ARC Review: Circe by Madeline Miller

 

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ARC Review: The Barrow Will Send What It May (Danielle Cain #2) by Margaret Killjoy

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ARC Review: The Hollow Girl by Hillary Monahan

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Five boys attacked her.
Now they must repay her with their blood and flesh.

Bethan is the apprentice to a green healer named Drina in a clan of Welsh Romanies. Her life is happy and ordered and modest, as required by Roma custom, except for one thing: Silas, the son of the chieftain, has been secretly harassing her.

One night, Silas and his friends brutally assault Bethan and a half-Roma friend, Martyn. As empty and hopeless as she feels from the attack, she asks Drina to bring Martyn back from death’s door. “There is always a price for this kind of magic,” Drina warns. The way to save him is gruesome. Bethan must collect grisly pieces to fuel the spell: an ear, some hair, an eye, a nose, and fingers.

She gives the boys who assaulted her a chance to come forward and apologize. And when they don’t, she knows exactly where to collect her ingredients to save Martyn.

review

**** Huge thank you to Delacorte Press for sending me a copy in exchange for an honest review! ****

I knew I was going to enjoy this book but I didn’t expect to love it as much as I did! Even though this book handles some tough content I still thought it was a fantastic book and something I just know I’ll be recommending, however, please keep in mind the following trigger warnings since this book gets very dark and gritty:

****Trigger Warnings: Rape, Graphic Violence, Physical and Sexual Abuse, & Gore****

PLOT

First I’d like to say I actually really liked the Author’s Note/Forward at the beginning of this novel explaining her Romani heritage and some background on her inspiration for this book. I thought the Romani culture included in the story was absolutely fascinating and it’s very clear it’s handled and represented well by the author.

The story follows our protagonist, Bethan, who is learning herbcraft from her Gran who is also their clan’s drabarni (dealing in witchcraft). She desperately wants her Gran to start teaching her spells and witchcraft but must be patient and so instead goes to the market to sell their “spell” bags. At the marketplace she meets a very bold, sweet boy named Martyn who quickly befriends her. However, Bethan is constantly being harassed by the chieftain’s son Silas and his cronies and on her way home, she and Martyn are attacked and brutally assaulted. Bethan is learning quickly the ugly prices they have to pay to cast spells and must collect body parts from the wicked boys in order to save her friend.

The atmosphere in this story is very dark and very gritty dealing with blood and dark witchcraft, it definitely isn’t a story for the faint of heart. It’s also a very powerful and emotional story though and I thought the rape scene was handled well as it happens off page. How Bethan deals with the aftermath is incredible she’s an extremely strong character and slowly comes to terms with what was done to her over the course of the story.

I was on an emotional roller coaster while reading through “The Hollow Girl”, the way Hillary Monahan writes it made me feel every emotion that passed through Bethan. The anger, the rage at what was done to her and Martyn but yet she still had so much hope and mercy to give as well. We go from raging on a Hell bent revenge story to something……a lot more powerful and that’s all I’ll say. Everything comes full circle in a bit of an unexpected way. So overall though I thought the writing was fantastic.

As far as the pacing goes I thought it was very fast paced and was incredibly interesting from start to finish. The beginning may be considered more slow to other readers but it’s building up the story, the characters, and Romani rep so it really isn’t dull or boring at all. The action really picks up in the middle though and there’s also a couple surprise plot twists I did not see coming whatsoever!

Overall the plot was dark, suspenseful, and just plain amazing.

characters

There weren’t too many central characters that came into play but the ones that did were fantastic, there was a lot of complexity and development to our main characters.

Bethan, is an amazing protagonist she’s extremely strong and develops a lot through the events of the story. Probably one of the best character arcs I’ve read! I don’t want to give too much away though by going in depth, just know she is a very well done character.

Gran, the current clan’s Drabarni and who is teaching Bethan to take her place, is also a very powerful and important character. Honestly Gran was such a badass, straight up badass is the best way to describe her. There were some scenes where I had goosebumps from her powerful spell craft displays. Go Gran!

Martyn didn’t have much “screen time” but he’s an important character at the beginning and end of the story especially. I thought he was incredibly charming, sweet, and adorable he was very much the chivalrous gentleman in my opinion. So much cuteness!

As for that little toad Silas and his gang they were despicable, I WISH I could have gone into this story and whooped some ass myself! However, every character got what they had coming to them and it was very satisfying.

romance

While there isn’t really a romance in “The Hollow Girl” there is some flirtation and attraction between Martyn and Bethan, however after her assault she doesn’t want to be touched or too close to anyone, for good reason. However, it’s implied at the end of the story that they could be together in time. They are adorable and I’d love to see them end up together eventually.

in conclusion

Overall an incredible story that had horror, suspense, and gore but also managed to be an incredibly emotional and powerful read.

What I Loved:

  • The writing was incredible
  • The Romani rep and culture was done well and was fascinating
  • Loved the dark, gritty revenge aspect of the story
  • Very fast paced and interesting all the way through
  • Very strong protagonist and great characters all around

What I Didn’t Love:

  • I honestly can’t think of anything I DIDN’T like about this story

RECOMMEND

 

I highly recommend checking this book out if you’re a fan of YA horror that gets dark and gritty. The addition of Romani culture and the witchcraft added to the story all the more as well. However, as I mentioned earlier please keep in mind the trigger warnings as this won’t be a book everyone can read.

Links: Goodreads / Amazon / Book Depository

The Sassy

*Spoiler Free* Series Review: The Wicked + The Divine Volumes 1-4 by Kieron Gillen

I don’t think I can praise this graphic novel series enough, seriously! This is hands down the BEST ones I’ve ever had the pleasure of reading and I loved every part of it.

I’m going to be giving little mini reviews of each volume (1-4) here and each with their own rating etc.

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Every ninety years, twelve gods incarnate as humans. They are loved. They are hated. In two years, they are dead. The team behind critical tongue-attractors like Young Avengers and PHONOGRAM reunite to create a world where gods are the ultimate pop stars and pop stars are the ultimate gods. But remember: just because you’re immortal, doesn’t mean you’re going to live forever. Collects THE WICKED + THE DIVINE #1-5

reviewWith volume 1 here I was absolutely hooked from the get go! The premise is so unique and interesting, I mean everyone’s pop star idols are literal GODS reincarnated every 90 years and only live for 2 before they die. The only problem is that we don’t get much explanation for anything in this volume and I was left with a lot more questions than answers. I’m actually still not 100% sure of what’s going on….at all. But that’s okay because it’s still SO GOOD!

The overall mythology/world building is pretty vague but already extremely fascinating. Of course there’s loads of room for more development, which I’d love, such as exactly why the gods are reincarnated and why it’s only every 90 years etc. Anyways probably one of my favorite parts about this graphic novel is how diverse the gods are, not only with thier human bodies but with the actual gods themselves. We see gods from all different kinds of mythology and religions : Irish, Egyptian, the religion of Christianity, Norse, Shinto (a Japanese religion), Greek, Sumerian, and probably a ton more as well! I think it’s AWESOME to see some other mythologies other than the traditional Greek and Roman being represented in stories, it’s fun to learn about all of these other gods, goddesses, and deities.

The characters, if you couldn’t already tell, were a-ma-zing! As I already stated they were all very diverse characters with different races and sexualities as well as the gods themselves being from many different mythologies and religions. Laura, the main character, was really relatable one of the main reasons being that she’s a huge fangirl of the gods. She’s pretty down to Earth and feisty! I also absolutely fell in love with Luci aka Lucifer, I mean seriously her character is so badass and all around amazing. One of the greatest characters I’ve ever come across! The Morrigan is a close favorite as well since I think her character is gorgeous and also one of the more interesting gods since she’s an Irish war goddess but is a sort of 3 goddesses in 1 type of thing! Overall though each god was very different with their own unique styles and personalities so they’re pretty easy to keep track of.

The art style……..how do I even begin to gush about the stunning artwork in “The Wicked + The Divine”? It’s one of the best art styles I’ve come across in a graphic novel it’s realistic, detailed, and the color palette is absolutely beautiful! I adored how vibrant all of the colors were! I was forcing the pages in everyone’s faces so they could behold how gorgeous the art is!

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*gush, gush, gush, gush*

Also that ending is pretty brutal so I recommend having the next volume on hand!


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I think I have to say that this was my favorite volume so far (out of the 4 I’ve read) because it was very action-packed with many crazy plot twists!

Basically in this volume Laura is trying to figure out who was behind the events that occurred at the end of volume 1 and some of the gods are willing to help her out as well.

We finally get a little more insight on the gods, which I liked but I still really had no clue what all was going on and what the “bigger picture” is. I’m starting to think there isn’t really any larger plot line here at all though, which is a little disappointing.

There’s also new characters! Yay! More badass and visually pleasing gods and goddesses! I have to say I absolutely loved the addition of Inanna because he’s gorgeous and also reminds me very much of Prince which I think was the point but still! He’s perfection!

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Of course the artwork is STILL gorgeous too!

And also this is probably the most cliffhanger-y ending I’ve ever read! Definitely have volume 4 at the ready! (volume 3 is filler)


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My least favorite volume seeing as how it’s mostly just filler and doesn’t really continue the story from volume 2 at all. Also apparently James McKelvie was on a break during this volume so a bunch of guest artists were brought in to illustrate each issue so the beautiful artwork we all know and love was not present in volume 3. I honestly really hated some of the artwork too…….

I really, really, really didn’t like the art for the issue about Sakhmet’s backstory……

Basically all we get to see here is the backstories on a lot of the gods and see how they went from human to deity. My favorite origin story would definitely have to be The Morrigan and Baphomet which was also thankfully accompanied with a decent art style.

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I just felt that I couldn’t really focus that well on appreciating the backstories when that ending from volume 2 had me still screaming in agony!

My overall thoughts were that this was okay but definitely not as impressive.


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Finally answers to what the hell happened at the end of volume 2! A ton of shit goes down in this volume, there’s a lot of action and fight scenes and they are amazing! It was a lot of fun to get to see all of the gods’ powers and abilities since we haven’t seen too much of them up until this point.

Really loved getting to see Laura again and especially in this volume, no spoilers though! The characters were of course all as wonderful as they’ve been so far but we don’t really see any new characters in this volume either.

As much as the story picked up on this volume it was also very, very confusing. Once again I’m left wondering if there’s really anything else going on behind the scenes or if the only story we get to see is the “whims of the gods” type of thing. I am still hoping there’s something “bigger” going on. I’m also just very confused in general especially with that ending. The ending this time around was a little underwhelming and left me feeling curious but also not dying to know what’s going to happen next either.

I’m also glad we are back to the original art style, thank goodness!

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Overall I HIGHLY recommend checking this series out!

Links for The Wicked + The Divine, Vol. 1: The Faust Act

Goodreads / Amazon / Book Depository

The Sassy

ARC Review: Lost Boy: The True Story of Captain Hook by Christina Henry

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There is one version of my story that everyone knows. And then there is the truth. This is how it happened. How I went from being Peter Pan’s first—and favorite—lost boy to his greatest enemy.

Peter brought me to his island because there were no rules and no grownups to make us mind. He brought boys from the Other Place to join in the fun, but Peter’s idea of fun is sharper than a pirate’s sword. Because it’s never been all fun and games on the island. Our neighbors are pirates and monsters. Our toys are knife and stick and rock—the kinds of playthings that bite.

Peter promised we would all be young and happy forever.

review

**** Huge thank you to Berkley Books for sending me a copy in exchange for an honest review!****

(This was a buddy read with Ariana @ The Quirky Book Nerd! I will be linking up her review when she has it up here and keep a look out for our buddy read discussion and Q&A!)

As you all probably know by now I was a HUGE fan of Christina Henry’s “Alice” and “Red Queen” which were horror retellings of Alice in Wonderland. On top of that I “Peter Pan” is my all time favorite fairy tale so a Christina Henry retelling was going to be right up my alley……and it was!

(For those of you who are interested my reviews for “Alice” and “Red Queen” can be found here!)

PLOT

“This isn’t a wonderful place for boys to play and have adventures and stay young for always. It’s a killing place, and we’re all just soldiers in Peter’s war.”

While this story is a retelling of “Peter Pan” it’s also an origin/redemption story for the character of Captain Hook/James Hook where we get to see his side of the story and here he is a boy known as Jamie who was whisked away to Neverland by Peter. He is the first and favorite Lost Boy who watches over all of the other Lost Boys because while in Peter’s mind the island is nothing but fun and games…..it’s quite the opposite for the boys.

Enter the horror aspect of the story.

Jamie has watched countless other Lost Boys succumb to the horrors of the island: pirates, the Many-Eyed, crocodiles, disease, and battles aka arena fights to the death. After so many years of this it starts to weigh on Jamie and it starts bothering him how Peter doesn’t seem to care about the well being of anyone but himself.

The pacing is a tiny bit slow to start but once the plot picks up you won’t be able to put this book down. There’s plenty of twists and turns you most definitely will not see coming.

I was absolutely blown away by how unique and twisted Christina Henry made the world we all know as Neverland. It was almost as if I was reading an entirely new story! Trust me when I say twisted too, this book is DARK and full of carnage, it’s almost like watching a slasher movie play out. She took the tale of “Peter Pan” and completely flipped it on its head and took us to its darkest depths.

I also loved the world building that was given, it wasn’t a whole lot but more and more was revealed as the story went on. Could it have used more? Definitely. Did I still enjoy it? Of course! All of the allusions to the original tale were fun to pick out as well because they all had their own dark twists such as why Hook is missing his right hand and of course why Peter and he are sworn enemies.

Be prepared for a very emotional ride because the things that happen to Jamie and the other Lost Boys can not only be terrifying but also extremely heart-breaking. You have been warned!

characters

Of course the characters were fantastic since they are the driving force of the story here the main characters, Jamie and Peter, were incredibly complex.

I really enjoyed these versions of Hook and Pan, plain and simple. Jamie is a bit of a mother hen, always looking out and caring for the other boys while Peter is selfish, jealous, and doesn’t show any remorse.

Jamie is a very easy character to sympathize with as he is very caring towards the younger, inexperienced boys always helping them out and even burying them when they perish. He gets upset and angry with Peter over their deaths as Peter could care less and always goes off to get more boys as replacements.

Peter on the other hand was easy to dislike, he’s the true villain of this story. He only cares about playing games and having the boys adore and worship him, he grows very jealous if anyone is getting more attention than he is. However, even though he needs the constant attention of his Lost Boys he is very careless about looking after them and shows no guilt when one of them dies.

I have to say it was truly horrifying to see such a twisted, sick version of Peter Pan but I also loved every second of it. However, I can say my childhood may be ruined and I don’t know if I’ll ever look at Peter Pan the same ever again!

As for the secondary characters they didn’t really get a lot of depth but this makes sense as most of them are fodder for the island anyways……However, notable Lost Boys that I absolutely adored were Nod and Fog, Sal, and Charlie.

in conclusion

I need to scream my love of this book to the heavens! It was perfection! It was everything I was hoping for!

What I Loved:

  • Unique, horrifying twists on the original story (and just in general)
  • Complexity of Jamie and Peter
  • Great allusions to the original story
  • Even to fast pacing
  • Horror, carnage, and shockers! (this may not be a plus to some people but it was to me!)

What I Didn’t Love:

  • The world building could have been a little more fleshed out
  • (Other than that it was FANTASTIC!)

RECOMMEND

I highly, highly, highly recommend reading this book if not just checking it out! If you love “Peter Pan”, fairy tale/classic story retellings, or even just horror stories then you most certainly will find something to love with “Lost Boy: The True Story of Captain Hook”!

This book goes on sale July 4th, 2017!

Links: Goodreads / Amazon / Book Depository

The Sassy

Book Review: Every Heart A Doorway (Wayward Children #1) by Seanan McGuire

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Eleanor West’s Home for Wayward Children
No Solicitations
No Visitors
No Quests

Children have always disappeared under the right conditions; slipping through the shadows under a bed or at the back of a wardrobe, tumbling down rabbit holes and into old wells, and emerging somewhere… else.

But magical lands have little need for used-up miracle children.

Nancy tumbled once, but now she’s back. The things she’s experienced… they change a person. The children under Miss West’s care understand all too well. And each of them is seeking a way back to their own fantasy world.

But Nancy’s arrival marks a change at the Home. There’s a darkness just around each corner, and when tragedy strikes, it’s up to Nancy and her new-found schoolmates to get to the heart of the matter.

No matter the cost.

review

How do I even begin to write a review to such a wonderful, magical, and completely relatable book? I have to say I don’t know if I’ve ever read something so relatable in my life. “Every Heart A Doorway” is a book for us readers and us dreamers, it’s for those of us who have always wanted to live in the fantasy worlds we read about and maybe even feel like we may belong there more than where we are.

You know what I’m talking about: waiting for your Hogwarts letter, opening every wardrobe and closet door looking for Narnia, or even waiting by your window in the hope that Peter Pan will come to whisk you away to Neverland.

If you understand exactly what I mean then drop everything you’re doing and read this book!

PLOT

Eleanor West’s Home for Wayward Children is a place where parents send their troubled children who claim to have been to other worlds. Eleanor helps these children learn to cope with the fact that they are back in the real world and may not be able to return to their fantasy worlds again but offers a safe place for them where they can be believed. However, when the new girl, Nancy, shows up from a trip to an Underworld things start taking a sinister turn at the Home and she finds herself amidst a murder mystery.

Not only is this story very relatable to me as a reader it’s also very original in it’s acknowledgement of many different children visiting many different fantasy worlds and then going back home afterwards and having to deal with the aftermath. I absolutely fell in love with this concept, it’s never really been done before! It’s also almost heartbreaking how much I understand how the characters feel having to come back from these worlds and realizing they may not ever go back.

The world building was incredible I find it so amazing that Seanan McGuire managed to develop a world so quickly considering this is only a 173 page book! I loved learning more about all of the different worlds and how they intersect there are Underworlds, Nonsense Worlds, and Logic Worlds and all have their own unique twists. I could not get enough details about the worlds the characters all visited!

And the writing was fantastic as well it was magical, dark, and light-hearted all at once! The atmosphere the writing created was, for lack of any other words, hauntingly beautiful which is the best way for me to describe it. This book is strange, magical, and has a lot of humor as well and honestly it’s just perfection.

The only part of the plot that bothered me a little bit was that the murder mystery was a little predictable, but honestly that’s all!

characters

I really, really loved the characters in the story not only because I found them all to be very complex and well-developed in such a short amount of pages but also because of how diverse they are as well. We have an asexual main character as well as a transgender boy character and I honestly loved how well both were handled in this story, I felt it was respectful and even a little informative too. There is also racial diversity with a girl of Asian descent and a Latino boy, it was fantastic to see diversity with gender identities and races!

Almost all of the characters that are mentioned have their own worlds and backstories and it was fascinating learning about the worlds they visited and how they impacted them.

in conclusion

Overall I was incredibly impressed with every aspect of this book and I NEED more!

What I Loved:

  • The unique and amazing story
  • The world building with all of the fantastic worlds
  • The writing and eerie atmosphere
  • The well-developed and diverse caste of characters

What I Didn’t Love:

  • Only that it was too short and I want more!
  • The murder mystery aspect was a little predictable

RECOMMEND

I don’t think I can recommend this book enough! Like I said in the beginning this is perfect for those of you who always wanted to fall into a magical world.

Links: Goodreads / Amazon / Book Depository

The Sassy

Book Review: An Ember in the Ashes (An Ember in the Ashes #1) by Sabaa Tahir

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description

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

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

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

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

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

review

“This life is not always what we think it will be,” Cain says. “You are an ember in the ashes, Elias Veturius. You will spark and burn, ravage and destroy. You cannot change it. You cannot stop it.”

I have to say I was a little worried about this one since it’s a pretty hyped up book but it was definitely worth the hype in my opinion! This book is very intense and just all around amazing!

PLOT

As I said this book is intense that’s honestly the best word to describe it! It’s very fast-paced and action-packed with a plot that grows more and more complex as the story progresses. I actually really enjoyed reading both perspectives, Elias and Laia, because it added a lot of depth to both “sides” of the story even though I preferred Elias’ a bit more since it was more eventful. There’s plot twists, betrayals, secrets and even a little politics as well which all adds to the excitement.

I also really like the world building, I like the Roman inspired bits and pieces as well as a bit of the mythical and magical being tossed in for good measure. It’s also a pretty dark, nasty world as well which I loved (I’m not weird, I promise). The punishments and trials the characters face are gruesome and the threat of torture, violence, and even rape are almost constantly hanging over there heads. This book was EVIL but it also kept me turning pages because I was honestly terrified for the characters and that’s exactly what all the brutality in this book wanted was to shock and infuriate us, it succeeded!

That ending killed me though, talk about a cliffhanger! I am really curious to see how the story will further develop though since we were left with many, many questions regarding a bit of the world building and just what will happen next in general!

characters

The characters were easily the best part of the book and they aren’t the usual, run of the mill YA Fantasy characters either. I loved how complex, well developed, and unique each character was even the secondary characters were interesting! I also really loved and appreciated how realistically badass all of the women in the story were, not always with weaponry or fighting either but with their wits and compassion as well.

Laia isn’t the secretly badass heroine we always seem to see, she’s “weak” and “cowardly” and constantly thinks these things of herself as well. I feel like Laia’s trials were a lot more challenging for her because nothing came surprisingly natural for her, she wasn’t a “special snowflake” in disguise at all which was very refreshing! Overall I loved how her character felt very real she wasn’t weak or cowardly she was normal, I think it’s safe to say most of us would act the same way if we were put into similar, horrifying positions!

Elias was also a very likable protagonist and really differed from the usual YA male characters we see. Like most YA characters we see he’s trying to get away from his “fate/destiny/what’s expected of him” but what makes Elias’s story a little different is that he actually has really good reasons to feel this way that also makes him feel very real and relatable.

Like I said earlier, the secondary characters were really great as well but two that are well worth mentioning are Helene and the Commandant. Helene is a badass and I adored her ferociousness and skills, she’s just an all around great female character! As for the Commandant she is the head of Blackcliff Academy and she is a vicious bitch that I loved to hate, honestly she’s one of the most cold-hearted characters I’ve ever read about. Just so many great characters!

romance

First off I’d like to say that the romance in this book is some sort of weird love square? It’s odd but honestly I didn’t mind it at all, which is really saying something! I actually like all of the potential couples in the story and thought they’d all be great together which really kills me because if certain characters are together they break the other’s hearts, awwwww feelings!!!!!

I also like the fact that there weren’t really any other tropes concerning the romance, there was a case of instant attraction but NOT insta-love. The romance didn’t ever really feel like it was over-taking the main plot line either, it felt like a bigger part of the story after a while but never actually overshadowed anything else which I LOVED!

in conclusion

I actually really enjoyed this book and am eagerly waiting to get my hands on the next book because I need more of this world! Overall I think this was a wonderful, unique YA fantasy book.

What I Loved:

  • The characters, all of them!
  • Female representation
  • All of the action, fast-pacing, and brutality of the plot
  • The world building
  • The romance didn’t really take precedence over the plot
  • I like all of the potential romantic couples!

What I Didn’t Love:

  • I don’t really have anything to complain about!

RECOMMEND

Yes! I highly recommend checking this book out, especially if you’re a YA fantasy lover! It’s a very actio-packed, fast, unique book!

Links: Goodreads / Amazon / Book Depository

The Sassy