Book Review: Daughter of the Burning City by Amanda Foody

a title here(9)description

Sixteen-year-old Sorina has spent most of her life within the smoldering borders of the Gomorrah Festival. Yet even among the many unusual members of the traveling circus-city, Sorina stands apart as the only illusion-worker born in hundreds of years. This rare talent allows her to create illusions that others can see, feel and touch, with personalities all their own. Her creations are her family, and together they make up the cast of the Festival’s Freak Show.

But no matter how lifelike they may seem, her illusions are still just that—illusions, and not truly real. Or so she always believed…until one of them is murdered.

Desperate to protect her family, Sorina must track down the culprit and determine how they killed a person who doesn’t actually exist. Her search for answers leads her to the self-proclaimed gossip-worker Luca, and their investigation sends them through a haze of political turmoil and forbidden romance, and into the most sinister corners of the Festival. But as the killer continues murdering Sorina’s illusions one by one, she must unravel the horrifying truth before all of her loved ones disappear.

review

I have to say with all of the other raving reviews, I was expecting to really love this one. I mean it SOUNDS like a book I would walk away from with a 4 or 5 star rating but it just fell short for me. It was an enjoyable read but didn’t blow me away. This is kind of a “meh” book for me, I just don’t have a lot to say about it.


(I’m going to do this review a bit differently, I recently ran a poll on my Twitter asking if you guys prefer my normal method of reviewing or if you’d like a list. It was close but the list style ended up winning so I want to give it a try! Please, please let me know what you think and if you’d like more reviews in this style!)


What I Loved:

  • This is a standalone and not part of a trilogy or series, which is a nice change since this is YA Fantasy.
  • The premise is very unique and creative, I can honestly say I’ve never read anything else like it!
  • No tropes! There aren’t any of your typical YA tropes present throughout this book which was very refreshing. No insta-love, no love triangles, and no special snowflake main characters!
  • The romance never overtook the plot and it was slow burn, I really loved the two characters together as well.
  • Diverse characters! There are POC, characters with disabilities including the main character, and LGTB characters. I also THINK that Luca, the love interest, might be aromantic or asexual. It’s never fully addressed but he doesn’t like showing physical affection throughout the story. (If you’ve read anything about this, let me know if I need to be corrected!)
  • Foody’s writing was excellent and one of the big reasons I kept on reading, I’m definitely looking forward to reading more of her work!
  • I liked the magic bits, Sorina’s powers were really neat as were the powers of the other jynx-workers. (would have loved more development though)
  • Circus/Carnival setting, because who doesn’t love that?
  • Sorina was a good main character, I like that she had her faults but overall would do whatever it takes to protect her family. Foody also avoided tropes with Sorina’s character and that was fantastic.

What I Didn’t Love:

  • Definitely not enough world building, I felt very lost especially when all of the politics were brought in. It’s hard to care about politics when I have no clue about the countries/kingdoms/people involved. I know it’s a standalone but if you’re going to make politics a big part of your plot you need to build up your world more.
  • The pacing was pretty slow and the plot overall was a slow burn, and I honestly almost DNF’d this so many times because of how slow it was.
  • I felt the plot itself was really lacking as well, I just didn’t care about it. I mean you have an entire city that’s one giant carnival and all we explore or some murders and that’s it? Really? We couldn’t have expanded the plot into any other aspect of the giant carnival full of secrets and magic?
  • Speaking of the “murder mystery plot”: it was predictable. There were a few aspects that I didn’t see coming right away but overall I wasn’t shocked or surprised very much.
  • The characters were all sort of “meh”, they were all pretty one dimensional and once again I didn’t care much about any of them. They were unique though, I will give them that!
  • One of my BIGGEST issues with this book was that Sorina, the main character, has NO EYES but yet she’s still described throughout the book as “narrowing her eyes”, or “eyeing” someone, or even crying! How?! How the heck can she narrow her eyes and cry if she has no eyes?! I wish there would have been more thought put into this aspect of the story, if the character has no eyes then please spend some more time explaining why and how and be mindful of the expressions you’re using to describe the character.
  • Overall I felt everything from the plot, to the plot twists, characters, and world building could have used WAAAY more development.

 I can definitely see how others enjoyed this book a lot more than I did, but ultimately I’m left feeling slightly disappointed. Everything needed a lot more development for me and the pacing to be faster. It was an interesting concept with interesting characters though, credit for creativity.

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ARC Review: The Queen’s Rising by Rebecca Ross

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When her seventeenth summer solstice arrives, Brienna desires only two things: to master her passion and to be chosen by a patron.

Growing up in the southern Kingdom of Valenia at the renowned Magnalia House should have prepared her for such a life. While some are born with an innate talent for one of the five passions—art, music, dramatics, wit, and knowledge—Brienna struggled to find hers until she belatedly chose to study knowledge. However, despite all her preparations, Brienna’s greatest fear comes true—the solstice does not go according to plan and she is left without a patron.

Months later, her life takes an unexpected turn when a disgraced lord offers her patronage. Suspicious of his intent, and with no other choices, she accepts. But there is much more to his story, and Brienna soon discovers that he has sought her out for his own vengeful gain. For there is a dangerous plot being planned to overthrow the king of Maevana—the archrival kingdom of Valenia—and restore the rightful queen, and her magic, to the northern throne. And others are involved—some closer to Brienna than she realizes.

With war brewing between the two lands, Brienna must choose whose side she will remain loyal to—passion or blood. Because a queen is destined to rise and lead the battle to reclaim the crown. The ultimate decision Brienna must determine is: Who will be that queen? 

review

**** Huge thank you to HarperTeen for sending me an ARC via Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review ****

This was kind of disappointing because I felt it had a lot of potential to be amazing but it was just….extremely slow. It wasn’t terrible by any means but I just felt it was boring.

PLOT

Essentially the plot revolves around Brienna who is studying to be a passion of knowledge at Magnalia house with 5 other girls who are studying each passion as well-arts, drama, music, wit, and knowledge. She is left without a patron though and is swept up in a plot to overthrow a king! That’s the story! There’s also a kind of subplot where we are left wondering who Brienna’s father/family history is the entire book too, but this is literally given away by the family tree at the beginning of the book! Why would they do this? You want us to sit in suspense and make it a big mystery throughout the story and yet reveal it in the family tree at the beginning of the book? Needless to say I DO NOT recommend reading those before you read the book.

The plot was extremely slow paced and at times very boring. Brienna’s time at Magnalia house is spent gossiping with the other girls and they talk about their passions and such. It was tedious, so very tedious. From there I usually love the whole “rebellion” side of plots but this was very underwhelming, it completely lacked any action or twists. What twists there were, were completely predictable and in no way surprised me. That was probably one of the things that disappointed me the most since it took away any suspense from the story for me.

I also felt a lot of things were a little too convenient in order to move the plot forward and the ending felt rushed.

I DID like the family dynamics and lineages though, they were fun to keep track of especially with all of the political intrigue.

Also I really loved the idea of the passions and what little world building there was, was really interesting. However, I felt that there could have been a lot more world building and what there was could have been expanded on. I liked the magic system too, in which magic passes woman to woman and not to men whatsoever. Very feminist, which I loved.

The writing did flow well and was very descriptive, I think it’s one of the few reasons I managed to push through the entire 464 pages.

characters

Overall the characters were kind of “meh”, they were all likable enough but I definitely felt like they could have used a little more complexity.

Brienna was an okay protagonist, I didn’t love her and I didn’t hate her. I did like that she was very brave and bound and determined to help aid the “rebels” and that she didn’t make a bunch of stupid decisions either.

There were quite a few side characters such as Brienna’s peers who were all fine, but I really liked the rebel characters the most such as Alderic, Luc, and Yseult. But as I already mentioned I thought everyone could have been developed a bit more.

romance

The romance was definitely my least favorite thing about “The Queen’s Rising” right up there next to the painfully slow pacing. There is a developing romance throughout the book between Brienna and her teacher, Master Cartier. It was extremely awkward, lacked chemistry, and not to mention completely inappropriate. Sorry but I do not enjoy teacher/student relationships and that’s just my opinion.

Plus the romance became too much of a focus at times and was completely unnecessary.

in conclusion

Overall, this book just fell really short for me and I’m left feeling kind of disappointed with it. I expected a lot more action, suspense, and build up.

What I Loved:

  • Liked keeping track of the families and politics
  • Feminism!
  • World building was okay
  • Writing was good

What I Didn’t Love:

  • Complete lack of tension and suspense
  • No action
  • Extremely slow paced
  • Family tree provided at beginning RUINS a plot twist
  • Plot twists were predictable
  • Characters could have been more complex
  • The romance was unnecessary

RECOMMEND

Sorry, but I can’t really say I recommend this book as it wasn’t anything new to the YA Fantasy genre at all and was slow an predictable.

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

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Book Review: An Enchantment of Ravens by Margaret Rogerson

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A skilled painter must stand up to the ancient power of the faerie courts—even as she falls in love with a faerie prince—in this gorgeous debut novel.

Isobel is a prodigy portrait artist with a dangerous set of clients: the sinister fair folk, immortal creatures who cannot bake bread, weave cloth, or put a pen to paper without crumbling to dust. They crave human Craft with a terrible thirst, and Isobel’s paintings are highly prized. But when she receives her first royal patron—Rook, the autumn prince—she makes a terrible mistake. She paints mortal sorrow in his eyes—a weakness that could cost him his life.

Furious and devastated, Rook spirits her away to the autumnlands to stand trial for her crime. Waylaid by the Wild Hunt’s ghostly hounds, the tainted influence of the Alder King, and hideous monsters risen from barrow mounds, Isobel and Rook depend on one another for survival. Their alliance blossoms into trust, then love—and that love violates the fair folks’ ruthless laws. Now both of their lives are forfeit, unless Isobel can use her skill as an artist to fight the fairy courts. Because secretly, her Craft represents a threat the fair folk have never faced in all the millennia of their unchanging lives: for the first time, her portraits have the power to make them feel.

review

Wow, color me surprised. I was not expecting to end up loving this as much as I did! I’m kind of regretting that I didn’t buy myself a copy of my own, the cover is insanely gorgeous and so is the story! I’m usually not one for more romance driven books but this was just really great.

This review is going to be a bit shorter than usual as this book was short and I don’t want to spoil anything!

PLOT

I loved the overall story so much, just everything about it! I thought, for as short of a book that it was, the world building was also great! I really liked how the Fair Ones in this story followed a lot of the same traditional rules of Fairies in folk lore such as not being able to touch iron, using glamours, and not being able to lie. It made the story all the more interesting! I also liked the idea of the Craft, such as cooking and painting, that the Fair Ones cannot do and therefore rely on humans to do for them. I thought the world building was enjoyable, creative, and well explored.

The pacing could get off track every now and then but I thought overall it was well done and quick. This is a journey book so it could get slower in spots, keep that in mind!

Overall I did enjoy the plot as well, Isobel being swept away by Rook, they got themselves into many different situations and I definitely was never bored. There were also quite a few twists and turns, were any completely jaw-dropping and shocking? Not really but I was entertained! However, towards the end I felt the story ended a little abruptly and a lot of things were too convenient but since the story is a standalone and is very short, it’s forgivable. Plus I’m just always a fan of the star-crossed lovers trope!

Plus the writing was absolutely wonderful, it was just gorgeous and really brought each image vividly to my mind. I am definitely excited to see what else Rogerson will write up in the future!

characters

I think, while the plot was well done, it’s a bit more character driven. I loved the characters too!

Isobel, is a very talented painter and she’s very quick-witted as well especially when it comes to dealing with the Fair Ones. She was also very mature, she had to grow up fast, she takes care of her family and is always looking out for them. Therefore when she meets Rook she has trouble choosing between what’s “right and logical” over doing what she desires. Isobel, really develops a lot through the story and I thought she was a great narrator and an enjoyable character overall, I was definitely rooting for her!

As for Rook, I liked him a lot as well. He was charming, arrogant, but he could also be very sweet too. I also loved the moments where he was completely bewildered by human acts such as cooking meat before you eat it, it was hilarious and cute. He grows a lot throughout the story as well and learns to let certain things go and not bother him, he’s precious.

There were also a few side characters that were interesting such as some of the Fair Ones like Gadfly who was…interesting, and Isobel’s twin sisters were adorable!

romance

I LIKED THE ROMANCE! Normally under the circumstances I probably would have hated it but I didn’t. It is a little insta-lovey but honestly I thought there was chemistry between Isobel and Rook and I’m a sucker for forbidden romance! I was rooting for them the whole time! As I said this is a little more romance-driven but I was completely all for it.

in conclusion

I really enjoyed this book, sure there were a few problems I had with it but overall it was fantastic!

What I Loved:

  • Forbidden romance!
  • Great, lovable characters
  • Interesting, well done world building

What I Didn’t Love:

  • Ending felt abrupt
  • Too many convenient things happened to further the plot
  • Pacing could be a little uneven at times

RECOMMEND

I recommend checking this book out especially if you’re a fan of books with Fae!

Links: Goodreads / Amazon / Book Depository

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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

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ARC Review: The Hundredth Queen (The Hundredth Queen #1) by Emily R. King

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As an orphan ward of the Sisterhood, eighteen-year-old Kalinda is destined for nothing more than a life of seclusion and prayer. Plagued by fevers, she’s an unlikely candidate for even a servant’s position, let alone a courtesan or wife. Her sole dream is to continue living in peace in the Sisterhood’s mountain temple.

But a visit from the tyrant Rajah Tarek disrupts Kalinda’s life. Within hours, she is ripped from the comfort of her home, set on a desert trek, and ordered to fight for her place among the rajah’s ninety-nine wives and numerous courtesans. Her only solace comes in the company of her guard, the stoic but kind Captain Deven Naik.

Faced with the danger of a tournament to the death—and her growing affection for Deven—Kalinda has only one hope for escape, and it lies in an arcane, forbidden power buried within her.

review

****Big thank you to Skyscape and Amazon Publishing for sending me a copy in exchange for an honest review****

Wow, let me just say I am pleasantly surprised with how much I ended up enjoying this book! It has every element I love in a YA fantasy and I honestly cannot wait for the rest of the series now!

PLOT

Of course it’s easy to think with the description of this book that it would be something similar to “The Wrath & The Dawn” or even “The Star-Touched Queen” and while there are some similarities it’s still very unique. I would still say that if you were a fan of either you will probably enjoy “The Hundredth Queen” as well!

I really enjoyed the world building a lot, I liked how every aspect of the lore we were introduced to was incorporated into the plot. I also never felt overwhelmed or confused when information on the world was provided, no info-dumps here! The mythology was probably my favorite part about this story since it ended up playing a major part and was just so fascinating to learn about.

I found the magic system to be pretty unique and actually reminded me a lot of Avatar: The Last Airbender since each element is represented, that’s probably why I loved it so much……

While the pacing wasn’t necessarily slow in the beginning it was a little bit harder for me to get into since there was a bit of insta-love that really put me off. However, once I got a little bit further in I was completely engrossed in this story! There were many twists and turns that I honestly did not see coming and I felt like there was definitely plenty of action and fast pacing to keep me turning pages.

The rank tournaments themselves were actually pretty brutal too, there definitely wasn’t any sugar-coating this aspect of the story which I liked since I feel YA authors always try to get out of or gloss over any sort of violence in their novels. Not that I’m some blood-thirsty, horrible person! It’s just I get tired of books promising fights to the death and then not delivering.

I also liked the way females were represented in the story as well as female relationships. There is a bit of girl-on-girl hate at the beginning of the story but I promise you it isn’t what it seems as it changes as the story progresses. I appreciated how the author would point out the wrongness of the way women were treated and how they sometimes treated each other in this world as well and how our heroine, Kalinda, also frowned upon any negative treatment of women and would intervene. The women in this story are honestly total badasses and I loved it! Although I will say I wish the few positive relationships between females would have been shown a lot more.

I was also really impressed with the writing and it was hard to believe this was a debut novel, everything flowed so well! Simple and easy to read overall, which sometimes is just perfect.

characters

The characters in this book were actually very enjoyable, all of them! Once again, I was pretty surprised by how well I thought a lot of them developed and the levels of complexity a few of them had. I have to admit I wasn’t expecting to fall in love with these characters but I love to be proved wrong in this case!

Kalinda was the perfect protagonist, in my opinion. She was brave and loyal but also had her moments where her courage would fail her, she wasn’t perfect. I also really liked how she wasn’t some “super skilled special snowflake” (that’s a bit of a tongue twister, huh?), she had skill but she definitely wasn’t as skilled as lot of the other characters. I think maybe the best word to describe how I felt about Kalinda’s character was “heart-warming” because everything she did, said, or felt just gave me tingles because she was just so realistic and down to earth!

The secondary characters were all well done too, I felt like I knew so many of them even though they were only around for a few sentences! I loved how many were also not just by-standers and we got to see so many of them grow and develop throughout the story.

As I mentioned earlier I really liked all of the female relationships in this book but especially the friendship between Kalinda and Jaya. Honestly, I wished there was more shown between those two because I feel YA could really use more positive female friendships like this one!

romance

The only real problem I had with the romance was that there was some heavy insta-love at the beginning but overall I did like it and felt that Kalinda and Deven made a great couple. Was it anything super special or impressive? No, not really but like I said I did enjoy it so that’s all that really matters.

Plus it doesn’t hurt that Deven is a pretty swoon-worthy love interest. He treated Kalinda right and I’m all for a good guy love interest!

in conclusion

What I Loved:

  • The world building and mythology
  • Kalinda was a great female protagonist
  • The writing flowed well and was easy to follow
  • The plot was fast-paced, action-packed, with plenty of twists
  • Kalinda and Jaya’s friendship

What I Didn’t Love:

  • There was some girl-on-girl hate (which is never okay although in this story it was overcome)
  • Insta-love relationship (even though I did come to like them together)
  • I wish Kalinda and Jaya’s friendship would have been shown a lot more and maybe some more of the female relationships as well

RECOMMEND

I definitely recommend checking this book out especially if you’re looking for something a little similar to “The Wrath & The Dawn”!

Links: Goodreads / Amazon / Book Depository

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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

My Recipe For The Perfect YA Fantasy Book

Top Ten Tuesday (12)

So this is pretty self explanatory but this post is going to be about all of the elements I personally think would make up the perfect YA Fantasy book! These are things that will guarantee a 5 star rating from me! I’m thinking this may be a sort of series of posts I’ll do and just switch up the genres so we’ll see how this one goes first. I’m not really sure if this counts more as a discussion post, bookish list, or just a random post!

I will also provide examples of books I feel embody these “ingredients”  perfectly and will also link reviews if I have them! This post is also very similar to another I did that

Also I’ll be using quite a few gifs so if you don’t like gifs….well….don’t continue on then because there are more than a few and they’re lame but also perfect!

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World Building

Yes most fantasy books have world building but the key thing for me is that it’s well developed and complex world building. I want to know every detail about the world the story is set in from the land to the cultures, tell me everything! It just isn’t fantasy unless the author can thoroughly transport me into the world they’ve created.

I also want it to be unique and creative, I don’t like reading about the same ‘ol things that are overused in every YA fantasy book. I want different groups of people with unique features or ways of life, magic, creatures, kingdoms, everything! I could care less about a female heroine staying cooped up in a castle all day and fretting over boys and ball gowns.

Example: “Nevernight” by Jay Kristoff


Unique Mythology

This one goes hand in hand with the world building but I do find that while a book may have good world building it may not necessarily have any mythology of its world. I like when stories are provided about why certain events occurred or stories about the gods and deities that might inhabit the world or even tales of ancient heroes and battles. I feel original mythology (or mythology based off of “real” mythology) really adds a whole lot more to the world building.

Example: “Stormdancer” by Jay Kristoff


Strong, Badass Characters

I don’t know about you guys but I don’t like my YA fantasy books full of helpless damsels, I like strong and badass characters who prove their badassness! This could also go towards well-developed and three dimensional characters in general as well, because a good fantasy book needs fleshed out characters.

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Example: “And I Darken” by Kirsten White (I know technically this is historical fiction but let’s let it slide…)


Crazy Plot Twists!

Everyone loves a good plot twist, it keeps things interesting and sets the pacing of the book. I personally love when there’s revenge, betrayal, and even court intrigue (mind games!) in my YA fantasy because I feel it gives the characters a lot more drive. I can’t tell you how disappointed I get when there isn’t at least a LITTLE bit of a revenge or betrayal story in a fantasy book!

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Example: “The Winner’s Curse” by Marie Rutkoski


Mythological Creatures and/or Animal Companions

What can I say? I’m an animal lover and therefore it just makes sense that I love the inclusion of fantastic beasts and animal companions in my YA Fantasy! I feel it makes the world a lot more immersive when there are creatures from myth included because it just feeds the imagination more, fantasy IS all about escape from reality after all. Also talking animal companions, who doesn’t wish animals could talk?

Example: “Stormdancer” by Jay Kristoff


Magic

(Duh)

Now first of all I’m definitely not saying a YA fantasy book HAS to have magic to be incredible because it most certainly does not, I personally just love having it included. However, it has to be well done! I like when the magic system is really creative and unique and is NOT all powerful, because magic does have consequences after all. The example I’m using is “The Impostor Queen” because it embodies all of those perfectly, the magic system is unique and powerful but not all powerful it comes at great cost.

Example: “The Impostor Queen” by Sarah Fine


NO Romance!

(Or it at least has to be well done)

I get really sick and tired of YA fantasy books that get muddled down in tropes such as love triangles and insta-love or plots that centralize around the romance instead of vice versa. So for me, ideally, a YA Fantasy would have zero romance or at least one that isn’t riddled with tropes and doesn’t take over the entire plot.

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Examples: “The Forbidden Wish” by Jessica Khoury & “Half a King” by Joe Abercrombie


Even/Fast Pacing

Who hates slow pacing in books?

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Me! This is kind of just how I feel with every book in general but it definitely feels like a lot of YA fantasy books get really bogged down with world building and details sometimes that the pacing is super slow. So I like some fast paced YA fantasy!

Example: “Six of Crows” by Leigh Bardugo


Attention Grabbing Beginning

This almost goes hand in hand with the pacing I mentioned above but how am I supposed to be interested in the world you’ve created if your story doesn’t grab my attention immediately? Let’s get thrown right into the nitty gritty (but also maybe have a little explanation too…no one likes being completely lost)!

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Example: “Kingdom of Ash and Briars” by Hannah West


Morally Gray Characters

You can’t really have wonderful plot twists unless you have some morally grey characters in the mix because they definitely spice things up! Who can you trust? No one! I love how thrilling it is being unable to guess a “gray character’s” intentions or actions it really adds the element of surprise and shock factor to your twists because they’re all the harder to see coming. I also like to be torn between characters like that because I’m weird and like pain apparently.

Example: “Half a King” by Joe Abercrombie

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Do you agree with any of my “ingredients”?

Are there any “ingredients” in making the perfect YA fantasy that you felt I missed?

What makes up the perfect YA fantasy book for you?

Let me know in the comments!

The Sassy