Top Ten Tuesday: Hidden Gems in Fantasy

Top Ten Tuesday(9)

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!

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10.) Alice (The Chronicles of Alice #1) by Christina Henry

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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!

You can read my full review of “Alice” here.


9.) Lips Touch: Three Times by Laini Taylor

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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!

You can read my full review of “Lips Touch: Three Times” here.


8.) The Impostor Queen (The Impostor Queen #1) by Sarah Fine

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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!

You can read my full review of “The Impostor Queen” here.


7.) The Forbidden Wish by Jessica Khoury

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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?

You can read my full review of “The Forbidden Wish” here.


6.) Labyrinth Lost (Brooklyn Brujas #1) by Zoraida Cordova

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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.

You can read my full review of “Labyrinth Lost” here.


5.) Kingdom of Ash and Briars by Hannah West

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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!

You can read my full review of “Kingdom of Ash and Briars” here.


4.) The Bone Witch (The Bone Witch #1) by Rin Chupeco

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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!

You can read my full review of “The Bone Witch” here.


3.) Tiger Lily by Jodi Lynn Anderson

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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.

You can read my full review of “Tiger Lily” here.


2.) The Hundredth Queen (The Hundredth Queen #1) by Emily R. King

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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

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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!

You can read my full review of “Mask of Shadows” here.

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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!

The Sassy

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Top Ten Tuesday: Required Reading For SFF Lovers

Top Ten Tuesday(9)

Hello fellow book lovers!

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by Jamie @ The Broke and the Bookish.

Time for another Top Ten Tuesday and this week’s theme is “Back To School” which can be anything from books you read in school or books you think should be required reading etc. So I decided to go with books I feel are required reading for any Sci-fi and Fantasy lovers out there!

I do have full reviews for each of these titles (which I am not going to link this time around) if you’d like to check them out!

These are also in no particular order and there are equal amounts of sci-fi and fantasy books here!

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10.) A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab

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This book is simply amazing and definitely something you should check out if you’re a fantasy lover! Schwab weaves together some incredible world building and an action-packed plot focusing on a main character who has the magical ability to travel between the 4 parallel versions of London.


9.) The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness

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This is technically sci-fi but while reading you don’t get very many vibes of this except for the alien type creatures and some plot information you receive later on. It’s sci-fi though trust me! This is about a boy living in a town of men who can all hear everyone’s thoughts and when he learns a secret about said town he must flee for his life.

Very heartbreaking story but so, so good.


8.) Vicious by V. E. Schwab

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Yes, another Schwab book! Basically if you’re a lover of SFF then just check her out period! This book is probably my favorite of hers and it involves morally ambiguous characters and super powers, what more could you ask for? It’s definitely a page turner!


7.) Illuminae by Amie Kaufman & Jay Kristoff

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This is one of those books that may not be for everyone but with the super unique formatting and the literal non-stop action I can’t help but recommend it for all sci-fi lovers. It has everything from a self-aware AI to creepy space viruses! There really is never a dull moment.


6.) Stormdancer by Jay Kristoff

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 I honestly recommend this book ALL the damn time but here I am again with it! This book has such creative world building and the characters were amazing too, tons of plot twists, and plenty of action as well. All around amazing fantasy book with all of the fantasy elements I personally look for. Who doesn’t love talking animal companions?


5.) Kingdom of Ash and Briars by Hannah West

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Another fantasy book I recommend all the time which is also very underrated, it has some very unique world building along with four different retellings weaved into the plot as well (Hua Mulan, Sleeping Beauty, Cinderella, and Jane Austen’s Emma). It’s got some very heart warming and heart breaking moments for sure, overall amazing story though!


4.) The Diabolic by S.J. Kincaid

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This is sci-fi but the political intrigue and plots are very reminiscent of fantasy as well, the pacing is insanely fast and there’s non stop plot twists and action! You’ll also love the complete badass main character, Nemesis, who pretty much just kicks ass the entire book. She’s one tough cookie!


3.) Red Rising by Pierce Brown

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If I were going to sum up why this should be required reading it’d just be me screaming because of how awesome this book is.

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There are so many wonderful characters and it’s like a much more brutal and violent version of the Hunger Games except in space….well Mars but you get what I mean.


2.) An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir

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The world building is very Ancient Roman inspired, there’s loads of action,  fantastic characters, and plenty of shock worthy plot twists. This has all of the wonderful fantasy elements most of us look for and is extremely entertaining!


1.) Every Heart A Doorway by Seanan McGuire

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Very short, sweet, and to the point this book is magical and actually has some great world building for how short the story is. It’s about a home for “chosen one” children who have been kicked out of their magical worlds and must learn how to cope back in reality.

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Have you read any of these books as well? What did you think?

Do you think these should be required reading for SFF fans?

What are some books you’d consider required reading for SFF lovers?

Let me know in the comments!

The Sassy

Book Recommendations: Retellings

Top Ten Tuesday(76)

Hello fellow book lovers!

Time for a couple more book recommendations! Woohoo! I absolutely love giving out book recommendations but unfortunately I don’t have a ton to ever recommend usually since I read so many different genres and sometimes I don’t like the book! However, I have a decent amount of retellings that I adored so I wanted to share a couple of them with all of you!

I will provide links to my full reviews of each book if you want some more details!

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Alice (The Chronicles of Alice #1) by Christina Henry

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This is one of my most favorite books of all time and definitely one of the top retellings! This is a very, very dark, horrific, and graphic version of “Alice in Wonderland” where the characters we all know and love are twisted versions of themselves. I have to say it’s one of the most unique retellings I’ve ever come across since it takes elements of the original story and does so many different things with them including making them absolutely horrifying.

So if you’re a fan of Alice retellings and aren’t afraid to see the darkest side of it then definitely check this one out!

You can read my full review of “Alice” here.


Heartless by Marissa Meyer

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Another wonderful “Alice in Wonderland” retelling that is also an origin story for the Queen of Hearts character. While the beginning half of the book was pretty slow and filled with descriptions of food and moony eyes, the end half was full of action and plot twists! It was really fun getting to see all of the different characters come into play as well!

You can read my full review of “Heartless” here.


The Forbidden Wish by Jessica Khoury

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This is an AMAZING “Aladdin” retelling where the genie is a female and falls in love with Aladdin. However, there is plenty of action and great world building so this isn’t just a romance focused story! On top of the unique plot there is Khoury’s beautiful writing, seriously it’s just so gorgeous and made reading this book such a breeze! There is also some kickass feminist themes as well since Princess Caspida and her Watchmaidens are basically Robin Hood and are super badass.

You can read my full review of “The Forbidden Wish” here.


Tiger Lily by Jodi Lynn Anderson

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A “Peter Pan” retelling that centeralizes around the character of Tiger Lily, it’s narrated by Tinkerbell as she watches Tiger Lily grow and eventually watches the romance the develops between her and Peter Pan. It’s a very warped version of Neverland that we see in this story it’s dark and very saddening. Overall I highly recommend reading this one just for the unique take on Neverland as well as the story of Tiger Lily but be warned you’re probably going to cry!

You can read my full review of “Tiger Lily” here.


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

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Another “Peter Pan” retelling but, as the title states, it’s the origin story of Captain Hook. Like with “Alice” Christina Henry takes the Neverland we all know and love and flips it upside down, this is a dark and very gritty version filled with many horrors both monstrous and more realistic. Trust me when I say you probably won’t be the biggest fan of Peter anymore……

You can read my full review of “Lost Boy” here.


Kingdom of Ash and Briars by Hannah West

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This is it’s own unique story but it also weaves in four other retellings throughout as well. That’s right, four! We get to see Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, Hua Mulan, and Jane Austen’s Emma and while I can’t really speak for the Emma retelling I can tell you the other three are well represented within the main story line. I recommend checking this book out for the great story and world building alongside the retellings too!

You can read my full review of “Kingdom of Ash and Briars” here.


The Seafarer’s Kiss by Julia Ember

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This is a “Little Mermaid” retelling with a F/F romance and quite a bit of Norse mythology weaved in as well. While I did have a couple problems with this book I generally did really enjoy it and thought it was a really unique take on the “Little Mermaid” story as well as adding in a bunch of original elements as well.

You can read my full review of “The Seafarer’s Kiss” here.

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Have you read any of these books yet? What did you think?

What are some of your favorite retellings?

Let me know in the comments!

The Sassy

Book Recs: YA Standalones

Top Ten Tuesday(53)

I like to read a lot of standalones since I don’t have a lot of patience for series, I’m better at starting a series than finishing it. So standalones are better for me and they might be for you too! So I just threw together a little list of some of my favorite YA standalones, hopefully you can find some new and interesting books to add to your TBR!

Keep in mind these aren’t ALL of my favorites and some of these are short story anthologies, but they still count in my book! I will link up each title to their Goodreads pages and also link up any reviews I have too.

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Tiger Lily by Jodi Lynn Anderson

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You can read my full review here.

This is an absolutely fantastic Peter Pan retelling about the relationship between Tiger Lily and Peter. Although I will warn you up ahead of time, you will cry so many tears! It’s a dark, sad story with many flawed and broken characters but it still manages to be beautiful (thanks to the gorgeous writing!).


The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

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You can read my full review here.

I don’t think I need to hype this book up anymore but I will 100% support all of the hype it has already recieved since it’s worth every bit of it! This is an absolutely amazing book telling the story of a girl named Starr who witnesses the shooting of her friend Khalil at the hands of a police officer, Khalil was also unarmed. We then watch as Starr struggles between voicing what really happened and endangering her life, or not saying anything at all.

It’s not only a diverse read but also a very important and powerful one as well. I highly recommend reading it if you haven’t already!


The Sacred Lies of Minnow Bly by Stephanie Oakes

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You can read my full review here.

This is the story of a girl who lived 12 years in a cult before it finally burned down and the Prophet was killed. Now she’s part of the questioning on what REALLY happened that night.

Another very quietly powerful book on learning to believe things for ourselves and not what others would have us believe. It’s also very interesting if you have some curiousity about cults and their inner workings.


Heartless by Marissa Meyer

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You can read my full review here.

This is a retelling and origin story for the Queen of Hearts from “Alice in Wonderland”, is that not enough to make you wanna read it? We get to see some interesting twists on all of our favorite Wonderland characters as well as some crazy plot twists. It’s kind of slow to start but the ending is 100% worth it!


Kingdom of Ash and Briars by Hannah West

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You can read my full review here.

I don’t think I can ever mention this book enough! It’s a unique fantasy book that also weaves together little retellings of Mulan, Jane Austen’s Emma, Sleeping Beauty, and Cinderella. It has great world building and fantastic characters as well, plus the plot itself is very original and has all of the retellings interwoven throughout!


With Malice by Eileen Cook

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You can read my full review here.

A very fast-paced YA thriller that’s about a girl who wakes up in the hospital with anmesia and finds out her best friend is dead and she’s the prime suspect! I don’t want to say too much more because there are TONS of crazy twists that will ensure you zip right through this book.


The Darkest Corners by Kara Thomas

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You can read my full review here.

Another psychological thriller that actually gets pretty dang dark and twisted for a YA book. I mean it this book will mess with your mind and you definitely won’t be able to guess what will happen next. The main character, Tessa, goes back to her childhood home to try and dig up the truth of her friend’s cousin’s death that occured when they were little girls. The thing is they lied about what they saw that night and now Tessa must find out what really happened.


A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness

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You can read my full review here.

If you haven’t read this book just….go read it now! It’s the most beautiful, touching story of a boy whose mother is dying of cancer and a monster comes and takes him on an adventure that will change the way he has been viewing things.

Also just a heads up…you will most definitely cry!


Lips Touch: Three Times by Laini Taylor

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You can read my full review here.

This is actually a small collection of three stories all by Laini Taylor, so of course it’s gorgeously written and all have unique twists and very original mythology/world building. It’s truly amazing how much awesomeness she squeezed into such short stories!

The stories themselves are all Fantasy and revolve around, you guessed it, kisses but the kisses all have consequences that can be…deadly.


Slasher Girls & Monster Boys stories selected by April Genevieve Tucholke

Slasher Girls & Monster Boys

You can read my full review here.

This is a YA horror anthology that is actually full of VERY good stories with the exception of one or two duds. Although this isn’t for the faint hearted some of the stories get really scary, gory, and disturbing! But if you’re a big YA horror fan like me you’ll definitely love this anthology.

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Did any of these books interest you? Which ones and why?

Do you already have some of these on your TBR?

Have you read any of these before?

What are some of your recommendations for standalone YA books?

Let me know in the comments!

The Sassy

Top 5 Wednesday: Favorite YA Fantasy & Sci-Fi

Top Ten Tuesday(1)

Top 5 Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Sam @ Thoughts on Tomes and created by Lainey @ Ginger Reads Lainey. You can check out the group’s Goodreads page for this month’s topics!

This week’s topic is favorite fantasy and science fiction books in collaboration with BooktubeSFF Awards! I decided to do both genres but in only Young Adult. I have read and reviewed all of these books so I’ll attach my review links to the titles if you want to read more of my thoughts on each of these!

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5.) Kingdom of Ash and Briars by Hannah West

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I’ve said this countless times but it’s so true: this book is a hidden gem! Not only did I find the world building very good but also the fact that it had it’s own plot going on along with four sort of “mini stories” and each is a fairy tale retelling (Mulan, Emma, Sleeping Beauty, and Cinderella). I loved all of the characters as well and actually grew very attached, I didn’t even mind the romance either!


4.) Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor

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The romance in this one did have some problems but I still really enjoyed it, the characters, and the world building was AMAZING! Also Laini Taylor has THE most gorgeous writing I’ve ever come across, seriously I’d read the woman’s grocery list. Overall the story is just so engaging and I really recommend reading it.


3.) The Diabolic by S.J. Kincaid

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Let’s see here: actual badass main character, lots of action and plot twists, plenty of “court intrigue” with plotting and revenge, and a romance I could actually ship. Not to mention it’s all in space! If you’re looking for a fast paced space adventure than this is definitely a book I recommend reading, it’s one of my new favorite sci-fi books of all time!


2.) Illuminae by Amie Kaufman & Jay Kristoff

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I think you’ve all heard about “Illuminae” but in case you haven’t…..its yet another super fast-paced, action-packed, space opera! Complete with crazy AIs, mutating space viruses, and hella plot twists. Plus there’s that unique formatting that is to die for! If you’re looking for an awesome YA sci-fi book look no further.


1.) Stormdancer by Jay Kristoff

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While I do acknowledge that this book is very problematic (as seems to be the case with a lot of Kristoff’s books) I still consider it to be one of my all time favorite fantasy books. It’s got fantastic world building (some of the best I’ve seen) and mythology and great characters that I grew very attached too! Plus there’s a bit of steampunk in it as well, they have chainsaw katanas!

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What are some of your favorite YA fantasy or sci-fi books?

Have you read any of these on my list? What did you think?

Let me know in the comments and feel free to link up your T5W as well!

The Sassy

ARC Review: Kingdom of Ash and Briars by Hannah West

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Bristal, an orphaned kitchen maid, lands in a gritty fairy tale gone wrong when she discovers she is an elicromancer with a knack for shape-shifting. An ancient breed of immortal magic beings, elicromancers have been winnowed down to merely two – now three – after centuries of bloody conflict in the realm. Their gifts are fraught with responsibility, and sixteen-year-old Bristal is torn between two paths. Should she vow to seek the good of the world, to protect and serve mortals? Or should she follow the strength of her power, even if it leads to unknown terrors? She draws on her ability to disguise herself as a man to infiltrate a prince’s band of soldiers, and masquerades as a fairy godmother to shield a cursed princess, but time is running out. As an army of dark creatures grows closer, Bristal faces a supernatural war. To save the kingdoms, Bristal must find the courage to show her true form.

Building on homages to Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, Jane Austen’s Emma and the Chinese legend of Hua Mulan, Hannah West makes a spectacular debut.

review

**** Huge thank you to Holiday House for sending me an ARC in exchange for an honest review!****

Let me just say….wow I did not expect to love this book as much as I did! It’s magical, wonderful, amazing, and an all around fantastic debut novel! “Kingdom of Ash and Briars” is definitely one of my favorite reads in 2016 too because it is PERFECT for any fan of fantasy (which I am) and it blends four fairy tales together seamlessly and therefore is perfect for any fan of retellings as well. Seriously, there are so many wonderful things about this book I don’t even know where to start..well maybe at the beginning right?

PLOT

The story starts out fast paced and grabs your attention immediately with Bristal (the MC) being kidnapped and whisked away to the Water to see if she will become one of the ancient, magical elicromancers. Exciting stuff right? We also get some good insight into the world right away with explanations of the magic system and what elicromancers are but I won’t give any of that away because it’s just so great to read through! There’s just some great, classic world building in this book complete with the always fun royal politics too.

I also love the way Hannah West weaved the tales of Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, Mulan, and Emma together. In my eyes it was flawless. We see Bristal act as a fairy godmother to both the Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty characters and watch as she disguises herself as a man to join one of the prince’s group of soldiers. It was so much fun reading and trying to guess how each retold fairy tale would play out and who was acting as which character, if you’re familiar with these tales it is almost guaranteed to be enjoyable for you!

(Also on a side note I never read “Emma” by Jane Austen so I have no idea how it fit into this story, if anyone would like to enlighten me PLEASE do so!)

Then the main threat in the story is the impending war between the villain and their gathered army of supernatural creatures and the continent of Nissera, so basically Bristal is running around shape-shifting like a mad woman to ensure each character is doing what they can to prepare for the incoming war. There are also many smaller stories (the fairy tales if you will) that all intersect throughout the main plot interlinking everything into one. There are so many things going on guys, it’s awesome and there are so many crazy plot twists too! I was freaking out to the point where I’m fanning my face and yelling “NO, NO, NO!”. You guys know how that goes…..

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My only complaint about this book is that at times during the story I felt like some stuff was a little too convenient. Certain things would happen to make sure everything worked out perfectly, it wasn’t annoying but at times it was kind of unbelievable.

Overall though the plot line is magnificent it combines every element of YA Fantasy that I love: magic, ball gowns, (good) romance, world-building, royalty, class good vs. evil, and a good old fashioned villain.

characters

There are actually quite a few characters in “Kingdom of Ash and Briars” and they were all amazing, I LOVE well developed secondary characters it’s a must have for me in a book.

Bristal is the perfect heroine she’s selfless, brave, and clever. Her sole purpose is to protect the kingdoms and guide them even if it means giving up her own happiness. It’s so….honorable. Gosh I just loved her so much and she’s definitely a heroine you can’t help but root for the entire time.

Then there are so many other characters: Anthony, Charles, Elinor, Rosamund, Brack, and Tamarice – all amazing characters that add so much to the story. (Also Brack is my favorite, just saying.)

I’d also like to share without spoilers that the villain is so realistic and well developed. I love villains with depth, ones that we can FEEL for and understand and know why they chose to act the way they did. It makes the story so much more interesting when we feel conflicted about the antagonist.

romance

Now I’m pretty sure I say this in every review and if you’ve been following me for a while you already know…I do not like romance especially in YA books because they are almost always riddles with tropes. So I’m glad to say that I adored the romances in this book.

While some of the lesser romances between our fairy tale retelling princes and princesses aren’t quite as developed and are borderline insta-love they’re still just so cute. I mean come on they’re fairy tales so the insta-love can actually be pulled off without nauseating anyone. But the real romance between Bristal and Anthony is so beautiful and swoon-worthy…awww my poor little heart! Everything about them being together worked, it really did.

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in conclusion

“Kingdom of Ash and Briars” is a wonderfully told tale full of action, romance, and magic. The only thing that upsets me is that it’s a standalone and I want more! I will absolutely be checking out anything else Hannah West writes because just going by this debut novel I can guarantee I’ll love it.

RECOMMEND

Yes, a million times yes! If you love YA fantasy and fairy tale retellings this book will be perfect for you since it combines all elements of each so well!

Links: Goodreads / Amazon / Book Depository

The Sassy