showcased the power of the villain, Wilson, unlike other times in the novel. He was previously a very passive villain who claimed to have every other villain on puppet strings. But the third act was all Wilson and it truly showed how cunning he was. It made his reputation finally be worth his name to see what Hail and her allies had to go through simply to get a single hit on him.

I will admit the end felt both hollow and not. I think that was the point. This isn’t the first ending that works but isn’t satisfying that I have come across, but I saw the point of this one clearer than previous ones. I will say it does lessen my view of the series, being a person that hinges on endings making or breaking stories so much. This just makes one very passable. I guess others would feel differently, but it wasn’t exactly a big whoop for me. I won’t complain.

Beyond the Empire gets a score of 4/5. The best golden trio is in this book.

Now that the series is over, we gotta review it as a whole.

Behind the Throne – 5/5, the book that finally got me into sci fi with rich worldbuilding galore.

After the Crown – 4/5, all goes to Hell in the best way possible.

Beyond the Empire – 4/5, a golden trio and a villain who truly get their chances to shine.

I’d recommend this series as an ideal gateway for fantasy readers looking to get into sci fi. The rich worldbuilding and easy to understand tech implements sci fi is known for make this a very engaging read from the world alone. Pair that with a brilliant written protagonist with the best bodyguards by her side. I wish that more background characters garnered more attention and personality, but with a trio like that and so many highs, who can complain?

The Indranan War gets a score of 4/5. This series is a keeper.

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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I am Nick – a review of The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

Classics have been given a weird reputation in the past few months, where you’re not a true reader if you haven’t tried the classics and you are pretentious to say that otherwise. And I will admit I have DNF’d classics the most out of any genre to the point where I do want to read them less.

This one I didn’t. What does that mean? Well, in the history of my classic DNFs it means it’s easy enough to read and has pacing that doesn’t make me want to die in my sleep.

When Nick Carraway moves to Long Island and gains work in New York, he rents a small cottage next to the estate of Jay Gatsby. As he grows fascinated with the spectacle and enigma, Nick gets approached by Gatsby to reunite with his love who Nick is related to.

The standout of this novel was narrative voice and basically what everyone talks about, and I can see why now I’ve read it. There’s something about the rose coloured glasses that the POV character Nick wears that make this novel so charming. He makes artistry out of otherwise mundane glam, and the way he pours his emotions into everything makes a quite nice unreliable narration.

That being said, a lot of the plot felt like a blur with both the author and Nick’s attention to detail and the way he fluffed everything up. Even though I read this novel quite recently I don’t quite know what went on. It’s just a big general idea of Nick’s observations of interpersonal conflict going on around him. In retrospect that sounds like me and makes him so relatable, but enough of that tangent! When everything in a story matters, this was hard to discern.

A lot of people say that Gatsby’s character is the one that shines, but maybe they were overshadowed by DiCaprio’s depiction. I was certainly expecting that coming in to read this book, but found that he fell flat in comparison. So much for him being the titular character. He felt relatively passive and generic as a love interest, the only thing making him appealing was how he was less toxic than his love interest’s husband.

The characters that I felt were way better and compelling, aside from the POV character of Nick of course, were Daisy and Jordan. I feel like my younger “feminazi” self who refused to have a favourite character who was male, but no need with these ladies. I felt for Daisy’s want to get out of her husband’s shadow and to decide on a life for herself and how Gatsby symbolised that for her. And Jordan’s personality, maturity and interpersonal skills made her far more charming than the titular character. Maybe it should’ve been titled better.

So yeah, Great Gatsby is a classic that exists. That’s cool.

The Great Gatsby gets a score of 3/5. Just Watch DiCaprio I guess.

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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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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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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Short and Deep – a Re-View of The Reptile Room by Lemony Snicket

Been a while since we touched The Bad Beginning, it was only a matter of time until we found out how the story continued. And things get better!

For the readers, not for the children sadly.

Violet, Klaus and Sunny Baudelaire cunningly escape the clutches of Count Olaf and instead meet the eccentric Doctor Montgomery, their new garden. Fascinated by his studies of snakes, the children think they have found their new home and family to grow up with. But Count Olaf soon returns in disguise, still wanting to get his hands on their fortune. And his next plans require more cunning on their part as they attempt to prove him guilty of murder.

This book was in so many ways better than its predecessor. Maybe this was because in book one I was still getting re-introduced to Snicket’s writing style, or maybe because of others points I will later discuss. The writing style was far more tolerable this time. I felt like I was being talked down to in the writing style far less, for one thing. But Snicket’s unreliable narration that put rainclouds over a lot really shone this time.

What made this novel work so well in terms of plot was the short timeframe it covered. This is often something people underestimate, and I love any kind of long-length story that takes place up to three days. Well, this one took up a week I think, but my point still stands! These kinds of plots allow us to pay attention to any detail thrown at us and we are in the present with the characters. We won’t forget anything, these horrible thoughts feel very real in the moment. This book ticks all those boxes.

I particularly enjoyed how each of the characters had their moments to shine. While in The Bad Beginning Violet felt like the only one in control of getting out of her forced marriage, the climax of The Reptile Room involved all three in each of their elements. I won’t go into details, but this installment felt far more equitable in terms of the children.

But what really brought this book to such a high score was the tone. This book had its highs as well as lows, and in spite of us knowing those lows would be hit the highs had a bittersweetness that became very enjoyable. It really brought these characters to life once their time with Uncle Monty started spiralling downhill. Felt a little too real, but that’s humanity.

The Reptile Room gets a score of 4.5/5. The shorter the time period, the better the story and hijinks.

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

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Still Salty at the Movies – a REview of The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan

This book was in desperate need of a reread. I barely remembered anything about it thanks to its terrible adaptation that was played five too many times by teachers.

On the bright side, that made me fall in love with this series again. Even when reading it for a second time and knowing how it ends.

When middle schooler Percy Jackson vaporises his maths teacher, he quickly learns that it wasn’t some kind of hallucination. He’s a demigod, the son of a Greek Olympian God, who is forced into refuge at a summer camp for those like him. Unfortunately, his mother was unable to get to safety with him. So when the opportunity to save her arrives on the brink of a war between Zeus and Poseidon, Percy takes his satyr best friend and an overachiever daughter of Athena with him across the USA to confront Hades, who is believed to be the one causing this all.

Going back over ten years ago, this was the hype of everyone in my senior classes at primary school and ultimately what got me to read this series. I genuinely don’t know if my enjoyment of it was solely so I could talk about it with my friends or me actually enjoying the story. This was especially when The Lightning Thief was the least favourite of mine as a kid.

Upon rereading it, I don’t know why!

The characters – incredible. These twelve year olds especially have so much depth to them! Better than the way I’ve seen adults and teens written by a landslide. Each have their own goals and fears that don’t define them, with little quirks and personality traits that give them each a chance to shine. My god, it is so hard to pick favourites in this cast! Unlike the movie in which everyone was turned flat, especially Annabeth. They did Annabeth dirty in the adaptation.

Next we need to talk about worldbuilding and how seamlessly Mythology fits into this world. It’s in the plot like crazy, feeling a lot like a modern day Odyssey for preteens with the inclusions of quests and tropes found in some of my favourites. The story feels like so much of its own in spite of the mythology roots. The way the monsters fit into the world is perfect! A seamless example of how to add the fantasy to an urban environment.

And oh my god, the writing style. I remember the writing style being what made me fall in love with this book and inspired me to write, but I don’t remember it being this damn good! It has cheesy and unexpected comedy, things to wrench out your heart and some of the best imagery I have ever read. Not once did I read a cliche metaphor or simile and it was so refreshing! I will admit that the foreshadowing was a bit in your face and timed a bit too close to reveals, but I can forgive it slightly on being a middle grade book.

Regardless, this is still so readable and fun to read, I can now confirm being an adult, for all ages. Top 10 books to read before you die. Because all 10 of those are Rick Riordan books.

The Lightning Thief gets a score of 4.5/5. I already predict that the Disney series won’t do this book justice.

Yours in writing

Amy

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Mature Children – a review of Love, Aubrey by Suzanne LaFleur

I would call this a RE-view, but I didn’t even remember what happened in this book. So it was basically like reading this for the first time. I read this book in my final year of Intermediate school, got my best friend into it and we were obsessed with this book for a while.

11-year-old Aubrey is home alone. Her dad and sister died in an accident and her grieving mother abandoned her. She didn’t mind this lifestyle until Grandma arrived and took her to her home in Vermont to stay with her. Not only must Aubrey come to terms with a new life, but she must come to turns with the past at the same time and how things will never be the same.

This was the first book that made me cry, but I couldn’t remember what about it made me cry. It was ten years ago since I read that book and I had read tonnes more since then. Even so, this held such a place in my heart and I reminisced on the feelings I felt while reading it. There were bits and pieces I remembered of it but nothing stronger than the emotion – the crying and the joy mixed into the pages.

This was a stellar character driven story, perfect for a contemporary novel. You could clearly see interactions and opinions impact characters in such a real way. Each revelation hit hard or brought joy. Each character and their relationships felt real, developed, thoughtful. Contemporary novels in my perspective have some of the richest and most well rounded characters I’ve ever read, and LaFleur’s work is not exception.

Aubrey’s character and her arc were stellar. She had so much dimension, maturity and at the same time youth for her age. That and it felt so relatable and universal. Love, Aubrey revolves around children’s grief and PTSD through her perspective, and even though it relates to her dealing with it that doesn’t consume her or the plot. Her developments are very mature and signify a coming of age.

One thing that brought it down for me were a bunch of cliches in the language of this novel. You can expect language cliches in middle grade novels, the same metaphors and similes you see all the time. And seeing cliches of ways to describe things doesn’t usually get me mad. But when they come in this huge quantity it does made me think less of the novel. You couldn’t think of any new ways to describe that river? Or that feeling in your gut? I know how wild a child’s imagination can get, and this wasn’t it.

But don’t let that take the rating of this fantastic book down too far. This is still an incredible story for anyone to read, so make you cry and warm your heart all at once.

Love, Aubrey gets a score of 4.5/5. Enough emotion and purity to last me the rest of the year.

Yours in writing

Amy

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Big Shocker – a review of False Idols by Jon Hollins

I was hyped to get to this sequel. Fool’s Gold was already a huge hit, falling in love with the series mere chapters into it.

The hype live up! The hype lived up!

Dragons may no longer rule over Kondorra, but they’re still a threat as the rest of the continent accepts them. Corrupted human governments are taken over by manipulative dragons who claim to be the new gods. The only people not subjected to this vision of a new world are the five heroes who slayed the dragons – Quirk, Will, Lette, Balur and Firkin. It’s up to them to make the remaining governments and empires step up, and to save the people already swayed the wrong way.

It was fantastic to see the world built out from the previous books. The first book focussed on a single empire on the continent and the corruption there, and to see the rest of the world, especially with characters directly linked to it, was so enlightening. Universities, churches and governments galore! And of course how the dragons attempt to get to them. So cool! It really brings out the ingenuity of Hollins and how he comments on problems we too face in a campy presentation.

This plot hit me hard in so many ways. Between character arcs, relationship tensions and the fate of the world itself, there was so much to guess about and be blind to for bigger reveals. Literally – when you think you know what’s going on and how it would all end the carpet animated and traps you in a little corpse burrito. And what a fantastic predictability and unpredictability it became! Not too much or little of either.

The characters were great as usual, but I have to give credit to Quirk and her character arc in this novel. She became my favourite this time around. Her devotion to her sense of duty and morality and the internal conflicts surrounding that were very engaging – a perfect look into her mind.

One thing I want to highlight is the ensemble characters, the ones without perspective chapters and were there for their own purposes. It is not often that the non main characters are so crucial to building up the world, conflicts and stakes, and to have so many. These were all done very well where it feels so real and with each crowd group being unique.

And now book three awaits. So much exciting content awaits.

False Idols gets a score of 5/5. When the going gets tough, the rating goes up.

Yours in writing

Amy

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Hindus in Space – a review of Behind the Throne by K.B. Wagers

My start to sci fi was dismal, and I started to think that this genre wasn’t for me. That was until I picked up this novel.

I bought the rest of the series as soon as I finished this book.

Hailimi ran away from the Indranan Empire to avenge the death of her father, but now the rest of the royal family is at risk or already dead. The princess-turned-gunrunner now must return home and team up with her bodyguards in the midst of her planet’s celebrations to stop the assassination of her mother, reclaim her rights to the throne and mend family ties that were broken when she abandoned them.

Worldbuilding was executed well in this novel. I like how it mainstreamed colonization from Earth and turned international affairs to interplanetary affairs, with cultural distinctions flavouring each empire. An Indian inspired world was featured in the spotlight, which I appreciated having seen Hindu culture frequently in my hometown. It still made the Indranan culture distinct from what we know of India today, making it truly feel like an evolution.

The subtleties of technology within the story was fantastic too. I liked how it wasn’t always pivotal to the story and wound up being used on multiple occasions, including accessing the internet from your mind, permanent body modifications and tracking systems. It made the world feel both futuristic and not very far from our own, in a cultural sense mind you. There was no need to flaunt the technology and how revolutionary it was when it was constantly shown, used and exercised in plot relevant ways that kept me interested and excited me.

Every character was very enjoyable and distinct. None were campy, but many had their comedic moments to shine. I was particularly a fan of Hailimi’s Trackers, Emmory and Zin, and the respective quips each of them had with each other and with Hailimi. And, of course, Hailimi herself deserves some credit. She was written incredibly real.

I’m usually not a fan of courts and strategies within them, but it was written very well in this novel. It was mostly easy to follow along with, interlaced with family drama that left me wincing. With the additions of assassination attempts and gunfire, this became a very fun read. I was always wonder what would be revealed next. I also appreciate the novel for not hinging on a big reveal of the conspirators, for being as smart as the reader. There was more to focus on than that so it became very nice to see that unfold in a more natural way.

See what unfold? You’ll have to read to find out. I deeply encourage you.

Behind the Throne gets a score of 5/5. Perfect novel for a fantasy reader dipping toes into science fiction.

Yours in writing

Amy

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This Ain’t Classism – a review of Evalene’s Number by Bethany Atazadeh

Somebody please help me. I have read five books in a row and have not liked them enough to keep them. Why is my luck this bad? Will this streak end?

I guess while I debate that, let’s talk book five in that streak. A dystopian disappointment.

In the country of Eden, people are labeled with numbers to dictate their place in society and their associative rolls. Needless to say, when Evalene expects a low number like her parents and gets labelled with #29, one of the lowest numbers in society, her life crumbles. Eight years later she seeks an escape after hearing rumors of a land where numbers don’t matter, where newborn children don’t have that expectation and everyone is treated as an equal. But what happens when she seeks freedom at a time where revolution is on the horizon?

I had very mixed feelings about the main character. She bordered between Mary Sue and Everyman as each page was turned. This made her as a character never stand out because while she was universally relatable it was never enough for me to root for her or make a large enough impact.

But I can say that there were exactly two characters in the entire novel that actually had a personality. They were in very generic ways too. One was an optimist, one was abusive and the rest were a generic mishmash. Yay! But seriously, did this never cross Atazadeh’s mind as to how generic her cast was? How nobody had dimension? It was even worse when it was so desperately trying to be a character driven story with these guys. In that respect it fell flat.

The world was interesting but never explored enough. The various positions people held with their number was explained but never shown aside from high and low society. Why bother explaining this without showing it? I would have really liked to see the lives of priests, law and merchants but it was never shown. Pity is an understatement. This is a novel all about classism and prejudice justified by religion and that was rarely touched. It felt like barely any research went into the implications of such.

Pair that with a mediocre rebellion plot, and this is what you get. I say mediocre because there wasn’t a great enough struggle, not enough losses for what was won. It felt too uplifting too quick. I think something went critically wrong once and it was solved by coincidence. I’m sick of coincidences solving everything!

So can I coincidentally have a read that will blow my mind next week please?

Evalene’s number gets a score of 2.5/5. This novel went about as deep as a fish bowl.

Yours in writing

Amy