GOLDEN EAGLE by Lauren Gilley

In 1942, Chekist Captain Nikita Baskin led his elite group of Soviet Secret Police into the wilds of Siberia on a mission to retrieve a “volunteer.” 

Sasha Kashnikov, Tomsk University student and trapper’s son, became a werewolf, an intended weapon against the Nazis. But in truth, he was meant to be the Familiar of the vampire Rasputin. 

In a clearing north of Stalingrad, amid blood-stained snow, Rasputin died, the pack burned, and Nikita and Sasha set off toward eternity together, bound by tragedy, and trust, and a tenderness neither would name. 

In modern day New York, their pack of two has grown to include two detectives, an artist, and the former tsarevich of Russia. And after what occurred in Virginia, Nikita and Sasha have reached a breaking point. Sasha, an unusually strong alpha wolf, remains unbound, and the forces on all sides of the looming war will want a chance to claim him – to make him a weapon again. 

All Nik has ever wanted to do was protect his precious Sashka. 

And all Sasha wants is to be more than a friend and little brother to the man – the vampire – he loves most. 


Title : Golden Eagle
Author : Lauren Gilley
Series : Sons of Rome (book four)
Format : eBook
Page Count : 661
Genre : paranormal / historical fiction
Publisher : HP Press
Release Date : December 23, 2019

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ 


Hollis’ 3 star review

It may have been my own fault for reading books three and four back-to-back, after having put some space between the first three, but this is easily my least favourite of the series. Nothing awful, and certainly not worth giving up on, nor even a reason to not consider the series if you haven’t yet, but.. not my favourite.

In complete contrast to book three, in Golden Eagle we spend all our time in present day and reunite with.. well, pretty much everyone we’ve met across this series. We also got some payoff I was hoping for as far back as book one. But it left me with some pretty mixed feelings because I felt a lot of the characters, or maybe just moments, felt so out of character. Which was frustrating because there are so many characters in this world in general and many that I can pretty definitively say I do not like — or only tolerate. So to be stuck with everyone and to have the ones I do love.. feel strange? Mixed bag.

This was the most romance heavy of the series which I definitely would’ve loved had my precious beans felt a little more like themselves but it wasn’t all bad. Some moments? Pure swoon, pure loveliness, pure steam. But it does give the reader a bit of whiplash going from very different tones in each book. It keeps it interesting, that’s for sure, particularly considering the wordcount. Just something to keep in mind, though.

That said, even with the few typos or missed punctuation marks, something I noticed started to occur in book three and we had a few more of them in this book, considering the aforementioned wordcount, considering all the history and reference points, everything that goes into this, and what the author is listing them for on amazon? Ridiculous. A steal. There is definitely a lot of good in this world, in these books, and I’m keen to still read on — but now that I’ve caught up I am in for a wait as who knows when book five is due to come out! Shucks.

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!

DRAGON SLAYER by Lauren Gilley

n 1931, a golden-haired man in fine clothes appeared to a Siberian boy. An apparition in the snow. 

In 2018, he guided a pack of misfits to his prison. A man made of sharp smiles, and smoke, who they can hear, but can never touch. He calls himself a prince, but how much does anyone really know about Prince Valerian of Wallachia? Is he friend, or foe? Is he real at all? 

Val has spent the past 550 years as a prisoner, venturing where and when he can, dream-walking, using his powers of astral projection to escape the confines of his cell. His jailers call him “brother-killer,” and “traitor” – old rumors of the immortal realm carried forth by the sinister Ingraham Institute, a secret place hidden deep in the forest, bent on using the blood and powers of immortals to fight a gathering threat too terrible to reveal to the mortal world at large. 

Now, Val’s brother, the infamous Vlad Dracula, is awake, hellbent on stopping the boys’ wicked uncle, Romulus, once and for all. But first, the boys will have to come to terms with one another – and perhaps finally come to understand the tragedies that played out almost six centuries ago. 

In Book Three of the Sons of Rome Series, dream-walk to 15th century Romania, to a Wallachia besieged by the Ottoman Empire, and two immortal brothers fighting for their lives. Inspired by the true story of Vlad Dracula, and his family, Dragon Slayer travels from the palace at Tîrgovişte, to the Ottoman court, to the siege of Byzantium. A tale of brothers, and betrayal; of captivity, and revenge. 

The immortals of the world are gathering, and Vlad and Val, the original sons of Rome, stand poised to lead the charge against a timeless evil. If only they can keep from killing one another… 


Title : Dragon Slayer
Author : Lauren Gilley
Series : Sons of Rome (book three)
Format : eBook
Page Count : 791
Genre : paranormal / historical fiction
Publisher : HP Press
Release Date : April 30, 2019

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ .5


Hollis’ 3.5 star review

I wish this was an easy, uncomplicated, round-up to four star book but I struggled a bit with this one.

I was so excited to have more historical storytelling in this world, because it’s been some of the bits I’ve loved the most, and Gilley gave me that.. and then more. And more. And more. Do you see that page count? This book is hella long. And I definitely feel like it did not need to be as long as it was. There is no doubt that history is one of this author’s passions, or she’s just incredibly committed to her plot, and her research alone and dedication to that time period? Definitely deserves recognition. I just wish it had all felt necessary to the plot, you know? Most, sure. All? For me, no.

I liked the beginning, I even like the reason for how and why we got thrown into the past, and for a while it was working for me. But there was a lot of information and time to slog through before we shifted gears back to the present, which I didn’t think I would have anticipated as much as I did, but that’s where this book really felt solid.

I think what surprised me was how.. soft some of these characters were. Val, in particular. I mean, if you’ve read the book, you know what I mean. I just want to hug him. Even Vlad the bloody Impaler had his moments. Though I’m not quite sure I bought some of the rationale regarding the latter’s behaviour.. even with all (and I mean all) that backstory. It felt a little flimsy. Likewise, I feel like Val had the ability to do certain things to connect with his family during a specific and critical time and didn’t and.. I also don’t quite know why. So I feel like part of this was a little tough to get behind. Which is what adds to my mixed feelings, particularly considering the word count and everything we had to get through to circle back to where we ended up in book two.

So I’m happy this ended on a strong note otherwise I would be sad. We had quite a few surprises in the last 20% or so; things didn’t go quite how I expected, and one of those surprises had me sitting straight up with what I’m sure was a dumfounded !!! look on my face. I caught the foreshadowing literally the paragraph before but I was still unprepared. And then we get that last chapter which leaves us hanging after another surprise kick to the face and boy oh boy if I didn’t have book four already on my kindle.. that said, if we don’t get some rewind time with the New York crew? Imma be mad.

So, yes, for all my whining about wanting more “in days gone by..”, Gilley definitely heaped far too many helpings onto my plate. I am definitely soft over all these characters (honestly, it’s kind of ridiculous how precious they all are..), and though it is obviously not a quick read, it’s still worth it. I’m hoping book four knocks it out of the park, though!

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 INVISIBLE LIFE OF ADDIE LARUE by V. E. Schwab – double review!

A Life No One Will Remember. A Story You Will Never Forget.

France, 1714: in a moment of desperation, a young woman makes a Faustian bargain to live forever and is cursed to be forgotten by everyone she meets.

Thus begins the extraordinary life of Addie LaRue, and a dazzling adventure that will play out across centuries and continents, across history and art, as a young woman learns how far she will go to leave her mark on the world.

But everything changes when, after nearly 300 years, Addie stumbles across a young man in a hidden bookstore and he remembers her name.


Title : The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue
Author : V.E. Schwab
Format : eARC
Page Count : 448
Genre : fantasy
Publisher : Tor Books/Titan Books
Release Date : October 6, 2020

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


Hollis’ 4.5 star review

I don’t know how to start this review — I’ve watched the cursor blink for a while now — or even how to go about explaining how I knew I was enjoying this story throughout, was likely to rate it a four, but kept waiting to be blown away. It was an almost love, complete with admiration for the creativity, the detail, everything the author researched; it was a maybe reread, but equally maybe not, which is a distinction not many books get, as we all know.

Being forgotten, she thinks, is a bit like going mad. You begin to wonder what is real, if you are real. After all, how can a thing be real if it cannot be remembered?

And then suddenly I’m crying. Then I’m marveling at.. something. Then I knew I loved it.

Time has no face, no form, nothing to fight against. But in his mocking smile, his toying words, the darkness has given her the one thing she truly needs : an enemy.

Even knowing the premise of what this book was about, I didn’t think long enough on the mechanics of it, the complexities and caveats created by the bargain. And I thought that was wonderfully done. I’ll admit certain bits did feel a bit repetitive in the beginning, and I wasn’t always totally immersed in Addie’s mind or perspective (though I couldn’t tell you why), but neither of those things take away from the fact that the way this was written, the choice of words, the passages, the.. everything.. was just so beautiful. I don’t know if maybe the sheer loveliness or the sheer loneliness is to blame for sometimes pulling me out of the story, instead of pulling me under, but I mean.. that’s still kind of a good thing?

This should definitely be on your radar and, incase you couldn’t tell, I can’t wait to read this one again.

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


Micky’s 4 star review

This was a book of two definite halves for me. The first half I found morose, depressing and inexpliably sad. I told my buddy that it needed to be called The Hopeless Life of Addie LaRue. But on reflection, VE Schwab knows best.

The story was compelling, even in the first half, no doubt about that. But, it was hard to read about Addie’s life, her struggle, the moments she had to get through. The past and present timelines were so clearly outlined that I never faltered with the jumps back and forth.

“Are you lost?”
Déjà vu. Déjà su. Déjà vecu. Already seen. Already known. Already lived.

The second half did a number on me, it won me around in a way I didn’t see coming. It made the first half fall into place and as a whole it was 100% memorable. I found hope, I found fear and everything came with an aftertaste of bittersweet. This wasn’t a neatly tied story, it was incredibly melancholy but I do welcome a read that takes you out of a normal format of story strucure and expectations.

I’ve told you nothing about the story in this review but the characters were exceptional. Addie in particular was humbly endearing with necessary grey facets to that character. I’m left feeling unsure how I feel about Luc, how believing I was of him, but I know this, Henry was a beautiful creation who won my heart.

“Three hundred years,” she whispers. “And you can still find something new.”

There were illustrations at the start of the seven parts to this book and they took my breath away, none more than the start of Part Seven where tears gently welled.

VE Schwab wrote uniquely, with imagination that is rare. This was some story that definitely needed to be told. If you do struggle with that first half, hold on, because there are words to pull you through.

I remember you.

Thank you to Titan Books for the gifted review copy.

AS THE SHADOW RISES by Katy Rose Pool

The Last Prophet has been found, yet he sees destruction ahead.

In this sequel to the critically-acclaimed There Will Come a Darkness, kingdoms have begun to fall to a doomsday cult, the magical Graced are being persecuted, and an ancient power threatens to break free. But with the world hurtling toward its prophesized end, Anton’s haunting vision reveals the dangerous beginnings of a plan to stop the Age of Darkness.

As Jude, Keeper of the Order of the Last Light, returns home in disgrace, his quest to aid the Prophet is complicated by his growing feelings for Anton. Meanwhile, the assassin known as the Pale Hand will stop at nothing to find her undead sister before she dies for good, even if it means letting the world burn. And in Nazirah, Hassan, the kingdom-less Prince, forms a risky pact to try to regain his throne. When the forces of light and darkness collide in the City of Mercy, old wounds are reopened, new alliances are tested, and the end of the world begins. 


Title : As The Shadow Rises
Author : Katy Rose Pool
Series : Age of Darkness (book two)
Format : eARC
Page Count : 496
Genre : YA fantasy
Publisher : Henry Holt and Co. (BYR)
Release Date : September 1, 2020

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ 


Hollis’ 3 star review

I’m not going to say this was a disappointing sequel, because it wasn’t, but I’ll admit that the excitement I felt in book one was mostly missing here. Whereas in THERE WILL COME A DARKNESS I think I was pretty interested in all of the POVs, this time I definitely had favourites and sorta slogged along in some of the paralell plotlines as they eventually converged into one. That said, this is definitely a twisty installment and of a few of the reveals, I think I only managed to predict one of them. I really liked that.

I mentioned in my review for book one, this is definitely a darker, grittier, version of the Falling Kingdoms series. And I totally stand by that assesment; in fact, this book only solidified my opinion on that comparison. We didn’t gain any new POVs, though we did gain quite a few new faces along the way, but what did change were many of the dynamics we had been given in book one. I enjoyed seeing these characters overlap, pass amongst each other, and then come together.

I did like this installment, it pretty much absorbed me all afternoon, but I hope book three pushes this out of like-zone and back to really like (if not love!)-zone to round out the series.

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

A DEADLY EDUCATION by Naomi Novik – double review!

In the start of an all-new series, the bestselling author of Uprooted and Spinning Silver introduces you to a dangerous school for the magically gifted where failure means certain death – until one girl begins to rewrite its rules.
_______________________________________

Enter a school of magic unlike any you have ever encountered.

There are no teachers, no holidays, friendships are purely strategic, and the odds of survival are never equal.

Once you’re inside, there are only two ways out: you graduate or you die.

El Higgins is uniquely prepared for the school’s many dangers. She may be without allies, but she possesses a dark power strong enough to level mountains and wipe out untold millions – never mind easily destroy the countless monsters that prowl the school.

Except, she might accidentally kill all the other students, too. So El is trying her hardest not to use it… that is, unless she has no other choice.
_______________________________________

Wry, witty, endlessly inventive, and mordantly funny – yet with a true depth and fierce justice at its heart – this enchanting novel reminds us that there are far more important things than mere survival.


Title : A Deadly Education
Author : Naomi Novik
Series : Scholomance #1
Format : eARC
Page Count : 336
Genre : YA Fantasy
Publisher : Random House UK/Cornerstone / Del Rey
Release Date : September 29, 2020

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


Micky’s 4-4.5 star review

I’m a bit dithery over that rating, take it as 4.25 if that helps! I just about devoured this book whenever I could and it made for tasty reading. The Scholomance was a school like you’ve never imagined, a school trying to kill its pupils with brimming magic, a void and tonnes of deadly creatures.

This was a witty read and that really surprised me. We’ve definitely seen shades of Novik’s sarcastic humour through Uprooted but this story had a lighter, laugh-out-loudness to it. I thought the whole concept of The Scholomance (the boarding school for wizards) was unique. Add to that the snarkiest heroine I’ve read in a while in Galadriel (El) and it was hard for this book to put a foot wrong.

When I want to straighten my room, I get instructions on how to kill it with fire.

Odd right? Spells didn’t flow in the expected way for her, but Galadriel was not a conventional wizard by Scholomance pupil standards, she was quietly and covertly exceptional. I loved reading about her systems, her talents and the languages she was studying. Most of all, I enjoyed reading her growth in friendships. El was almost made perfect with her use of British swears. I can say that Novik wrote a Brit (she was actually Welsh) particularly well.

The begrudging friendship/white knight (not needed) in Orion made for hilarity and chuckling. It was hard not to like Orion despite his saviour complex but there’s definitely more to unpack with him and I’m so glad we hopefully get to do that in the next book.

“You know, it’s almost impressive,” he said after a moment, sounding less wobbly. “You’re nearly dead and you’re still the rudest person I’ve ever met.”

The heirarchies in the school were something else and the void was just nausea-inducing to me. This truly was the school of nightmares and I wouldn’t last more than a minute in there! I simply cannot wait for the next instalment. And so I leave you with my favourite line (kudos to Jane Eyre here).

Reader, I ran the fuck away.

Thank you to Cornerstone/Random House for the early review copy.


Hollis’ 4 star review

A DEADLY EDUCATION is like a dark mashup of Harry Potter — if the only class was Defense Against the Dark Arts — complete with the magical puberty problems and monster-attraction issues ala Percy Jackson, but if instead of Buffy we had Faith saving the world all the time.. though hella reluctantly. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

This book is nothing like what I expected a book by Novik would be. This, for all the darkness and the fact that it’s set inside a castle that seems to be actively working to kill it’s residents — or at last lead it’s inhabitants into a position to die and casually look away — is funny, quippy, and strange.

Unlike Harry Potter or Percy Jackson or even Faith, we are tossed into the depths of things via Galadriel’s (El’s) point of view. She isn’t a noob blinking big innocent eyes as she wanders into this new world, no. She’s in her second to last year, having survived many years, many near deaths, with a prophecy already hanging over her head; she’s full of the bitterness and disdain from years of rejections, years of loneliness, and completely unimpressed when the school’s hero not only suddenly takes a shine to her but also saves her life.. a lot.

I liked our MC so much. I thought El’s snarky voice, her rudeness, was great. She has cultivated her niche deliberately because of circumstances completely out of her control but as delightful as she is at the onset, I loved her journey and evolution even more. Equally fun was Orion, the hero, the saviour, was equally not as one-note as he could’ve been. There are layers to both these characters and their interactions were a lot of fun as this definitely leaned into the enemies-turned-reluctant-allies-turned-friends trope. Infact, I don’t think I disliked a single character? Yes, I, too, am shook.

Though we never leave this young-person death trap of a school, Novik still manages to make her world feel big. This is helped not only because of the diversity of the students we are exposed to but, more importantly, all the Enclaves all over the world (think of them as Shadowhunter Institutes) they might be invited to after graduation if they are smart, skilled, or sought after enough. The rules are strange. I won’t explain further but.. don’t expect House points!

I had such a good time reading this, despite how different it was from my expectations, and I devoured it in less than a day. I enjoyed this so much and am very intrigued and very keen for more.

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

THE SILVERED SERPENTS by Roshani Chokshi

They are each other’s fiercest love, greatest danger, and only hope.

Séverin and his team members might have successfully thwarted the Fallen House, but victory came at a terrible cost ― one that still haunts all of them. Desperate to make amends, Séverin pursues a dangerous lead to find a long lost artifact rumoured to grant its possessor the power of God.

Their hunt lures them far from Paris, and into icy heart of Russia where crystalline ice animals stalk forgotten mansions, broken goddesses carry deadly secrets, and a string of unsolved murders makes the crew question whether an ancient myth is a myth after all.

As hidden secrets come to the light and the ghosts of the past catch up to them, the crew will discover new dimensions of themselves. But what they find out may lead them down paths they never imagined.

A tale of love and betrayal as the crew risks their lives for one last job.


Title : The Silvered Serpents
Author : Roshani Chokshi
Series : The Gilded Wolves (book two)
Format : eARC
Page Count : 416
Genre : YA historical fiction / fantasy
Publisher : Wednesday Books
Release Date : September 22, 2020

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★


Hollis’ 4 star review

You know the chorus from Paramore’s Decode? How did we get here? I used to know you so well? Well that’s what was running through my head as I finished this book. How did I go from confused tolerance for book one to.. exceedingly enjoying this one? Every now and then this happens to me and it only reinforces my behaviour to read on in series that I maybe didn’t love or had mixed feelings on. Yet when it works in my favour I’m still always surprised.

Be a light in this world, [..], for it can be very dark.

I mean, it could still all go to shit in book three, but right now? Hi hello. We like.

As per usj, this is a sequel, so there’s not much I can or will say. But if you loved book one? I think you’ll love this, too. And for those, like me, who were uncertain or confused or not wholly into it? I might suggest you push on. Everything is still the same, I can’t quite articulate how things have changed (besides the obvious spoilery ways), but I found this one a lot easier to follow.

You rescued us. This almost feels like a fairy tale, and I’m the damsel in distress.
You’re not a damsel.”
I am in distress, though.
But–
Let me have this.”

While I don’t think I ever really got sucker punched in the feels, or felt anything was particularly funny or humourous, I nonetheless felt more connected to these characters and their myriad tragedies, losses, or heartbreaks. It’s weird. I was so disconnected from them in book one but now? I don’t know how it happened.

When she thought of evil, she did not think of mechanical monsters swimming in lake waters, but of people; [..] the people who hid cruelty behind politics.

I will say this was also an easier book to visualize (always my number one problem with this author’s writing) but there were still two scenes that stuck out to me where I was really grasping to understand how things were happening or what it looked like. So, like, literally almost everything I struggled with in book one doesn’t apply to this one. We love that!

My life, and whatever is left of it, will not be what his soul gnaws on to regain its strength. My death is not in service to his character, and I will not be a sacrifice simply for him to find peace of mind. He is not my responsibility to save.

I’m definitely keen to see these characters come back from where they’ve ended up and how this whole story wraps. Bring on 2021 (.. and for more reasons than just this book! all the reasons!).

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

THE STONE SKY by N. K. Jemisin

This is the way the world ends… for the last time. 

The Moon will soon return. Whether this heralds the destruction of humankind or something worse will depend on two women.

Essun has inherited the power of Alabaster Tenring. With it, she hopes to find her daughter Nassun and forge a world in which every orogene child can grow up safe.

For Nassun, her mother’s mastery of the Obelisk Gate comes too late. She has seen the evil of the world, and accepted what her mother will not admit: that sometimes what is corrupt cannot be cleansed, only destroyed.


Title : The Stone Sky
Author : N. K. Jemisin
Series : The Broken Earth (book three)
Format : eBook (overdrive)
Page Count : 324
Genre : fantasy / science fiction / dystopia
Publisher : Orbit
Release Date : August 15, 2017

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★ 


Hollis’ 3.75 star review

Despite the fact that there were some truly lovely bits in this final installment, overwhelmingly this doesn’t rate as high as the rest of the series — particularly book one. And that’s due to many factors. Not the least being that this just felt like.. too much for my brain to grasp. And it was already trying to handle a lot; there was just so much extra info that just buried us (me). I feel like for every two things I could absorb, I was missing three more things. Maybe. I don’t know. I feel overwhelmed right now. Maybe it’s just because it’s one AM and I’m tired. But beyond that, another factor, was also because I’m not sure I ever connected as much to what become a critical second (third, fourth?) POV in this race to the end.

There are none so frightened, or so strange in their fear, as conquerors. They conjure phantoms endlessly, terrified that their victms will someday do back what was done to them.

And yet it’s clear this story, the whole shape of it, couldn’t exist without those things, so that’s why I’m likely to round this up. Because it is complex, it is unbelievable, it is lovely, it is heartbreaking, it is terrible.

[..] for a society built on exploitation, there is no greater threat than having no one left to oppress.

This might be one of the most true, most relevant, SFF stories I’ve ever read. Because so much of our world is built into this, even if it’s made up to be fantastical. And that’s equal parts frightening and hard to swallow. But it’s also so worth your time.