WINTERKEEP by Kristin Cashore – Hollis’ review!

Four years after Bitterblue left off, a new land has been discovered to the east: Torla; and the closest nation to Monsea is Winterkeep. Winterkeep is a land of miracles, a democratic republic run by people who like each other, where people speak to telepathic sea creatures, adopt telepathic foxes as pets, and fly across the sky in ships attached to balloons.

But when Bitterblue’s envoys to Winterkeep drown under suspicious circumstances, she and Giddon and her half sister, Hava, set off to discover the truth–putting both Bitterblue’s life and Giddon’s heart to the test when Bitterbue is kidnapped. Giddon believes she has drowned, leaving him and Hava to solve the mystery of what’s wrong in Winterkeep.

Lovisa Cavenda is the teenage daughter of a powerful Scholar and Industrialist (the opposing governing parties) with a fire inside her that is always hungry, always just nearly about to make something happen. She is the key to everything, but only if she can figure out what’s going on before anyone else, and only if she’s willing to transcend the person she’s been all her life.


Title : Winterkeep
Author : Kristin Cashore
Series : Graceling Realm (book four)
Format : eARC/paperback
Page Count : 528
Genre : YA fantasy
Publisher : Dial Books
Release Date : January 19, 2021

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ .5 


Hollis’ 2.5 star review

Woe, for I am bummed.

Lets start with the good : where this book really shines is the worldbuilding. While the world had expanned a time or two in the first three books of the Graceling Realm series, it goes even further in Winterkeep. That plus the in-book passage of time, and new problems, is what keeps this series feeling fresh and, particularly in the case of coming back to a series so many years after publishing what seemed to be the final book, makes it feel less like the cash grab we so often see. But that said..

Maybe had I not just reread the first three books I wouldn’t have noticed as much (though that isn’t to say I would’ve liked it any more than I did..) but none of the recurring characters felt true to form. Giddon, in particular, felt strange as if he didn’t quite fit into the shape he’d once been formed of, and Bitterblue.. I don’t know. She was a harder character to like throughout the series but she was a character you could respect, to sympathize with, and yet she also felt a little untethered in this book, too. As for the new introductions? Didn’t like a single one.

The plot itself felt disjointed but I’m used to Cashore stringing us along on a wild ride that only starts to make sense near the end, but this one? I don’t know. Basically everything from the characters to their motivations, and how it drove the plot and their machinations, nothing really felt all that solid. I both appreciated and yet hated the inclusion of yet another twisty and toxic emotional dynamic, because it’s definitely important to shed light on and have young readers educated on how it’s not acceptable, but combined with the fact that I wasn’t enjoying the story, or the character who took the brunt of it all? Yeah, it was tough.

I think there was potential here, for sure, and I definitely maybe had too high a set of expectations after revisiting and rediscovering my love for books one to three all over again, but.. this just didn’t work for me. Not as a fan of the series or as just a reader of fantasy. I couldn’t love it, could barely like it, and it seemed to take me way too long to get through. I’m sad.

I definitely wouldn’t recommend this to anyone who hasn’t read already the Graceling Realm books but I would also caution fans to lower their expectations. I have no idea if this is kicking out even more books to come in this world but, despite how I feel about this one, I would still read more.

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


WINTERKEEP by Kristin Cashore – Micky’s review

Four years after Bitterblue left off, a new land has been discovered to the east: Torla; and the closest nation to Monsea is Winterkeep. Winterkeep is a land of miracles, a democratic republic run by people who like each other, where people speak to telepathic sea creatures, adopt telepathic foxes as pets, and fly across the sky in ships attached to balloons.

But when Bitterblue’s envoys to Winterkeep drown under suspicious circumstances, she and Giddon and her half sister, Hava, set off to discover the truth–putting both Bitterblue’s life and Giddon’s heart to the test when Bitterbue is kidnapped. Giddon believes she has drowned, leaving him and Hava to solve the mystery of what’s wrong in Winterkeep.

Lovisa Cavenda is the teenage daughter of a powerful Scholar and Industrialist (the opposing governing parties) with a fire inside her that is always hungry, always just nearly about to make something happen. She is the key to everything, but only if she can figure out what’s going on before anyone else, and only if she’s willing to transcend the person she’s been all her life.


Title : Winterkeep
Author : Kristin Cashore
Series : Graceling Realm (book four)
Format : Paperback
Page Count : 528
Genre : YA fantasy
Publisher : Gollancz
Release Date : January 19, 2021

Reviewer : Micky
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★. 5


Micky’s 4.5 star review

If you’re not familiar with this series, the Graceling realm has different lands, humans and creatures. Each book has completion but they all closely link to one another. They do need to be read in order to be enjoyed in the best way.

I was not done with Bitterblue at the end of the same named book and so when Winterkeep picked up her tale again alongside Giddon and Hava, I was pretty pleased. Winterkeep itself was a land of capitalism, supposed ethics but in reality, it was a place of few scruples. I might not have liked the land but I did like the worldbuilding. The characters were colourful and I had favourites like Lovisa and Ad Fox.

Talking of foxes and this cover, foxes are pretty pivotal to this story. I had a bit of love-hate-love relationship with these creature characters but they did grow on me. I liked the idea of the silbercrows and even the keeper became likeable after a difficult start. I love the way that the author introduces new lands, creatures and experiences in each book; it’s a wonderland.

As to some of our old Graceling realm friends, they say absence makes the heart grow fonder. I don’t want to say why, but that premise is so poignant in this book. The feels I got from the characters that were apart were huge and I had stickies all over my paperback.

As they drank, Hava asked Arni so many questions that Giddon was able to retreat into a kind of stupor. Raise cup to face, tip liquid in. Think nothing, feel nothing.

The main and side characters were epic as always. Giddon and Hava had Banter for days. Giddon held my heart in this book. The villainous characters were very three dimensional, sly and sometimes appearing otherwise. I loved to hate these guys.

Winterkeep was a page turner with a storyline to keep you guessing. It had flow and pace that really worked for me. I loved the early tragedy (sicko) and how that played out into the rest of the story.

I’m so excited for fans to read this long awaited installment and I hope they love it like I did.

Thank you to @gollancz for the early review copy.

CRY WOLF by Charlie Adhara

Agent Cooper Dayton never thought anything could be harder than solving murders. Until he had to plan a wedding.

After taking down an old adversary, Agent Cooper Dayton of the Bureau of Special Investigations has earned a break. Not that planning a wedding to his sexy shifter partner, Oliver Park, is necessarily stress free, but it’s better than worrying about the ominous warning, delivered months ago, that Cooper’s life is in danger.

When he’s dragged to an event by his family, Cooper braces for an awkward evening, but instead finds himself in the middle of an ugly feud between Park’s ex and a rebel pack leader. What was supposed to be a quick outing turns into a full-blown murder investigation after the pack leader ends up dead, Park’s ex goes missing, and Cooper and Park are sent a series of disturbing wedding gifts that are somehow connected to it all.

The list of potential suspects is long, and with the bodies piling up, Cooper must turn to the one person he trusts the least: the villain he’s already put behind bars once and who has nothing to lose by lying and everything to gain if Cooper is out of the picture—for good. 


Title : Cry Wolf
Author : Charlie Adhara
Series : Big Bad Wolf (book five)
Format : eARC
Page Count :
Genre : LGBTQIAP+ urban fantasy/romance
Publisher : CarinaPress
Release Date : January 18, 2021

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★


Hollis’ 4 star review

So, wait, is this not the finale of the series? Because that did not feel like one. And if it is.. how rUDE. I have so many questions. So, yeah, no, it’s not over. Nope.

Is everyone you’ve ever dated an asshole?
Maybe I have a type.

Coming back to the Big Bad Wolf world was such a delight. I was entertained pretty much from page one and this particular mystery was a strange doozy. I had no idea where anything was going until we were all finally looped in. But that was fine because all along the way we had plenty of Cooper and Park banter, hijinks, and steeeeam. Hoo boy, hi. I’ve definitely been away from romance for a while and now read two steamers back to back. Delicious.

You know, it’s never too late to call off this engagement. You’re a catch, you’ll find someone.
I was cursed by an old witch to find him charming.”
That’s some dark magic.”

What I constantly enjoy, and seem to mention in all my reviews, is how every book evolves this world. Not in that “oh look suddenly this is happening” feeling where something comes out of left field for a purely convenient reason but in this organic unspooling of a culture, a world, a people. And it actually gets called out in this installment in the best of ways, as if to acknowledge it for the readers, but in a perfectly fitting way for the characters, too. It keeps you wanting to read more, not just for more of the characters, but in order to discover more and what might be awaiting both readers and characters alike.

Yes, we’ve met.
A technically true statement, if characteristically lacking in flair. Antony and Cleopatra met. Romeo and Juliet met. It’s what happened after that’s become the stuff of legends.
This day is certainly shaping up to be a tragedy, so maybe you’re on to someting.”

There’s really not much to say about a book this far into a series, even if it isn’t the finale, so suffice it to say if you’re needing paranormal romance/urban fantasy in your life and particularly a queer series? You absolutely need to give this one a go. It’s funny, it’s fresh, and the characters are complex and yet self-aware, or self-improving, and these two leads are made of wonky edges that fit together so beautifully.

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

BITTERBLUE by Kristin Cashore – double review!

Eight years have passed since the young Princess Bitterblue, and her country, were saved from the vicious King Leck. Now Bitterblue is the queen of Monsea, and her land is at peace.

But the influence of her father, a violent psychopath with mind-altering abilities, lives on. Her advisers, who have run the country on her behalf since Leck’s death, believe in a forward-thinking plan: to pardon all of those who committed terrible acts during Leck’s reign; and to forget every dark event that ever happened. Monsea’s past has become shrouded in mystery, and it’s only when Bitterblue begins sneaking out of her castle – curious, disguised and alone – to walk the streets of her own city, that she begins to realise the truth. Her kingdom has been under the thirty-five-year long spell of a madman, and now their only chance to move forward is to revisit the past.

Whatever that past holds.

Two thieves, who have sworn only to steal what has already been stolen, change her life forever. They hold a key to the truth of Leck’s reign. And one of them, who possesses an unidentified Grace, may also hold a key to her heart . . .


Title : Bitterblue
Author : Kristin Cashore
Narrator : Emma Powell
Series : Graceling Realm (book three)
Format : eBook (overdrive)/audiobook
Page Count : 572/17 hours, 58 minutes
Genre : YA fantasy
Publisher : Dial Books
Release Date : May 1, 2012

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


Hollis’ 4 star review

Oof, now I understand why I had weird rememberings of not quite enjoying this on the same level as the other Graceling Realm books. Because this one is a lot. Not just in page length, either (ba dum boom hiss..).

I feel like Cashore has done a really great job up until this point introducing unsavoury characters who have done terrible deeds and that lead-in is what makes Bitterblue especially tough in the aftermath. And the way Cashore handled this, the slow, twisting, winding path in getting us to the end..? Well, I can definitey see that maybe I wasn’t in the right mindset to take that journey the first time I read it. Maybe I was distracted, maybe I put it down too many times to keep all the threads clear in my mind, who knows. But wow I could not pull myself away this time. Sure, there are some parts that are better than others, maybe sometimes it gets a bit bogged down or meandering, but it’s not without purpose. These things play an important role, and the confusion and frustration is real, in trying to pick apart lies and secrets. As well as the lost moments, lost people, lost items.

“.. that’s how memory works. Things disappear without your permission, then come back again without your permission.”

In a post-Leck world, after surviving the reign of a man who could crawl into your mind and convince you to do things — and generally his inclination was for awful things — how do you live with yourself? How do you deal with the trauma you’ve survived or the trauma you’ve forced upon others? When your mind has been so twisted and torn apart that you can’t even remember some parts of your life.. while other events, other deeds, that you would wish to forget have been tattooed into your memory.

[the] challenge, she thought, is to balance knowing with healing.

This was a hard read, it was. There is still some excitement, some romance, a little bit of levity and loveliness from reuniting with characters from previous books, and a whole ton of mystery, but Cashore has set up this devastating situation and she works her characters through it. She works her reader through it. And yeah, fine, no one is surprised by this anymore, but there were like three or four instances near the end that just had me in and out of tears. Feels, emotions, I had so many.

The characters in this world, particularly this book, are.. something else. Not perfect, no, and complicated, stubborn and bratty and self-sacrificing, so many things. But they are so much themselves, in their choices, their mistakes, their tragedies, in their missteps even with one another, that you (I) cannot help but love them.

I am so so incredibly glad I reread these going into book four (out January nineteenth!) and it is incredibly relieving, in my current “get rid of and downsize books you don’t love!” mode that these are not going anywhere. They are staying pretty on my shelves.



Micky’s 3 star review

I ended up listening to Bitterblue on audio as the library wasn’t being helpful with a copy at the ready. Although I enjoyed the read, I think audio may have affected my experience a little and I’ll explain why later (it has nothing to do with the narration).

I loved Bitterblue’s character and the depth of her experiences in Graceling, so I was looking forward to her book. When we met Bitterblue in this book, years had passed (about eight) and she was frustratedly ruling her kingdom. Bitterblue still had that wild streak and much of this story stemmed from her rebellious high jinks, just attempting to get a bit of real life experience outside of queening.

You can imagine that Monsea was a mess post-Leck and story rotated around that history, atrocities and its legacy. Bitterblue found herself embroiled with a character called Saf, a thief with integrity. This connection was meant to partly be the crux of the story but I didn’t feel their bond and I actually wanted Bitterblue with Giddon. Giddon seemed much changed since Graceling and I liked him so much more.

Major bonus points for all the Po time there was in this instalment and the bit of Katsa we got. Also the reappearance of an character (now elderly) from Fire. I love the interweaving of these seperate lands, time frames and characters Cashore has brought to the series overall. The last 20% of this read was the best part for me and pulled me back into love with the series after feeling a bit uninspired for the majority of the listen.

The narration was excellent, so it wasn’t this element that made me enjoy this book less. I think my issues were more about the many different characters and keeping track on audio can be more difficult (and you can’t flick back through the book to remind yourself). Also the Saf/Bitterblue connection reduced my feels on this.

But…I am primed and ready for Winterkeep and I’m really looking forward to it.

TALES FROM THE HINTERLAND by Melissa Albert

A gorgeously illustrated collection of twelve original stories by the New York Times bestselling author of The Hazel Wood and The Night Country

Before The Hazel Wood, there was Althea Proserpine’s Tales from the Hinterland…

Journey into the Hinterland, a brutal and beautiful world where a young woman spends a night with Death, brides are wed to a mysterious house in the trees, and an enchantress is killed twice—and still lives.


Title : Tales from the Hinterland
Author : Melissa Albert
Series : The Hazel Wood (book 2.5)
Format : eARC
Page Count : 240
Genre : YA fantasy
Publisher : Flatiron Books
Release Date : January 12, 2021

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★ 


Hollis’ 4 star review

I feel like this did for me what neither The Night Country and The Hazel Wood was quite able to achieve. I loved the backbone of the author’s series, all set around this fictional book of stories, but I think somehow things just never quite connected for me. I liked some bits, others would fall flat; almost like in the telling of point A to point B I would find myself lost and tangled up. But this volume? I couldn’t look away.

This author truly shines in short stories. But more than that, she shines because this places the focus on what I loved most of all : her dark fairytales. Stories that are less morality and more magic, more monstruous, more real, rarely featuring happy endings or anything happy at all. Some of these are definitely better than others but overall the whole vibe, the whole concept, just works for me.

I understand from the blurb that this book is supposed to be illustrated (I’m imagining something like The Language of Thorns but who knows!) and I’m sad to say my ARC did not have any hint of what those additions might look like. So I’ll likely be picking up a finished copy of this in order to re-experience it all with said visuals.

This is a must for fans of The Hazel Wood series but honestly? You could have disliked, or even not read, those books and still enjoy this.

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

FIRE by Kristin Cashore – double review!

It is not a peaceful time in the Dells. The young King Nash clings to his throne while rebel lords in the north and south build armies to unseat him. The mountains and forests are filled with spies and thieves and lawless men.

This is where Fire lives. With a wild, irresistible appearance and hair the color of flame, Fire is the last remaining human monster. Equally hated and adored, she had the unique ability to control minds, but she guards her power, unwilling to steal the secrets of innocent people. Especially when she has so many of her own.

Then Prince Brigan comes to bring her to King City, The royal family needs her help to uncover the plot against the king. Far away from home, Fire begins to realize there’s more to her power than she ever dreamed. Her power could save the kingdom.

If only she weren’t afraid of becoming the monster her father was.


Title : Fire
Author : Kristin Cashore
Series : Graceling Realm (book two)
Format : eBook (overdrive)
Page Count : 480
Genre : YA fantasy
Publisher : Dial Books
Release Date : October 5, 2009

Reviewer : Hollis / Micky
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★ / ★ ★ ★ ★.5


Hollis’ 4 star review

This was quite a different experience for me for this reread. Initially I had a really hard time connecting to this story, the worldbuilding, the characters even a little (though they were easier to lose myself in), and I don’t really know why. True, this is part of the Graceling Realm but it’s a totally different part of that world and while we do have a character from book one present, though in a very different state and from a different time, it’s night and day compared to what we knew of this world from reading book one. So just bear that in mind. Likely you won’t have my issues, and I still don’t truly understand them, but I was definitely worried for a while this would be a total miss for me.

It wasn’t.

This book, even some of the themes, and certainly the events, differ so much it’s definitely it’s own animal. I have no sense of memory as to whether anything from this book will be relevant in book three (my memory, she bad), so it’s almost better to treat this as less of a prequel and more of a companion. Which most people likely do anyway. But enough rambling.

I really did come to love this story, and especially the characters, once I’d regained my footing. In fact this made me cry, or tear and choke up, at least a few times. Hormones could be blamed but I think it was just also the writing, the moment, and how I’d come to appreciate this complicated layered personalities.

While Graceling featured a protagonist who had done things that made her feel monstrous, this time we really do have a monster of a protagonist. And if that doesn’t hook you into picking this book up, what will!

Cashore’s writing was vivid and lovely, descriptive and occasionally devastating, and layered with all sorts of interesting.. well, layers. Also, once again, full on repping the normalize talk of periods and what a body undergoes. It had a pretty relevant reason for being talked about to the extent it did, too, and I loved how she worked that in.

But anyway. Read this series. So far this revisit is going really really well and I’m excited to read the third book which I do remember not liking as much, or very much at all, but honestly.. that’s all I remember. So we shall see.


Micky’s 4.5 star review

4.5 stars

Fire swept me up immediately in this Graceling Realm tale. I had stupidly thought this would be a continuation of Katsa and Po but this was a totally different land and cast of characters from the world. Gracelings were a minor but important feature.

The story was set in the time of Leck’s childhood (nausea brewing) and you need a steally stomach for elements of this especially pertaining to animals. Talking of which, I adored Small in no small way. Fire and Small’s connection was just lovely. Fire’s character was a slow revealing throughout the story, she became more as she revealed more of herself to others. I had a really vivid picture of her in my head. The whole premise to Fire’s attraction was fascinating and difficult for her to live with; I enjoyed that whole story arc.

There was a delicious slow burn romance in the background that was founded on hate. Fire and Brigan had such a believable connection spurned on tragedy, trust and mistrust and family. There were side characters for days that made this read as colourful as Fire’s hair. I found Nash annoying then hilarous, Hanna was sweet, Clara forthright and Fire’s guard were fantastic.

This really was an addictive read, I wanted to devour it and thought of it when I wasn’t reading. If you’ve not read this series, put it on your planning for this year.

GRACELING by Kristin Cashore – double review!

Katsa has been able to kill a man with her bare hands since she was eight—she’s a Graceling, one of the rare people in her land born with an extreme skill. As niece of the king, she should be able to live a life of privilege, but Graced as she is with killing, she is forced to work as the king’s thug. 

She never expects to fall in love with beautiful Prince Po. 

She never expects to learn the truth behind her Grace—or the terrible secret that lies hidden far away . . . a secret that could destroy all seven kingdoms with words alone. 

With elegant, evocative prose and a cast of unforgettable characters, debut author Kristin Cashore creates a mesmerizing world, a death-defying adventure, and a heart-racing romance that will consume you, hold you captive, and leave you wanting more.


Title : Graceling
Author : Kristin Cashore
Series : Graceling Realm (book one)
Format : eBook (overdrive)
Page Count : 481
Genre : YA fantasy
Publisher : Dial Books
Release Date : October 1, 2008

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


Hollis’ 4 star review

This was another reread for me, and another that I haven’t read in aaages, and honestly I’m not mad at all about ending a crap year with some old favourites which are all turning out to still be favourites. Is there anything better?

When you’re a monster, she thought, you are thanked and praised for not behaving like a monster. She would like to restrain from cruelty and receive no admiration for it.

That said, nostalgia wasn’t the only reason for revisiting this world after so long. As has been the trend for a few older and beloved trilogies, we have a new release coming very shortly for book four in the Graceling Realm world, and I definitely couldn’t pick that up without a solid refresh. Most of the plot points I had remembered but the details, the emotions, some of the characters? All hazy.

Mercy was more frightening than murder, because it was harder.

But oh man was this good. I love when YA stands the test of time. And, in hindsight, Cashore did so many great things with her characters, things we expect now but didn’t always get then, and that’s why it will continue to do well even ten years from now.

The basic premise of GRACELING follows a king’s killer, a Graced individual with the gift for killing, and how she breaks away from his control to be her own person, in control of her own actions, and along the way helps to save another nation, and even find love. Yes, I’m being vague, but a lot of people have read this so why rehash and for those who haven’t? I want to tempt you, tease you, tantalize you into picking this up and learning more.

This is such a fabulous fantasy and I am excited to continue this reread journey; not only to get to the new content but revisit all the things from books two and three that I’ve forgotten — which is pretty much everything!


Micky’s 4 star review

Another late entry to the party on this beloved-by-many series. It took me a little while to get into it but I really enjoyed the characters and world that Kristen Cashore created. The graces that certain chosen ones were bestowed with at birth were varied, interesting and not always for the good.

Katsa swept me away in this book. She wasn’t easy to get to know initially but when she cracked her facade a little, her whole self was so likeable. Po brought out the best in Katsa as did Bitterblue (I can’t wait for Bitterblue’s book). This story had the most vile villain and I loved everything about how that played out.

For me, this was a subtly feminist tale. Katsa was wholly feminist but there were themes that really sold this to me – the haircut and marriage views. I loved this element to the story and that it underpinned Katsa as a strong woman but still a woman with a heart.

This was a story told over time, time for character building and development, for friendships and relationships to really feel solid and for there to be a strong history to how the tale played out. This all makes me think this is so well written, I can’t find fault with any of that. I’m so looking forward to reading on with this and the plan is to get completely up to date with the series this month – wish me luck!

I read and listened to this on an audio/ebook combo and despite this being a full cast audio, I really didn’t gel with it. For me, the ebook was preferable.

A DEAL WITH THE ELF KING by Elise Kova

Perfect for fans of A Court of Thorns and Roses and Uprooted, this stand-alone, fantasy romance about a human girl and her marriage to the Elf King is impossible to put down!

The elves come for two things: war and wives. In both cases, they come for death.

Three-thousand years ago, humans were hunted by powerful races with wild magic until the treaty was formed. Now, for centuries, the elves have taken a young woman from Luella’s village to be their Human Queen.

To be chosen is seen as a mark of death by the townsfolk. A mark nineteen-year-old Luella is grateful to have escaped as a girl. Instead, she’s dedicated her life to studying herbology and becoming the town’s only healer.

That is, until the Elf King unexpectedly arrives… for her.

Everything Luella had thought she’d known about her life, and herself, was a lie. Taken to a land filled with wild magic, Luella is forced to be the new queen to a cold yet blisteringly handsome Elf King. Once there, she learns about a dying world that only she can save.

The magical land of Midscape pulls on one corner of her heart, her home and people tug on another… but what will truly break her is a passion she never wanted.

A Deal with the Elf King is a complete, stand-alone novel, inspired by the tales of Hades and Persephone, as well as Beauty and the Beast, with a “happily ever after” ending. It’s perfect for fantasy romance fans looking for just the right amount of steam and their next slow-burn and swoon-worthy couple.


Title : A Deal With The Elf King
Author : Elise Kova
Series : Married To Magic #1
Format : ebook
Page Count : 338
Genre : Fantasy
Publisher : Silver Wing Press
Release Date : November 6, 2020

Reviewer : Micky
Rating  : ★ ★ ★ .5


Micky’s 3.5 star review

This was my first read by Elise Kova after hearing great things about the Air Awakens series. I picked this up on a whim from Kindle Unlimited and it gave me what I was looking for – light fantasy, easy to read and a completed story.

I do like an Elf King-type story and this is pitched as a Hades & Persephone retelling. I can see the retelling in there, but it wasn’t overt. The characters of Eldas and Luella were easy to get to know and the story had page-turning properties. King Eldas was predictably autocratic and paternalistic but there was character growth. I enjoyed Luella’s craft and affinity with plants. Hook the wolf was a lovely animal character.

I enjoyed the kingdoms and description, I do think that the author captured my imagination and painted a picture I could easily see. The story was light but lacking in depth at times. The storyline played out with predictability but it was nevertheless enjoyable to read.

Book one, whilst complete as a story, is the start of a series in these worlds. Having read the bonus epilogue on the author’s website (which I loved), I am definitely down to read more from this world. I’m definitely going to seek out Air Awakens and hope it’s a little deeper.

THE WINTER OF THE WITCH by Katherine Arden

Following their adventures in The Bear and the Nightingaleand The Girl in the Tower, Vasya and Morozko return in this stunning conclusion to the bestselling Winternight Trilogy, battling enemies mortal and magical to save both Russias, the seen and the unseen.

The Winternight Trilogy introduced an unforgettable heroine, Vasilisa Petrovna, a girl determined to forge her own path in a world that would rather lock her away. Her gifts and her courage have drawn the attention of Morozko, the winter-king, but it is too soon to know if this connection will prove a blessing or a curse.

Now Moscow has been struck by disaster. Its people are searching for answers—and for someone to blame. Vasya finds herself alone, beset on all sides. The Grand Prince is in a rage, choosing allies that will lead him on a path to war and ruin. A wicked demon returns, stronger than ever and determined to spread chaos. Caught at the center of the conflict is Vasya, who finds the fate of two worlds resting on her shoulders. Her destiny uncertain, Vasya will uncover surprising truths about herself and her history as she desperately tries to save Russia, Morozko, and the magical world she treasures. But she may not be able to save them all. 


Title : The Winter of the Witch
Author : Katherine Arden
Series : Winternight (book three)
Format : physical hardback
Page Count : 372
Genre : historical fiction/fantasy
Publisher : Del Rey Books
Release Date : January 8, 2019

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating  : ★ ★ ★ ★.5


Hollis’ 4.5 star review

This was a reread for me, though unlike the other books in the series it was only my second time doing so. Not to sound like a broken record but I still cannot believe how long it’s been since originally reading this series, considering how much I love this world, but I am so happy to have been reunited.

Love is for those who know the griefs of time, for it goes hand in hand with loss. An eternity, so burdened, would be a torment. And yet –yet what else to call it, this terror and joy?

Unlike my recent reviews for book one and two, however, I am SOL to cheat and just copy in parts of my original reviews from GR here to the blog. Mostly because I was too in my feels to properly review it at the time. And I’m pretty much right back in the same boat so, like, damn this sucks.

The world has lost its wonder.

As opposed to the book which resoundly does not.. suck, that is.

You shouldn’t have told them I was a girl. Then they might have believed that I was dangerous.

If I thought I couldn’t say much about book two its a whole lot of that but more for a finale. But if you’re expecting a big confrontation, or two (or three?), a whole bunch of secrets revealed, heartbreak, and romance, and tears, and more? You’ll get it. A lot of all of that.

I am sorry for this awful non-review review but you’ll just have to believe that the book, this series (this author!), is worth reading. I truly honestly cannot recommend this series enough. And cuddling up to it on Christmas Eve, with some much deserved snow coming down? Nothing better.

THE GIRL IN THE TOWER by Katherine Arden

The magical adventure begun in The Bear and the Nightingalecontinues as brave Vasya, now a young woman, is forced to choose between marriage or life in a convent and instead flees her home—but soon finds herself called upon to help defend the city of Moscow when it comes under siege.

Orphaned and cast out as a witch by her village, Vasya’s options are few: resign herself to life in a convent, or allow her older sister to make her a match with a Moscovite prince. Both doom her to life in a tower, cut off from the vast world she longs to explore. So instead she chooses adventure, disguising herself as a boy and riding her horse into the woods. When a battle with some bandits who have been terrorizing the countryside earns her the admiration of the Grand Prince of Moscow, she must carefully guard the secret of her gender to remain in his good graces—even as she realizes his kingdom is under threat from mysterious forces only she will be able to stop.


Title : The Girl in the Tower
Author : Katherine Arden
Series : Winternight (book two)
Format : physical hardback
Page Count : 384
Genre : historical fiction/fantasy
Publisher : Del Rey Books
Release Date : December 5, 2017

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating  : ★ ★ ★ ★.5


Hollis’ 4.5 star review

This was a reread for me, my third in fact (!), and yes if you’re feeling deja vue I had also just reread The Bear and the Nightingale for the third time, too. I still cannot believe how long it’s been since originally reading this series, considering how much I love this world, but I am so happy to be reunited.

Witch. We call such women so, because we have no other name.

That said, as with my recent review for book one, I’m going to cheat and just copy in parts of my original reviews from GR here to the blog. Mostly because I’m lazy but also because none of my opinions have actually changed.

Has the world run dry of warriors? All out of brave lords? Are they sending out maidens these days to do the work of heroes?
There were no heroes. There was only me.


I honestly don’t know how to review this book. So much of this story relies on book one’s plot and information but the basics are : The Girl in the Tower is a story about a brave girl and her impossible horse. But it’s also a story about the tug of war between the faith in the old world, the myths and the legends, and that of God and wealth and power. It’s about the harsh bite of cold, the hollow cramp of an empty belly, villages burned to the ground, girls stolen away in the night, and a power desperate to be unleashed from its bridle. And through all that, Vasya is still fighting for her place in the world — not that of marriage or stuck in a convent, but for adventure.. and to be believed by those she loves. The politics in book two take a sharp turn, though they’ve always been present, and an uprising must be stopped even as an ghost from Vasya’s past, who plays a significant role in a present-day evil, is laid to rest.

It is going to end. One day. This world of wonders, where steam in a bathhouse can be a creature that speaks prophecy. One day, there will be only bells and processions. The chyerti will be fog and memory and stirrings in the summer barley.

The Bear and the Nightingale is like a slow-moving chill, it creeps up on you and chips away at your warmth ever so subtly, until you’re frozen. Whereas The Girl in the Tower is more like trying to out-pace a blizzard. Both books are enjoyable but in this sequel we see Vasya tested even more than she was in the first book.. and we also see her rise above. She gets a glimpse of who she could be if not for the constraints of her sex and it’s bittersweet and beautiful.

Curiosity is a dreadful trait in girls.” 

Knowing how this one played out in advance, I loved picking up on all the clues, all the foreshadowing, that Arden laid out for her readers. None of the excitement was lost; and certainly none of the trepidation, either, for a specific chapter with a certain race. I now feel my own bit of added trepidation knowing what awaits me in book three. I want to race to it but I also want to lurch to a halt and wait. I want both. I want it all.

Suffice it to say, you need to read these books. Arden’s series is atmospheric, harsh, brutal, unkind, beautiful, magical, wonderful, hopeful. It’s everything. You deserve some of that.