GIVE THE DARK MY LOVE by Beth Revis

When seventeen-year-old Nedra Brysstain leaves her home in the rural, northern territories of Lunar Island to attend the prestigious Yugen Academy, she has only one goal in mind: learn the trade of medicinal alchemy. A scholarship student matriculating with the children of Lunar Island’s wealthiest and most powerful families, Nedra doesn’t quite fit in with the other kids at Yugen, who all look down on her. 

All, except for Greggori “Grey” Astor. Grey is immediately taken by the brilliant and stubborn Nedra, who he notices is especially invested in her studies. And that’s for a good reason: a deadly plague has been sweeping through the North, and it’s making its way toward the cities. With her family’s life–and the lives of all of Lunar Island’s citizens–on the line, Nedra is determined to find a cure for the plague. 

Grey and Nedra continue to grow closer, but as the sickness spreads and the body count rises, Nedra becomes desperate to find a cure. Soon, she finds herself diving into alchemy’s most dangerous corners–and when she turns to the most forbidden practice of all, necromancy, even Grey might not be able to pull her from the darkness. 


Title : Give The Dark My Love
Author : Beth Revis
Series : Give The Dark My Love (book one)
Format : physical book
Page Count : 368
Genre : YA fantasy
Publisher : Razorbill
Release Date : September 25, 2018

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ .5


Hollis’ 3.5 star review

I’ve had this book literally sitting on my nightstand for almost a year. I guess it’s better late than never but wow. I feel pretty accomplished and satisfied right now — calm down, Hollis, you tackled one book on your backlist. One.

Anyway.

This book was so good. I didn’t know what to expect beyond necromancy and a girl crossing over into darkness. I didn’t know why or how or what. What are those details, you ask? Plague. The desire of one small-town girl wanting to help. And then heartbreak and desperation pushing her to the brink.

“.. your path has always been longer than this little road. You were meant for the city streets, for ships across the sea, for places where there are no roads. I don’t want you to take my book cart. [..] I’d never fold you up into books sold to strangers. You’re going to live your own story.

This isn’t quite the anti-heroine story I thought it would be but that might very well change in book two; particularly considering how this ended.

Everything I’d done since arriving in Northface Harbour had been just a little off. I longed to fit seamlessly into a world with no openings.

The only thing that really knocked this down for me, which will explain my rating considering all the above buzz, is the romance. I saw book two pitched in a way that it was about the boy who loved the MC trying to bring her back from the darkness. I guess I expected a strong romance in here to be that backbone for what was to come. And I didn’t really get it. Sure, he’s a nice, kind, soft boy.. but he is really only those words. There wasn’t really any meat or substance to him. There was some connection, a good reason for them to have drawn to each other, pushed together, but I wish instead it had just been a case of strong, beautiful, friendship. I think we need more of those in YA. And it would’ve made this book pretty damn close to perfect for me if it had been present in this one.

I wondered if it were possible to remove myself from politics, or if my silence had been its own choice.

Alas, I still enjoyed it. This book is.. not depressing, but hard, maybe? For the characters. There is a bleak kind of desperation in this world’s conflict. There is a tirelessness to fighting something that can’t be stopped. And then the tragedy of losing one’s whole world. Before the rage that steps in to take its place, to do what shouldn’t be done, to fight back.

I guess sometimes it’s just easier to keep things they way that they are.”
I think that depends on what your now looks like.”

I loved the last minute twists, the turns, and I’m so keen to read on and see where Nedra goes next — and boy am I glad that I have an ARC of book two, I don’t need to wait to find out.

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

A TREASON OF THORNS by Laura E Weymouth

Violet Sterling has spent the last seven years in exile, longing to return to Burleigh House. One of the six great houses of England, Burleigh’s magic always kept the countryside well. And as a child, this magic kept Violet happy, draping her in flowers while she slept, fashioning secret hiding places for her, and lighting fires on the coldest nights to keep her warm.

Everything shattered, though, when her father committed high treason trying to free Burleigh from the king’s oppressive control. He was killed, and Vi was forced into hiding.

When she’s given a chance to go back, she discovers Burleigh has run wild with grief. Vines and briars are crumbling the walls. Magic that once enriched the surrounding countryside has turned dark and deadly, twisting lush blooms into thorns, poisoning livestock and destroying crops. Burleigh’s very soul is crying out in pain.

Vi would do anything to help, and soon she finds herself walking the same deadly path as her father all those years before. Vi must decide how far she’s willing to go to save her house—before her house destroys everything she’s ever known.


Title : A Treason of Thorns
Author : Laura E Weymouth
Format : ARC
Page Count : 352
Genre : alt-history YA fantasy
Publisher : HarperTeen
Release Date : September 10, 2019

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ .5


Hollis’ 1.5 star review

My issue with A TREASON OF THORNS is that I found the best parts of it to be in the synopsis.

The tightly framed concept sounds fantastic in short form but loses itself in drawn out translation. The characters are underdeveloped, the romance is.. a stretch, and the plot itself feels like it’s just spinning its wheels until it reaches a certain word count. It’s repetitive both in tone and vocabulary and, ultimately, just stuck in one gear. 

This is such a fascinating idea, and the author made it complex enough to be believable, but then dropped the ball by explaining very little. It still had the potential to be outstanding, though, and while I did like some the imagery, and the resonance of emotion Violet felt through her connection to the House, again, it just.. didn’t really work. It might make a great movie, though, if you had visuals to focus on and an actress who could pull of the range of emotions that I don’t think felt at all believable, or fully formed, from the MC.

I’ve now had two very perplexing reactions to Weymouth’s first and second novels and I’m realizing that she just might not be for me. 

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

THE TEN THOUSAND DOORS OF JANUARY by Alix E. Harrow

In the early 1900s, a young woman embarks on a fantastical journey of self-discovery after finding a mysterious book in this captivating and lyrical debut.

In a sprawling mansion filled with peculiar treasures, January Scaller is a curiosity herself. As the ward of the wealthy Mr. Locke, she feels little different from the artifacts that decorate the halls: carefully maintained, largely ignored, and utterly out of place.

Then she finds a strange book. A book that carries the scent of other worlds, and tells a tale of secret doors, of love, adventure and danger. Each page turn reveals impossible truths about the world and January discovers a story increasingly entwined with her own.

Lush and richly imagined, a tale of impossible journeys, unforgettable love, and the enduring power of stories awaits in Alix E. Harrow’s spellbinding debut–step inside and discover its magic.


Title : The Ten Thousand Doors of January
Author : Alix E. Harrow
Format : ARC
Page Count : 385
Genre : historical fiction fantasy
Publisher : Redhook
Release Date : September 10, 2019

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★


Hollis’ 4 star review

This was nothing that I expected it to be while also being exactly what I thought it would. Go figure that one out because I’m not sure I do!

Doors [..] are change, and change is a dangerous necessity. Doors are revolutions and upheavals, uncertanties and mysteries, axis points around which entire worlds can be turned. They are the beginnings and ending of every true story, the passages between that lead to adventures and madness and even love.

THE TEN THOUSAND DOORS OF JANUARY is portal fantasy and historical fiction but, mostly, is about lost parents, absent parents, adoptive controlling parents, good people who make poor choices, bad people who care, the love of a dog, and the ones who stick around through good times and bad. Words have power, doors do more than just open to the next room, and there really are monsters that go bump in the night. 

There’s only one way to run away from your own story, and that’s to sneak into someone else’s.

For all the magic and wonder and strangeness of this world, and the ten thousand others we visit, it had a very strong backbone that felt relatable to the reader, whilst still being utterly magical, too. I loved how this story connected, though none of it was a surprise to me, and how each piece was slotted together. I loved the ending, too. There are some things I wish had been better explained but I suppose that would spoil some of the whimsy and wonder and, really, overall it doesn’t take away any of my enjoyment. It’s a small wish.

It’s a profoundly strange feeling, to stumble across someone whose desires are shaped so closely to your own, like reaching toward your reflection in a mirror and finding warm flesh under your fingertips. If you should ever be lucky enough to find that magical, fearful symmetry, I hope you’re brave enough to grab it with both hands and not let go.

I would absolutely read more by this author because if this is her debut, which is hard to believe, I can only imagine what is to come from her. 
If you’re looking for a lyrical, dreamy, diverse read, with plenty of historical foundation and all sorts of creative fantastical elements, you’ll want to pick this one up.

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

GIDEON THE NINTH by Tamsyn Muir

Gideon the Ninth is the most fun you’ll ever have with a skeleton.

The Emperor needs necromancers.

The Ninth Necromancer needs a swordswoman.

Gideon has a sword, some dirty magazines, and no more time for undead bullshit.

Tamsyn Muir’s Gideon the Ninth unveils a solar system of swordplay, cut-throat politics, and lesbian necromancers. Her characters leap off the page, as skillfully animated as necromantic skeletons. The result is a heart-pounding epic science fantasy.

Brought up by unfriendly, ossifying nuns, ancient retainers, and countless skeletons, Gideon is ready to abandon a life of servitude and an afterlife as a reanimated corpse. She packs up her sword, her shoes, and her dirty magazines, and prepares to launch her daring escape. But her childhood nemesis won’t set her free without a service.

Harrowhark Nonagesimus, Reverend Daughter of the Ninth House and bone witch extraordinaire, has been summoned into action. The Emperor has invited the heirs to each of his loyal Houses to a deadly trial of wits and skill. If Harrowhark succeeds she will become an immortal, all-powerful servant of the Resurrection, but no necromancer can ascend without their cavalier. Without Gideon’s sword, Harrow will fail, and the Ninth House will die.

Of course, some things are better left dead.


Title : Gideon the Ninth
Author : Tamsyn Muir
Series : The Ninth House
Format : eARC
Page Count : 437
Genre : LGBTQIA+ sci-fi fantasy
Publisher : Tor.com
Release Date : September 10, 2019

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★


Hollis’ 4 star review

So listen. The only reason I’m not giving this five stars is because sometimes, while reading, I would feel a little lost. Confused, even. It’s been awhile since I read an adult science-fiction novel, particularly one as complex as this, with such a large cast, and during the over (!) two (!!) weeks (!!!) it took me to read this, between slumps and life chaos and other ARC deadlines, it was just.. a lot.

I would have thought you would be happy that I needed you. That I showed you my girlish and vulnerable heart.
Your heart is a party for five thousand nails.”

But I never stopped having fun.

Gideon would’ve sworn there were tears in her eyes, except that no such liquid existed. Harrow was a desiccated mummy of hate.

The characters in this series are.. just, everything. Gideon is a riot. I spent most of my time, confused and non-confused, reading this book and giggling. Snorting. Cackling. Highlighting. This isn’t a comedy but is comedic af. The author, through Gideon, is snarky and sarcastic and just.. relentlessly relatable. For all that she’s the cavalier, swords-person/bodyguard, of a necromancer, in space, who is battling to riddle out puzzles of which the end goal is to make them immortal and all-powerful. You know, totally relatable.

I cannot and will not read your thoughts, control your body, or look at your most intimate memories. I don’t have the ability and I certain’t don’t have the desire.
It’s for your own protection, not mine. I imagined Crux’s butt once when I was twelve.”

I’ve seen this pitched, and even pitched it myself, as ‘lesbian necromancers in space’ and that does such an injustice to the scope and breadth and complexity of everything, plot and characters, of this book. But it’s one hell of a great hook and if it’s what pulled you in, fantastic. Just buckle the hell up and know there is so much more to this.

I’ll still do it.”
Why?
Probably because you asked.”
That’s all it takes, [..]? That’s all you demand? This is the complex mystery that lies in the pit of your psyche?
That’s all I ever demanded, you asswipe.”

This book is spooky, funny, heartbreaking, hilarious, rich in ‘I’m too dumb for this’ science, and even weirder magic. The cast is vibrant and diverse and while sometimes I wish I had taken notes on who is what and why and what are the Houses.. even confused, I was happy. Truly. This is a book that needed more time than I had to give it and that’s on me. Even though, yeah, okay, it’s on me but I’m also knocking down a star.

Why was I born so attractive?
Because everyone would have throttled you within the first five minutes otherwise.”

But.

Nav, show them what the Ninth House does.
We do bones, motherfucker.

I will say, brace yourselves. This isn’t the standalone I thought it would be. And I was u n p r e p a r e d for the end of this book in many many ways. I may have cried. Well, okay, welled up. But regardless I need book two yesterday. The good news is I’ll definitely reread this before the sequel (is it a duology? a trilogy?) so I hope to a) maybe have a better handle on things earlier on in the unfolding of the story and b) maybe, hopefully, round up.

Gideon was experiencing one powerful emotion : being sick of everyone’s shit.

Regardless, if you’re comfortable with adult sci-fi, prepared to hunker down with a long book, and want hilarity alongside diversity? You need this. The fact that this incredible title is a debut just blows my mind. Just the way the book itself did. Infact, just putting this review together, and pulling the quotes, actually makes me want to just.. start reading it all over again. And that almost never happens to me. So I hope that says it all! Even though I said.. a lot. Already.

You are my only friend. I am undone without you.”

Oh, did I mention there’s a hate to love f/f romance? Hm? Did I?

You definitely need this one in your life.

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

THE LADY ROGUE by Jenn Bennett

The Last Magician meets A Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue in this thrilling tale filled with magic and set in the mysterious Carpathian Mountains where a girl must hunt down Vlad the Impaler’s cursed ring in order to save her father.

Some legends never die…

Traveling with her treasure-hunting father has always been a dream for Theodora. She’s read every book in his library, has an impressive knowledge of the world’s most sought-after relics, and has all the ambition in the world. What she doesn’t have is her father’s permission. That honor goes to her father’s nineteen-year-old protégé—and once-upon-a-time love of Theodora’s life—Huck Gallagher, while Theodora is left to sit alone in her hotel in Istanbul.

Until Huck arrives from an expedition without her father and enlists Theodora’s help in rescuing him. Armed with her father’s travel journal, the reluctant duo learns that her father had been digging up information on a legendary and magical ring that once belonged to Vlad the Impaler—more widely known as Dracula—and that it just might be the key to finding him.

Journeying into Romania, Theodora and Huck embark on a captivating adventure through Gothic villages and dark castles in the misty Carpathian Mountains to recover the notorious ring. But they aren’t the only ones who are searching for it. A secretive and dangerous occult society with a powerful link to Vlad the Impaler himself is hunting for it, too. And they will go to any lengths—including murder—to possess it.


Title : The Lady Rogue
Author : Jenn Bennett
Format : eARC
Page Count : 384
Genre : YA historical fantasy
Publisher : Simon Pulse
Release Date : September 3, 2019

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ 


Hollis’ 2 star review

I requested this book for one reason, really, and one reason only : the name next to “author”. I’m a big fan of Bennett’s contemporaries and I’ve dabbled in her adult PNR series (which I still have to finish!) so seeing her switch from YA contemporary to YA historical/fantasy didn’t concern me. I was excited. I might not have loved SERIOUS MOONLIGHT but I love her writing, her previous books, and had every reason to expect the same of this one.

But nope.

This book was a chore to read. I pushed through it quickly because the last thing I needed was another slump, and it wasn’t too long, and I just kept waiting for the spark. Or any spark, really. I felt nothing for the characters who were, respectfully, spoiled and or sulky as well as overdoing the charm to the point of not being charming. I felt nothing for the angst over the romance which we were beat over the head with to a ridiculous degree. And honestly the Vlad the Impaler plot/mystery that sent these two gallivanting all over Eastern Europe just.. didn’t really hook me and, like, did it ultimately even matter? I’m so confused.

I also want to say the pitch comparison to THE GENTLEMAN’S GUIDE TO VICE AND VIRTUE definitely had me thinking this was queer. And it is not.

I didn’t love the characters, the angst, the romance, the plot. Even Bennett’s writing, which I normally love, felt different and failed to entice. If this hadn’t been an ARC, I would’ve DNF’d. If this was any other author, I would probably one star. But I just can’t bear to. And I do think maybe this is a me problem? Despite everything?

Anyway, I don’t think this is a series, so I’m relieved about that, but even if it was.. I wouldn’t be reading on.

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

DARKDAWN by Jay Kristoff – double review!

**Reviews edited April 2021. Micky & Hollis have left their original ratings and reviews but we would like to state that we hadn’t realised the harmful elements of the books in this series until now. For that, we are really sorry – we are referring to Asian stereotyping, antisemitic and albinism elements that have hurt readers. If our original reviews were conveyed as an endorsement of these issues, we want to apologise for that. We are learning and will continue to do so.**

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

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

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


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

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


Hollis’ 4 star review

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Would recommend!

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


Micky’s 4 star review

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

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

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

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

THERE WILL COME A DARKNESS by Katy Rose Pool

The Age of Darkness approaches.
Five lives stand in its way.
Who will stop it… or unleash it?

For generations, the Seven Prophets guided humanity. Using their visions of the future, they ended wars and united nations―until the day, one hundred years ago, when the Prophets disappeared.

All they left behind was one final, secret prophecy, foretelling an Age of Darkness and the birth of a new Prophet who could be the world’s salvation . . . or the cause of its destruction. As chaos takes hold, five souls are set on a collision course:

A prince exiled from his kingdom.
A ruthless killer known as the Pale Hand.
A once-faithful leader torn between his duty and his heart.
A reckless gambler with the power to find anything or anyone.
And a dying girl on the verge of giving up.

One of them―or all of them―could break the world. Will they be savior or destroyer? Perfect for fans of Throne of Glass, Children of Blood and Bone, and An Ember in the Ashes.


Title : There Will Come a Darkness
Author : Katy Rose Pool
Series : Age of Darkness (book one)
Format : ARC
Page Count : 496
Genre : YA fantasy
Publisher : Henry Holt and Co. (BYR)
Release Date : September 3, 2019

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★


Hollis’ 4 star review

I think when I requested this book, the only bit I knew about it was “the Age of Darkness approaches and five lives stand in its way”. Because when I opened this book and started reading it, I was delightfully surprised. And hooked.

He’d been on his own since he was eleven years old, and in that time he’d traded parts of himself — dignity, virtue, a clear conscience, if he’d ever had those things — to save the whole. He hadn’t balked once.

This actually feels like a more mature, and darker, version of the Falling Kingdoms series. We have multiple POVs and the main characters overlap and connect in various ways, though they aren’t coupling up the way the other series did. Or at least not yet. The over arcing plot is a Big Bad who is looking to eradicate the Graced, a percentage of the population who have powers, who can channel esha (the energy of the world), to their bidding. Some have strength, some can heal, other see the future. So it’s not quite GRACELING where everyone’s Grace is unique, but rather that some are Graced and others.. not. And that’s the big conflict. Beyond the, whole you know, Age of Darkness ending the world and all.

The Paladin were the servants of the Prophets, and they had left to protect their last secret. But what if, in leaving, they had abandoned the Prophets’ subjects at the moment they’d been most needed? Were they then to blame for how hollow the City of Faith had become?

There is a secret order of people who have guarded the last big prophecy from the world, who retreated when the last Prophets left, and this prophecy pulls on the threads of fate for our main characters. Some are harbingers, some are hope, others helpless to do anything but play their roles. It’s twisty and so so compelling. But the author, through her characters, challenges some of those fantasy tropes and sprinkles doubt into the minds of our characters. I felt that to be so great, so authentic, and far more interesting than the usual scope of fantasy archetypes we normally see.

Whether or not you agree with the Witnesses, you cannot deny that you have been held back by the rules set down by the Prophets centuries ago. That the Graced will rule, and the rest of us will merely be footnotes in their stories.”

I’m not sure I have favourites yet but more importantly there wasn’t a single POV I disliked. I loved how the plot played out, the betrayals, the reveals, the mystery that still lies heavy over everything. Again, I hate to make the comparison because plot-wise and theme-wise they aren’t the same, but this is exactly what I wanted when I picked up the Falling Kingdoms series. And it’s also diverse — there seems to be no racism or prejudice.. beyond the fact that the Witnesses and Hierophant want to eradicate the Graced. But, strangely, even his argument lends a kind of logic to it all. I won’t spoil it but.. yeah, I was just really impressed with pretty much everything in this book.

I can’t wait for more!

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

DEAD VOICES by Katherine Arden

Bestselling author Katherine Arden returns with another creepy, spine-tingling adventure in this follow-up to the critically acclaimed Small Spaces.

Having survived sinister scarecrows and the malevolent smiling man in Small Spaces, newly minted best friends Ollie, Coco, and Brian are ready to spend a relaxing winter break skiing together with their parents at Mount Hemlock Resort. But when a snowstorm sets in, causing the power to flicker out and the cold to creep closer and closer, the three are forced to settle for hot chocolate and board games by the fire.

Ollie, Coco, and Brian are determined to make the best of being snowed in, but odd things keep happening. Coco is convinced she has seen a ghost, and Ollie is having nightmares about frostbitten girls pleading for help. Then Mr. Voland, a mysterious ghost hunter, arrives in the midst of the storm to investigate the hauntings at Hemlock Lodge. Ollie, Coco, and Brian want to trust him, but Ollie’s watch, which once saved them from the smiling man, has a new cautionary message: BEWARE.

With Mr. Voland’s help, Ollie, Coco, and Brian reach out to the dead voices at Mount Hemlock. Maybe the ghosts need their help–or maybe not all ghosts can or should be trusted.

Dead Voices is a terrifying follow-up to Small Spaces with thrills and chills galore and the captive foreboding of a classic ghost story.


Title : Dead Voices
Author : Katherine Arden
Series : Small Spaces (book two)
Format : ARC
Page Count : 256
Genre : MG fantasy/paranormal mystery/horror
Publisher : G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers
Release Date : August 27, 2019

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★


Hollis’ 4 star review

Well hello, I’m delightfully creeped out right now.

DEAD VOICES reunites us with the trio from SMALL SPACES, Arden’s first in this middle grade fantasy and paranormal horror mystery series. They survived the creepy scarecrows and fall-themed maze, they survived the Smiling Man, and now they are off to vacation at a ski resort during the holidays. But the vacation ends up being less hot chocolates and fun in the snow and more snowstorms and failing heat, hauntings and danger.

Since October, none of them had liked being alone in the dark. It wasn’t that they were afraid, exactly. But they had learned that bad things could happen to you. At night. Alone. In the dark.

Arden is no stranger to weaving magic with her words and creating a biting, brutal, and unforgiving atmosphere. The Winternight Trilogy still makes me cold to think of it (amongst other things!) and she brings that same talent to this instalment. What I think is actually the coolest (hah) part of this series is each book is set during a season; fall for SMALL SPACES and now winter for DEAD VOICES. It’s wonderfully creative. But onto this story itself.

The Ouija board was like the worst text messenger ever, Coco thought in annoyance.

If your imagination is overactive during the night, seeing shapes move in shadow and darkness, if you hear voices in the whisper of the wind, feel someone move behind you as your skin breaks into goosebumps, but there’s no one there.. you’ll probably hate this story. In the best way! Because this book really was eerie, really was creepy, and the ghoulish fear of spirits and the unforgiving violence of the cold is right in your face. Sometimes literally.

Beyond the characters and the seasons, there is connection between book one and two and I was not totally expecting it. But we also see some non-fantastical growth, too, and it was lovely to be back with this trio — and Ollie’s dad, too. Shoutout to awesome parents in fiction!

I am definitely hoping that Brian will be getting some time front and centre with the upcoming instalment and, based on how this one went, giving Coco some of the focus in addition to Ollie, I would be surprised if that wasn’t the plan anyway.

Can’t wait for more from this world and this author.

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

GIRLS OF PAPER AND FIRE by Natasha Ngan

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

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

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


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

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ 


Hollis’ 2 star review

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

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

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

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

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

TURNING DARKNESS INTO LIGHT by Marie Brennan

As the renowned granddaughter of Isabella Camherst (Lady Trent, of the riveting and daring Draconic adventure memoirs) Audrey Camherst has always known she, too, would want to make her scholarly mark upon a chosen field of study.

When Lord Gleinheigh recruits Audrey to decipher a series of ancient tablets holding the secrets of the ancient Draconean civilization, she has no idea that her research will plunge her into an intricate conspiracy, one meant to incite rebellion and invoke war. Alongside dearest childhood friend and fellow archeologist Kudshayn, must find proof of the conspiracy before it’s too late.

TURNING DARKNESS INTO LIGHT is a delightful fantasy of manners, the heir to the award-winning Natural History of Dragons series, a perfect stepping stone into an alternate Victorian-esque fantasy landscape.


Title : Turning Darkness Into Light
Author : Marie Brennan
Format : Paperback (Finished Copy)
Page Count : 400
Genre : Fantasy
Publisher : Titan Books
Release Date : August 20, 2019

Reviewer : Micky
Rating : ★ ★ ★


Micky’s 2.5 -3 star review

Do you like dragons, mystery and ancient antiquities with a bit of an Indiana Jones feeling? If the answer is yes then TURNING DARKNESS INTO LIGHT might be the book for you. It is marketed as a standalone fantasy and it can standalone, however I do believe that readers of Marie Brennan’s Lady Trent series will have a great advantage when reading this.

This book has a feminist tone all the way through and the main protagonist, Audrey is commissioned to study and translate some rare tablets recently found. Audrey is a young but accomplished academic type, from a family of similar types. Audrey was likeable, she took risks and she knew that she needed help. That help came in the shape of Kudshayn, another archeologist.

With Kudshayn, my confusion about the world only grew and I have to say I struggled with being in the dark through most of the book. There is little world building and assumptions are made that the reader can just go with what’s happening and accept the odd, vague reveal about the world and species existing. The Draconean species and culture was not explained adequately and I do believe that to standalone, more world building was needed.

The book is told in a variety of styles, the contemporary, many letters and some newspaper articles. I enjoyed the variety of storytelling styles. Audrey’s POV is occasionally interspersed by Kudshayn and another POV. The story builds and builds around this translation of tablets to a great crescendo, involving a variety of characters and criminal activity.

This was an interesting but sometimes frustrating read for me. I loved the cover, the idea of the story and Marie Brennan’s writing was enjoyable in the main. I would consider going back and reading the Lady Trent series.

Thank you to Titan Books for the review copy.

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