review: the wrath and the dawn

the wrath and the dawnTitle: The Wrath and the Dawn
Series: The Wrath and the Dawn #1
Author: Renée Ahdieh
Published in 2015
Genre: retelling
Rating: ★★★ – it was okay

In a land ruled by a murderous boy-king, each dawn brings heartache to a new family. Khalid, the eighteen-year-old Caliph of Khorasan, is a monster. Each night he takes a new bride only to have a silk cord wrapped around her throat come morning. When sixteen-year-old Shahrzad’s dearest friend falls victim to Khalid, Shahrzad vows vengeance and volunteers to be his next bride. Shahrzad is determined not only to stay alive, but to end the caliph’s reign of terror once and for all.

Night after night, Shahrzad beguiles Khalid, weaving stories that enchant, ensuring her survival, though she knows each dawn could be her last. 

my thoughts on june 19

The Wrath and the Dawn had been on my to-read list since its release in 2015. It was one of the most hyped book in the bookish community at the time, and as always, the hype scared me. I kept putting it off because I didn’t want to end up disappointed. High expectations can really kill a reading experience, which seems rather unfair to the novel. After about 4 years and seeing some mixed reviews pop up, I decided it was finally time to read it. Unfortunately, I still found it to be a disappointing read.

The premise makes it seem like an epic read. Shahrzad volunteers to be the King’s wife, even though he kills them come morning. One of his past brides that was killed was Shahrzad’s best friend, and she is determined to get revenge. Doesn’t that sound incredible?

Unfortunately, this book fell flat for me. Shahrzad hates the king (obviously), who has killed countless of women after marrying them – including her best friend. This level of hatred, these things he has done, you cannot overcome. What I wanted from this book was a revenge story. Yet only a few days after she comes to the palace (I can’t exactly remember how long it took), Shahrzad begins to waver. She starts to notice how handsome the king is, and just doesn’t understand how he could have done such monstrous things. Because we all know attractive people are inherently nice… With every little tiny act of kindness, she proclaims he can’t be a monster after all.

Listen, girl. Killers aren’t going on a rampage every single second. A person can be perfectly charming and kind, and still murder others. They are not mutually exclusive! I hated how fast she gave up on hating him, how their “love” story developed in .2 seconds, and how she seemed to forgive him for everything. I just couldn’t deal.

Let’s be honest, this was a case of insta-love. She hated him, sure. However, after being kind of nice to her for 2 days, she was ready to throw it all away to be with him. I found myself rolling my eyes for the majority of the book, because it just seemed so unrealistic and ridiculous to me.

Of course, I knew there would be a romance in this story, an enemies-to-lovers one. I didn’t expect it to develop so fast though. That took me out of the story, and made me genuinely disinterested in reading it.

For the life of me, I can’t remember what happened in this novel aside from the romance between the two main characters. The only other person I can recall is Tariq, a character I actually enjoyed. He should have ended up with the girl, in my opinion. I guess that could still happen, because I haven’t read the sequel, but I highly doubt it.

Lastly, let’s talk about the reveal on why Khalid kills his brides every morning. Obviously, I won’t spoil what the big secret is, in case you haven’t read it. When I came across the reveal, I honestly couldn’t believe it. It made me so angry, to be honest. If you’ve read this book come talk to me on Twitter in the DMs, because I need to discuss this with you all. To me, this was such an obvious ploy to make Khalid seem more likeable, and I hated it.

All in all, this book just wasn’t for me. The romance killed what could have been an epic read for me. I simply lost interest in the story, and won’t pick up the sequel.

 

review: the shadowglass, the conclusion to one of my favorite fantasy trilogies

the shadow glassTitle: The Shadowglass
Series: The Bone Witch #3
Author: Rin Chupeco
Published in 2019 by Sourcebooks Fire

I won’t provide a synopsis because this is the third book in the trilogy and would contain spoilers for the previous instalments. If you want to read the premise of The Shadowglass, you can click on the title above or the cover, which will take you to the Goodreads page.

My review on the first book, The Bone Witch.

 

 

my thoughts on june 19

The Shadow Glass was one of my most anticipated releases of 2019, and one of the only books I pre-ordered. I’ve been in love with this trilogy ever since receiving an e-ARC of the first book in 2016. I was both excited and scared to read this conclusion, because it would wrap up one of my favorite stories. Would it be a good ending? I’m happy to say that I wasn’t disappointed by this book at all.

Obviously, I can’t say much (or anything at all really) about the plot or storyline of the book because it would spoil the events of the previous two novels. I’ll keep it very general and abstract for you.

I absolutely love the twists and turns in this story. Throughout this entire trilogy, I found myself doubting every character and interaction. I didn’t know who to trust, much like Tea doesn’t know who she can rely on. I was taken by surprise multiple times throughout this book, which doesn’t happen all that often anymore. It was a wild ride, and I even shed a few tears at some point.

That is the nature of tyranny, young Tea. Maintaining power is their sole intention. Why worry about retaliation and revolution when they have always intended to wield the sword?

What makes this trilogy stand out to me are the characters. They’re all so well-developed, given their own time, and have their strengths and flaws.

Tea is a badass woman, but she isn’t infallible either.

“We all admired her, Knox.” Lord Besserly raised his glass. “Let’s raise our glasses to the Dark asha. As strong and mighty as we are, able warriors one and all – may nothing we do piss her off.”

She’s way too impulsive and emotional at times, which leads to rash decision making. The great part is that she’s very aware of her personality flaws and they don’t overtake the story – if that makes sense. Love, family, and friendship are incredibly important to her, which shows in the way she treats her friends. She’d do absolutely anything for them. While she has a strong sense of duty, she won’t let it overshadow her humanity, or her as a person.

“I am selfish. I am not the compassionate woman she is. Sometimes I feel she is far too kind for her own good. I will serve the kingdoms, but not at the cost of my health.”

Another character I want to bundle up in a blanket and protect forever is Likh. In the entire trilogy, we’ve seen how fluid gender is through Likh’s story. While the rest of the world considers Likh a boy, she has always been drawn to the asha (female witches) over the Deathseekers (males capable of drawing runes and magic). Likh loves the intricate hua of the asha, the way they perform and carry themselves. In The Shadowglass, we see Likh realize which pronouns actually fit her and how she explains it to the others. Seeing this transition, this realization and acceptance, was wonderful.

Aside from gender, there’s also diversity in terms of sexuality. There’s an f/f relationship I absolutely adore, but I feel is more prominent in the second book rather than the third. There’s a male character who is primarily attracted to other men as well.

If you haven’t read this trilogy yet, please give it a try. I promise it’s worth your time. I’m so happy to say that this Asian-inspired fantasy series written by a Filipino author belongs on my favorites shelf. 

recommendations from my favorite genre (some more fantasy for you all)

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly post hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl. Today, we’re talking about books from our favorite genre. For me, that’s fantasy. I’ll try to give some recommendations I think a lot of you haven’t read yet. Here are my picks for this week.

A Shiver of Snow and Sky by Lisa Lueddecke
This fantasy novel is perfect for a cosy winter day. It’s a polar fantasy, in which the main character goes on a quest to the Goddess to save her village after the red lights in the sky appear. After all, red is a warning.

The Bone Witch (The Bone Witch #1) by Rin Chupeco
I want more people to read this incredible Asian-inspired fantasy trilogy. It’s one of my favorite series, and I own them all in hardcover. If you know me, you realize that’s a big deal. I usually buy paperback only. It has witches, necromancy, betrayal, royalty, and battling kingdoms.

The Alchemists of Loom (Loom Saga #1) by Elise Kova
I have seen quite a lot of people talking about Elise Kova’s Air Awakens series, but not necessarily about her Loom Saga. This is a new adult fantasy series in which the Five Guilds were conquered by the Dragon King. Ari is doing everything she can, as an engineer turned thief, to thwart the Dragon usurpers. It’s brilliant! By making this list, I’m also reminding myself to finally read the third book…

Dreamer’s Pool (Blackthorn & Grim #1) by Juliet Marillier
I’ve mentioned Juliet Marillier quite often, because she’s such an underrated author when it comes to fantasy. Dreamer’s Pool follows Blackthorn and Grim, who live on the fringe of a mysterious forest. Blackthorn has vowed to set aside her bid for vengeance in exchange for freedom, and now she has to spend 7 years assisting those who need her help.

Daughter of the Forest (Sevenwaters #1) by Juliet Marillier
I’ve been in love with this series since I was a teenager, and I’m still urging people to read it to this day. The first book is the story of 7 siblings, 1 sister and 6 brothers, who have been cursed by their stepmother. The 6 brothers have turned into swans, and the only way Sorcha can save them is by weaving them shirts from weeds with painful thorns and not uttering a sound until she can put the clothes around their necks.

White Cat (Curse Workers #1) by Holly Black
Out of all of Holly Black’s novels, I feel like I barely see anyone talk about White Cat. I absolutely loved this urban fantasy trilogy, so I’m boosting it here. The main character, Cassel, comes from a worker family (think maffia) and has conned his way into a fancy school. I’d suggest listening to the audiobooks of these, as they’re narrated by Jesse Eisenberg.

His Majesty’s Dragon (Temeraire #1) by Naomi Novik
Once again, a popular author in the bookish community, but an frequently overlooked series. Temeraire follows Laurence and his dragon, Temeraire, during the Napoleonic Wars. Sounds epic, doesn’t it?

Nimona by Noelle Stevenson
For those of you who are craving a graphic novel, I’d recommend Nimona. Nimona is a young shapeshifter who wants to become the sidekick of a villain. Together, they battle the good side! But is it really the “good” side?

Nice Dragons Finish Last (Heartstrikers #1) by Rachel Aaron
Another urban fantasy for you all, and another dragon book! Heartstrikers focuses on Julius, the smallest dragon in the Heartstriker clan. He’s always looked down upon by the others because he’s a nice dragon. Dragons aren’t supposed to be nice. It has magic, dragons, ghosts, ancient feuds, evil, scheming and backstabbing, and everything you could ever want.

Sunbolt (Sunbolt Chronicles #1) by Intisar Khanani
A very underrated fantasy series to close off my list. Hitomi gets caught working for the Shadow League, an underground movement, by Arch Mage Wilhelm Blackflame and she’ll need every ounce of courage and magical powers she can summon to escape. Be prepared and buy the second book immediately, though, because the first one is very short and you’ll be left wanting more.

Have you read any of these books? Which fantasy novels would you recommend me?

review: his majesty’s dragon | Napoleonic war + dragons

his majesty's dragonTitle: His Majesty’s Dragon
Series: Temeraire #1
Author: Naomi Novik
Genre: historical fantasy (adult)
Published in 2006 by Del Rey
Rating: ★★★★ – really liked it

Aerial combat brings a thrilling new dimension to the Napoleonic Wars as valiant warriors ride mighty fighting dragons, bred for size or speed. When HMS Reliant captures a French frigate and seizes the precious cargo, an unhatched dragon egg, fate sweeps Captain Will Laurence from his seafaring life into an uncertain future – and an unexpected kinship with a most extraordinary creature. Thrust into the rarified world of the Aerial Corps as master of the dragon Temeraire, he will face a crash course in the daring tactics of airborne battle. For as France’s own dragon-borne forces rally to breach British soil in Bonaparte’s boldest gambit, Laurence and Temeraire must soar into their own baptism of fire.

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His Majesty’s Dragon is the story of Laurence, a captain in the marines, and Temeraire, his dragon. Laurence’s crew captures a French ship and discover that it has an unhatched dragon egg on board. They’re months away from reaching land, however, and the egg might hatch at any moment. It’s crucial that the dragon bonds with someone as soon as it hatches so they can strengthen the British Aerial Corps. Some unexpected things happen, and Laurence ends up bonding with the dragon, Temeraire.

This book is set during the Napoleonic Wars in the early 1800s. I like how Naomi Novik managed to fully immerse the reader in the time period itself, through different tactics.

First is the writing. As I was reading this book, it occurred to me that the writing style reminded me of Jane Eyre. It has that same sentence structure and feeling to it. After looking it up, I realized that Jane Eyre was published in 1847. I don’t think I’ve ever read a fantasy novel in which I could tell the era it’s set in from the writing itself.

There’s also the obvious difference placed between men and women. It shows in little things, like how surprised Laurence was when a woman wore pants, or in the “proper” way he felt like he needed to interact with them, or in the way he would not give a female trainee the same privileges as the male ones because he needed to “protect” her. Is it annoying that this happens? Yes. However, Naomi Novik managed to show both history and present here. She added those things to the novel for historical reference, but challenges them as well. Either it’s someone else pointing his discrimination out to Laurence, or it’s him realizing how unfair it is.

I will say that my knowledge on the Napoleonic Wars is very limited, and it showed. I was quite confused at times, because you’re thrown in the middle of the war and have to figure out what’s happening by yourself. The sheer amount of places mentioned as well as the tactics and strategy behind the battles went over my head at times.

The story itself is a good mix between battle, training, and character exploration. The pacing never felt off, and it made for a pretty quick read even though the writing is not as easy to digest as most contemporary writing is.

First, Laurence and Temeraire have to get to know one another after the hatching. While I love both the main characters, my heart goes to Temeraire. I love that dragon! He made me laugh out loud multiple times, and I wish to protect him from all evil. As their bond deepens, their affection towards another is so sweet.

I do have a question though. The dragons all talk out loud in this book. In most books I’ve read, it’s more of a telepathy thing. How odd must it look when a dragon talks out loud? How do their mouths form the necessary shapes?

Laurence was an interesting character for me because I usually read about thieves, assassins, mercenaries, etc. when it comes to fantasy novels. Here, we follow a guy who is devoted to his country and duty, and prides himself on being a gentleman. It is so fascinating to read about someone focused on doing his duty and being a good citizen, even if it makes you want to push him into some mischief at times.

The one downside to this book, I would say, is that it’s clearly a set-up for a long series. You have the main characters meet, get to know one another, and train together, so that they can become a well-oiled machine for the battles to come.


I’m glad I finally picked this book up. It sat on my shelf, unread, for years… A few days after finishing it, I went to a used bookstore I love and discovered the next 3 books in the series there! I can’t wait to discover more of Laurence and Temeraire’s adventures. I would highly recommend this series, if the premise sounds at all appealing to you. 

review: the way of kings | 1200+ pages of epic fantasy goodness

the way of kingsTitle: The Way of Kings
Series: Stormlight Archive #1
Author: Brandon Sanderson
Published in 2010 by Tor
Genre: epic fantasy (adult)
Rating: ★★★★★ – a new favorite

I long for the days before the Last Desolation. Before the Heralds abandoned us and the Knights Radiant turned against us. When there was still magic in Roshar and honor in the hearts of men. 

In the end, not war but victory proved the greater test. Did our foes see that the harder they fought, the fiercer our resistance? Fire and hammer forge a sword; time and neglect rust it away. So we won the world, yet lost it. 

Now there are four whom we watch: the surgeon, forced to forsake healing and fight in the most brutal war of our time; the assassin, who weeps as he kills; the liar, who wears her scholar’s mantle over a thief’s heart; and the prince, whose eyes open to the ancient past as his thirst for battle wanes. 

One of them may redeem us. One of them will destroy us.

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I put off reading The Way of Kings for years because it is such an intimidating book. It’s an adult epic fantasy novel of over 1200 pages. That’s a serious commitment  reading-wise, is it not? I finally bit the bullet late last year, and I’m so glad I did. After the first few chapters, I found myself falling in love with the characters, and wanting to know more about the world. I’d highly recommend this book, even if it might seem daunting to you.

CHARACTERS

The Way of Kings is a multiple POV fantasy novel with three main perspectives – interspersed with some small chapters from other people’s point of view.

The main characters of this book are Kaladin, Dalinar, and Shallan. I would say that this novel is more of an exploration of their characters and the world, rather than an action-packed fantasy novel. I assume the sequels will focus more on events happening rather than character introduction and build-up, as the first book has set the PoV characters up pretty well. I find it hard to choose a favorite character, to be honest, as they are all intriguing in their own way.

There are other characters who have their own POV as well, but don’t have as much page-time as the previous three, such as Szeth-son-son-Vallano (who is endlessly intriguing), Adolin Kholin (Dalinar’s son), and Navani Kholin (widow of King Gavilar).

Kaladin is the character you would follow to your own death, but is simultaneously the one you want to wrap in a blanket and protect from the universe. Dalinar is a man to look up to, one you can’t help but admire, even if you feel he’s somewhat naive at times. In fact, he reminds me a lot of A Song of Ice and Fire‘s Ned Stark. Shallan is a woman you grow to love and understand. She’s been placed in a position that leaves her unsure of what course to take, and I would not know what to do either. I can’t help but admire her eagerness to learn, and adore her witty retorts. I also wish I could draw even half as well as her.

“Ignorance is hardly unusual, Miss Davar. The longer I live, the more I come to realize it is the natural state of the human mind. There are many who will strive to defend its sanctity and then expect you to be impressed with their efforts.”

There are other characters that are incredibly important to the story, like Jasnah. In fact, she might be my favorite character of all. I don’t want to say too much about her, but know that Jasnah has taken Shallan on as an apprentice. She’s also an atheist in a world where it’s seen as insane, and is a woman who is not afraid to walk her own path, regardless of what other people think.

“Regardless,” Jasnah continued, “tonight’s actions came about because I chose this path, not because of anything I felt you needed to see. However, the opportunity also presented a chance for instruction, for questions. Am I a monster or am I a hero? Did I just slaughter four men, or did I stop four murderers from walking the streets? Does one deserve to have evil done to her by consequence of putting herself where evil can reach her? Did I have a right to defend myself? Or was I just looking for an excuse to end lives?”

I especially loved this conversation she has with someone trying to convert her to their religion.

[talking about being an atheist]

“I wouldn’t say I have nothing to believe in. My brother and my uncle, my own abilities. The things I was taught by my parents.”

“But, what is right and wrong, you’ve… Well, you’ve discarded that.”

“Just because I do not accept the teachings of the devotaries does not mean I’ve discarded a belief in right and wrong.”

WORLD BUILDING

One of the most interesting aspects of this novel is the world-building. We have become quite used to fantastic world-building from Sanderson’s novels, as he always manages to create a new, epic world without confusing the reader. However, the same cannot be said for The Way of Kings. It’s, in my opinion, intentionally confusing at times.

He starts off with the basics of the world: the fact that in Alethkar people with “lighteyes” are nobility, while the “darkeyes” are peasants, the fact that there’s been a war between the countries for years, that they are fighting on the Shattered Plains after Alethkar’s king has been killed by the Parshendi, the highstorms that determine the climate of the world, and so on.

We are also told of a previous time in history, where the Heralds protected humanity and the Knights Radiant were incredible knights/warriors with Shardplate – armor that is almost impossible to breach and lends power to the wearer – and Shardblades – same but a sword. Why the Heralds turned their back to humanity, the Knights Radiant seemengly betrayed the world, and what happened next is a huge mystery throughout this book. Why? Records from that time don’t seem to exist, and so no one truly knows the details of that turning point in history. It’s fascinating to discover more of the world, because it’s not only new to us but to the characters as well.

FINAL THOUGHTS

The Way of Kings is such a fascinating start to what I’m sure will be an epic series, and I can’t wait to pick up the sequel. I know it’s daunting to start the Stormlight Archive because the books are so long, but I promise it’s worth it. The first hundred pages or so may seem somewhat confusing or less captivating, but soon you’ll be unable to put the book down. I’m already so attached to these characters, am intrigued by the magic, and excited to discover the history of this world. I recently ordered the sequel, Words of Radiance, and I swear it won’t sit on my bookshelf for a year, unread! I promise. Truly.

spoiler-free review: the wicked king | preferring the sequel to the first book?

the wicked kingTitle: The Wicked King
Series; Folk of the Air #2
Author: Holly Black
Published in 2019 by Little, Brown and Company
Genre: fantasy (YA)
Rating: ★★★★.₅ – loved it

I won’t provide a synopsis, as this is the second book in a series and I don’t want to spoil anyone. If you want to check the premise out, you can click on the title or the cover of the book, which will take you to the Goodreads page.

You can also read my thoughts on the first book, The Cruel Prince, on my blog. I’ll go over some of my thoughts on the first book in this review too, as it’s relevant to my explanations, but you can read a more detailed version here.

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If you’ve read my review of The Cruel Prince, the first book in the series, you’ll know I was left somewhat disappointed by the novel. I certainly didn’t hate it, but I was bored throughout most of the book. Nothing really happened until 75% into the story, and it made the pacing feel somewhat off. As I had borrowed that book from my local library, I wanted to do the same for the sequel. I put in an acquisition request, got approved, and picked The Wicked King up a few weeks later.

I’m so happy to say I enjoyed the sequel far more than I did the first book. I had no issues with the pacing of this story, and the predominant themes of The Wicked King are somewhat more up my alley.

This entire novel is basically made up of scheming. As the faerie world thrives on power, political intrigue and backstabbing is all in a day’s work. In The Wicked King, Jude is participating more and more in the scheming of faeries. She’s reached a certain level of power, and now needs to do everything she can in order to hold her position. I adore stories that focus on strategy, politics, and scheming, even though they can seem a lot less plot-driven to others. That’s why I think this sequel was more up my alley than the previous one, because we were always looking at all the players on the board, what has been happening, who could gain from it, and so on.

Power is much easier to acquire than it is to hold on to.

I was also far more intrigued by the characters in the sequel. I feel like we didn’t truly get to know anyone in the first book, including Jude. In The Wicked King however, I had more of a grasp on their characters.

I’m absolutely fascinated by Jude. I find myself rooting for her all the time, even if that means cheering her on as she kills someone. She’s not a good person, and she owns it. She’s ambitious, smart, and realistic which is everything I’ve ever wanted in a main character. Basically, she’s a Slytherin and I’m in love with her. What I liked most about her is that Holly Black made her smart and cunning, but not all-knowing. She was able to outmaneuver so many people and faeries, but was caught off guard at times too.

I was also horrified to discover I started to like Cardan. I mentioned in my review of the first one that I wasn’t sure how to feel about the tension between Cardan and Jude, as he treated her so horribly for years – and that having an abusive past does not excuse you from abusing others. But while reading The Wicked King, I actually started to like him. Do I think he’s a good guy? Definitely not. Am I still rooting for him? Yes. I actually sort of felt like a proud mom by the end of the book, which is so odd.

I did wonder what the point of Locke in this story is. Is there actually a reason to have him in the novels, other than create tension between the families and couples? I also want to say that I absolutely hate Vivi. There, I said it. I think she’s selfish and naive to the point of hurting others, without even realizing how her behavior is affecting others in a negative way.

Before I end this review, I’ll quickly say… THAT ENDING. WHAT??


Surprisingly, I truly enjoyed reading The Wicked King. I wasn’t enamored by the first book in the series, so I didn’t have the highest expectations for the sequel. Unexpectedly, I ended up loving it! It’s filled with strategic plans, politics, scheming, murder and power plays, which I absolutely adore. If you were slightly disappointed by The Cruel Prince, I’d still recommend giving this a try. You might end up pleasantly surprised!

Have you read The Wicked King? What did you think of it? Have you ever enjoyed a sequel more than the first book?

review: the city of brass | an incredible fantasy novel everyone should read

city of brassTitle: The City of Brass
Series: Daevabad trilogy #1
Author: S.A. Chakraborty
Published in 2017 by HarperVoyager
Genre: fantasy
Rating: ★★★★★ – a new favorite

Nahri has never believed in magic. Certainly, she has power; on the streets of 18th century Cairo, she’s a con woman of unsurpassed talent. But she knows better than anyone that the trade she uses to get by—palm readings, zars, healings—are all tricks, sleights of hand, learned skills; a means to the delightful end of swindling Ottoman nobles. 

But when Nahri accidentally summons an equally sly, darkly mysterious djinn warrior to her side during one of her cons, she’s forced to accept that the magical world she thought only existed in childhood stories is real. For the warrior tells her a new tale: across hot, windswept sands teeming with creatures of fire, and rivers where the mythical marid sleep; past ruins of once-magnificent human metropolises, and mountains where the circling hawks are not what they seem, lies Daevabad, the legendary city of brass – a city to which Nahri is irrevocably bound. 

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The City of Brass was one of my most anticipated releases of 2017, and still it took me until January 2019 to actually read it. I think that’s because I only owned a digital copy of the novel until January, and somehow the book seemed to intimidating on my Kindle. I find it easier to read fantasy tomes in paperback format for some reason. My brain is weird, I’m aware. Anyway, now that I’ve finally read The City of Brass, I’m kicking myself for not doing so earlier. It was brilliant.

If you don’t know what this story is about, it follows a woman called Nahri who lives in Cairo. To make a living, she cons other people through healings, palm readings, and zars – which are a kind of exorcism, if I’m not mistaken. One day during a zar, something feels off to her, and she ends up accidentally summoning a djinn. Someone -or something- has been trying to kill her, and she’ll need the djinn’s help to survive.

Sometimes fantasy novels can be a bit difficult to get into. At the start, the amount of new places and names can get quite overwhelming, and it often feels like you’re getting a crash course in this world before the actual story takes off. That was definitely not the case with The City of Brass. I was immediately entranced by the setting and atmosphere, and knew I’d love the main character from the first page. I absolutely flew through this book! It’s 544 pages long -at least, my copy is- so I thought it would take me a few days at the very least, especially since it’s more of a new adult/adult fantasy than a YA one (in my opinion). It actually took me only a little over a day to read this entire novel.

When the story starts, Nahri is living and working in 18th century Cairo as a con artist. She especially loves taking money from the Turks, who have ‘conquered’ Egypt. We don’t stay in Cairo for that long however, as circumstances for her on the road. The djinn she accidentally raised promises to take her to Daevabad, where she’ll be (relatively) safe. If you are familiar with my reading tastes, you’ll probably know that I love traveling stories. Give me all the quests, and roads, and obstacles along the way. I’m here for it! If that’s not your thing, don’t worry. A large part of the novel takes place in Daevabad as well.

There’s an interesting difference between the part of the story set in Cairo versus the part set in Daevabad. As Nahri is so familiar with Cairo, we simply have to assume she knows best. We follow her to places she visits often, and people she knows. Daevabad, on the other hand, is completely unfamiliar territory to her. Here, we get a chance to explore the world with Nahri since the reader knows just as much as she does. The writing is wonderfully descriptive, and allowed me to imagine this grand city of brass as if it were real.

As if the setting and atmosphere weren’t enough, I also fell in love with all the characters. Like I mentioned earlier, I immediately knew I’d like Nahri as a protagonist. She’s a risk taker, smart, and cunning. She’s definitely a Slytherin (fight me on this), and I love her.

[…], the only thing they seemed to agree on was that the Egyptians couldn’t govern it themselves. God forbid. It’s not as though thee Egyptians were the inheritors of a great civilization whose mighty monuments still littered the land. Oh, no. They were peasants, superstitious fools who ate too many beans. Will, this superstitious fool is about the swindle you for all you’re worth, so insult away. Nahri smiled as the men approached.

I never once felt irritated or annoyed with our protagonist. While she isn’t necessarily likeable, she is still an intriguing and fascinating person. That’s exactly what I want from my main characters. I don’t need them to be goody-two-shoes. I want them to have a personality, I want to know they have a brain and actually know how to use it. Anyway, Nahri might end up as one of my favorite main characters of the year.

Another interesting character that was added to the mix is Dara. I feel like I can’t actually talk about him as a person without going into spoiler territory though. Suffice it to say, I wanted to wrap him up in a blanket and hug him for about 60% of the book.

“I was also once a young warrior from a ruling tribe. It’s a privileged position. Such utter confidence in the rightness of your people, such unwavering belief in your faith.” His smile faded; he sounded wistful. Regretful. “Enjoy it.”

I also have to admit I liked Alizayd. He’s a character I happened to both love and hate at the same time. He has strong beliefs, and is incredibly smart, but he’s also easy to manipulate because of it, and has a tendency to think he’s the only one who is correct. He’s somewhat self-righteous, and I often wanted to kick him off his high horse. All that made him seem like a real person, which is quite the feat.

“Alizayd fears he has already offended you,” Zaynab said as she led Nahri to a wooden pavilion that seemed to appear out of nowhere, perched over a clear pool. “I apologize. He has the unfortunate tendency to say exactly what’s on his mind.”

I was captivated by their story from start to finish, and found this novel has pretty much everything I want in a fantasy novel. It has a magical city, warriors, royalty, politics, action, magic, and more. I’m trying to review this book while saying as little as possible about it, because I think everyone will benefit from going into this pretty blind.


All in all, this was a fantastic novel. I can’t recommend it enough! If you somehow haven’t picked this series up yet, I urge you to change that right now. If you’re intimidated by the amount of pages, don’t be. I promise you’ll end up finishing it faster than you expected to. The City of Brass made me remember why I love fantasy so much, and I’ll be eternally grateful for that. I need to buy the sequel soon, so I can continue the series!

review: a shiver of snow and sky | my first polar fantasy?

a shiver of snow and skyTitle: A Shiver of Snow and Sky
Author: Lisa Lueddecke
Published in October 2017 by Scholastic
Genre: fantasy (YA)
Rating: ★★★★.₅ – loved it

Red, red, the lights glow red
Beware the danger up ahead…

On the frozen island of Skane, the sky speaks. Beautiful lights appear on clear nights, and their colours have meaning: Green means all is well, and the Goddess is happy. Blue means a snow storm is on the way. 

And then there’s red. Red is rare. A warning. 

Seventeen years ago, the sky turned red just as Ósa was born, unleashing a plague that claimed the lives of hundreds of villagers, including her own mother. This time, when the night sky once again bleeds crimson, she must discover how to stop the onslaught before so many lives are lost again.

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I was browsing the shelves of one of my favorite (secondhand) bookstores in Brussels when I spotted A Shiver of Snow and Sky. Initially, I was drawn in by the cover because it’s absolutely stunning. It has a foiled cover, and the combination of the red, black and white is gorgeous. After I read the synopsis, I realized it was a polar fantasy novel about a village in which the people are warned about oncoming danger and storms through lights in the sky.

For the first time in 17 years, the lights above Skane turn red. The color is a warning to the villagers: death is coming. The last time it happened, a plague killed hundreds of people in the community, including Ósa’s mother. Her father and sister have never forgiven her for it, as they believe giving birth to Ósa weakened her mother enough to contract the plague. She has grown up in a pretty loveless house, but has always found comfort in her best friend, Ivar.

First of all, I absolutely adored the setting of this novel. From the first couple of pages, you are immersed in this atmospheric world. I could almost imagine myself trudging through the snow in Skane, growing up in a place that’s so utterly cold, even though I definitely didn’t. I’ve never been someone who loves winter, snow or ice, yet I found myself longing for it while reading A Shiver of Snow and Sky. It’s clear how much Ivar and Ósa love Skane and its climate, and they easily carry that love over to the reader.

I have to admit that the story went in a different direction than I was expecting, which is not a bad thing at all. From the synopsis, I assumed Ósa would have to find a way to stop the plague or cure it. While that is partially true, it’s not the focus of the book. Ósa does go on a quest to save her people, and I absolutely loved it.

What I particularly enjoyed is that we get to see two sides of the story of Skane. We follow Ósa on her quest to save her people. However, we also get to witness the way the town itself prepares thanks to Ivar’s perspective. Interestingly enough, Ósa’s parts are written in first person, while Ivar’s are in third person. The mix of perspectives was fascinating to me. Instead of just following the “chosen one” on their quest to save the world, this book also allows us to witness the people trying to save themselves. They don’t just sit on their asses waiting for things to happen, and I loved it.

I have to talk about the characters as well, obviously. I had so much respect for Ósa. Despite the way she was raised, she turned into a wonderful person. She clearly loves her home, the villagers, and her friends and would do anything to help them. I think the lack of love she gets from her family was traumatic for her, yet she isn’t the typical tortured soul we need to pity or feel sorry for. She’s just a kind person. She has her brave moments, but is not afraid to admit to being terrified. She accepts help when she can.

I also truly adored Ivar. He’s definitely going on the list of love interests I love too! He’s such a kind guy, having helped Ósa so often when she didn’t feel welcome at home. They spend so much time together, and have known each other for years. What I particularly enjoyed is how he respected her decisions, and knew when to listen to his head instead of his heart. While he would have loved to be able to protect his best friend the entire time, he knows he is needed elsewhere. He trusts her to reach her goal on her own, and fulfills his responsibilities well even though he’d rather be somewhere else.

I absolutely hated Ósa’s father and sister. I cannot imagine ever treating a family member in that way. Honestly, if I would ever meet her sister, I would strangle her. Same for her dad.

While I think that the final conclusion of the book was a bit sudden and convenient, I ended up giving this book 4.5 stars. I wish it would have been a little bit longer because a) the ending would have been more satisfying, b) I wanted to spend more time in Skane, and c) I didn’t want to let go of Ósa and Ivar. That’s a good sign right, when you wish the book you are reading was longer?


I’m sad I never really see anyone talk about this book (other than one booktube channel), so I’m hoping to change that! If you are interested in polar fantasy at all, or atmospheric fantasy reads, give this one a go. I think I will read Lisa Lueddecke’s other book, but I’m not in a rush to do so. Goodreads marks them as a series, but they’re more companion novels. I think A Shiver of Snow and Sky works perfectly as a standalone.

The Lady’s Guide to Petticoats and Piracy review | were my expectations met?

the lady's guide to petticoats and piracyTitle: The Lady’s Guide to Petticoats and Piracy
Series: Montague Siblings #1
Author: Mackenzi Lee
Published in October 2018 by Katherine Tegen Books
Genre: historical fiction, fantasy (YA)
Rating: 3/5 – I enjoyed it

A year after an accidentally whirlwind grand tour with her brother Monty, Felicity Montague has returned to England with two goals in mind—avoid the marriage proposal of a lovestruck suitor from Edinburgh and enroll in medical school. However, her intellect and passion will never be enough in the eyes of the administrators, who see men as the sole guardians of science.

But then a window of opportunity opens—a doctor she idolizes is marrying an old friend of hers in Germany. Felicity believes if she could meet this man he could change her future, but she has no money of her own to make the trip. Luckily, a mysterious young woman is willing to pay Felicity’s way, so long as she’s allowed to travel with Felicity disguised as her maid.

In spite of her suspicions, Felicity agrees, but once the girl’s true motives are revealed, Felicity becomes part of a perilous quest that leads them from the German countryside to the promenades of Zurich to secrets lurking beneath the Atlantic.

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The Lady’s Guide to Petticoats and Piracy was one of my most anticipated reads of 2018, because I absolutely adored the first installment in the Montague Siblings duology. The first book follows Monty, Felicity and Percy as they make a Grand Tour around Europe. The second book focuses on Felicity as she tries to make her dream of enrolling in medical school reality.

STORY

At the start of the novel Felicity works in a bakery in Edinburgh. Surely, in this hub of medical schools and knowledge someone would allow her to study medicine. Her boss (and friend) proposes, after which Felicity deems it high time to leave and return to England. She contacts her brother to ask whether she can stay with him, and leaves immediately. In London she once again tries to gain entry to medical school, to no avail. Who could ever trust a girl to do such work, after all? We women are way to delicate for that.

The story takes off when Felicity finds someone who is willing to take her to a doctor she’s always looked up to, and who is looking for an assistant. Yet things are never as they seem…

All in all, I liked the story. Watching Felicity battle for a place in this all-male profession is empowering yet infuriating. It makes me so angry to see women get invalidated, and to witness the condescension of men. I was rooting for her, and wanted her to be the first female doctor/surgeon. That aspect of the story was one I was very invested in, and is what kept me reading.

Just like the first book in this duology, The Lady’s Guide is a story of travels. Felicity travels through several countries chasing her dream, and takes us with her on this adventure. Unlike in the previous book, I didn’t truly love this aspect of the novel. I felt like instead of being with the characters on their travels, I was getting snapshots – parts of a movie in which someone went ham with jump cuts. The characters decided to go to a certain city or country at the end of one chapter, and have arrived by the start of the next. Since you don’t get to see that much of their actual journey, it takes the fun out of the whole road-trip/tour for me.

While I really enjoyed the story in general, I wasn’t a true fan of the weird fantastical turn it took at the end. I know that the first book did the exact same, but somehow that progression seemed more reasonable/believable than this one.

I think I would have loved the book more if the author had chosen one genre instead of mixing the two. Either we would have gotten the historical fiction novel where Felicity travels the continents to gain entry to medical school, or the fantasy book filled with pirates.

CHARACTERS

Felicity, Felicity, Felicity… I absolutely loved your sarcastic sense of humor and communication in the first book. Granted, that didn’t change in The Lady’s Guide. You were as witty as ever, and I greatly appreciate it. You made me laugh out loud and even snort at times. I find your passion for medicine inspiring, and applaud you for not letting go of your dreams.

But I have some things I’d like to discuss with you as well. Why are you so judgmental? Feminism does not mean only supporting women who want to break through in all-male professions and change the world by themselves. It does not encourage you to look down on other women for making choices you wouldn’t make. In fact, it’s the complete opposite. Feminism is all about equality, and having a choice. You want to become a doctor? Sure, go for it! You want to create a loving home and find a partner who adores you? EQUALLY AS VALID. Stop thinking you’re so much better than others because you don’t like to wear makeup, and/or don’t want to get married. Thanks.

Also, can you stop treating everyone so horribly? Johanna did not deserve what you did to her. At all. While Monty is a bit of an idiot, he’s a good and kind guy. You shouldn’t talk about him in the way you do.

To be honest, I fell out of love with Felicity in this book. While I still enjoy reading about her character, she managed to make me incredibly mad at times. Especially when she apologized to Johanna for being such a judgmental bitch, but still went on to judge others anyway. Don’t even get me started on how she jumped to conclusions so quickly. 0 to 100 real quick.

I did, however, fall in love with Johanna. This girl who loves makeup and pretty dresses, and is incredibly smart. I would love a book focused on her life!

Lastly, I have to admit that I lived for the Percy and Monty cameos in this book. I just love them so much!

FINAL IMPRESSION

I was a tad disappointed by The Lady’s Guide to Petticoats and Piracy. I was expecting an epic journey from a sarcastic woman determined to break through a male-dominated field. That’s only partly what I got. I still enjoyed my time with the novel (and characters), but I didn’t like how judgmental and rude Felicity was, and how we seemed to skip the actual travel through jumps in time.


Have you read this book? What did you think of it?

Review: Promise of Blood

promise of bloodTitle: Promise of Blood
Series: Powder Mage #1
Author: Brian McClellan
Published in April 2013 by Orbit
Genre: fantasy (flintlock/gunpowder)
Rating: 9/10 – loved it!

It’s a bloody business overthrowing a king…
Field Marshal Tamas’ coup against his king sent corrupt aristocrats to the guillotine and brought bread to the starving. But it also provoked war with the Nine Nations, internal attacks by royalist fanatics, and the greedy to scramble for money and power by Tamas’s supposed allies: the Church, workers unions, and mercenary forces.

Stretched to his limit, Tamas is relying heavily on his few remaining powder mages, including the embittered Taniel, a brilliant marksman who also happens to be his estranged son, and Adamat, a retired police inspector whose loyalty is being tested by blackmail.

But when gods are involved…
Now, as attacks batter them from within and without, the credulous are whispering about omens of death and destruction. Just old peasant legends about the gods waking to walk the earth. No modern educated man believes that sort of thing. But they should…

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Promise of Blood sat on my shelf for years, unread. I initially bought it because of the good reviews, and the tagline of the novel. I mean, “The age of kings is dead, and I have killed it.” Doesn’t that sound epic? For some reason, I put off reading it for years. I was too blinded by all the amazing new releases. In addition, I never really see anyone talk about this book or series? I’ve seen a few SFF-focused blogs talk about the sequels, but that’s all that comes to mind right now. I’m glad I finally picked it up, because I was pleasantly surprised.

STORY

This novel starts off with the death of the monarchy and nobility of Adro. Field Marshal Tamas and his Powder Mages have just killed the majority of the royal family and the entirety of the Royal Cabal (mages, I’ll explain more later) in order to save the country. In Tamas’ eyes, the monarchy has become greedy and lazy and would have given Adro away for personal gain. According to him, it’s time the people are in power again.

The world is changing. People do not exist to serve their governments or their kings. Governments exist to serve the people, so the people should have a say in those governments.

One of the most interesting aspects of this story is that it starts right after the coup takes place. We don’t see the alliances and months of planning leading up to it. Instead, we start with a bloodbath and follow the characters as they deal with the consequences of ending the Age of Kings. We have the struggle of the Powder Mages and their supporters versus the surviving royalists, the set up of a new way of ruling the country, and legends that maybe should be taken seriously.

I loved every single aspect of this story. The coup and Tamas’ reasons for it, the battle against the royalists, the battle at the borders of the country, the investigation into who betrayed him, the magic and world… Everything about this novel was fantastic. I wasn’t bored for a second!

WORLD

I mentioned before that I would go in to more detail on the Royal Cabal. In this world, each country has a King who is supported by their Royal Cabal. They’re mages called Privileged, who support and protect the King. Aside from the Privileged, you also have Magebreakers and Powder Mages in this world. Privileged use the Else to do magic while Magebreakers cut off their access to the Else leaving them unable to use magic. Powder Mages have powers focused on manipulating gun powder such as pushing bullets, extremely accurate shots from miles away, igniting gunpowder/bombs from far away, incredibly eyesight, and so on. They do need access to gunpowder to do this, snorting it to enhance their powers.

I found this such a unique magic system. Maybe it’s because I haven’t read a lot of gunpowder/flintlock fantasy yet, but I loved the idea of Powder Mages and discovering what their specialties were.

I also loved learning more about the history of the world, especially the mythology and legends. Those become more important towards the second half of the book, and watching them unfold was incredibly enjoyable. I don’t want to say anything more than this because I believe the reader should discover these secrets as they read but the myths and legends relate to gods as well as magic and the Else.

CHARACTERS

Obviously we need to talk about Tamas, the Field Marshal who has killed the Age of Kings. I haven’t read a book from an older guy in so long, and I quite liked the change of pace it provided. The Field Marshal is 60 years old, making his achievements believable and realistic – as realistic as a fantasy book can get, of course. It gives us a reason to believe in his convictions, his leadership, and strategic plans. After all, he’s been a soldier and leader for decades. Tamas is a character I both loved and hated. I loved how he would do anything for his country, how proud of and loyal he was to his Powder Mages, and how smart he was. You end up supporting his beliefs, and wanting him to win. On the other hand, you also have to bear witness to his strained relationship with his son, Taniel. While he is a great leader and Powder Mage, he is not a great father. It made me resent him for not making more of an effort for his son. Thanks to the mixed feelings the author creates surrounding Tamas, he ends up seeming like a real person to the reader.

I’ll also talk a bit about Taniel, since he’s one of the PoV characters as well. He’s Taniel’s son, and one of the most renowned Powder Mages. He comes back to Adro after a long mission, and arrives right after the coup has taken place. He’s immediately sent on another assignment by his father. There’s so much mystery surrounding him as his past slowly gets revealed, and I have so many questions I want to ask him. I want to know more about his fiance who cheated. I want to know more about Ka-Poel. Tell me all about your life, Taniel.

There are many other characters, some with their own PoV as well – such as Adamat – but I’ll let you discover those on your own.

FINAL THOUGHTS 

If it isn’t clear yet, I would highly recommend this book. I thought it was a fast-paced, immersive book set in a unique and intriguing world. I love that it’s a multiple PoV book, and the characters we follow are so different. The 60-year-old Field Marshal, his marksmen son, his son’s 18-year-old mysterious companion, the ex-cop and private detective, and more. There are so many interesting characters in this novel, and I can’t wait to read more about them all. It’s got action, politics, backstabbing, magic, legends, and everything I’ve ever wanted from a fantasy book.