THE FATE OF THE TEARLING by Erika Johansen

In less than a year, Kelsea Glynn has grown from an awkward teenager into a powerful monarch and a visionary leader.

And as she has come into her own as the Queen of the Tearling, she has transformed her realm. But in her quest to end corruption and restore justice, she has made many enemies – chief among them the evil and feared Red Queen, who ordered the armies of Mortmesne to march against the Tear and crush them.

To protect her people from such a devastating invasion, Kelsea did the unthinkable – naming the Mace, the trusted head of her personal guards, Regent in her place, she surrendered herself and her magical sapphires to her enemy. But the Mace will not rest until he and his men rescue their sovereign from her prison in Mortmesne.

So, the endgame has begun and the fate of Queen Kelsea – and the Tearling itself – will be revealed…


Title : The Fate of the Tearling
Author : Erika Johansen
Series : The Queen of the Tearling (book three)
Format : physical
Page Count : 500
Genre : fantasy/dystopian
Publisher : Harper
Release Date : November 26, 2016

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★


Hollis’ 4 star review

I’m going to preface this by saying that I knew this ending was polarizing because I had so many people reach out with comments ala “can’t wait to find out how you feel about the ending!” that I knew to expect something.. maybe not bad but obviously divisive. Maybe that warning prepared me? Maybe it gave my brain time to expect the worst? The problem, of course, is that I could predict maybe only like 6% of this whole series. So naturally I had a vague kernel of an idea of what might happen but zero ability to predict what it would look like when the dust settled.

And nope, I’m not even going to hint at it! Read it for yourself and find out.

That said, I do think this book might be the weakest of the three. This series definitely took a turn in book two, in the telling of the story, and in the mechanics of this world, making it far more than just a typical fantasy. And in book three we take yet another turn — in hindsight I think my favourite was book two. It did much to fill in those last remaining gaps, gaps we desperately needed filled to understand what brought us to the point we were at, but I found the way that was done was a little less.. magical. It felt a bit more same-y but less sparkly, if that makes sense? But in a way that also fit because suddenly these people, these figures, that had been so revered? They, too, were a little less sparkly. What Johansen did, over and over again, was give her characters depth, and flaws, and, occasionally, but particularly in the case of Kelsea, have them examine their own internal workings and hypocrisies, what they were willing to sacrifice in order to do the right thing. So really I shouldn’t be surprised that she chipped away at those who were placed on the pedestals of this society, too.

In fact I do believe Johansen deserves a lot of credit for just.. not doing the expected. Like, ever. She took strange twisty dark path and then committed to choices that I think most authors wouldn’t have dared; particularly for their first series. I can see why this third book either perplexed of pissed people off. Me? I just loved the ride. It’s bittersweet, yes, and maybe it’s an easier pill for me to swallow knowing there are still two books to come? Probably not direct sequels to this ending but still.. more. Either way, the romantic in me (and I don’t necessarily mean this in a face value way..) might not have loved the ending, not really, but I respect it. I respect the choice and the commitment to seeing things through this way.

This was — and will likely continue to be — a strange series but nonetheless was fascinating, brutal, compelling, and, enthralling. I had a great time. Would I recommend this to anyone? Probably not. I refuse to be responsible for anyone’s experience with this world. Make of that what you will!

THE INVASION OF THE TEARLING by Erika Johansen

Kelsea Glynn is the Queen of the Tearling. Despite her youth, she has quickly asserted herself as a fair, just and powerful ruler.

However, power is a double-edged sword, and small actions can have grave consequences. In trying to do what is right – stopping a vile trade in humankind – Kelsea has crossed the Red Queen, a ruthless monarch whose rule is bound with dark magic and the spilling of blood. The Red Queen’s armies are poised to invade the Tearling, and it seems nothing can stop them.

Yet there was a time before the Crossing, and there Kelsea finds a strange and possibly dangerous ally, someone who might hold the key to the fate of the Tearling, and indeed to Kelsea’s own soul. But time is running out…


Title : The Invasion of the Tearling
Author : Erika Johansen
Series : The Queen of the Tearling (book two)
Format : physical
Page Count : 547
Genre : fantasy/dystopian
Publisher : Harper
Release Date : June 5, 2015

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★


Hollis’ 4 star review

I have a feeling I’m going to finish this series and come back and want to five star all the books that came before. Like, I haven’t actually even added a point five to these fours and yet.. somehow I have that feeling. Even though I have a few friends who are side-eyeing this journey of mine and waiting for me to actually get to said final (but not final, there seems to be a book four with a 2021 release date on GR?) book because of how polarizing it is. And I mean I can maybe see why that could be; because where we were in book one vs book two? Talk about different.

I honestly don’t want to say much of anything because I feel like if you’re like me and you’ve somehow managed to avoid this series all of these years, or you like to avoid blurbs in general, you won’t want any hint of this book spoiled. And I’m a big believer in no spoilers anyway but suffice it to say we get a lot more pre-Tearling history in this book and much of how this world started, and why, is explained. Beyond just the “they set out with the goal of a Utopia, leaving everything behind” — which has sorta gone wrong over the years — concept we already knew about.

[..] it’s not wise, particularly in wartime, to silence the voice of dissent.

But I will reiterate what I mentioned in book one’s review : this is definitely adult content that happens to feature a nineteen year old protagonist. Do not be fooled by the “it looks like YA” covers or summary. This one, in particular, took some of book one’s darker themes and went on an extended jaunt through some sketchy AF woods. I wouldn’t go so far as to say it’s grimdark and I do not want to scare you away from reading it but if you’re looking for the more standard “heroine defeats baddies and saves kingdom” that glosses over most of the violence or horror of that kind of undertaking, as we typically have in YA (this isn’t criticism!), this might not be your cup of tea. There is much more grey here, much more nuance, and a lot more time confronting the dark depths and depravities that exist in the world.

With that mostly vague disclaimer out of the way, I’m still totally enthralled with this world, with these characters, with the evolving magic element, the past that laid the foundation for this world existed in the first place, and I still have so many questions.. about so many things. For all the answers we might have been given, there are still so many yet to be revealed, and in general I just feel like this continues to go in directions I’m not quite able to predict. Or maybe my mind just isn’t capable of wandering forwards or trying to speculate as I’m too captivated by the moment. Either or.

Part of me wants to hold off picking up the final book as I’m not sure I’m quite ready to leave this series yet. But the binge bish part of me? Is anxious for me to stop rambling in this review and get to it. So, I guess that’s my cue.

THE QUEEN OF THE TEARLING by Erika Johansen

Young Kelsea Raleigh was raised in hiding after the death of her mother, Queen Elyssa, far from the intrigues of the royal Keep and in the care of two devoted servants who pledged their lives to protect her. Growing up in a cottage deep in the woods, Kelsea knows little of her kingdom’s haunted past . . . or that its fate will soon rest in her hands.

Long ago, Kelsea’s forefathers sailed away from a decaying world to establish a new land free of modern technology. Three hundred years later, this feudal society has divided into three fearful nations who pay duties to a fourth: the powerful Mortmesne, ruled by the cunning Red Queen. Now, on Kelsea’s nineteenth birthday, the tattered remnants of the Queen’s Guard—loyal soldiers who protect the throne—have appeared to escort the princess on a perilous journey to the capital to ascend to her rightful place as the new Queen of the Tearling.

Though born of royal blood and in possession of the Tear sapphire, a jewel of immense power and magic, Kelsea has never felt more uncertain of her ability to rule. But the shocking evil she discovers in the heart of her realm will precipitate an act of immense daring, throwing the entire kingdom into turmoil—and unleashing the Red Queen’s vengeance. A cabal of enemies with an array of deadly weapons, from crimson-caped assassins to the darkest blood magic, plots to destroy her. But Kelsea is growing in strength and stealth, her steely resolve earning her loyal allies, including the Queen’s Guard, led by the enigmatic Lazarus, and the intriguing outlaw known simply as “the Fetch.”

Kelsea’s quest to save her kingdom and meet her destiny has only just begun. Riddled with mysteries, betrayals, and treacherous battles, Kelsea’s journey is a trial by fire that will either forge a legend . . . or destroy her.


Title : The Queen of the Tearling
Author : Erika Johansen
Series : The Queen of the Tearling (book one)
Format : physical
Page Count : 426
Genre : fantasy/dystopian
Publisher : Harper
Release Date : July 8, 2014

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★


Hollis’ 4 star review

The Queen of the Tearling series is one of a few series I own in physical form that I have not finished. Shame. Most of these fall into the “read all but book three” category but this series is worse than that. Shame shame. I had preordered both books two and three.. and never read either. Shame shame shame! You would think that as of starting the WFH life, which for me began months ago, it would’ve been the ideal time to start churning through said physicals, or embarking on rereads from my shelf — and yes, I agree, I had good intentions to do so. I thought about it every day. But, ahem, we’re only starting that now.

But onto the book itself! I read THE QUEEN OF THE TEARLING five years ago and, despite all the books I’ve read since, I still somehow remembered a few scenes from this book quite vividly. As it turned out, I remembered the first 40% almost perfectly. It was everything after that point which felt sorta new to me. Which was actually kinda nice. Reading this ended up being less of a rehash than I thought it would. What was also nice was that while I remembered liking this back in 2015, I obviously couldn’t know if it would stand up after all this time, or if I’ve feel any different. But it did and I didn’t.

What I didn’t remember is that a) this isn’t the young kind of YA you might expect after reading the summary, and in fact I wouldn’t actually classify it as YA at all, and instead just slot this in under adult fantasy/dystopian with a heroine who happens to be nineteen, and b) I forgot this world was founded in the ashes of our own. Somehow. The Tearling was an attempt to leave a dying world of behind, as well as the technology that had likely helped speed it’s demise, and so some things (references, books, history) are familiar but the world of the now is less refined, more primitive, despite the knowledge of so much more. It makes for a strange experience but one I liked. But it is, still, fantasy.

There are a whole host of characters that get significant page time, if not actual POVs, other than Kelsea, and yes that includes an ensemble cast of guards. My favourite, we love an ensemble. Additionally we also have an enigmatic potential love interest (maybe? hard to say). The Queen herself is also a very interesting character. Despite having been hidden away, sheltered and sequestered, left ignorant by certain events both in history and from her own family’s past, she’s educated and righteous and definitely a character to root for. The author has also made her plus-sized (I think? there are mentions of her weight but I don’t know if she’s just meant to be chubby or more) as well as plain. And despite her intelligence, despite her strength, I appreciated the brief glimpses of insecurity, of vanity, that she fights against when confronted by her perceived shortcomings. In that sense (and others I won’t mention), I do see shades of Carson’s Girl of Fire and Thorns series but as I love those books? It’s not a bad thing. Also, like that series, there are a number of societal and social issues that Kelsea’s eyes are opened to after inheriting her crown, systems that have been put in place, compromises made, that ignite her rage. And I love that the author is spending time with this, instead of just directing the focus to a neighbouring ruler who has done evil. She must confront the horror and injustice in her own backyard, as well.

I’m so happy I picked this book up again, so happy I decided to start my Read Your Own Damn Owned Books, Hollis journey with this series, and I cannot wait to read on. And by that I mean immediately pick up book two because I am all about that binge lyfe.

THE OBELISK GATE by N. K. Jemisin

THIS IS THE WAY THE WORLD ENDS… FOR THE LAST TIME. 

The season of endings grows darker as civilization fades into the long cold night. Alabaster Tenring — madman, world-crusher, savior — has returned with a mission: to train his successor, Essun, and thus seal the fate of the Stillness forever.

It continues with a lost daughter, found by the enemy.

It continues with the obelisks, and an ancient mystery converging on answers at last.

The Stillness is the wall which stands against the flow of tradition, the spark of hope long buried under the thickening ashfall. And it will not be broken.


Title : The Obelisk Gate
Author : 
Series : The Broken Earth (book two)
Format : eBook (overdrive)
Page Count : 321
Genre :  fantasy / science fiction / dystopia
Publisher : Orbit
Release Date : August 16, 2016

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★


Hollis’ 4 star review

I have no idea how to even attempt to review this book, this world, or where this series has gone upto this point, both in the storytelling or the characters. I feel like everything is so complex, so alien, all because of something so impossibly huge but also very simple, and that makes for a hard thing to explain.

There is such a thing as too much loss. Too much has been taken from you both — taken and taken and taken, until there’s nothing but hope, and you’ve given that up because it hurts too much.

I will say that this second installment was a whole lot less heartbreaking to read. The events in book one, the devastations, the tragedies, were a lot. This one is less of that but those events, and the impacts they’ve made, still do linger.

[..] just because you can’t see or understand a thing doesn’t mean it can’t hurt you.

The telling of this story, though? Much like in book one, where it did become obvious how things were woven together, this did something similar but.. not. And I did finally clue in to that, too, but I still loved it.

This author? Masterful.

I had to wait for my hold of book two to pop up, which is why it took a month for me to continue this series (trust me, I would’ve binged had I the option) but the good news is I also have book three available, so. I guess I’m still getting a semi-binge. And I cannot wait. Stopping to write this review is as much as I’m willing to delay at this point.

THE FIFTH SEASON by N. K. Jemisin

This is the way the world ends. Again.

Three terrible things happen in a single day. Essun, a woman living an ordinary life in a small town, comes home to find that her husband has brutally murdered their son and kidnapped their daughter. Meanwhile, mighty Sanze — the world-spanning empire whose innovations have been civilization’s bedrock for a thousand years — collapses as most of its citizens are murdered to serve a madman’s vengeance. And worst of all, across the heart of the vast continent known as the Stillness, a great red rift has been torn into the heart of the earth, spewing ash enough to darken the sky for years. Or centuries.

Now Essun must pursue the wreckage of her family through a deadly, dying land. Without sunlight, clean water, or arable land, and with limited stockpiles of supplies, there will be war all across the Stillness: a battle royale of nations not for power or territory, but simply for the basic resources necessary to get through the long dark night. Essun does not care if the world falls apart around her. She’ll break it herself, if she must, to save her daughter.


Title : The Fifth Season
Author : N. K. Jemisin
Series : The Broken Earth (book one)
Format : eBook (overdrive)
Page Count : 378
Genre : fantasy / science fiction / dystopia
Publisher : Orbit
Release Date : August 4, 2015

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★ .5


Hollis’ 4.5 star review

So, wow. I’m not sure I actually have anything to really say? Particularly that hasn’t already been said a hundred times.

Reading this book, this series, is incredibly overdue and to be honest I didn’t know what to expect beyond the apocalypse. And yeah that happens. A lot. And is happening again. I was totally drawn in the moment I started this, to the point I read almost 50% in one sitting, and then felt a moment of astonishment when I finally put something together. And considering the weirdness of this world, the complexity, which we learn about as we go but is so smart, I mean.. it made me feel pretty smart for having figured something out.

[..] she [pays] no attention to the world that is ending outside. Her world has already ended within her, and neither ending is for the first time.

This story is cleverness and heartbreak and not only weaves in very relevant (always relevant) discussions about systemic oppression and internalized racism but gives us powerful POVs from Black women, features queer characters all along the spectrum, and.. honestly, you need to read it. Sooner rather than later. Now, even.

DEAL WITH THE DEVIL by Kit Rocha

Orphan Black meets the post-apocalyptic Avengers in the vein of Ilona Andrews’ Hidden Legacy series by USA Today and New York Times bestselling author duo Kit Rocha

The United States went belly up 45 years ago when our power grid was wiped out. Too few live in well-protected isolation while the rest of us scrape by on the margins. The only thing that matters is survival. By any means. At any cost.

Nina is an information broker with a mission: to bring hope to the darkest corners of Atlanta. She and her team of mercenary librarians use their knowledge to help those in need. But altruism doesn’t pay the bills—raiding vaults and collecting sensitive data is where the real money is.

Knox is a bitter, battle-weary supersoldier who leads the Silver Devils, an elite strike squad that chose to go AWOL rather than slaughter innocents. Before the Devils leave town for good, they need a biochem hacker to stabilize the experimental implants that grant their superhuman abilities.

The problem? Their hacker’s been kidnapped. And the ransom for her return is Nina. Knox has the perfect bait for a perfect trap: a lost Library of Congress server. The data could set Nina and her team up for years…

If they live that long.


Title : Deal with the Devil
Author : Kit Rocha
Series : Mercenary Librarians (book one)
Format : eARC
Page Count : 336
Genre : sci-fi/dystopian romance
Publisher : Tor Books
Release Date : July 28, 2020

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ .5


Hollis’ 3.5 star review

I have so many mixed feelings about this one! I mean, like, what a surprise, though, right? No one is shocked.

But seriously. This read was so strange for me. I was totally sucked in to this world and Rocha’s words, was consumed by it for the majority of a sunday afternoon, but nothing about the book had a wow factor, no character was particularly compelling or amazing, the plot itself didn’t feel too different from any other post-apocalyptic-esque-dystopian (obviously some elements differ but the familiarity is there) and I was still, somehow, almost tempted to give this four stars. Why? Because the writing was solid, it did consume me, and the ensemble cast and banter was just great (I’m such a sucker for this). 

But as I sat down to write this, as I considered the lack of wow, the as-of-right-now (but maybe not in future books considering the final chapter) rather misleading series name, and that overall lack of stand-out from the characters (don’t get me wrong, some were better than others, all were pretty good, but none really moved to me think “favourites shelf!!”)? I knew I couldn’t give this more than what I’m giving it.

This world is a mash-up of survivors after solar flares have basically reduced human contact to those within your local area. And in Atlanta, where this is set, that leaves society to be mostly enforced by a military outfit who uses enhancements on their soldiers, and also an organization who dabbles in genetics, and both are basically no good. The story features a group of ex-military operatives who are trying to survive the ticking time bomb that is their degrading implants and a trio of women who have been enhanced in various ways. Romance, secrets, betrayals, and surprises — naturally — ensue.

This story is full of action, full of sci-fi elements, gritty and dark but not bleak or hopeless. The romance wasn’t my favourite part but I didn’t hate it. I just liked the “we don’t trust each other, we know betrayal is likely” edge better. At least in the beginning. The reluctant friendships, the thawing of the tension, and all the banter, as the story went on, I liked even more. There was a lot of like.

Additionally, I liked that this wasn’t a story with just one, or two, POVs, and we’d get little tastes of each character, either to give us some backstory or some perspective. OR to whet our appetites for future books. Either way, I liked it.

I will definitely read on! 

Also, of note, after finishing my review and glancing through early feedback, apparently this is supposed to be set in the same world as the duo’s other series, though standing apart from it and also with less of an erotic categorization, so, that’s worth noting. I think I’ve read maybe two of the Beyond books so can’t really say that’s where I felt this was familiar. In all honesty it made me think of Kennedy’s Outlaws series but, again, without the erotica. Though, don’t get me wrong, there are some steamy scenes! That said, maybe in the wait for book two, I should go back and read more of this duo’s other works just so I can feel caught up on this universe. It probably won’t happen, though. I’m crap at follow through.

Ultimately, this is one that gets a cautious recommend from me. If you are into the genre, if you like lots of action, and a pretty stable attraction/romance thread between two opposing forces, you’ll definitely be into this. It is fairly long, though, clocking in at over four hundred pages, so if you’re more into wham bam thank you done, and don’t want this much plot with your sexy action times, maybe try the Kennedy series. Or, obviously, Rocha’s other books.

** I received an ARC from Edelweiss+ and the publisher (thank you!) in exchange for an honest review. **

Q by Christina Dalcher

Elena Fairchild is a teacher at one of the state’s new elite schools. Her daughters are exactly like her: beautiful, ambitious, and perfect. A good thing, since the recent mandate that’s swept the country is all about perfection.
 
Now everyone must undergo routine tests for their quotient, Q, and any children who don’t measure up are placed into new government schools. Instead, teachers can focus on the gifted.
 
Elena tells herself it’s not about eugenics, not really, but when one of her daughters scores lower than expected and is taken away, she intentionally fails her own test to go with her.
 
But what Elena discovers is far more terrifying than she ever imagined…


Title : Q
Author : Christina Dalcher
Format : Paperback
Page Count : 384
Genre : Dystopian
Publisher : HQ
Release Date : April 30, 2020

Reviewer : Micky
Rating : ★ ★


Micky’s 2 star review

It is truly crushing when a book you have anticipated ends up being a disappointment. I really enjoyed Vox, the previous release from this author and I liked her brand of contemporary dystopia; close to current society.

Q started off well, with a family situation, two successful parents and two high-achieving children. However, the mask fell off and a hideous under layer was revealed. This was a story about IQ above every other facet of a person and it drilled down to emotive and polarising topics of elitism, abortion and someone’s personal worth.

The protagonist, Elena, mother of two and wife was an interesting character and I liked her. She taught in an elite school, her children were intelligent and passing their monthly tests until one didn’t. The husband was 100% a b*****d. The first half of the book was strong and I liked where it was going but then it went downhill for me, I’m afraid. I felt like I was pushing through with the narrative. The plot was intangible at times, even considering that it was dystopian. I hated the final direction and found the culmination so unsatisfying.

I’m hugely disappointed but I am grateful to have had an early review copy. Considering how much I liked Vox, I will definitely read Christina Dalcher again.

Thank you to Headline for the review copy.

CHOSEN ONES by Veronica Roth – double review!

A decade ago near Chicago, five teenagers defeated the otherworldly enemy known as the Dark One, whose reign of terror brought widespread destruction and death. The seemingly un-extraordinary teens—Sloane, Matt, Ines, Albie, and Esther—had been brought together by a clandestine government agency because one of them was fated to be the “Chosen One,” prophesized to save the world. With the goal achieved, humankind celebrated the victors and began to mourn their lost loved ones.

Ten years later, though the champions remain celebrities, the world has moved forward and a whole, younger generation doesn’t seem to recall the days of endless fear. But Sloane remembers. It’s impossible for her to forget when the paparazzi haunt her every step just as the Dark One still haunts her dreams. Unlike everyone else, she hasn’t moved on; she’s adrift—no direction, no goals, no purpose. On the eve of the Ten Year Celebration of Peace, a new trauma hits the Chosen: the death of one of their own. And when they gather for the funeral at the enshrined site of their triumph, they discover to their horror that the Dark One’s reign never really ended. 


Title : Chosen Ones
Author : Veronica Roth
Series : Chosen Ones (book one)
Format : eARC
Page Count : 432
Genre : sci-fi/dystopian
Publisher : John Joseph Adams/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Release Date : April 7, 2020

Reviewer : Hollis / Micky
Rating : ★ ★ ★  / ★ ★ ★ ★


Hollis’ 3 star review

I’m going to start by saying I like the Chosen One trope. I do. And I also really like the post-Chosen-One-now-what-the-fuck-happens trope. I find the former is done a lot better than the latter (though we haven’t had that many) but this might’ve been the best post-Chosen story I’ve read so far. I think.

There is a lot of really interesting, and quality, content in Roth’s tale. The plot definitely keeps you guessing, too, as while the tone doesn’t really change, the context and angle does. And also, like, the setting? Things went to a strange place around the halfway mark (maybe earlier, can’t remember) and at first I really wasn’t a fan.. and then it clicked. What didn’t quite work for me was the motivation or, I guess, reason for a certain character and/or plot, but the concept of it, the bare bones structure, was pretty great.

I definitely think this is going to be book that either works or doesn’t work for readers. The characters aren’t easy to love (or like) and the plot shifts gears — sideways, upside down, backwards — but there are definitely shining moments in both the telling of the story as well as the processing of the grief and trauma and uncertainty of surviving something so beyond comprehension. It feels very true for a lot of us; we survive life to a certain point and then hit that wall of, “now what?”. The only difference is the average body doesn’t hit that wall after defeating a dark magical being. But there are glimpses of hope, of being known, of being understood, despite it all.

I will say that, for an adult story, I don’t feel the characters read their supposed age (thirty). Early twenties I would’ve believed, definitely. But, honestly, had you redacted the on-page stating of how old they were supposed to be and handed me this book? I would’ve guessed YA.

So, there you have it. Roth’s first adult novel is interesting, creative, and not hard to put down, but not easy, either. But despite it all, not as close to great as I hoped it might be. I have no idea what to expect from book two, particularly as I felt this wrapped really well, but I will pick it up for sure.

** I received an ARC from Edelweiss and the publisher (thank you!) in exchange for an honest review. **


Micky’s 3.5-4 star review

This was a tale of complexity, the creation of a world(s) that really captured my imagination but no way could I have predicted this wild story direction and culmintion. Veronica Roth once again has proven she has a great imagination and ability to commit this to the page.

I do like a chosen one trope but this really was a reimagining of that idea with a washed up, traumatised and arrogant crew. Sloane was the protagonist that was just treading water after her great input in saving the world ten years ago. I really liked how the world unfurled its laws and history through her flashbacks but also her reading of past documents. The magic of that earth was pretty creepy at times, with the fight to save the world having been somewhat gory and violent. I didn’t like many of the other crew apart from Albie and maybe Innes but she was in the background. I liked the second part much better.

When the world and story twisted life got much more exciting and I got more invested in the story. I loved the elements and mysteriousness of the needle, Sloane’s connection to deep dives and Mox. This story really was a case of not knowing who were the good guys and who were the bad guys; my ideas got flipped on their heads.

There is a concentration investment needed for this story, the world building comes in layers and pieces but nevertheless it is intricate and you need your brain switched on. The culmination did not let me down and I am a little unsure where another story will spring from for this series but I am here to read more. On a side note, I can see this making a pretty good film.

Thank you to Hodder Books for the early review copy.

THE ELECTRIC HEIR by Victoria Lee

Six months after Noam Álvaro helped overthrow the despotic government of Carolinia, the Atlantians have gained citizenship, and Lehrer is chancellor. But despite Lehrer’s image as a progressive humanitarian leader, Noam has finally remembered the truth that Lehrer forced him to forget—that Lehrer is responsible for the deadly magic infection that ravaged Carolinia.

Now that Noam remembers the full extent of Lehrer’s crimes, he’s determined to use his influence with Lehrer to bring him down for good. If Lehrer realizes Noam has evaded his control—and that Noam is plotting against him—Noam’s dead. So he must keep playing the role of Lehrer’s protégé until he can steal enough vaccine to stop the virus.

Meanwhile Dara Shirazi returns to Carolinia, his magic stripped by the same vaccine that saved his life. But Dara’s attempts to ally himself with Noam prove that their methods for defeating Lehrer are violently misaligned. Dara fears Noam has only gotten himself more deeply entangled in Lehrer’s web. Sooner or later, playing double agent might cost Noam his life.


Title : The Electric Heir
Author : Victoria Lee
Series : Feverwake (book two)
Format : eARC
Page Count : 469
Genre : YA dystopian / sci-fi / LGBTQIA+
Publisher : Skyscape
Release Date : March 17, 2020

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★


Hollis’ 2 star review

After coming out of THE FEVER KING with much less love than I thought I would, I was pretty pleased by how strong I felt this follow up was. At least, initially.

My main problem was where this story went in regards to a certain relationship and the direction it took. There are so many complicated emotions, so many traumas, so much grief, wrapped up in the why or maybe the how of it. And Lee does (I think, at least) a good job of trying to explain the messiness of it all, the conflicting perceptions and means to which one might convince themselves of something, through her characters. But I still didn’t like it, and every time it came up I wanted to put the book down and walk away. One particular exchange, between the two POVs and leads, made me oh so very angry. And hurt. So, I mean, kudos for that. But that didn’t make me like the story anymore.

And the story itself, well, there’s not much I can say regarding the plot for a sequel/finale, but mostly I’m just confused. I have no idea how we got to the ending we did, and how it’s going to stick, considering.. everything. Additionally I guess I just don’t understand why the story, the series, happened in the first place? Why these kids, why couldn’t Lehrer just.. I don’t know. I feel like I understood what I read, what happened, but I’m missing the point, I guess.

For all that I clearly have no idea how to feel, despite knowing I didn’t love this, I have to say that Lee’s writing is strong. She doesn’t shy away from darker topics (there’s a warning at the front, and content/triggers listed at the back) and I feel she handles a lot of it with dignity and care. These characters, all of them, have been through so much, are still dealing with so much, and while sometimes it felt like too much, it’s all rather tied up in one catalyst. It’s heartbreaking and awful and while I didn’t hate Noam, one of our POVs, I absolutely adored Dara. Full stop.

Anyway, I don’t know. I feel like this is a series I should’ve loved and, when pitched to me, I knew I wanted to read it. Something about this just didn’t connect. And I’m sad about it. But I’m also an outlier, so, please read the glowy reviews and, if this sounds like your thing, definitely give it a try.

** I received an ARC from NetGalley and the publisher (thank you!) in exchange for an honest review. **

THE FEVER KING by Victoria Lee

In the former United States, sixteen-year-old Noam Álvaro wakes up in a hospital bed, the sole survivor of the viral magic that killed his family and made him a technopath. His ability to control technology attracts the attention of the minister of defense and thrusts him into the magical elite of the nation of Carolinia.

The son of undocumented immigrants, Noam has spent his life fighting for the rights of refugees fleeing magical outbreaks—refugees Carolinia routinely deports with vicious efficiency. Sensing a way to make change, Noam accepts the minister’s offer to teach him the science behind his magic, secretly planning to use it against the government. But then he meets the minister’s son—cruel, dangerous, and achingly beautiful—and the way forward becomes less clear.

Caught between his purpose and his heart, Noam must decide who he can trust and how far he’s willing to go in pursuit of the greater good.


Title : The Fever King
Author : Victoria Lee
Series : Feverwake (book one)
Format : paperback
Page Count : 376
Genre : YA dystopian / sci-fi / LGBTQIA+
Publisher : Skyscape
Release Date : March 1, 2019

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ .5


Hollis’ 2.5 star review

This is a book that my mind is shying away from being too critical about because it’s doing a lot of great things. And yet..

Beyond the representation offered in Lee’s characters (one lead is bisexual and Jewish/Latinx, the other is black, I believe), this is a sci-fi/dystopian story that heavily deals with how society treats refugees. For all that this is set, like, a hundred years (or something?) in the future, this is a very timely narrative and I felt the author did a good job of making this less of just a conveniently relevant backdrop and, instead, you really feel the struggle, the disparity between the social classes, which is made more dramatic by the haves, and the locals, being magical while the have-nots, those who have fled their home, are not.

But I found the worldbuilding somehow overly complex, or confusing, and I’m not entirely sure why. It centers around this big event that tore apart the US and left the remaining habitual areas into their own countries, the wars and tragedies that ensue, and along the way we’re given glimpses into that history, and particularly the figureheads of that time; one of which happens to still be around, now that he’s not only all powerful but also immortal. Somehow Carolinia is the only place in the world where it’s okay to be witching, someone who survives the fever brought on by a magical surge (or something.. notice a trend?) and Britain and Canada had tried bombing them, because to hell with magical people, but now.. they don’t? But, instead of Carolinia being a refuge for people, they close their borders? And, specifically relevant to the current plot, there’s the Carolianians vs the Atlantians conflict, because in Atlantia apparently it’s really terrible and toxic and you die, but somehow they make it to Carolinia anyway, but Carolinians want nothing to do with them, and.. I don’t know, like, I get what was happening but I also feel like I have no idea what was happening. Even in writing that summary (ish) I confused and doubted myself. I have no idea what’s just happened, I think I blacked out.

This paragraph is where I had a bunch more words written that I’ve since deleted. I mention this to honour their memory. You tried. You tried to make this review work. But it just didn’t.

Suffice it to say, this book is doing a lot. There are a lot of moving parts, a lot of characters we don’t know if we are supposed to like, and a hate-to-love romance I wanted to get behind.. but only sometimes did. This book should’ve been a new favourite because of all that, plus a lot of darker and adult themes which made this YA the least YA-feeling YA book I’ve read in a long time (take a shot for every time I said “YA”) but I found it easy to put down, either because I was bored or my brain was just processing white noise. This should’ve been action packed and thrilling (and I guess it sort’ve was in a muted kind of way) and I should’ve been speculating and making theories (some of which I did, shoutout to my buddy Amanda who loves this book and got some of my reactions), and while I was clearly invested and following along enough to guess some things correctly, to see things coming, I’m still not sure what to do with any of it. Particularly after that ending. I think half the problem is there’s so much still not being revealed, or left unknown, and that is why I have one foot out the door on this one.

I can only hope book two has me diving into the feels, and the love, with both feet.

** I received a finished copy from the publisher (thank you!) in exchange for an honest review. **