HARROW THE NINTH by Tamsyn Muir

She answered the Emperor’s call.

She arrived with her arts, her wits, and her only friend.

In victory, her world has turned to ash.

After rocking the cosmos with her deathly debut, Tamsyn Muir continues the story of the penumbral Ninth House in Harrow the Ninth, a mind-twisting puzzle box of mystery, murder, magic, and mayhem. Nothing is as it seems in the halls of the Emperor, and the fate of the galaxy rests on one woman’s shoulders.

Harrowhark Nonagesimus, last necromancer of the Ninth House, has been drafted by her Emperor to fight an unwinnable war. Side-by-side with a detested rival, Harrow must perfect her skills and become an angel of undeath — but her health is failing, her sword makes her nauseous, and even her mind is threatening to betray her. 

Sealed in the gothic gloom of the Emperor’s Mithraeum with three unfriendly teachers, hunted by the mad ghost of a murdered planet, Harrow must confront two unwelcome questions: is somebody trying to kill her? And if they succeeded, would the universe be better off?


Title : Harrow the Ninth
Author : Tamsyn Muir
Series : The Locked Tomb (book two)
Format : ARC
Page Count : 512
Genre : LGBTQIA+ fantasy/sci-fi
Publisher : Tor.com
Release Date : August 4, 2020

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★ .5


Hollis’ 4.5 star review

No one does it quite like Muir.

I could protect you, if you’d only ask me to.
I would rather have my tendons peeled from my body, one by one, and flossed to shreds over my broken bones. I would rather be flayed alive and wrapped in salt. I would rather have my own digestive acid dripped into my eyes.”
So what I’m hearing is.. maybe.

And by that I mean no one confuses me so utterly, for so long, in such devastating ways, only to give me exactly what I want, and then completely messes with my mind, all over again, by the final pages of the book.

What the fuck is going on?” <– what a mood

Like, what, even is that? Huh? Seriously? How dare.

You’re certain that [spoiler] tried to kill Harrow?
Yeah.”
But that doesn’t– why would she–?
Do not fucking ask me for information. I could not be more lost right now.”

In a scarily similar recreation of my reading experience with GIDEON THE NINTH, this book took me forever to get through because of slumps, work, life, the world, etc. Also because this book is over five hundred pages of who even fucking knows. Truly, I had no idea what was happening because while I understood the words I was reading, and there were familiar characters and faces, even some familiar-ish events.. nothing made sense. I was confounded, confused, and having a crazy good time anyway. This author has skills, I tell you. No one else could put me through this nonsense and have me asking for more.

Stay here.”
Get fucked. I absolutely did not become the eighth saint to serve the King Undying so [spoiler] could play hero for me.”
Why did you ascend to be Lyctor?
Ultimate power — and posters of my face.

All I can say is : don’t go in expecting to understand anything. Possibly ever. Because what little I thought I had eventually grasped by the end of book one, was just, poof, gone, by the start of this. And then what I thought I had pieced back together just before this concluded? Obliterated. Elle oh elle.

She wants the D. [..] The D stands for dead.

But speaking of that, I laughed, oh how I laughed. Some parts were so outrageous I couldn’t believe it. It was weird, it was whacky, it was wonderful. I want more. Because here we are again where I have been devastated with how this second book has concluded and I.. what.. but.. I..

I was not following all of this, because necromantic theory is a lot of hot bullshit even when I’m not busy having Complex Emotions.

Yeah, I need book three, like, yesterday.

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

THIS IS HOW YOU LOSE THE TIME WAR by Amal El-Mohtar & Max Gladstone – double review!

Among the ashes of a dying world, an agent of the Commandant finds a letter. It reads: Burn before reading.

And thus begins an unlikely correspondence between two rival agents hellbent on securing the best possible future for their warring factions. Now, what began as a taunt, a battlefield boast, grows into something more.

Except discovery of their bond would be death for each of them. There’s still a war going on, after all. And someone has to win that war. That’s how war works. Right? 


Title : This Is How You Lose The Time War
Author : Amal El-Mohtar & Max Gladstone
Format : eBook (overdrive)
Page Count : 209
Genre : sci-fi
Publisher : Gallery / Saga Press
Release Date : July 19, 2019

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


Hollis’ 4 star review

This is a book that was recommended to me by every friend who read it. The hype was real, the library wait was long, and the book itself was short. My feelings, however, are hard to pin down.

Like Chamber’s TO BE TAUGHT, IF FORTUNATE this is a short sci-fi novella, that I would describe as a thought provoking slowburn. This one is far more romantic than the aforementioned story, but the telling of it feels similar, even if the subject differs hugely.

This was at turns way over my head complex, hauntingly heartbreaking, and clever af. This a love story between time travelers who work for competing purposes, who flit in and out of points in the universe, in history and the future, and who communicate first through taunts and later through understanding, connection, desire.

I’ll admit I did see a few things coming, which felt like a feat considering how dumb this made me feel sometimes. But overall it was a fascinating and thrilling and strange and sweet experience. I just don’t know how one rates something like this. A four? Let’s say it’s a four. I think if you stripped away some of the strange, hard to imagine, unbelievably complicated elements, held up the bare bones of a story that is still strange and complicated, but without the white noise that may have distracted you.. yeah. This feels right. But the story itself needs those elements, it does; though I can see others, maybe, not liking it because of them. Which might be where I got stuck, too.

If you like sci-fi, if you don’t mind when a plot leans heavy on a romantic connection, I would recommend.


Micky’s 1 star review

This was metaphor hell. A love story (eventually) between robot-horse-wolf-seeds in shades of red and blue through letters. It is about time travel, a vaguely recognisable earth and espionage with lots of killing.

I hated it.

I imagine you reaching over my shoulder to correct my hand on a victim’s throatNice.

The world falls into place like rain. Blue licks her bloodied snout, her paws, her gouged shoulder.Not sure what creature Blue was at this point.

You ask if we eat.
It’s a hard question to answer. There is no mono-we; there are many usses. The usses change and interleave.
 Welcome to my perpetual confusion.

Towards the end we got some comprehensible connection and sense of love but I was too far gone down the wtf road.

I’m not dissing anyone else’s experience, I have a bunch of friends who loved it but my PhD didn’t help me through the confusion of this one.

DARKDAWN by Jay Kristoff – double review!

A ruthless young assassin’s journey for revenge comes to a stunning end in the conclusion of this acclaimed epic fantasy trilogy.

The Republic of Itreya is in chaos. Mia Corvere has assassinated Cardinal Duomo and rumors of Consul Scaeva’s death ripple through the street of Godsgrave like wildfire. But buried beneath those same streets, deep in the ancient city’s bones, lies a secret that will change the Republic forever.

Mia and her brother Jonnen must journey through the depths of the ancient metropolis. Their quest will take them through the Godsgrave underdark, across the Sea of Swords, back to the library of the Quiet Mountain and the poisoned blades of Mia’s old mentors, and at last the fabled Crown of the Moon. There, Mia will at last discover the origins of the darkin, and learn the destiny that lies in store for her and her world. But with the three suns now in descent, and Truedark on the horizon, will she survive?


Title : Darkdawn
Author : Jay Kristoff
Series : The Nevernight Chronicle (book three)
Format : eARC/audiobook
Page Count : 512/22 hours
Genre : YA fantasy/Not YA
Publisher : St Martin’s Press/Hodderscape
Release Date : September 3, 2019

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


Hollis’ 4 star review

Writing a review for book three, or any concluding novel, in a series feels like an impossible task. Not quite up there with writing said concluding novel, or the ones that came before, but.. y’know. Close. Ish.

‘Byss and blood, how did you find us?
I poked my nose into the first whorehouse I saw. After that, I just followed the trail of vomit.”

I lived and breathed this series for close to three weeks or so. I was late to the game but determined to figure out what it was all about as it came to an end. What was this character, who was to murder as a maestro was to music, all about; how dark was it really; and gosh darnit, what was all the fuss about the footnotes?

Do you remember that time we were acolytes and you talked me out of doing something I desperately wanted by appealing to my sensible side?
No.”
Me neither.”

Now I know. Now I understand. Now I can’t wait for you to read this book.

How do you all know each other?
We studied together.”
O aye? Public institution, or Iron Collegium, or..”
.. it was a school for fledging assassins run by a murder cult..
Ah. Private tutors, then.

For those of you who made it as far as GODSGRAVE, and survived that ending, I think you’ll be very very happy with what Kristoff has done, and how he’s done it, in the end. The build, the evolution, the smut, the heartbreak, the hilarity, the vastness of this world.. it’s just something else. I had finished NEVERNIGHT somewhat ambivalent, a little wanting, but I haven’t wanted for much since. The following two instalments have been so much good, with much gore, and even more graceful weavings of such a complex story.

..’deserve’ has nothing to do with this life. Blessings and curses fall on the wicked and the just alike. Fair is a fairytale. Nothing’s claimed by those who don’t want it, and nothing’s kept by those who won’t fight for it. So let’s fight. Fuck the gods. Fuck it all. Let’s take the world by the throat and make it give us what we want.”

And yet I am satisfied. Maybe a little sad. Maybe a little stunned. But satisfied.

If I don’t come back.. remember me, neh? Not just the good parts. The ugly parts and the selfish parts and the real parts. Remember all of it. Remember me.

This is a series I can see myself returning to, maybe even loving enough to award full marks to if I ever do revisit, and that says a lot, I think. More than anything else I could say. Because this is hard to describe. It features young adults, but it’s an adult story. It’s sweet, but brutal. It’s devastating, but heartwarming. It’s heartbreaking, but hilarious. It’s bloody, but adorable. It’s smutty and delightful and complex and yet, ultimately, very simple. It’s also such a visual tale. The city, the mythology, the monstrosities, the sky. Kristoff’s writing is long and descriptive af but damn does it do the job.

Death is the promise we all must keep, sooner or later.

I loved this journey. And I’m excited to read on in this author’s other solo works. But more than that, I can’t wait to experience the reactions of those readers who have waited, and waited, for this ending. I hope it was worth it! Because, though I do think book two miiiight be my favourite, I definitely thought this a worthy conclusion.

Would recommend!

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


Micky’s 4 star review

DARKDAWN felt like a really long book, longer than the others even when I know it’s not, but I feel like so much more happened. The different phases of the story were so different and vast. There was a slightly annoying amount on time spent on the love triangle in this book and considering I’ve never liked Ashlinn, I think we can all guess who I was rooting for in this. The outcome of that was slightly dissatisfying but bearable. After all, it wasn’t the most important part of the book to me.

The dead boy has a fan in me and I thought he deserved so much better but in some ways he was a little one-dimensional in his devotion and zombie-like status. I think this was intentional in terms of who he’d become but I missed the old T. On the one hand I judge Mia for her decisions and on the the other, who am I judge?

The Scava and Jonan storylines were like candy to me, I ate those parts up and adored the journey of the relationship between Mia and Jonan. The stories of Eclipse and Mr Kindly were tough and warm, hard and endearing. Mercurio was Mercurio but with shiny bits. The ocean journeys were long, and the story that became the culmination was less my cup of tea. The final demise of Mia (we don’t have to pretend we don’t know this, it’s the first page of the first book) was a bit of an anti-climax to me. I almost tuned out a bit after this as it kept going, thus my 4 star rating despite much enjoyment earlier.

Holter Graham’s narration continued to bring this story to life in the best way and I’m so glad I took an audio route on this series. I have to disagree with Hollis on the genre, it isn’t YA fantasy in my opinion or Mr Kristoff’s I believe, grim dark fits best. I think this series overall is pretty fantastic and memorable and I’m just going to spend a bit of time getting the phrase ‘Byss and Blood’ out of my head!

GIRLS OF PAPER AND FIRE by Natasha Ngan

Each year, eight beautiful girls are chosen as Paper Girls to serve the king. It’s the highest honor they could hope for…and the most demeaning. This year, there’s a ninth. And instead of paper, she’s made of fire.

In this richly developed fantasy, Lei is a member of the Paper caste, the lowest and most persecuted class of people in Ikhara. She lives in a remote village with her father, where the decade-old trauma of watching her mother snatched by royal guards for an unknown fate still haunts her. Now, the guards are back and this time it’s Lei they’re after — the girl with the golden eyes whose rumored beauty has piqued the king’s interest.

Over weeks of training in the opulent but oppressive palace, Lei and eight other girls learns the skills and charm that befit a king’s consort. There, she does the unthinkable — she falls in love. Her forbidden romance becomes enmeshed with an explosive plot that threatens her world’s entire way of life. Lei, still the wide-eyed country girl at heart, must decide how far she’s willing to go for justice and revenge.


Title : Girls of Paper and Fire
Author : Natasha Ngan
Series : Girls of Paper and Fire (book one)
Format : eBook (OverDrive)
Page Count : 400
Genre : YA LGBTQIA+ fantasy
Publisher : jimmy patterson
Release Date : November 6, 2018

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ 


Hollis’ 2 star review

Though the current GR rating indicates I’m not the only one to not love this, I do think there are many who do, so please take this review (as one always should) with a sprinkle of salt.

Not that I’m salty about not loving this. To be honest, I don’t feel much of anything; not disappointment or frustration. Just pretty much nothing. 

I’ll admit that my understanding of this book was totally off base. I didn’t realize it was a fantasy, or at least not the particulars of the fantasy — with human, Paper Castes, and Demons, and the imbalance of power between them (lolz, I thought Demon King was an affectation, not, like, literal) — and all I really knew to expect was diversity and some darker subject matter. Both of which exist. But so does a lot of.. I don’t know, filler?

I’ll stop beating around the bush. I was bored. I didn’t particularly like any single character. I was traumatized by an early death within the first chapter or two and don’t think I ever recovered (how could you!). I did think the evolution of the romance was well done and like the whole long-awaited revenge plot/conspiracy but I just wish I could’ve cared about the characters themselves as opposed to just the general concept of their existence.

I’m.. not excited to read on but I do have an ARC of book two, which I will still be reading, and I hope that the change of pace, and setting, is more my speed than this one was. 

WILDER GIRLS by Rory Power

It’s been eighteen months since the Raxter School for Girls was put under quarantine. Since the Tox hit and pulled Hetty’s life out from under her.

It started slow. First the teachers died one by one. Then it began to infect the students, turning their bodies strange and foreign. Now, cut off from the rest of the world and left to fend for themselves on their island home, the girls don’t dare wander outside the school’s fence, where the Tox has made the woods wild and dangerous. They wait for the cure they were promised as the Tox seeps into everything.

But when Byatt goes missing, Hetty will do anything to find her, even if it means breaking quarantine and braving the horrors that lie beyond the fence. And when she does, Hetty learns that there’s more to their story, to their life at Raxter, than she could have ever thought true.


Title : Wilder Girls
Author : Rory Power
Format : ARC
Page Count : 368
Genre : YA LGBTQ+ dystopian horror
Publisher : Delacorte Press
Release Date : July 9, 2019

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ .5


Hollis’ 3.5 star review

WILDER GIRLS has left me with oh so many questions. I want so much more from this world. So there better be a second book on the horizon.. and, because I’m not sure there is, that’s why I’m hesitant to round this up to a full four. Because if this is just the end? Part of me is going to be maaaaad.

But on to the story.

There is such a stark, almost hopeless, beauty to this world. A casual kind of horror. A strange, uncertain, weirdness that you just can’t look away from. Oh, and, if any kind of unnatural physical deformations trigger or weird you out, you may not want to read this one.

WILDER GIRLS is a story about this school full of girls quarantined for their own safety — or maybe the safety of the rest of the world, more accurately. It’s been two years since the outbreak and no one has answers. They are barely surviving on the delivery of food they receive and the girls continue to die from Tox flare ups which seem to happen seasonally. But they continue on, they endure. Until Hetty’s best friend disappears.

I knew going into this that the story would have a sapphic romance and I both love and hated it; I loved it because it was complicated and a little messy and I hated it because there wasn’t enough of it because it was complicated and kind of messy. But it was beautiful, too. I wish we had had a bit more character development in Hetty; she was our main POV and I felt I understood her the least, in some ways. But I think, too, we maybe aren’t supposed to know too much about these characters. Not for who they are, but maybe for what they represent?

This is a weird world that feels only half formed, which makes sense because we know so little, but the bits we do discover by the end were really interesting. I just need more because.. where do we go from here? What happens to Hetty and Reese and Byatt? What happens to the world around them? 

And then I wonder.. should we just take this story as something more allegorical and focus less on the specifics, and wanting more, and instead just appreciate what this author wants us to take from the story? I suppose that’s up for interpretation, like all things. But I choose to do both. Look at the bigger picture and still want more.

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

HER ROYAL HIGHNESS by Rachel Hawkins

Millie Quint is devastated when she discovers that her sort-of-best friend/sort-of-girlfriend has been kissing someone else. And because Millie cannot stand the thought of confronting her ex every day, she decides to apply for scholarships to boarding schools . . . the farther from Houston the better.

Millie can’t believe her luck when she’s accepted into one of the world’s most exclusive schools, located in the rolling highlands of Scotland. Everything about Scotland is different: the country is misty and green; the school is gorgeous, and the students think Americans are cute.

The only problem: Mille’s roommate Flora is a total princess.

She’s also an actual princess. Of Scotland.

At first, the girls can barely stand each other–Flora is both high-class and high-key–but before Millie knows it, she has another sort-of-best-friend/sort-of-girlfriend. Even though Princess Flora could be a new chapter in her love life, Millie knows the chances of happily ever afters are slim . . . after all, real life isn’t a fairy tale . . . or is it?


Title : Her Royal Highness
Author : Rachel Hawkins
Series : Royals (book two)
Format : ARC
Page Count : 288
Genre : YA contemporary romance, LGBTQ+
Publisher : G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers
Release Date : May 7, 2019

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★


Hollis’ 4 star review

Listen, HER ROYAL HIGHNESS is not just a lovely sapphic royal contemporary but it’s also.. fun. I thought this of the first in the Royals series, too. Are they perfect books? No. Infact, I thought the mini breakup in this one to be.. not awesome, both a little sloppy and too out of nowhere, but that doesn’t negate all the warm fuzzies and overall entertainment, and did I mention fun, that it provided. And I needed some (a lot) of fun, so, #winning.

Millie, you know this is just a school, right? This isn’t your Hogwarts letter.
And you’re not an owl but this is absolutely the closest thing I’m ever going to get to a Hogwarts letter, so hand it over.

Also like the first in the Royals series I’m rounding up (it’s probably a 3.5/3.75 star) because of all said fun. This is a fairly short, and rather uncomplicated, sorta-hate-to-love, between two young women thrown together as roommates at a boarding school in Scotland, with a royalty element, and maybe some staying-warm-for-survival, and listen, I could go on; Hawkins doesn’t skimp on the tropes and clichés and I wanted, and loved, them all.

Wait, you’re straight?
Yeah. Wait, you didn’t think I was? Saks, we’ve known each other since we were five. How could you not know that?
It’s hard to tell with you lot, to be honest.
My lot?
You know. Pale weedy aristocrats.

We have some fabulous diversity, besides the gay princess element, and I loved the supporting cast of besties, as well as a mini reunion with some of the characters from book one in this series. Really, my only complaint was already mentioned : the break-up was dumb. But whatever it was resolved in like twenty pages, so, voila!

They’re just people. End of the day, same as anyone else.
Do you actually believe that?
Oh god, no. Bloody terrifying, the whole lot of them, me included.

If you want something a little silly, a lot fun, and different from your typical royal YA romance, pick this one up. It’s charming, it’s sweet, and you’ll probably laugh out loud. I know I did.

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