ARC Review: The Tiger’s Daughter (Their Bright Ascendency #1) by K. Arsenault Rivera

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Even gods can be slain….

The Hokkaran empire has conquered every land within their bold reach―but failed to notice a lurking darkness festering within the people. Now, their border walls begin to crumble, and villages fall to demons swarming out of the forests.

Away on the silver steppes, the remaining tribes of nomadic Qorin retreat and protect their own, having bartered a treaty with the empire, exchanging inheritance through the dynasties. It is up to two young warriors, raised together across borders since their prophesied birth, to save the world from the encroaching demons.

This is the story of an infamous Qorin warrior, Barsalayaa Shefali, a spoiled divine warrior empress, O-Shizuka, and a power that can reach through time and space to save a land from a truly insidious evil.

review

 

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

This book was very unique and I feel like my mind is still processing the sheer amount of world building in it as well! It’s also a diverse read featuring two Asian women and a F/F romance which was amazing!

PLOT

First things first, this is a slower paced book and not the action-packed, fast-paced adventure I thought it was going to be. This is more of a character-driven story which was fine because they did an excellent job with it. However, once I got about half way through it slowed down significantly and while I was still interested I wasn’t AS interested anymore. This is pretty much the only reason I’m giving it 4 stars instead of a full five.

Another reason I can’t give a full five is that when I started reading I was drowning in information and incredibly confused. Major info dumping and it took me a ridiculous amount of time to figure out how the names worked because each main race, Hokkran and Qorin, has a different style of naming and therefore each character was named differently according to who was addressing them. It added a lot to the world building but like I said it took a while to get used to and figure it out.

The world building was absolutely kick-ass, this was my favorite part of the book to be honest. It was all very unique and interesting, I was craving more answers concerning the mythology and world building especially after finishing the book. There’s just so much content and it’s all fascinating and pretty immersive. I need more!

The POV and narration was also really unique as it jumps between the current timeline and from Shizuka’s 3rd Person POV to her reading a letter from Shefali told in the 1st Person POV. It also skips around in time starting with the birth and childhood of the characters into the current time where they are in their 20’s. Once again this took a little getting used to but I thought it was a really distinctive way to tell the story.

The writing was amazing as well, one of the other things I really enjoyed. It was beautifully written and easy to immerse myself in.

The ending was pretty solid and tied everything up neatly but still leaving room for more in the sequel. I would definitely love to see more of the world building explored especially since we essentially know EVERYTHING about the characters now since reading about them from birth. Definitely excited to see a little more demon-slaying!

characters

As I mentioned earlier this is a very character driven book and therefore the most important happenings in the story focus around the characters, their drives, and their emotions more so than any straightforward plot line.

I really liked the main characters Shizuka and Shefali, mostly Shefali though! They’re both incredibly headstrong girls with incredible talent but they also have their flaws and if there’s anything I love it’s a flawed heroine who knows their faults. I love how they both admit to their strengths and weaknesses both and rely on each other.

They were definitely well developed and very complex.

I also loved the strong, positive female friendship that is represented between them that blossoms into a romance.

The secondary characters were also done well especially O-Shizuru and Alshara, Shizuka’s and Shefali’s mothers respectfully. Seriously, their mothers are total badasses and if they grow up to even be an ounce like their mothers the next book in the series will be fantastic! I also really liked Shefali’s cousin, Otgar, and her brother Kenshiro. Shizuka’s uncle, the Emperor, made for a good sort of antagonist too.

romance

This was a nice slow burn romance and as mentioned it’s a diverse F/F romance as well. I loved how the girls grew from a friendship into a romance.

They were so sweet, adorable, and passionate. I don’t ever want them to be apart! I will go down with this ship!

in conclusion

Overall I really did enjoy this book but I would have liked a bit more action, more answers for the world building, and less info dumps! Still I will anxiously be awaiting the sequel just to see where they will go now since we have done the past and will move onto the character’s futures!

What I Loved:

  • The world building and mythology
  • Unique narrative style
  • Beautiful writing
  • Complex, developed, and likable characters
  • Slow burn and sweet F/F romance

What I Didn’t Love:

  • Pacing got very slow after 50%
  • Would have liked a bit more info on the world building
  • Not a lot of action
  • Major info dumps

RECOMMEND

I definitely recommend checking this book out as it’s a very unique fantasy book with a really neat premise and beautiful writing. It is inspired by Asian culture and includes a F/F romance, however, if you’re looking for something action packed this may not be for you.

Links: Goodreads / Amazon / Book Depository

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ARC Review: The Hanging Girl by Eileen Cook

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Skye Thorn has given tarot card readings for years, and now her psychic visions are helping the police find the town’s missing golden girl. It’s no challenge—her readings have always been faked, but this time she has some insider knowledge. The kidnapping was supposed to be easy—no one would get hurt and she’d get the money she needs to start a new life. But a seemingly harmless prank has turned dark, and Skye realizes the people she’s involved with are willing to kill to get what they want and she must discover their true identity before it’s too late.

review

**** Huge thank you to Houghton Mifflin Harcourt for sending me an ARC in exchange for an honest review! ****

After reading and enjoying Cook’s other novel “With Malice” I knew I was going to be in for a treat with “The Hanging Girl” and it definitely did not let me down! I can’t go into too much detail because I really don’t want to ruin anything but it really is a thrilling, fast-paced book!

PLOT

The focus of the story is the main character, Skye, who fakes being a psychic and is enlisted to help the police find a missing girl. She has some inside information on the kidnapping though in exchange for getting money she desperately needs, but things don’t exactly go as planned. That’s all I’m going to tell you!

This is a pretty fast paced book with never a dull moment and also one that will grab your attention immediately. Our protagonist, Skye, is shown as a liar and manipulator right off the bat and therefore a bit of an unreliable narrator, which is always intriguing to me. There are quite a few plot twists throughout the story and I didn’t see hardly any of them coming at all! I also thought it was great that major plot twists occur in the story pretty early on too, definitely keeps things interesting! If you’re already a suspicious reader, like myself, you may guess a few things but I think it’s safe to say you’ll still get surprised.

The psychic portions of the story were also really interesting and perfect for Halloween if you’re looking for a great, non-spooky thriller to read!

I was a little disappointed with the ending, I just felt it wasn’t as shocking as a lot of the other twists were and it was slightly more predictable. I felt like it was abrupt and unfinished, it wasn’t a BAD ending by any means but it left me a little unsatisfied.

I’d also like to mention that the protagonist, Skye,  has anxiety and having anxiety myself I thought it was represented well. She is constantly dealing with the threat of a panic attack throughout the story, and considering the situations it’s not surprising for someone with anxiety. I thought the way the anxiety was described was also fairly accurate such as Skye picking at the skin on her fingertips or biting her nails, that’s something I do because of my anxiety as well and it was extremely relatable.

characters

There really isn’t much to discuss as far as characters go, there’s Skye and as I already mentioned she’s manipulative, a bit unreliable, and also suffers from anxiety. I did really like her character though because she’s doing things for a good reason and found her to be very relatable.

As far as secondary characters go they are there to drive the plot and not much else. The only other moderately interesting character’s would be Skye’s mom, her best friend Drew, and another character whose name I won’t mention due to spoilers but they were……interesting.

romance

One of the best parts about this book is that there is no romance to distract from all the plot twists and thrills!

in conclusion

Overall this was a fun, quick read!

What I Loved:

  • Fast pacing
  • Mindfuckery/ great plot twists
  • Good anxiety rep
  • Relatable main character

What I Didn’t Love:

  • The ending was a little disappointing and felt unfinished

RECOMMEND

I recommend checking this one out especially for Halloween coming up or if you just enjoy a really good, fast-paced thriller!

Links: Goodreads / Amazon / Book Depository

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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

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ARC Review: Black Bird of the Gallows by Meg Kassel

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A simple but forgotten truth: Where harbingers of death appear, the morgues will soon be full.

Angie Dovage can tell there’s more to Reece Fernandez than just the tall, brooding athlete who has her classmates swooning, but she can’t imagine his presence signals a tragedy that will devastate her small town. When something supernatural tries to attack her, Angie is thrown into a battle between good and evil she never saw coming. Right in the center of it is Reece—and he’s not human.

What’s more, she knows something most don’t. That the secrets her town holds could kill them all. But that’s only half as dangerous as falling in love with a harbinger of death.

review

**** Big thank you to Entangled Publishing for sending me an copy in exchange for an honest review!****

This was definitely a very unique and dark story and unlike anything I’ve ever read before, I won’t be forgetting this one any time soon! Remember when paranormal romances were big? This is how a majority of them SHOULD have been, engaging and well written! However, there were just a couple things that didn’t work enough for me to full rate this at 4 stars.

PLOT

I loved how the story opens up with some interesting happenings right away, there are some mysterious new neighbors next door in the house where a family was brutally murdered. Pretty good attention grabber, right? From here the plot takes off with Angie being drawn to the new boy next door, Reece, and she starts to notice odd things happening around town such as a significant increase in the local crow and bee populations and she thinks Reece has the answers.

The plot is very fast paced and stays that way for the duration of the book, which was nice, and there definitely isn’t a lack of action at all! You’ll be able to zip right through this book! I loved how Kassel kept things interesting and kept you reading for answers and when you finally got them she’d leave you with more questions too! Her writing was spectacular and I’ll be interested to see what she’ll write next.

One of my favorite aspects of this book was the world building and mythology, it was extremely creative and I wanted to know everything about it! The curses of the Harbingers and Beekeepers were really interesting but I would have liked to have known a bit more about their origins as well as the history of the magic and other magical entities that are mentioned, such as Strawmen. I would have loved a lot more depth into the world building for sure, it would have made the story even better but I did love what I got!

I also really liked how the general atmosphere of the story was kind of creepy as well since we are dealing with Harbingers of Death after all, it’s a perfect book to read for Halloween coming up here if you don’t like horror but like something a little spooky!

I also have to say that the second half of the book is where things got pretty dark and dangerous but it was also really thrilling to read through. Best part of the book, in my opinion! However, the ending to the book felt a little too…..convenient for me? I didn’t like how they are dealing with a problem for the majority of the story and then at the end it is magically solved for them, just a little too cheesy for me.

characters

The characters were a little tricky for me in this book, while they were decent I just didn’t feel connected to any of them and felt they lacked depth.

Angie was an alright narrator and main character, she had a pretty tough break as a child but has learned to deal with it. I think one of my favorite parts about her character was her love for making and mixing music and the parts where she would DJ were a lot of fun! When she DJs she uses an alter ego she likes to keep separate from herself which she has completely understandable reasons for. However, there is a moment where she has to choose between learning more about why her life might be in danger or to reveal her DJ persona to Reece and I thought it was a bit ridiculous because come on girl your life could be in danger!

Other than Angie there are a few other characters who get “screen time” such as her friends Deno and Lacey, her father, Roger (her dog), and of course Reece. I did really like all of these characters and they did have a little background and personality but overall they just didn’t have a whole lot of depth. Like I said though I really like them, they were very supportive of Angie the entire story. (I adored the dog though, seriously)

Reece is the other central character and love interest and he does get quite a bit of background as well but he doesn’t ever really develop. He doesn’t change or grow, the only character that did that was Angie. Overall I thought Reece was just sort of okay, I didn’t love or hate him he was just kind of…there.

One character I did not care for AT ALL though was Kiera Shaw who is basically the “high school mean girl” trope and she lives to make Angie’s life miserable. I did not see the point to her character at all and even towards the end where Angie and Kiera’s pointless “rivalry” is resolved it still felt really flat and not genuine. Even Rafette who was technically the story’s main antagonist was way more sympathetic than her!

romance

I actually did enjoy the romance between Angie and Reece and while there is an instant attraction the romance is not insta-love at all. I liked how it was slow at the start but it did feel a little rushed towards the middle of the book but it is explained so I forgive it. I actually really liked the tension that was between them at the beginning where they felt that attraction initially and it just had me rooting for them from the get go!

There was a sort of side romance between Angie’s two friends and honestly I felt it wasn’t needed at all. I liked the two characters but did we really need a side romance?

in conclusion

Overall I loved how unique the concept of this book was and the world building and mythology were fantastic, although I didn’t care a lot ton for most of the characters. So I’d like to give this a full 4 stars but the issues I had with the book it just doesn’t feel right to rate it anything more than 3.5.

What I Loved:

  • Concept and general plot
  • The writing was engaging
  • World building and mythology were creative
  • Very fast paced and full of action
  • Loved the musical side of Angie, the main character
  • The romance was slow burn and adorable
  • Roger, the dog, was just the best

What I Didn’t Love:

  • The ending felt WAY too convenient
  • Could have used a little more expansion with the world building
  • Characters were just kind of alright, didn’t really connect
  • Pointless girl on girl rivalry with school mean girl

RECOMMEND

I highly, highly recommend checking this book out though especially if you’re looking for a very unique story concept or a creepy (but not terrifying) book to read this fall!

Links: Goodreads / Amazon / Barnes & Noble / Book Depository

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ARC Review: Girls Made of Snow and Glass by Melissa Bashardoust

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Frozen meets The Bloody Chamber in this feminist fantasy reimagining of the Snow White fairytale.

At sixteen, Mina’s mother is dead, her magician father is vicious, and her silent heart has never beat with love for anyone—has never beat at all, in fact, but she’d always thought that fact normal. She never guessed that her father cut out her heart and replaced it with one of glass. When she moves to Whitespring Castle and sees its king for the first time, Mina forms a plan: win the king’s heart with her beauty, become queen, and finally know love. The only catch is that she’ll have to become a stepmother.

Fifteen-year-old Lynet looks just like her late mother, and one day she discovers why: a magician created her out of snow in the dead queen’s image, at her father’s order. But despite being the dead queen made flesh, Lynet would rather be like her fierce and regal stepmother, Mina. She gets her wish when her father makes Lynet queen of the southern territories, displacing Mina. Now Mina is starting to look at Lynet with something like hatred, and Lynet must decide what to do—and who to be—to win back the only mother she’s ever known…or else defeat her once and for all.

Entwining the stories of both Lynet and Mina in the past and present, Girls Made of Snow and Glass traces the relationship of two young women doomed to be rivals from the start. Only one can win all, while the other must lose everything—unless both can find a way to reshape themselves and their story.

review

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

This was a very unique and creative take on Snow White and one that I really did enjoy especially with the minor F/F romance and feminist themes! However, there was just something not there for me to rate this any higher than 3.5 unfortunately.

PLOT

My biggest complaint about this book is the extremely uneven pacing because it would have me turning pages eager to know more or I’d set the book down and not pick it up for days it was so slow. This is a problem for me since it’s harder for me to want to finish a book when it gets super slow after being so good! I have to say the end  and the middle is where it slowed down significantly for me and thought the first 40%-50% was much better.

The story is told in two different POVs one is Mina, the Queen and stepmother, and Lynet, the princess. In this way Mina is the “evil Queen” and Lynet is “Snow White”. The story revolves around Mina wanting to keep her power as Queen so she can be loved even though her heart is made of glass and Lynet is supposed to take her place but would rather spend her time climbing the castle walls and spending time with the new surgeon. Personally I found Mina’s chapters to be much more interesting.

As I already mentioned this book is a little slower with the pacing since it’s a very character driven story and doesn’t have an action packed plot by any means. I really loved the overall themes of feminism, family not being only blood, and being accepted for you who are and not who you “should” be. I also thought the general retelling of the Snow White fairy tale was done very well here, very creative and unique, and I loved seeing the twists on certain elements such as the enchanted mirror, huntsman, and poison apple!

The writing was also very well done and compelling…just saying. It really was wonderfully written and helped set the atmosphere for a fairy tale retelling.

I kind of stated already that I loved the themes in this book and I really appreciated that this is a book that focuses on female empowerment and women helping and supporting other women. Instead of Mina and Lynet fighting each other for the sake of power and the whims of oppressive men they stood against that and helped and supported each other. And that’s awesome.

characters

Now to the characters which were the best part and what drove the story forward!

Mina was by far my favorite character, I really thought her chapters and flashbacks were the most interesting parts of this story. Her character had so much depth and development throughout the book and we really see so many layers to her. She was raised motherless and by a father who constantly tells her that with her glass heart she cannot love or be loved. In her desperation for love she makes some bad choices but ultimately she is a very sympathetic character.

Lynet is the main character overall but she wasn’t as interesting to me as Mina, probably since she’s younger and there isn’t as much complexity to her character. She is constantly being compared to her late mother and instead of allowing herself to be groomed for the throne she would rather spend her time climbing and getting into mischief. I found myself really sympathizing with her though since she just wants to be her own person and not be a version of her mother like everyone wants. Lynet does grow over the course of the story significantly though as she learns she can use her power as queen to help people and help her kingdom.

The only other characters of any importance in the story would be King Nicholas, Mina’s father Gregory, Nadia the surgeon, and Felix the huntsman. King Nicholas and Gregory the magician were probably my least favorite characters since they’re both men trying to rule over and pressure our female characters Lynet and Mina (their daughters respectively). Sure King Nicholas doesn’t go about ruling over his daughter Lynet in an abusive way like Gregory rules over Mina, but he still tries to force her mother’s image on her. As for Gregory….he is straight up an asshole….just saying.

Nadia’s character was very interesting and she does play the love interest for Lynet which was a very slow-burn and sweet romance. Nadia actually develops quite a bit over the story even though she doesn’t play a huge role in it.

Felix plays the role of the huntsman and he is….adorable. I thought the take on his character was very, very creative and he actually grew a lot considering he’s more of a minor character.

romance

The romance does not play a central role in this book at all but it is there! It’s an F/F romance between Lynet, our Snow White character, and Nadia. I really loved the romance here since it didn’t overtake the main plot line and it was a nice slow burn romance, it was also very adorable!

in conclusion

I did really enjoy this book and think it’s a very creative take on the Snow White fairy tale but the pacing was something I had a hard time looking past while reading. There wasn’t much action which I understand but it would have been nice to have a little more and a few more complex side characters as well! Minor complaints those last two though.

What I Loved:

  • F/F, slow burn romance
  • Great feminist themes
  • Fantastic characters that were well developed
  • The writing was done well
  • Creative take on Snow White

What I Didn’t Love:

  • Not a whole lot of action
  • Very uneven pacing (most of the time a little on the slow side)
  • Would have liked a few more complex characters

RECOMMEND

I do recommend checking this book out especially if you’re looking for a good Snow White retelling or even just a book that has some great feminist themes!

Links: Goodreads / Amazon / Book Depository

The Sassy

ARC Review: Mask of Shadows by Linsey Miller

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Sallot Leon is a thief, and a good one at that. But gender fluid Sal wants nothing more than to escape the drudgery of life as a highway robber and get closer to the upper-class and the nobles who destroyed their home.

When Sal Leon steals a poster announcing open auditions for the Left Hand, a powerful collection of the Queen’s personal assassins named for the rings she wears — Ruby, Emerald, Amethyst, and Opal — their world changes. They know it’s a chance for a new life.

Except the audition is a fight to the death filled with clever circus acrobats, lethal apothecaries, and vicious ex-soldiers. A childhood as a common criminal hardly prepared Sal for the trials. But Sal must survive to put their real reason for auditioning into play: revenge.

review

****Huge thank you to Sourcebooks Fire for sending me an advanced copy in exchange for an honest review!****

There seem to be a lot of mixed feelings on this book with people either DNF’ing their ARCs or loving them, fortunately I was one of the people who LOVED it! I was very pleasantly surprised with how much I enjoyed “Mask of Shadows” everything about it was entertaining and it really blew away all of my expectations!

Trigger Warnings: Misgendering and Much Violence (gets pretty brutal at times)

PLOT

As you can see in the descriptions right away this is being compared to books by both Sarah J. Maas and Leigh Bardugo but let me tell you I thought this book was so much better than those! You can see the similarities to the plot of this book and that of “Throne of Glass” right away, which I did, but trust me when I tell you I thought this was far better than “Throne of Glass”. “Mask of Shadows” was essentially everything I had wanted “Throne of Glass” to actually be: full of action, brutal violence, and a main character who isn’t all talk! So I personally thought the descriptions didn’t do this book justice, or it did in case you’re a big fan of either of those authors I suppose.

I really loved how we are tossed into some action immediately at the beginning of the story and we don’t waste anytime getting into all the action the synopsis promised! Of course considering the fact that Sal is auditioning to become part of the Left Hand there is quite a bit of training in many various areas so those parts can become a bit tedious, I personally found them enjoyable though. I also liked how none of the contestants were messing around either, they were hardcore! I actually really liked how brutal and violent the lot of them were because this means the author wasn’t sugar coating the fact that these people are trying out to be ASSASSINS. That’s what they do.

While the pacing wasn’t necessarily fast and went kind of back and forth a little bit, I still never got bored while reading since there was always something going on. The action definitely wasn’t lacking here! But as I said the pacing did go back and forth pretty erratically.

The plot was very entertaining, even though it seems it could be a run of the mill YA fantasy plot. Sal’s thirst for revenge and the lengths they go to achieve the revenge was interesting to read about and definitely had me rooting for them.

Another thing that was very well done was the world building but I could have used a little more of it as well. I thought one of the most interesting points were the “shadows” which I won’t go into detail about but the descriptions honestly terrified me! I personally never felt like I was being “info dumped” on but I could see some people getting annoyed with the amount of info being spilled all at once throughout reading.

There were quite a few shocking plot twists and that ending definitely has me dying to read the sequel!

characters

One of the best things about “Mask of Shadows” is the fact that the main character, Sal, is gender fluid, that’s right we have a gender fluid main character in a YA fantasy! While I personally cannot say whether this was represented well or not I read a review from an amazing blogger I follow (Avery @ The Book Deviant) who has an own voices review up that I will link for you to check out!

It’s stated in the book that Sal prefers to use the she/her pronouns when dressed as a woman, the he/his pronouns when dressed as a man, and they/their pronouns when dressed as neither. Since this is just a book review I will refer to Sal using the they/their pronouns.

Sal was a fantastic character and I really adored them, they just had so much spunk and spirit. However, they also came with their flaws as well from the rough past that they’ve had and what they’re willing to do to get their revenge as well. I LOVED that Sal came into the competition with a realistic set of skills and admitted that they didn’t know everything and did their best to learn other skills worthy of an assassin. That is so unbelievable refreshing, a main character that doesn’t magically have ALL the skills!

I’d also like to take a moment here to discuss the cases of misgendering Sal that occurred in the book. This happens in one instance at the beginning of the story and Sal corrects them right away explaining how they liked to be addressed according to what they are wearing and it doesn’t happen again. However, there is a more villainous character that misgenders Sal more than a few times and Sal challenges it immediately, which I loved. There is just one thing that goes along with this that I wanted to mention was that Sal states they like to be addressed as they dress: dresses for she/her and trousers/tunics/leggings for he/him. Now I KNOW this is just a fantasy and most clothing is gendered and that’s accepted but when Sal is misgendered by what they are wearing they state that “clearly” they are a woman/man by how they are dressed and would get very angry (which is understandable of course). I just kind of didn’t like this considering the fact that women and men can dress in whatever clothes they like and not have to identify as that gender based off of the clothes they are wearing, especially since this is a book about a diverse character.

Food for thought and hopefully that made some sort of sense.

AS for the secondary characters I really enjoyed quite a few of them but mostly I adored the other members of the Queen’s Left Hand: Emerald, Amethyst, and Ruby (MOST OF ALL RUBY!). I didn’t have too hard of a time keeping track of the other contestants but it did get a little annoying at times considering they were only ever referred to by number. Elise was also a pretty great character and I loved that she was diverse as well (either bisexual or pansexual) since she states that she’s interested in more than just men.

There is a romance in this story but it doesn’t take central stage and is more of a minor plot device. It really wasn’t anything special though and was more of your run of the mill YA fantasy romance.

in conclusion

Overall I really did have a great time reading this book and it surpassed ALL of my expectations!

What I Loved:

  • Genderfluid and overall fantastic main character
  • Stabby plot that doesn’t sugarcoat!
  • Interesting world building
  • Great secondary characters (mostly Ruby…)

What I Didn’t Love:

  • Erratic pacing
  • Sal’s outlook (or just the book’s) on gendered clothing

RECOMMEND

I highly recommend checking out this book whether you’re looking for a fun new YA fantasy or if you’re looking for a great diverse read as well!

Links: Goodreads / Amazon / Book Depository

The Sassy

ARC Review: Zero Repeat Forever (The Nahx Invasions #1) by Gabrielle Prendergast

a title here (18)description

He has no voice, or name, only a rank, Eighth. He doesn’t know the details of the mission, only the directives that hum in his mind.

Dart the humans. Leave them where they fall.

His job is to protect his Offside. Let her do the shooting.

Until a human kills her…

Sixteen year-old Raven is at summer camp when the terrifying armored Nahx invade, annihilating entire cities, taking control of the Earth. Isolated in the wilderness, Raven and her friends have only a fragment of instruction from the human resistance.

Shelter in place.

Which seems like good advice at first. Stay put. Await rescue. Raven doesn’t like feeling helpless but what choice does she have?

Then a Nahx kills her boyfriend.

Thrown together in a violent, unfamiliar world, Eighth and Raven should feel only hate and fear. But when Raven is injured, and Eighth deserts his unit, their survival comes to depend on trusting each other…

review

****Huge thank you to Simon & Schuster for sending me an advanced copy in exchange for an honest review!****

I really, really wanted to enjoy this book more because the premise sounds fantastic and I’m always up for a good sci-fi with aliens invading Earth! Unfortunately there really wasn’t much to salvage here and that disappoints me.

Trigger Warnings: Racism, Abuse (Mostly Emotional and Verbal), and Suicidal Thoughts

PLOT

Where do I even start?

First of all the pacing was terribly slow all the way throughout the book, sure there were a few action scenes that were pretty good but they didn’t last very long and we’d get dumped right back into the tediousness. There weren’t really any plot twists to speak of and like I said the action was few and far between. It was boring to be frank.

Events that occurred throughout the plot felt really forced and too convenient at times. “Oh you’re going to die out in the cold passed out and your friends have abandoned you? Here is another character that will carry you back towards  your friends and build you fire to keep you warm until you wake back up.” Come on, are you kidding me? At least make me worry for the characters a little bit, show me they have actual survival skills since that’s what this book is about!

Then to make matters worse it took half the book for Eighth and Raven to even meet up, which is indicated in the synopsis. I didn’t want to wait that long for the “main plot line” to commence. On top of that a good third of the book is just Eighth nursing Raven back to health, seriously, that’s a third of the book. It was so incredibly boring and then there’s even a bit of Stockholm Syndrome too. Why did that need to last so long? Development? Development that didn’t actually develop anything or anyone at all?

Then that ending………I liked the cliffhanger it makes me consider reading the sequel but I’ll still probably pass. The only BIG plot twist that happened in the entire book is “revealed” at the end and it was 100% predictable, I am not joking I predicted this twist at the beginning of the book. That’s no fun.

As for the world building there really wasn’t much of that at all but what bits there were, were very interesting. Mostly we got some insight into the invading aliens (Nahx) from Eighth’s POV which were the only parts I enjoyed.

It only took me 50 pages in to realize I really did not like Prendergast’s writing style, at all. It felt extremely choppy and didn’t flow, it was really forced and I had a hard time reading through it.

characters

The characters were just as messy, flat, and underdeveloped. If all of them had died during my reading of this book I wouldn’t have cared in the least bit. I actually might have been rooting for the Nahx to take everyone out so I could be finished with this book.

Eighth was an okay character and the only moderately likable character since most of the time he’s pretty innocent and adorable because he doesn’t know much.

Raven I did not care for, I thought her temper and cruelty were too over the top at times. I understand that she’s a flawed character and she had her reasons for that since she was bullied as a child but I really don’t think there’s an excuse for treating others so abusively. Raven was just a very rude character that didn’t make the best of decisions either, not a fan.

The secondary characters were all just as bad too, basically cardboard cut out characters. No one had personality and if they all vanished I wouldn’t have cared either.

romance

Someone save me! This romance was so cringe-worthy!

There was insta-love to the max! Why was he so obsessed with her right away? What’s the reasoning here? Eighth honestly was ready to do anything for Raven, anything!  It made no sense!

Plus there’s sort of a love triangle since Raven technically has another love interest and also still isn’t over her dead boyfriend.

in conclusion

Overall….not too impressed with this book and I’m really disappointed.

What I Loved:

  • What little world building there was
  • Eighth was pretty adorable at times

What I Didn’t Love:

  • Slow pacing
  • Events felt forced and too convenient
  • Writing was choppy
  • Characters were very flat
  • Raven was very verbally abusive to others
  • The big reveal at the end was predictable
  • Insta-love, cringey romance
  • Nothing substantial happened with the story

RECOMMEND

Sadly I can’t say I’d really recommend “Zero Repeat Forever” since I just had so many different issues with it. Overall I just thought it was poorly executed and very tedious to read through.

Links: Goodreads / Amazon / Book Depository

The Sassy