There are a lot of ‘Back to School’ type posts floating around at the moment and normally I’d be doing a Top Ten Tuesday post today but the “criteria” for it just didn’t fit anything I was interested in posting. So here I am with a post whose title I feel is sloppy on my part but I didn’t know how to get my point across, but it’s basically some fantasy book recommendations! I never liked the term “required reading” because let’s face it: being forced to read a book isn’t always fun and I feel it drives a lot of potential readers away when it’s required of them. So instead of that I just have a “reading list” of books I feel are amazing in the fantasy genre and would be staples in my “classroom”.
These are in no particular order and I will provide links to my full review if it’s available. Enjoy!
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.
**** 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!
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!
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.
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!
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
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.
Hello fellow book lovers!
Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish.
This week’s theme is Hidden Gems in whichever genre you’d like to pick! Of course I adore hidden gem recommendations and I have more than a few to give but fantasy is my most read genre so that’s the genre I went with. Some of these may be a little more iffy as far as having them be considered fantasy but there are fantasy elements none the less and most of them are 100% pure fantasy. Some of my choices also might be a little more popular than others and some of you may not consider them a “hidden” gem but they still aren’t super popular so I’d like to recommend them!
I will link up each title to my full review as well if you’d like to be convinced some more to add these to your TBR! Also these aren’t in any particular order!
10.) Alice (The Chronicles of Alice #1) by Christina Henry
This is more of a horror book than anything but it still counts as fantasy in my mind especially since it’s a dark retelling of “Alice in Wonderland”. This book isn’t for the faint of heart, it’s truly terrifying, graphic, brutal, and violent and yet it’s still an addictive story. I highly recommend reading it if you’re looking for a unique retelling!
9.) Lips Touch: Three Times by Laini Taylor
A collection of three short fairy tale-esque stories all revolving around a kiss but trust me when I say it’s not the gushy romance fest you think it would be! Laini Taylor’s writing is gorgeous and she weaves together such creative tales with mythology of her own making, these stories are fantastic. Plus the illustrations are gorgeous as well!
8.) The Impostor Queen (The Impostor Queen #1) by Sarah Fine
This is such an underrated fantasy novel it isn’t even fair! The magic system is one of the best I’ve come across with both fire and ice users but the magic doesn’t come without it’s costs. The Valtia is the queen of the land who is the only wielder of both ice and fire magic and when she dies it passes on to the next but when the magic doesn’t enter Elli she is forced to flee. Great characters and great world building, go give this book some more love!
7.) The Forbidden Wish by Jessica Khoury
This book is a little more well known but still not enough in my eyes! It’s an Aladdin retelling where the genie is female and they have a relationship, it’s got some great world building, badass female characters, and gorgeous writing! What more could you want?
6.) Labyrinth Lost (Brooklyn Brujas #1) by Zoraida Cordova
Not only does this book have a gorgeous cover and diverse characters but it’s also filled with magic and a very Wonderland-esque adventure. Alex is a bruja (a witch) and wants to rid herself of her powers but when she tries her whole family vanishes into thin air.
5.) Kingdom of Ash and Briars by Hannah West
I recommend this book ALL the time and it’s probably the book on here I feel is the most underrated. It has a great story, world building, and characters plus on top of all of that it has four retellings weaved into the plot which include: Sleep Beauty, Cinderella, Hua Mulan, and Jane Austen’s Emma. It’s a fantastic story!
4.) The Bone Witch (The Bone Witch #1) by Rin Chupeco
This is a dark fantasy featuring a witch with the gift of necromancy who goes to train under another bone witch. She must control her powers if she is going to aid her fellow witches with the war that is brewing in the kingdoms. I really loved how dark and sometimes creepy this book got especially with the necromancy, great world building too!
3.) Tiger Lily by Jodi Lynn Anderson
Once again this one is a little more popular so it may not be considered a true hidden gem but it’s not a book I see tons of people talking about all of the time either. This is a Peter Pan retelling revolving around the character Tiger Lily, her backstory, and her relationship with Peter. It’s a darker version of Neverland and you’ll definitely be heart broken by the end.
2.) The Hundredth Queen (The Hundredth Queen #1) by Emily R. King
A girl raised by the Sisterhood is chosen to be the Rajah’s 100th wife and she must fight in gladiator style battles against his other 99 wives in order to secure her place. This book is full of magic and some badass females, it may not be the best written book ever but it was highly addictive and entertaining!
You can read my full review of “The Hundredth Queen” here.
1.) Mask of Shadows (Untitled #1) by Linsey Miller
This book is pretty hyped up at the moment but still isn’t receiving as much hype as it should. This is everything I wanted and expected “Throne of Glass” to be with the brutal competition to be the Queen’s assassin, plus we get a genderfluid main character!
Have you read any of these books? What did you think?
What are some of your hidden gems in YA fantasy?
Let me know in the comments!