A TORCH AGAINST THE NIGHT by Sabaa Tahir

After the events of the Fourth Trial, Martial soldiers hunt the two fugitives as they flee the city of Serra and undertake a perilous journey through the heart of the Empire.

Laia is determined to break into Kauf—the Empire’s most secure and dangerous prison—to save her brother, who is the key to the Scholars’ survival. And Elias is determined to help Laia succeed, even if it means giving up his last chance at freedom.

But dark forces, human and otherworldly, work against Laia and Elias. The pair must fight every step of the way to outsmart their enemies: the bloodthirsty Emperor Marcus, the merciless Commandant, the sadistic Warden of Kauf, and, most heartbreaking of all, Helene—Elias’s former friend and the Empire’s newest Blood Shrike.

Bound to Marcus’s will, Helene faces a torturous mission of her own—one that might destroy her: find the traitor Elias Veturius and the Scholar slave who helped him escape…and kill them both. 


Title : A Torch Against the Night
Author : Sabaa Tahir
Series : Ember Quartet (book two)
Format : hardback
Page Count : 452
Genre : YA fantasy
Publisher : Razorbill
Release Date : August 30, 2016

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ 


Hollis’ 2 star review

Wow so this took a turn.

As I read this installment I kept questioning if I had been too kind to book one; was it just my ever revolving slump mode that make me think more kindly of it? Was it really that good? I almost went to change my rating, that’s how a) convinced I was that I must’ve been too generous and b) how annoyed I was about this one. But ultimately I think it stands; book one was good. I had a good time, slump or no, and it really just is that this book just.. doesn’t remotely measure up.

Between some bizarre sideplots and elements introduced out of nowhere, with very little sense of cohesion, this was just also.. not well written? And also had poor characterizations? There were moments, of course, but ultimately this felt like it had maybe a handful of a well executed and polished chapters that were tossed into a rough draft.

And if I ever see the word “skies” again I might lose it. I hate repetition, yes, and I understand that words get overused as a touchstone but I swear I came across a single page (as in, one!) with three repeats of that word. And not just one time, but multiple times. Some chapters? At least six utterances. I would see other words, too, reused when it would’ve been more appropriate for a synonym — yes, this is picky bitch shit but it stands out. And it does not make a meh reading experience any easier. Editors : you are valuable and desperately needed. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. Also, please up your prices, you’re worth it.

Getting through this was a chore and I was bored and frustrated pretty much the whole time. My enthusiasm for the rest of the series is incredibly diminished but we’re in it now. I just hope I can get through book three a lot faster than this one.

THE WOLF AND THE WOODSMAN by Ava Reid

In the vein of Naomi Novik’s New York Times bestseller Spinning Silver and Katherine Arden’s national bestseller The Bear and the Nightingale, this unforgettable debut— inspired by Hungarian history and Jewish mythology—follows a young pagan woman with hidden powers and a one-eyed captain of the Woodsmen as they form an unlikely alliance to thwart a tyrant.

In her forest-veiled pagan village, Évike is the only woman without power, making her an outcast clearly abandoned by the gods. The villagers blame her corrupted bloodline—her father was a Yehuli man, one of the much-loathed servants of the fanatical king. When soldiers arrive from the Holy Order of Woodsmen to claim a pagan girl for the king’s blood sacrifice, Évike is betrayed by her fellow villagers and surrendered.

But when monsters attack the Woodsmen and their captive en route, slaughtering everyone but Évike and the cold, one-eyed captain, they have no choice but to rely on each other. Except he’s no ordinary Woodsman—he’s the disgraced prince, Gáspár Bárány, whose father needs pagan magic to consolidate his power. Gáspár fears that his cruelly zealous brother plans to seize the throne and instigate a violent reign that would damn the pagans and the Yehuli alike. As the son of a reviled foreign queen, Gáspár understands what it’s like to be an outcast, and he and Évike make a tenuous pact to stop his brother.

As their mission takes them from the bitter northern tundra to the smog-choked capital, their mutual loathing slowly turns to affection, bound by a shared history of alienation and oppression. However, trust can easily turn to betrayal, and as Évike reconnects with her estranged father and discovers her own hidden magic, she and Gáspár need to decide whose side they’re on, and what they’re willing to give up for a nation that never cared for them at all.


Title : The Wolf & The Woodsman
Author : Ava Reid
Format : Paperback ARC/Audio
Page Count/Running Time : 448/13 hours, 9 minutes
Genre : Fantasy
Publisher : DelRey UK
Release Date : June 8, 2021

Reviewer : Micky
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★


Micky’s 4 star review

Headlines:
Unique fantasy standalone
Dark and sinister moments
Get lost in the visual imagery

This felt like such a fresh story to me with three different belief systems intersecting through the characters. It was a story told in the forest, plains and sometimes cities and villages. I was happiest reading when the story was in the forest even though that where the monsters were.

Evike was a character to get behind, she was complex, morally grey on occasion and resillient. She was ever at the mercy of whatever people she was with. Her self discovery of her lineage, the faith of her father and the Yehuli people were fascinating and the chinks of light in this tale. Gaspar, woodsman and a man with many facets, was equally complex and how their grudging collaboration evolved was great reading. The friendship was a slow burn for sure.

There were monsters, witches, creatures with powers, kings with powers, megalomaniac princes and the kind of tales told to really give you the chills. This easily scared reader coped with it all and it conveyed a murky atmosphere of not knowing what was around the corner. There were some dark and gory moments but they truly added to the story.

I was fortunate to read the hard copy and audio for this and the narration was superb. The characterisation and dialogue fitted that dark atmosphere I described so well.

I thought this was a great debut, a standalone to recommend and I can’t wait to read more by Ava Reid.

Thank you to DelRey UK for the early review copies.

THE JASMINE THRONE by Tasha Suri

A new trilogy set in a world inspired by the history and epics of India, in which a captive princess and a maidservant in possession of forbidden magic become unlikely allies on a dark journey to save their empire from the princess’s traitor brother.

Imprisoned by her dictator brother, Malini spends her days in isolation in the Hirana: an ancient temple that was once the source of the powerful, magical deathless waters — but is now little more than a decaying ruin.

Priya is a maidservant, one among several who make the treacherous journey to the top of the Hirana every night to clean Malini’s chambers. She is happy to be an anonymous drudge, so long as it keeps anyone from guessing the dangerous secret she hides.

But when Malini accidentally bears witness to Priya’s true nature, their destinies become irrevocably tangled. One is a vengeful princess seeking to depose her brother from his throne. The other is a priestess seeking to find her family. Together, they will change the fate of an empire.


Title : The Jasmine Throne
Author : Tasha Suri
Series : Burning Kingdoms
Format : eARC
Page Count : 480
Genre : fantasy
Publisher : Orbit
Release Date : June 8, 2021

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ .5


Hollis’ 3.5 star review

I’m pretty tempted to round up on this one but, despite how much I enjoyed the second half, this definitely starts off.. slow, maybe even a little strange. But it’s some of that same strangeness that kept me from putting it down and wanting to know more.

What I think Suri does so well, beyond some incredibly lush and descriptive but not overly purple writing, is how they offers up very complex and fascinating, multilayered, female characters. They aren’t a stagnant kind of grey or fit easily and snugly into one archetype or mold, either. These women are ever evolving based on their surroundings, twisting themselves into new shapes to suit, while glimmers of their true selves are revealed only to a precious few. We see them battle with themselves, with others, and it’s not always nice. But it felt so real and, as mentioned, it was fascinating.

This story started out very politics heavy and then shifted gears into very magical and weird and then ended with lots more politics spliced through with magic. I wish this had been balanced a little differently but I think I understand why it went the way it did. I just hope it weaves in and out a little better in book two, more in line with how it ended, instead of cut into sections. That said, the nameless and the destinies and that whole concept? Wow. I loved it. I was getting a tiny bit annoyed with the big build up near the end and how we kept getting bashed over the head with the tease but when it finally happened it? I won’t say it was worth it, because you kind of see it coming — not the exact thing, but the shape of it — but I still loved it. And, again, the concept is just fabulous.

There is so much great in here (again why I consider rounding up!) and it’s made up of magic, destinies, betrayal, yearning, and love. And some of that just within the dynamics of one pair of siblings. Suri doesn’t shy away from some uncomfortable dialogue about the pain endured by those who are supposed to love us, while at the same time tackling religious fanaticism, as well as the inherent poison of a nation conquered, oppressed, by others. There’s a lot to unpack.

Where I struggled was the pacing, a lot of extra POVs (sometimes only one offs, which always kind of bugs me), a bit of back and forth repetition with a certain build up, and with one particular character and their motivations and how that spilled over onto others and tugged the plot around, only to.. I don’t know. I can’t say for spoilers but I was left feeling something about it. And how some of that conflict ultimately just felt like filler and a time waster in the end.

But. I still definitely recommend this. Not just for the diversity in this India-inspired fantasy, not just for the romance (sapphic, by the way!), or the creeping eerieness of a conflict we’ve only just barely glimpsed and that is still to reveal itself, or for the political manouevering and cleverness heralded by a fierce, uncompromising, woman. But all that and more.

I am really excited for book two.

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

AN EMBER IN THE ASHES by Sabaa Tahir

Laia is a slave.
Elias is a soldier.
Neither is free.


Under the Martial Empire, defiance is met with death. Those who do not vow their blood and bodies to the Emperor risk the execution of their loved ones and the destruction of all they hold dear.

It is in this brutal world, inspired by ancient Rome, that Laia lives with her grandparents and older brother. The family ekes out an existence in the Empire’s impoverished backstreets. They do not challenge the Empire. They’ve seen what happens to those who do.

But when Laia’s brother is arrested for treason, Laia is forced to make a decision. In exchange for help from rebels who promise to rescue her brother, she will risk her life to spy for them from within the Empire’s greatest military academy.

There, Laia meets Elias, the school’s finest soldier—and secretly, its most unwilling. Elias wants only to be free of the tyranny he’s being trained to enforce. He and Laia will soon realize that their destinies are intertwined—and that their choices will change the fate of the Empire itself. 


Title : An Ember in the Ashes
Author : Sabaa Tahir
Series : Ember Quartet (book one)
Format : hardback
Page Count : 446
Genre : YA fantasy
Publisher : Razorbill
Release Date : April 28, 2015

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★


Hollis’ 4 star review

While it might seen like I am hella late to this series.. I am but I’m also not. I read this book a hundred years ago, when life was simpler and less strange, but it’s a series I never continued; thankfully, unlike other series I’ve been trying to tackle this year, I didn’t keep buying these ones only to let them gather dust on my shelves. Because that might mean a few less books to unhaul post-pandemic season. Yes, that’s getting a bit ahead of ourselves, isn’t it.. (also I might love them and wish I had bought them; who can say).

Regardless, this was a reread for me, but the rest of the series will be new-to-me. Now that the series is over it’s safe to dive in because it’s binge time, baby. Because ya gurl’s memory can’t handle long drawn series that span years of release dates. We are getting old.

Case in point? I remembered almost nothing about this. For every new chapter it was like a whole new experience. I remembered maybe two aspects of this whole installment and they were the most basic concepts, nothing major, and considering all the directions this went, I’m surprised I didn’t remember more. I also didn’t remember it being so violent and brutal (not adult fantasy levels of brutal but still.. it’s close, and still worth mentioning). And the ending? Complete surprise. Suffice it to say it was like I hadn’t read this at all but only briefly glimpsed the synopsis.

And ultimately? I really enjoyed it. I feel like it stood the test of time and still holds up all these years later. Nostalgia is obviously not a factor as my memory didn’t play into this, elle oh elle. Also, of note, I haven’t picked anything up in over a week and this was basically a one-sitting read, so. It gets extra points for that.

Time to see what book two holds!

(Yes, I realize I spoke nothing of plot or concept or themes or.. anything, really, about this book. There are like three people in the world who have yet to at least read book one in this series so I’m even less inclined than usual to summarize the plot itself or bother with much detail. I’ll try and do better for the next books but no promises.)

FOR THE WOLF by Hannah Whitten

The first daughter is for the Throne.
The second daughter is for the Wolf.

For fans of Uprooted and The Bear and the Nightingale comes a dark fantasy novel about a young woman who must be sacrificed to the legendary Wolf of the Wood to save her kingdom. But not all legends are true, and the Wolf isn’t the only danger lurking in the Wilderwood.

As the only Second Daughter born in centuries, Red has one purpose-to be sacrificed to the Wolf in the Wood in the hope he’ll return the world’s captured gods.

Red is almost relieved to go. Plagued by a dangerous power she can’t control, at least she knows that in the Wilderwood, she can’t hurt those she loves. Again.

But the legends lie. The Wolf is a man, not a monster. Her magic is a calling, not a curse. And if she doesn’t learn how to use it, the monsters the gods have become will swallow the Wilderwood-and her world-whole.


Title : For the Wolf
Author : Hannah Whitten
Series : Wilderwood (book one)
Format : eARC
Page Count : 448
Genre : fantasy
Publisher : Orbit
Release Date : June 1, 2021

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


Hollis’ 3.5 star review

This is not the first time I’ve had a reading experience with this, where I start strong, get waylaid in the middle, and then have no opportunity to pick it up and finish even though I’m so close to the end. This kind of pattern always screws me up (I’m a one or two session reader, often just one!) and leaves me uncertain how I feel about a story. Enter, For the Wolf.

I liked so much of this but was equally confused by just as much. This is a story that I definitely need to reread because I think it’s possible this would be an easy four star if I had read it normally.

People created stories to fill the gaps they didn’t understand, and religion grew up around it like rot on a fallen tree.

There are shades of familiar fairytales woven into the roots of this spooky forest magic story. But these parts are made equally their own thing. This is not YA but is written with similar YA beats, yet manages to be dark without crossing any ‘can’t turn back now’ lines.

All of them loved like burning, no thought for the ashes.

While this had some absolutely lovely turns of phrase, a slowburn romance, and tons of forest aesthetic, I definitely lost track of some scenes or events as they played out, and I did find myself losing the thread of the worldbuiling (probably explained in the beginning and then just forgotten, because I’m dumb and was too slow to read this; though I also think the mythology is supposed to be uncertain and skewed and that doesn’t help?), but I am definitely going to be keen for the follow up.

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


Micky’s 3.5 -4 star review

Headlines:
Retelling hybrid
Oh for the love of great MCs
Confused world building

I’ve had to really think about my rating on For The Wolf because I’ve come out of it in a good place but the journey was sometimes confused by difficult world building layered in a way that wasn’t intuitive. However, what this book brings in terms of characterisation is pretty great, with Eammon a large, gentle man battling to keep the wood in some kind of equilibrium and Redarys, an immediately likeable young woman who knew her own mind and her path.

This book felt like a fresh blend of traits from a number of well known fairytales in a hybrid that totally worked. It definitely felt like it’s own story but I enjoyed the elements of familiarity when they popped up. The wood itself was a wild, powerful ‘being’ and there were moments of body horror (fleeting but present) but I felt all that really added to the wilderwood presence. The description opened up such imagery when reading that I had a really clear picture of how I felt this wild place looked.

There were important side characters, a few I liked and some I couldn’t stand, nor was I meant to. I’ve come away from the story unsure how I feel about Neve but 100% invested in reading more in the next book.

I do just want to embelish a little on my world building problems and say that by the last quarter of the book, I was clear on what was what. I don’t mind having to work for answers with a fantasy book but I did feel a lack of clarity at times that was irritating. This was a case of having to just go with the flow of side confusion to keep traction with the story until things were clearer and they did become clearer.

Overall, this is a good debut. If you start this book and feel some confusion, keep going, the story and the characters are worth it.

Thank you to Orbit Books for the early review copy.

BLADE OF SECRETS by Tricia Levenseller

Eighteen-year-old Ziva prefers metal to people. She spends her days tucked away in her forge, safe from society and the anxiety it causes her, using her magical gift to craft unique weapons imbued with power.

Then Ziva receives a commission from a powerful warlord, and the result is a sword capable of stealing its victims’ secrets. A sword that can cut far deeper than the length of its blade. A sword with the strength to topple kingdoms. When Ziva learns of the warlord’s intentions to use the weapon to enslave all the world under her rule, she takes her sister and flees.

Joined by a distractingly handsome mercenary and a young scholar with extensive knowledge of the world’s known magics, Ziva and her sister set out on a quest to keep the sword safe until they can find a worthy wielder or a way to destroy it entirely.

A teenage blacksmith with social anxiety accepts a commission from the wrong person and is forced to go on the run to protect the world from the most powerful magical sword she’s ever made.


Title : Blade of Secrets
Author : Tricia Levenseller
Format : Audio
Narrator : Emily Ellet
Duration : 8 hours, 53 minutes
Genre : Fantasy
Publisher : Macmillan Audio
Release Date : May 4, 2021

Reviewer : Micky
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★


Micky’s 4 star review

Headlines:
Unusual protagonist
Anxiety representation

I knew absolutely nothing about Blade of Secrets before I started it and so I was happy to be drawn into an unusual tale with an unusual protagonist for fantasy. Ziva was a smithy with powers, unpredictable ones but she also had anxiety with a range of symptoms. I was all woah to seeing that in fantasy and in a good way. I really appreciated Ziva being a strong female but not diminished by her anxiety, she was still a strong and gifted character.

The story centred on two sisters with virtually no other family but this tale brought a bit of a found-family trope which I liked. This troop of Temra, Kellyn (hellooo), Patrick and the Secret Eater were pretty interesting to read about. They went from smithy to on the run and I was here for the story developments.

There was plenty of banter, fun capers and peril. I am 100% invested in these weapons and I want all the Secret Eater info. There was definitely a slow burn element to budgeoning relationships and the end left me wanting more. I am looking forward to book two.

The narration was great, the different gendered dialogue worked well and felt convincing. The characterisation captured the colourful crew well.

Thank you to Macmillan Audio for the review copy.

THE LOOK OF A KING by Tom Dumbrell

Two young men.
One with a dark past, the other with a bright future.

Cyrus is a storyteller frustrated by the mundane trappings of village life, while Prince Augustus struggles to meet high expectations after an upbringing of royal privilege in the bustling capital. As both try to forge their own paths, a royal assassination unexpectedly closes the gap between them. The nation of Easthaven is thrown into war with their oppressive neighbours, and so begins a conflict from which neither can walk away.

Will a young prince finally measure up to his destiny? Will a storyteller create a legend of his own?

Cyrus and Augustus’s lives may seem worlds apart, but perhaps they aren’t so different after all…

The Look of a King is a fast-paced, adventure fantasy for readers aged 12+. It is perfect for readers who enjoy the pacing of books like The Hobbit, but with the unpredictable ruthless quality of Game of Thrones, where nothing is as it seems. Readers have described The Look of a King as ‘enthralling’, ‘engrossing’, ‘fantasy without the waffle’. The book will suit reluctant or time-poor readers who want a book that is easy to pick up and dive into with movie-like action. Book II: No Place for Peace – coming October 11th, 2021.


Title : The Look Of A King
Author : Tom Dumbrell
Format : Paperback
Page Count : 262
Genre : Fantasy
Publisher : Self Published
Release Date : March 6, 2021

Reviewer : Micky
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★


Micky’s 4 star review

Headlines:
Historical in a fantasy world
Coming of age in war time
Identity

The Look of a King was a fast and engaging read. It was historical, in a fantasy world but not a magical world. It had some themes I really enjoy like found family, familial relationships and all that happening during a time of great unrest and war in this world.

The protagonist Cyrus was very likeable, humble and lacking in self belief but due to the circumstances of the story, there was a lot of character growth. Cyrus was a young man, finding his way in the world, finding a personal route in life until holy twist on a stick, things happened.

Talking of twists the story had a smattering of them, none of which I saw on the horizon, so that kept me glued to the story. There were some great side characters, those to cheer for and those not so much. The two sides of the coin could not have been more different despite outward appearances and ugh, I did not like one character in particular.

I would say that this book is definitely a grower, it didn’t start with a boom but it got me on board in a few chapters. I’ve ended it really wanting to know what’s going to happen with the double crossing, double-faced characters and with those I’m rooting for. Tom Dumbrell has written a great debut with care; it’s definitely worth checking out.

Thank you to the author for the gifted copy, this did not affect my honest review.

A VOW SO BOLD AND DEADLY by Brigid Kemmerer – double review!

Face your fears, fight the battle.

Emberfall is crumbling fast, torn between those who believe Rhen is the rightful prince and those who are eager to begin a new era under Grey, the true heir. Grey has agreed to wait two months before attacking Emberfall, and in that time, Rhen has turned away from everyone—even Harper, as she desperately tries to help him find a path to peace. 

Fight the battle, save the kingdom.

Meanwhile, Lia Mara struggles to rule Syhl Shallow with a gentler hand than her mother. But after enjoying decades of peace once magic was driven out of their lands, some of her subjects are angry Lia Mara has an enchanted prince and a magical scraver by her side. As Grey’s deadline draws nearer, Lia Mara questions if she can be the queen her country needs.

As the two kingdoms come closer to conflict, loyalties are tested, love is threatened, and a dangerous enemy returns, in this stunning conclusion to bestselling author Brigid Kemmerer’s Cursebreaker series.


Title : A Vow So Bold and Deadly
Author : Brigid Kemmerer
Series : Cursebreakers (book three)
Format : eBook (overdrive)/audio review
Page Count : 408
Genre : YA fantasy
Publisher : Bloomsbury YA/Audio
Release Date : January 26, 2021

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


Hollis’ 3 star review

I think I’m only actually bothering to review this one because I have reviews for the first two on the blog and so my completionist gene poked me to.. well, complete the trilogy of reviews. But overall I really don’t have much to say?

I think ultimately what failed this series, though, was the villain. Where it worked was that often the stakes did feel high because the violence and death toll was real. The author did not shy away from some of the more brutal consequences. But at the same time.. like, it felt not high at all? I still struggle with the motivations of it all, really. It felt a bit like a misstep because the whole conflict felt off balance. And then ultimately.. I mean, really? All that for.. what.

But likewise I feel like the other characters, too, had their moments with this. Maybe that’s why this series never achieved great heights for me. I think I like the concepts and the unfolding of the story but kept getting knocked out of it because the characters themselves didn’t quite match the rest.

Having said that, though, the big confrontation conflict moment? Confusing. Chaos. Hard to follow. And then.. over. That is my biggest gripe with this particular installment. I had lost the love over the main pairing back at the end of book one, or early two, so I was only into the secondary pairing, and they definitely delivered. The first? Less so. But I think that also plays into me just not being into the main plot? And is why I liked book two more? Did I rate this book too high? Is this actually a 2.5? Hm.

Anyway. Overall, this series had some things to like about it but also had enough that either didn’t pan out or just didn’t work for me. But it also made for quick reads (this one being no exception) and I’m not mad about the time I spent in this world; but nor will they linger in my memory; which is totally fine. I need every ounce of salvagable free space in my brain I can get.


Micky’s 3.5 star review

Headlines:
Family fighting
New roles for old friends
The threat of war

I’m feeling an overall sense of satisfaction with where the series has left readers and the latter part of the reading journey was incredibly fulfilling. Some of the middle journey didn’t always keep me fully engaged.

The two factions of this story were really pitched against one another at the end of the previous book with the queen of evil in the middle. I appreciated the stories on both sides of this but what has been hugely interesting to me has been my own feelings across the series as I’ve gravitated from one set of characters to another in terms of loyalty. I wanted to stay in Grey’s crew and had to remind myself to care about Rhen and Harper. I do feel like Harper’s character has faded a little across the series. Lia Mara still left me feeling a bit ambivalent.

Things I enjoyed about this installment included the strategy, the uncertainty that characters had of one another, healing of old hurts and reconciliations. It felt good to complete the series.

This was an audio listen and I enjoyed the narrators, the atmosphere and the general vibe of the book in this format. There was an early slip up with one narrator saying ‘Lia Maria’ instead of Lia Mara a few times, but it didn’t get repeated more than twice.

Readers new to the series will get to power through the three books and I think this will be a great binge.

Thank you to Bloomsbury Publishing for this audio review copy.

BLACK SUN by Rebecca Roanhorse

The first book in the Between Earth and Sky trilogy, inspired by the civilizations of the Pre-Columbian Americas and woven into a tale of celestial prophecies, political intrigue, and forbidden magic.

A god will return
When the earth and sky converge
Under the black sun

In the holy city of Tova, the winter solstice is usually a time for celebration and renewal, but this year it coincides with a solar eclipse, a rare celestial event proscribed by the Sun Priest as an unbalancing of the world.

Meanwhile, a ship launches from a distant city bound for Tova and set to arrive on the solstice. The captain of the ship, Xiala, is a disgraced Teek whose song can calm the waters around her as easily as it can warp a man’s mind. Her ship carries one passenger. Described as harmless, the passenger, Serapio, is a young man, blind, scarred, and cloaked in destiny. As Xiala well knows, when a man is described as harmless, he usually ends up being a villain.


Title : Black Sun
Author : Rebecca Roanhorse
Series : Between Earth and Sky (book one)
Format : eBook (overdrive)
Page Count : 464
Genre : fantasy / sci-fi
Publisher : Gallery / Saga Press
Release Date : October 13, 2020

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ .5


Hollis’ 2.5 star review

So obviously this isn’t the five star review all my friends, and likely your friends, are writing. So skip right by.

For the second time in the last month (maybe.. what even is time) or so I have attempted to dive into a fantasy to pull me out of this endless slump and for the second time.. it has not worked. Has, in fact, failed miserably. This is probably, very likely, a me thing; hence the skipping.

What works? This isn’t yet another generic-Euro-centric fantasy. The writing is easy; I chewed through this very quickly despite the chonkyness. It was very queer.

That’s all I got. I know, I suck, I’m sorry.

Give this a try, you’ll probably like it.

RULE OF WOVES by Leigh Bardugo

The wolves are circling and a young king will face his greatest challenge in the explosive finale of the instant #1 New York Times-bestselling King of Scars Duology.

The Demon King. As Fjerda’s massive army prepares to invade, Nikolai Lantsov will summon every bit of his ingenuity and charm—and even the monster within—to win this fight. But a dark threat looms that cannot be defeated by a young king’s gift for the impossible. 

The Stormwitch. Zoya Nazyalensky has lost too much to war. She saw her mentor die and her worst enemy resurrected, and she refuses to bury another friend. Now duty demands she embrace her powers to become the weapon her country needs. No matter the cost.

The Queen of Mourning. Deep undercover, Nina Zenik risks discovery and death as she wages war on Fjerda from inside its capital. But her desire for revenge may cost her country its chance at freedom and Nina the chance to heal her grieving heart.

King. General. Spy. Together they must find a way to forge a future in the darkness. Or watch a nation fall.


Title : Rule of Wolves
Author : Leigh Bardugo
Series : King of Scars (book two)
Format : eBook (overdrive)
Page Count : 598
Genre : YA fantasy
Publisher : Imprint
Release Date : March 30, 2021

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ .5


Hollis’ 3.5 star review

So I think I’m in a pretty similar space and feeling about this book as I was with book one. It didn’t quite deliver the kicking of ass I expected but I was a lot less bored. And yet..

I don’t know, I feel like this book did a lot of good, or great things, but I think I enjoyed it because of the whole. This really is a ‘verse now, and we had even more reunions and cameos in this follow up installment than we did in book one, and I did enjoy myself. But this particular book and series? I don’t know.

But what this spinoff set up for us to come? Some of the loose ends, or unknowns, it tied up and revealed to us? I mean, I’m pretty satisfied.

While I was less bored, which was my main complaint about King of Scars, this did take me a huge chunk of the day to get through (and yes it a chonky book in general) because it just didn’t compell me, capture my attention, keep me from reaching for twitter. But despite that it did keep me reading all day which is in short supply lately (always).

So, make of all this what you will! I will continue to reach for books, or whatever kind of content (one week as of the writing of this before the show!) Bardugo offers us, but is this series a favourite? No. Maybe on reread? Who can say. But I had a good time anyway.