HERO AT THE FALL by Alwyn Hamilton

When gunslinging Amani Al’Hiza escaped her dead-end town, she never imagined she’d join a revolution, let alone lead one. But after the bloodthirsty Sultan of Miraji imprisoned the Rebel Prince Ahmed in the mythical city of Eremot, she doesn’t have a choice. Armed with only her revolver, her wits, and her untameable Demdji powers, Amani must rally her skeleton crew of rebels for a rescue mission through the unforgiving desert to a place that, according to maps, doesn’t exist. As she watches those she loves most lay their lives on the line against ghouls and enemy soldiers, Amani questions whether she can be the leader they need or if she is leading them all to their deaths.


Title : Hero at the Fall
Author : Alwyn Hamilton
Series : Rebel of the Sands (book three)
Format : eBook (overdrive)
Page Count : 471
Genre : YA fantasy
Publisher : Viking Books for Young Readers
Release Date : March 6, 2018

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★ 


Hollis’ 4 star review

Initially, as I sat down to write this review, I found myself a bit at a loss as to what to say about this finale except that.. I am satisfied.

I don’t know why it took until book three for me to realize this but Hamilton did not pull punches. Your favourite characters took beatings, bullets, and may even have been buried (well, burned, because they don’t bury bodies in this world due to spooky night crawlies, but you get the idea). No one was safe.

And yeah, I cried. Twice. Because no one was safe.

I loved how the author would sneak in little snippets, little stories outside of (but part of) the story, and how that helped to end it, too. I think it helped to make this a little less perfectly wrapped up, no further problems, and instead gave their future more depth, more realism, because winning the war doesn’t prevent future battles.

That might not make much sense unless you’re read it, so I’ll move on.

As for the romance, which had dogged me a little in the sense that it was the least substantial-feeling of the plot points, well. I don’t know. I think I still stand by that. It wasn’t the strongest element, by far. But there were a few really good moments, one that made me cry, that proved Hamilton could’ve convince me. Not always but there was.. something.. there. I’ll take it.

The worldbuilding, the mythologies, the stories, none of it ever stopped growing. This world, the magic, the genesis of the Djinnis, it was so interesting, felt so effortlessly woven together, but the detail to do so was complex. I have no idea what Hamilton will be doing next (GR and amazon say 2025, bookdepository says 2022, it’s a mystery), but I will be reading more from her, whatever it might be, for sure.

Suffice it to say I had a really enjoyable time with this world and I’m so glad I slapped this one onto my Five Series to Finish in 2021 list. I’m very happy to not only have completed this but have had such a good time with it, too. Unrelated to this review, but for those keeping track (spoiler : I don’t expect any one to be keeping track, elle oh elle), this leaves me with just one more series from said post to chew through. And naturally I’ve left the most intimidating for last because why wouldn’t I. But seeing as the Diviners series always felt like a fall-time read.. well. It’s also perfect timing.

As for this series, though? I would definitely recommend.

CHILD OF THE PROPHECY by Juliet Marillier – double review!

Magic is fading… and the ways of Man are driving the Old Ones to the West, beyond the ken of humankind. The ancient groves are being destroyed, and if nothing is done, Ireland will lose its essential mystic core. 

The prophecies of long ago have foretold a way to prevent this horror, and it is the Sevenwaters clan that the Spirits of Eire look to for salvation. They are a family bound into the lifeblood of the land, and their promise to preserve the magic has been the cause of great joy to them… as well as great sorrow.

It is up to Fainne, daughter of Niamh, the lost sister of Sevenwaters, to solve the riddles of power. She is the shy child of a reclusive sorcerer, and her way is hard, for her father is the son of the wicked sorceress Oonagh, who has emerged from the shadows and seeks to destroy all that Sevenwaters has striven for. Oonagh will use her granddaughter Fainne most cruelly to accomplish her ends, and stops at nothing to see her will done.

Will Fainne be strong enough to battle this evil and save those she has come to love?


Title : Child of the Prophecy
Author : Juliet Marillier
Series : Sevenwaters (book three)
Format : physical
Page Count : 596
Genre : fantasy / historical fiction / retellings
Publisher : TorBooks
Release Date : March 20, 2002

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


Hollis’ 4.5 star review

Well, we did it. The original trilogy complete. What a ride.

I cannot be part of this. The forest, the family, the — the brotherhood. You must realize that.”

What makes Child of the Prophecy so interesting, but also easily unlikeable, is the shift. After two books featuring brilliant, self-sacrificing, and purely good, heroines, we are faced with something different in Fainne. She’s not the hero. She’s not purely good. She is, simply, an antagonist. A reluctant one but nonetheless it’s true. She is brilliant, she is powerful, she shares her mother’s temperament (making her difficult), and she’s making choices that don’t have good results. Because she’s fighting for those she loves.. even at the cost of others. This disconnect, this unfortunate situation, is made worse because of her otherness. We, as a reader, have a connection to the Sevenwaters clan, the history, the losses and triumphs they have endured. But Fainne is outside of that while at the same time able to trace her own losses back to the choices (well meaning though they were) of those characters we love. We know their struggle, their guilt, and their enduring love. But Fainne doesn’t. And even worse, her otherness, her disconnect, is compounded by her own gifts and her parentage (doubly so); neither of which are acceptable.

Perhaps my own spirit was damaged, my heart cracked into pieces, so that I could never be fine and good.

It makes her journey difficult in so many ways.

You have the power to make us or break us, I think, and it will not be until the last that you will choose which way to go.”

And honestly I totally understand why my buddy readers had a hard time connecting with this story and the lead. I’m sure, a hundred years ago when I first read this, I had the same issue. It’s always been my least favourite of the trilogy, though still undoubtedly a Marillier and thus excellent (previously rated a four to the otherwise outstanding fives), but now, in hindsight, I can respect and appreciate this a little more — the experience of reading it was also, likely, helped by the benefit of hindsight and knowing where the story would end up. Every character’s journey in this saga has had pitfalls and struggles; Fainne’s are just different and, unfortunately, come with collateral damage. 

The days where the children of Sevenwaters could roam the forest freely, without fear, are gone.

Then again, I’m so biased it’s beyond comprehension, so there’s that.

What likely also chips away some of the lustre with this final (ish) instalment is the lower romance content. Or, rather, the fact that we don’t get enough time seeing it to really believe in it, maybe. But I think this ties into the fact that, considering the ending, their story isn’t really for us. They are part of the whole but set apart from it. For reasons. Either way, though, I can admit it’s the weakest part of the story but there were still moments I found lovely and moving.

There will come a time, soon enough, when even that ancient wood will fall to the axe, to grant man his grazing land, his settlements, his towers and his walls. He thinks, in his ignorance, to tame the very earth, to force the very ocean to his will. And so he will lay waste the body of the mother who gave him birth; and will not know what he does. The old ways will be forgotten.”

Equally this might be the least emotionally devastating of the stories. I definitely cried for a few reasons during the big conflict during the end but there were only one or two brief moments during the telling that actually got me choked up. Fainne’s disconnect makes this less of an emotional journey and considering the books that came before that, too, is a change.

But.

This is my favourite series for so many reasons; for the emotions, the folklore, the magic, the heartbreak, the challenges, the strength, the wisdom, the losses, and the whole of it. These three books make up a generational story that, in my mind, is truly untouchable. But, again, biased.

The companions that follow the main Sevenwaters trilogy are the ones I don’t know well at all, having only read them each once upon publication. Though I remember which characters they follow, and have vague memories of the plot, I don’t have any real emotional attachment to them beyond the fact that they exist in this beloved world. I hope, with age and my enduring delight and respect for this saga, and the main trilogy fresh in my mind (though it never truly fades), I come out with some newfound love for them. I can’t wait to read on.

Thank you to the Sevenwaters Squad — Micky, Steph, Amanda, and Cat — for coming on this journey with me. I know it wasn’t always what you expected (in good and bad ways) but I had a great time nonetheless.


Micky’s 3.5 star review

Headlines:
Pesky protagonist
Oh the sevenwaters family
Magic – dark versus light

Child of the Prophecy did not live up to my expectations but lets just frame that with how high the bar has been set by books one and two. The biggest difficulty with this story was Fainne, a protagonist that was hard to like. On the one hand, I admire Juliet Marillier for taking the difficult road on this but we’ve been spoilt with the family of Sevenwaters in the previous books and so it was tough to be away from them at first.

The Sevenwaters family do become a big part of this story but Marillier put readers through the mill somewhat. I am saying nothing of the plot but it had me in knots of loyalty, allegiance and despair.

There was a smattering of romance but nothing as deeply affecting or connecting in this installment, I definitely missed that heart yearning love. There were a bunch of fav characters in this read, hello Liadan (I’m looking at you), Bran, Johnny (give the man his own book) and Ciaran.

How Marillier brought a fitting end about, I don’t know but thank goodness, she did. This was a very up and down read but I feel it was left in a suitable place and I hope for even more from book 4. I remain 100% invested in the series.

Thank you sevenwaters squad for the heated debate along the way.

TRAITOR TO THE THRONE by Alwyn Hamilton

Rebel by chance. Traitor by choice.

Gunslinger Amani al’Hiza fled her dead-end hometown on the back of a mythical horse with the mysterious foreigner Jin, seeking only her own freedom. Now she’s fighting to liberate the entire desert nation of Miraji from a bloodthirsty sultan who slew his own father to capture the throne. 

When Amani finds herself thrust into the epicenter of the regime—the Sultan’s palace—she’s determined to bring the tyrant down. Desperate to uncover the Sultan’s secrets by spying on his court, she tries to forget that Jin disappeared just as she was getting closest to him, and that she’s a prisoner of the enemy. But the longer she remains, the more she questions whether the Sultan is really the villain she’s been told he is, and who’s the real traitor to her sun-bleached, magic-filled homeland.

Forget everything you thought you knew about Miraji, about the rebellion, about Djinn and Jin and the Blue-Eyed Bandit. In Traitor to the Throne, the only certainty is that everything will change.


Title : Traitor to the Throne
Author : Alwyn Hamilton
Series : Rebel of the Sands (book two)
Format : eBook (overdrive)
Page Count : 523
Genre : YA fantasy
Publisher : Viking Books for Young Readers
Release Date : March 7, 2017

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★ 


Hollis’ 4 star review

Fittingly for a book with the word ‘traitor’ in the title, I think the subheading should be : trust no one. Because wow, just when you think you know a body..

This book did so many things differently than book one did but what was very apparent is that Rebel of the Sands was just the tip of the iceberg for this world, this story, and there’s really no way to tell how it’s going to end.

Confusingly, we start this book with a bit of a time jump, brushing over events that have happened off page, and then only get some explanation quite a few chapters later. It definitely puts the reader on the back foot for a bit, and I don’t know why, but I guess we had to get to a certain place by a certain time and considering this page count was already significantly higher than book one.. maybe there was little choice in the manner? But it does brace you for the plot to take a turn and the merry little band of rebels we’ve been so used to being around, well.. we lose them for most of this book. It’s just a whole lot of different.

We also, as a result, lost the focus on the romance, which, hey, I mean, they have bigger things to worry about, so it’s realistic, but it’s also because our lovebirds are separated (see aforementioned loss o’rebels); however as a result it didn’t quite solidify my feelings about it. I had actually, conversely, wanted more time spent on it to make it feel more real. I like it but I don’t feel it, y’know?

Everything else though was pretty solid. The action, though lulled for a bit due to Reasons, really kicks off in the last 30%, and in the build up to that we get different sides to characters we had only ever heard about, people from Amani’s past, and all sorts of shifted dynamics. It was very interesting. I won’t say it was always very interesting, this book is long and some bits didn’t hold my attention like others did, but I still had a good time.

Can’t wait to see how this ends.

THE HOLLOW HEART by Marie Rutkoski – double review!

Intrigue, romance, and magic abound in the heart-stopping conclusion to Marie Rutkoski’s Forgotten Gods duology.

At the end of The Midnight Lie, Nirrim offered up her heart to the God of Thieves in order to restore her people’s memories of their city’s history. The Half Kith who once lived imprisoned behind the city’s wall now realize that many among them are powerful. Meanwhile, the person Nirrim once loved most, Sid, has returned to her home country of Herran, where she must navigate the politics of being a rogue princess who has finally agreed to do her duty.

In the Herrani court, rumors begin to grow of a new threat rising across the sea, of magic unleashed on the world, and of a cruel, black-haired queen who can push false memories into your mind, so that you believe your dearest friends to be your enemies.

Sid doesn’t know that this queen is Nirrim, who seeks her revenge against a world that has wronged her. Can Sid save Nirrim from herself? Does Nirrim even want to be saved? As blood is shed and war begins, Sid and Nirrim find that it might not matter what they want…for the gods have their own plans.


Title : The Hollow Heart
Author : Marie Rutkoski
Series : Forgotten Gods #2
Format : Hardback / eBook
Page Count : 384
Genre : Fantasy
Publisher : Hodderscape / Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR)
Release Date : September 9, 2021 / September 14, 2021

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


Micky’s 4 star review

Headlines:
A treat for Winner’s Trilogy fans
Emotions in shreds

Ooof, what a read and culmination to this duology set within The Winner’s Trilogy world. I have been on an emotional roller coaster, I’m a little dizzy and sad it’s over. The Sid and Nirrim from The Midnight Lie were different in this story, one more mature and the other completely different; I was utterly glued to the page.

I lived for the time in with Sid and others (trying not to give too much away here) in Herrani and I simply loved time with those characters of old, seeing them in a different light, through a different lens. Sid really grew from that cad-ish character we saw in book one to a person with self-realisation over a number of factors. There were a number of clever twists to the tale in Herrani. Seeing Sid’s mother in a state of weakness was kind of shocking, her father was warm and strong. Ohhh, the feels here.

I found reading about Nirrim discomforting, her situation was painful as were her actions. I longed for restoration of her lost self and connection with those she had loved. I found the whole separation of these two painful, emotional and compelling. The weaving in of the forgotten gods was also clever plotting.

It wrapped up quickly towards the finish and I definitely could have managed some more of what happened after but I’m not complaining. This is one of the strongest and enjoyable fantasy duologies I’ve read in a while and both installments were equally as good as one another. Marie Rutkoski remains one of those authors who I am drawn to on plot and characterisation with a unique fantasy world. Roll on her next incarnation.

Mortals say it as though they can feel the hand of the beloved inside their ribs, palm supporting the heart, fingers curled lightly around the trembling muscle. Pain could come so easily. All it would take is a good, hard squeeze.

Thank you to Hodder Books for the finished review copy.


Hollis’ 4 star review

I think I had promised myself a reread not just of THE MIDNIGHT LIE but also the main Winners Trilogy series before diving into this finale and.. whoops? None of that happened. I was so desperate to dive into this that I’d actually forgotten my plans until, like, halfway through. 

The grabby hands were just too too real.

As for what you can expect with this one, well.. everything is a spoiler. How book one ended was so huge, so unreal, that any hints to what that is will just ruin it if you haven’t yet decided to start this series. But suffice it to say that a character we had seen go through so much, but remain true, kind, and gentle, well. She’s a whole different person for this book. And so was the love interest; but in a very different way.

You’ve changed.
Good.”
You used to be kind, Nirrim. Gentle. I liked you better before.”
Of course. I was easier for you to use.”

Said love interest has connections back to characters from Rutkoski’s other series and to say they would be complicated connections would be an understatement. In some ways, her journey is a nostalgic throwback to some of the themes from said series as webs have to be traced back to their weaver and somewhere, somehow, there is a plot to uncover. 

It remains the fate of all humans who lack compassion to never understand that they lack it.

How these two reunite, how it all gets resolved, well.. it was both satisfying and, keeping this from a five star, was a little unsatisfying. We are both living the story and being told this story, in a way, and there were definitely events, conflicts, that kind of happen outside of the main and get brushed over. Though this book isn’t short I think had there been another hundred pages, and we’d had some of that beefed up, it would’ve been perfect. The ending, for all that some of it works so well, feels unbalanced. And that isn’t me just complaining because I wanted more. Though that’s true, too.

I think about the wrong people do for the sake of love, and how it is possible to love a villain.

With this series wrapped (so nice to have duologies pop up again) I have no idea what Rutkoski has planned for the future but after the long wait for this series, and because I was already such a fan, I don’t care. She’s an auto-read author for sure.

REBEL OF THE SANDS by Alwyn Hamilton

Mortals rule the desert nation of Miraji, but mythical beasts still roam the wild and remote areas, and rumor has it that somewhere, djinn still perform their magic.  For humans, it’s an unforgiving place, especially if you’re poor, orphaned, or female.

Amani Al’Hiza is all three. She’s a gifted gunslinger with perfect aim, but she can’t shoot her way out of Dustwalk, the back-country town where she’s destined to wind up wed or dead.

Then she meets Jin, a rakish foreigner, in a shooting contest, and sees him as the perfect escape route. But though she’s spent years dreaming of leaving Dustwalk, she never imagined she’d gallop away on mythical horse—or that it would take a foreign fugitive to show her the heart of the desert she thought she knew.

Rebel of the Sands reveals what happens when a dream deferred explodes—in the fires of rebellion, of romantic passion, and the all-consuming inferno of a girl finally, at long last, embracing her power.


Title : Rebel in the Sands
Author : Alwyn Hamilton
Series : Rebel of the Sands (book one)
Format : eBook (overdrive)
Page Count : 321
Genre : YA fantasy
Publisher : Viking Books for Young Readers
Release Date : March 8, 2016

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★ 


Hollis’ 4 star review

Here’s another reread of book one in a series that I never finished. I read this over five years ago and sadly books two and three fell by the wayside and, despite how much I enjoyed this all those years ago, I never chased after them. But I tapped this series as part of my Five Series to Finish in 2021 pledge and so here we are.

Spoiler : I’m stealing a bit of this re-review from my original bit on GR. Because it sums my feelings, to this day, too well not to.

I wasn’t expecting Rebel of the Sands to work. The whole western theme crossed with a fantasy setting inspired by the myths and tales ala Arabian Nights? In theory you might think it could work, that the bare bones of it all could fit together, but there were so many ways it could go wrong. But this was a fast paced exciting adventure with enough magic to make it mystical but not detract from the very real and human conflict and struggle with identity. 

Whereas the first time I read this I apparently didn’t connect to the main characters, and I might still kind of agree on that, this time it didn’t bother me. I was too swept up in the action (I read this very quickly in one sitting) to be bothered. Could the romance be more fleshed out? Absolutely. But, again, because I like them, I’m not too fussed. I’m feeling really easy going about the whole experience, to be honest. I did not expect to be as satisfied by this on a second go around, especially all these years later, but here we are.

That said, now that we’ve established a lot of elements to this world, as well as some key players, I would definitely hope that they get more page time, and everything, including said romance, feels a little more.. well, more.

Diving right into book two.

THE VANISHING by Karla Nikole

Nearly two centuries ago, hundreds of purebred vampires disappeared without any explanation—vanished like mist swept away in the breeze.

Nino Bianchi and Haruka Hirano are mated purebred vampires: madly in love and exploring the depths of their young bond. But an unexpected event brings their cozy lives to a screeching halt. A new vanishing, much too close to home.

The world of Lore and Lust stretches deeper with more romance, mystery, love and trust. A queer vampire love story full of heart and delicious heat.


Title : The Vanishing
Author : Karla Nikole
Series : Lore & Lust (book two)
Format : eBook
Page Count : 338
Genre : LGBTQIAP+ paranormal romance
Publisher : Karla Nikole Publishing
Release Date : February 26, 2021

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ 


Hollis’ 2 star review

On the one hand, a lot more happened in this instalment compared to book one, which had been one of my big complaints, but overall.. I’m sorry, I’m still not really getting this series.

I still don’t fully comprehend this vampire society, aristocracy, hierarchy, whatever, but we did get some insight behind — go figure — the big Vanishing; which was basically the complete loss of the English pureblood (purebred?) population. Why only England I have no idea but I’m just chocking that one upto one more thing I don’t understand and just kinda rolling with it. That said, the reason for it, and the villain behind it, feels pretty flimsy. Maybe we’ll get more about that in book three.

In this book we had two romances playing out, the one from book one and another between characters connected to the main protagonists. It offered up something different and, dare I say it, more interesting.

That said, where Nino had been my favourite character in book one, there was a certain interaction with his brother that changed my opinion of him. And a few other revelations and observations from his best friend added to that. Somehow Nino’s brother Giovanni, grumpy alpha asshole who nonetheless shoulders so much responsibility and does so much for Nino, now holds the top spot.

Aside from that positive, I’m still struggling with the writing, the weird dialogue, plus all the aforementioned plot and worldbuilding weirdness, and sometimes the chapters ends abruptly or we transition into something in a strange manner. But it’s also just that.. I just don’t understand the point. This time there was less focus on the Lore & Lust book, at least in talking about it, but instead Haruka is translating stuff with a family and I just.. I don’t understand why?

This whole series is just befuddling to me.

I’m going to see through this series to the end, the third (and final?) book is out in the fall, but unless things really take off I’m not sure I would pick up this author again.

VOW OF THIEVES by Mary E. Pearson

Kazi and Jase have survived, stronger and more in love than ever. Their new life now lies before them―the Ballengers will be outlaws no longer, Tor’s Watch will be a kingdom, and the two of them will meet all challenges side by side, together at last.

But an ominous warning mars their journey back, and in their rush to return to Tor’s Watch, just outside the fortress walls, they are violently attacked and torn apart―and each is thrust into their own new hell.

Unsure whether the other is alive or dead, Kazi and Jase must keep their wits among their greatest enemies and unlikeliest allies. And all the while, Death watches and waits.


Title : Dance of Thieves
Author : Mary E. Pearson
Format : eARC
Page Count : 496
Genre : YA fantasy
Publisher : Henry Holt and Co. (BYR)
Release Date : August 6, 2019

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ .75


Hollis’ 3.75 star review

So, my theories were crap. But only because at least one thing I expected to be revealed.. wasn’t. Which is perplexing. Are there more books to come for this world to explain? Is it something that just won’t be? I have fewer theories but more questions.

I truly don’t know how to rate these books. More and more I hate having a star system and wish I didn’t have to assign a value to anything. Anyone else? Anyway.

What Pearson does so well, and this book/series is no exception, is how messy and complex and crafted the plots are. Some characters (usually the villains) are eight steps ahead of the rest of the players; not in an outlandish, it’s not possible, kind of way but legit villainy. Obsession. Carefully considered moves and steps and feints. Which makes sense because the heroes, those fighting back, are so good, so clever, themselves that they need a true opposition to make the stakes feel high. And they always do feel high; especially in this instalment. 

For all that the action was dialled up in this one, letting the romance take a bit of a backseat, I did find myself pulled away from the story more than book one. I don’t know why. Might’ve just been my distractible brain.

But for all that I’m fretting over the rating, for all that I wasn’t as absorbed, I did still devour this book and am actually kind of sad I’m now all caught up. I guess I’ll be joining the queue of fans to see if there’s more to come from this world which is such a strange mix of fantasy, dystopia, and science fiction. Am I still the only one who doesn’t quite know how the original world fell apart, though? Maybe one day I’ll figure it out.

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

SON OF THE SHADOWS by Juliet Marillier – double review!

Son of the Shadows continues the saga of beautiful Sorcha, the courageous young woman who risked all to save her family from a wicked curse and whose love shattered generations of hate and bridged two cultures. 

It is from her sacrifice that her brothers were brought home to Sevenwaters and her life has known much joy. But not all the brothers were able to escape the spell that transformed them into swans, and those who did were all more–and less–than they were before the change. 

It is left to Sorcha’s daughter Liadan who will take up the tale that the Sevenwaters clan is destined to fulfill. Beloved child, dutiful daughter, she embarks on a journey that opens her eyes to the wonders of the world around her…and shows her just how hard-won was the peace that she has known all her life. 

Liadan will need all of her courage to help save her family, for there are forces far darker than anyone should have guessed and ancient powers conspiring to destroy this family’s peace–and their world. And she will need the strength to stand up to those she loves best, for in the finding of her own true love, Liadan’s course may doom them all…or be their salvation.


Title : Son of the Shadows
Author : Juliet Marillier
Series : Sevenwaters (book two)
Format : physical
Page Count : 607
Genre : fantasy / historical fiction / retellings
Publisher : TorBooks
Release Date : May 18, 2001

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


Hollis’ 5 star review

This series has lived in my heart for twenty years so is there really any surprise this is five stars? Even though it’s a reread and there was nothing new to experience or learn, knowing the course of this story didn’t mean I cried any less. And I cried a lot.

Don’t you long for something different to happen, something so exciting and new it carries you along with it like a great tide, something that lets your life blaze and burn so the whole world can see it?

Daughter of the Forest told of Sorcha’s story and Son of the Shadows reunites us with this family and a new generation of characters; ones to love, ones who break your heart, and ones to hate. Liadan knows the horrors her family has endured for peace, for happiness. She wants no more than to stay home, unmarried, and care for her parents, tend to the household. She is much like her mother in stature, in the arts of the stillroom and healing, but though Sorcha had her own bravery, her own strength, Liadan, when forced to rise to challenges she never imagined, is even stronger, fiercer, so much in possession of her mind that she will not be swayed by the forces around her; be they old and ancient, fey, wise, or family.

The greatest tales, well told, awaken the fears and longings of the listeners. Each man hears a different story. Each is touched by it according to his inner self. The words go to the ear, but the true message travels straight to the spirit.

Secrets and betrayal begin to fester amongst a family that cannot risk being left vulnerable to unfriendly forces, to the darkness that nearly overcame them once before. Mistakes are made, truth obfuscated, and thus Liadan is forced to navigate, to unveil, and to rescue her family, her love, and her future.

You captured a wild creature when you had no place you could keep him.”

An interesting twist to this particular instalment, however, is how we see the unintended consequences of the previous book’s happily ever after. So often we get that ending, everything is great, and life goes on. But reality is never so tidy and events can be twisted and a person can be left hurting. Not in the way you might think, though. And I really loved how Marillier made this connection and created a way to go back without undoing any of the hard-earned events of book one.

What about his mother? What did she have to say about it?
She was a woman. The tale does not concern itself further with her.

For a story written so long ago, what surprised me was how, sometimes, Marillier’s narrative or dialogue was almost wry in how she, and her characters, navigated the inequalities and double standards of gender. Nothing so overt the way we have these days, where the goal is to make a point, but there are subtle digs, bits of dialogue, observations. So much is careful, considerate, and also very purposeful. Which is probably why so much of this book, this series, is devastating. Because there is so much imbued, so much that resonates, and it comes through.

Much like with book one, I have never tried to review this, and once again I know I haven’t done this book any justice at all. It’s impossible to express my love for this book because it’s honestly so deeply embedded in my soul. I read this as a young human and it’s been with me, and I’ve relived it, over and over throughout the years, and we are irrevocably entwined. Some books you lose the love for other the years, as your taste or perspective or style as a reader changes. This book, this series, isn’t one of those.

(yes, I did steal most of those last paragraph from my review of Daughter of the Forest, and yes, I am calling myself out for it)

Come, dear heart. Lean on me and let us walk this path together.

Lastly, I just want to give a huge shoutout to the Sevenwaters Squad with whom I spent a very fun — but emotionally draining — weekend buddy reading this book. Most had never experienced this before, having come only recently to this series, and while I loved having the excuse to revisit, I loved living through it with their eyes, too. Can’t wait for book three, and the rest of the series, with you all!


Micky’s 5 star review

Headlines:
Feminist folklore fest
Morally grey characters
No-one is safe
An ocean of tears

I feel pretty incoherent in writing a review for this book, so much happened, so much was felt on my part and despite the emotions I felt, I don’t want to leave this book or this world. If I thought Daughter of the Forest was amazing, Son of the Shadows took that feeling, that world and expanded my love for it even more. This is a spoiler-free review.

Finding myself back in Sevenwaters was rich and colourful but it also carried some lament and sadness. The protagnist of this story was Liadan, a young woman who was single-minded, gifted and real. It was wonderful to be back with characters from book one even if some elements were bittersweet. There were so many character favs: Bran, Johnny, Dog, Evan, Sorcha, Red and Finbar.

The story was totally unpredictable, many plot lines that were sneaky, well thought out and deep but not overly complex. The mystical elements of the story were clever and added to the whole experience. The writing style was simply divine. The prose Juliet Marillier uses just speaks to my book soul.

Tread slowly. Tread light as a wren, that makes barely a rustle in the leaves of the hazel thicket. Tread softly, I told myself, or she would shatter into pieces, and it would be too late.

The book took my emotions on a journey. It was easy to invest in these characters that were new and those of old. I don’t think I’ve felt so connected to characters in this way in such a long time. I cried, I figuratively held my breath and I angsted my way through this, loving and living every minute.

This is swiftly becoming one of my favourite fantasy series of all time. If I could award more than 5 stars, I would. Everything about this reading experience was centred around a brilliant set of buddy readers and we are now on a Sevenwaters quest together.

CAZADORA by Romina Garber

In Cazadora, the follow-up to Lobizona, Romina Garber continues to weave Argentine folklore and real-world issues into a haunting, fantastical, and romantic story that will reunite readers with Manu and her friends as they continue to fight for a better future.


Title : Cazadora
Author : Romina Garber
Series : Lobizona
Format : eARC
Page Count : 400
Genre : YA fantasy
Publisher : Wednesday Books
Release Date : August 17, 2021

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ 


Hollis’ 2.75 star review

Did I think this was a duology? Yes. Am I disappointed? A bit. Because even though my feelings about this instalment were kind of lukewarm, the ending hooked me. I kind of expect to be in the same spot again with book three, where I end this review thinking the next book might inspire some love and probably being a little let down again.. but oh well, we’re going to do it anyway.

Bruja. Lobizón. There’s no accompanying symbol, but there’s no need. The gendered language makes it clear which one is for girls and which one is for boys. There’s no breaking out the binary, no room for anything in between.

Some of what I struggled with in book one wasn’t here in book two, which was great, but overall I’m not 100% what actually happened in this book to differentiate it from book one. I mean, yes, we had the big capture, the big confrontation, but the majority of this book was just going through similar motions except the world expanded a bit more from the binary structure introduced in Lobizona. Until those misfits, much like their strict counterparts, weren’t willing to unbend quite as much as expected. Part of me appreciated it, because going with the flow would’ve been a little too easy, but it did reinforce the whole ‘what was the point of this’ feeling. I imagine where we go next will be to lean back into a lot of the themes of book one — isolation, illegal, unwanted — with a few key differences.. such as the truth being out in the open. I can’t picture how this ends, though; so that’s something.

They’ve been making up stories about independent girls in every tradition since forever. And I think it’s time we take back our narrative.

As creative and visual as this world is (don’t ask me why but my brain conjures Avatar-like colours and scenery), I do think it is a bit of a distraction from the dragged out plot. The themes, the dialogue, are all just as important and great as they were in book one, but.. I don’t know. There’s just a but for me.

Again, the ending was good, I will be back for more, but am I still sad I’m not loving this world? So much. Because of that, please disregard this review. I won’t recommend you pick it up but I think this is important enough that you should anyway.

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

DANCE OF THIEVES by Mary E. Pearson

When the patriarch of the Ballenger empire dies, his son, Jase, becomes its new leader. Even nearby kingdoms bow to the strength of this outlaw family, who have always governed by their own rules. But a new era looms on the horizon, set in motion by a young queen, which makes her the target of the dynasty’s resentment and anger.

At the same time, Kazi, a legendary former street thief, is sent by the queen to investigate transgressions against the new settlements. When Kazi arrives in the forbidding land of the Ballengers, she learns that there is more to Jase than she thought. As unexpected events spiral out of their control, bringing them intimately together, they continue to play a cat and mouse game of false moves and motives in order to fulfill their own secret missions.

Mary E. Pearson’s Dance of Thieves is a new YA novel in the New York Times bestselling Remnant Chronicles universe, in which a reformed thief and the young leader of an outlaw dynasty lock wits in a battle that may cost them their lives—and their hearts. 


Title : Dance of Thieves
Author : Mary E. Pearson
Format : eBook (overdrive)
Page Count : 521
Genre : YA fantasy
Publisher : Henry Holt and Co. (BYR)
Release Date : August 7, 2018

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ .75


Hollis’ 3.75 star review

So, in hindsight, I should’ve read these much sooner after finishing The Remnant Chronicles. Especially the novella, Morrigan. Most of the mythology/worldbuilding did come back to me but it was slowish going and I’m sure some bits flew over my head because I’d forgotten some nuance. This does follow new characters, and mostly new conflict (with familiar faces all around, including a villain or two), but it’s still tied into the main series enough that I grumbled about my poor sieve of a memory.

That said, like with Pearson’s original series, I loved Kazi. How this author makes me fall in love with her female protagonists is just pure magic. Jace wasn’t bad, don’t get me wrong, but it’s the women who shine. Kazi is very different from Lia, with a background that is the literal opposite to the other, but she is just as clever, just as cunning, and likely even craftier. Not to mention skilled. 

I like how once again this series is challenging the theory of an assumed-upon history of a world and how what is known maybe isn’t true. While that wasn’t the main issue of the plot it definitely plays a big part. I’m curious to see how it plays out in book two. Because for all that we definitely wrapped up some loose ends, you know there’s more to unravel in the coming book; particularly after that epilogue. And I have t h e o r i e s.

I’m diving right into book two and oh boy am I hoping this series has a stronger end than the last one.