BIG BAD WOLF by Suleikha Snyder

In 2016, New York became a Sanctuary City for supernaturals…but things quickly spun out of control. Now, Third Shift is an elite team of operatives tasked with exposing the gritty underbelly of New York’s criminal-supernatural underworld, taking down the worst of the worst and protecting human- and shifter-kind alike.

Joe Peluso has blood on his hands. But lawyer and psychologist Neha Ahluwalia is determined to help him craft a solid defense…even if she can’t defend her own obsession. Because Joe took out those Russian mobsters for good reason–they were responsible for the death of his beloved foster brother. Those six bad guys were part of the ruthless clan of bear shifters who control Brooklyn’s Russian mafia, so his vigilante justice has earned him countless enemies in New York’s supernatural-controlled underworld, and no friends in a government that now bends to Russia at every turn.

Joe knows that creatures like him only deserve the worst. Darkness. Solitude. Punishment. But meeting Neha makes him feel human for the first time in forever. He’s never wanted anything in his life like he wants Neha, and he’ll break almost any rule to spend a minute alone with her. But when the Russian mob attacks the jail for payback, Joe and Neha are forced to escape. Before long they’re on the run–from monsters who want him dead and from their own traitorous hearts.


Title : Big Bad Wolf
Author : Suleikha Snyder
Series : Third Shift (book one)
Format : eBook (overdrive)
Page Count : 368
Genre : urban fantasy/PNR
Publisher : Sourcebooks Casablanca
Release Date : January 26, 2021

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ 


Hollis’ 1 star review

Here’s a series I can unequivocably say that I will not be continuing. See? Even I have limits.

Where to even start, gosh, well. If you thought post-2016 was A Lot, buckle in, folks! In Snyder’s world it gets worse. All those awful real-life things plus a big supernatural outing and rarely does the author miss an opportunity to remind you just how shitty things are. Sure, its fiction, but it doesn’t feel like fiction when you’re rehashing 80% of the crap you’ve just lived through in a gritty dystopian paranormal fantasy. No thanks.

If that wasn’t bad enough, one of the (many) POVs you get is from Mister Melodrama Man Pain himself. Like, I don’t want to shit too hard on this guy, not all his boo hoo’ing was without reason but.. well. Most was. Yeah. The constant spirals of “I’m the worst, you deserve better, I’m a killer” were exhausting. Watching the other half of the pairing put up with it, be reduced to hormones, and waiting until it all got rehashed post-bang? I was so over this very early on in the game. Particularly as I found little to no chemistry between them (or anyone) despite the whole relationship hinging on this big dose of epic lust.

Actually even before we discovered the man pain, I was twigging to this not likely being my thing — as early as the first chapter — but what had interested me about this in the first place was my previous experience reading one of the author’s novellas.. which I thoroughly enjoyed. This? No. Zero enjoyment. Only boredom or frustration or pure misery.

This is clearly being set up as a huge series because we had lots of POVs with lots of little offshooting set-ups for coupledom, or drama, or adventures, and while some of those minor dynamics sort’ve interested me at first, I just eventually lost the will to care. The writing isn’t terrible but it does not draw you in; I found it very hard to keep track of events in some of the scenes, particularly action sequences, and had to backtrack to determine what had happened, and yet we were forced to rehash so much dialogue (literally, pulled from previous chapters, as one character or another relived it) and all together it just felt so offbalance.

I somehow dragged my lifeless carcass through this book to the bitter end but hey that doesn’t mean it won’t work for you. Particularly if you want a gritty pseudo-real world PNR that somehow manages to lean into all the cheese and tropes that call this genre home. As mentioned, though, this is as far as I go.

BENEATH THE KEEP by Erika Johansen

The Tearling has reverted to feudalism, a far cry from the utopia it was founded to be. As the gap between rich and poor widens and famine threatens the land, sparking unrest, rumors of a prophecy begin to spread: a great hope, a True Queen who will rise up and save the kingdom.

But rumors will not help Lazarus, a man raised to kill in the brutal clandestine underworld of the Creche, nor Aislinn, a farm girl who must reckon with her own role in the growing rebellion. In the Keep, the crown princess, Elyssa, finds herself torn between duty to the throne and the lure of the Blue Horizon, a group of fierce idealists who promise radical change . . . but Elyssa must choose quickly, before a nefarious witch and her shadowy master use dark magic to decide for her. It is only a matter of time before all three will be called into the service of something bigger than they have ever imagined: a fight for a better world. 


Title : Beneath the Keep
Author : Erika Johansen
Series : The Queen of the Tearling (book zero/prequel)
Format : eBook (overdrive)
Page Count : 448
Genre : fantasy/dystopian
Publisher : Dutton
Release Date : February 2, 2021

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★


Hollis’ 4 star review

Anyone who has read The Queen of the Tearling series probably knew what to expect for this unexpected prequel release. After all, we had mostly learned of all the pre-Kelsea events along the way of the main trilogy. And yet somehow the author still managed to drop a few surprises along the way. And still make this incredibly compelling.

As usual, even though this isn’t a sequel, not a prequel, I can’t say much plot-wise. But if you are new to, or unfamiliar with, this world, you should know it has layers, depths, of darkness. It’s cruel and unjust but glimmers of hope streak through the mire. This was the turning point for these characters, for the world, but there is still much to happen, to endure, before the end.

And some of that might even be an unknown. I don’t know what more is to come, or what time it will fill (likely upto book one? we have quite a few years yet to live through..), but I am keen for it. Completing this series was one of my 2020 successes and I am still riding high on that experience; adding to that delight was, upon finishing, realizing more books were coming (serendipitity!), so I’ll take anything the author is willing to dole out.

THE COVEN by Lizzie Fry

“Let me repeat myself, so we can be very clear. Women are not the enemy. We must protect them from themselves, just as much as we must protect ourselves.”

Imagine a world in which witchcraft is real. In which mothers hand down power to their daughters, power that is used harmlessly and peacefully.

Then imagine that the US President is a populist demagogue who decides that all witches must be imprisoned for their own safety, as well as the safety of those around them – creating a world in which to be female is one step away from being criminal…

As witches across the world are rounded up, one young woman discovers a power she did not know she had. It’s a dangerous force and it puts her top of the list in a global witch hunt.

But she – and the women around her – won’t give in easily. Not while all of women’s power is under threat.

The Coven is a dazzling global thriller that pays homage to the power and potential of women everywhere.


Title : The Coven
Author : Lizzie Fry
Format : Paperback
Page Count : 448
Genre : Fantasy
Publisher : Sphere, Little Brown UK
Release Date : February 25, 2021

Reviewer : Micky
Rating  : ★ ★ ★ ★


Micky’s 3.5 – 4 star review

I’m here for dystopia and I’m here for fantasy, so bring me a pairing of the two and that’s pretty exciting. The Coven was a contemporary envisioning of a dystopian, patriachial future centred around the idea of erradication of witchcraft. In ways, this wasn’t a new topic, indeed the book leaned on the historical past we know of, to underpin the contemporary.

The book had an eclectic mix of characters and some shocking beginnings to grab you in to the story. There were character stories in parallel until they became one and I have to say, that aspect was very well written. I was doubly invested from the start. Chloe was such a hard character to like but her father was incredibly endearing. Adelita and Ethan were likeable from the start.

The story navigated oppression, misogyny, captivity, rebellion and some rather scary powers. After a strong first half, I did find elements of the storyline in the second half chaotic and I had to really concentrate to keep up with power plays and plots.

I have to mention that a racial slur was included in the book without being necessary. It didn’t add to the plot, it wasn’t corrected by another character and the narrative just breezed on by. I do think that this kind of inclusion potentially gives licence to that word’s use and I’m sad it was there. I can only hope it didn’t make it to the final edit.

Overall, The Coven was a clever and engaging concept all wrapped up in a dystopian feminist fantasy standalone.

Thank you to Sphere, Little Brown UK for the review copy.

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.