MONTHLY WRAP UP – SEPTEMBER 2021

To close out each month, we’ll be posting a break down of everything we reviewed, beginning with the reads we loved.. and ending with the reads we didn’t. Not only does this compile all our reviews in one handy summary for you to peruse, or catch up on, it also gives us an interesting birds eye view of the month and our reads. And maybe, even, our moods.


☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ star reads

Who’s That Girl by Mhairi McFarlane — see Hollis’ review here

☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ star reads

Iron Widow by Xiran Jay Zhao — see Hollis’ review here
Rebel of the Sands by Alwyn Hamilton — see Hollis’ review here
Traitor to the Throne by Alwyn Hamilton — see Hollis’ review here
Hero at the Fall by Alwyn Hamilton — see Hollis’ review here
Under the Whispering Door by TJ Klune — see Hollis’ review here
The Hollow Heart by Marie Rutkoski — see Micky and Hollis’ reviews here
The Last Graduate by Naomi Novik — see Hollis and Micky’s reviews here
The Girls I’ve Been by Tess Sharpe — see Hollis’ review here
Any Way the Wind Blows by Rainbow Rowell — see Hollis’ review here
Child of the Prophecy by Juliet Marillier — see Hollis’ review here (!)
The Heart Principle by Helen Hoang — see Micky’s review here (!)
Fresh by Margot Wood — see Micky’s review here
The Charm Offensive by Alison Cochrun — see Hollis’ review here
Stay Gold by Tobly McSmith — see Micky’s review here
Gawain by J.P. Harker — see Micky’s review here
Once Upon A Broken Heart — see Micky’s review here

☆ ☆ ☆ star reads

The Last Library by Freya Sampson — see Micky’s review here
When Sparks Fly by Helena Hunting — see Micky’s review here
Child of the Prophecy by Juliet Marillier — see Micky’s review here (!)
White Smoke by Tiffany D. Jackson — see Hollis’ review here
We Were Never Here by Andrea Bartz — see Micky’s review here

☆ ☆ star reads

The Shaadi Set-Up by Lillie Vale — see Hollis’ review here
Sailor Proof by Annabeth Albert — see Hollis’ review here
Freckles by Cecelia Ahern — see Micky’s review here
Dark Rise by C.S. Pacat — see Hollis’ review here

star reads

u n r a t e d

Blackout by Dhonielle Clayton, Tiffany D. Jackson, Nic Stone, Angie Thomas, Ashley Woodfolk, and Nicola Yoon — see Hollis’ review here
The Heart Principle by Helen Hoang — see Hollis’ review here (!)

DNF

The Small Hotel by Suanne Laqueur — (Micky) no review
The End of Men by Christina Sweeney-Baird — (Micky) no review
Master of One by Jaida Jones & Danielle Bennett — see Micky’s GR review here
A Snake Falls to Earth by Darcie Little Badger — see Hollis’ GR review here


additional reads not reviewed for blog : Radha & Jai’s Recipe for Romance, Venom, Killer Queen, Vulture, You Asked For Perfect, Only You
total reads by Micky : eighteen plus three DNFs (gasp)
favourite read of the month : The Hollow Heart by Marie Rutkoski
least favourite read of the month : The End of Men by Christina Sweeney-Baird
most read genre : fantasy/contemporary mix

total reviews by Hollis : eighteen + DNF review
favourite read of the month : Who’s That Girl by Mhairi McFarlane
least favourite read of the month : The Shaadi Set-Up by Lillie Vale
most read genre : contemporary

THE LAST GRADUATE by Naomi Novik – double review!

A budding dark sorceress determined not to use her formidable powers uncovers yet more secrets about the workings of her world in the stunning sequel to A Deadly Education, the start of Naomi Novik’s groundbreaking crossover series.

At the Scholomance, El, Orion, and the other students are faced with their final year—and the looming specter of graduation, a deadly ritual that leaves few students alive in its wake. El is determined that her chosen group will survive, but it is a prospect that is looking harder by the day as the savagery of the school ramps up. Until El realizes that sometimes winning the game means throwing out all the rules . . . 


Title : The Last Graduate
Author : Naomi Novik
Series : The Scholomance (book two)
Format : eARC
Page Count : 400
Genre : YA fantasy
Publisher : Del Rey Books
Release Date : September 28, 2021

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


Hollis’ 4 star review

Hahahahahahahahahahahaha.

That ending.. I just.. the only two options are stupefied silence or hysterical laughter and right now I’m alternating between the two.

Weirdly enough, with nine minutes left on the kindle countdown, I put the book down. I could almost sense something. But that bit of warning was not enough to prepare me for t h a t.

“[..] you’re the only person I’ve ever met who’d come up with the idea of being wildly rude and hostile to the guy who saved your life twenty times.
Thirteen times! And I’ve saved his life at least twice.”
Catch up already, girl.

Goodness, wow, so. Yeah, lots of my feelings about this book have been eclipsed by all the nonsense above but I will say this. I was delighted to return to this world for one main reason : I had forgotten how delightfully prickly El was. Being back in her space, watching her interact with people, it was often hilarious because she is constantly battling the general feeling of “not putting up with this shit” which, I mean, same. But she’s also in a much better place than she was in the beginning of book one so she’s also struggling to remember she has friends and how that’s changed her life, yes, but also changed her odds of surviving the Scholomance. And those opposing forces are just as funny as she is.

I was unenthusiastic about the prospect of being found attractive because I seem like a terrifying creation of dark sorcery instead of despite it.

Also there was maybe a very short, tiny, little scene that ambushed some tears out of me. Unexpected.

My one.. not complaint, really, but observation, is that there is a lot going on in this world, in the day to day, and Novik strings together some long-ass sentences sometimes — and as a result I completely lose the original thought or point and have to reread or, occasionally, just give up and keep going. It doesn’t always feel like dense fantasy when there’s action or bickering or brainstorming but there are huge swaths of this that is actually quite wordy or complicated. Sometimes I gobbled it up, other times, well, like I said, I just cruised on by. That said, maybe I sabotaged myself a bit because I didn’t adjust my pace to actually take time to process it all, so, maybe it’s my own fault. But unlike most magical schools or learning sequences, this author doesn’t gloss over anything. We are with them as they learn, as they do homework, as they team up and help each other, because not doing the work is sometimes just as dangerous as the monsters crawling through the vents.

I had such a good time with this one. The banter, the action, the romance, the snark, the cut-throat ruthlessness, and, yeah, even that e n d i n g.. I can’t wait for book three (and this isn’t even out yet, arg!).

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


Micky’s 4 star review

Whaaaattttt? Who else had that reaction on finishing?

Well, I thought I knew a bit about the Scholomance from A Deadly Education but The Last Graduate took my expectations and threw them out into the void. This installment took many an unexpected turn but continued to deliver on a great story, snarkastic wit and characters to cheer for.

El showed a new level of maturity in this book, a little more measured and I think that had a lot to do with the fact that she had friends, that she wasn’t alone. These platonic friendships, the potential alliances were rich in trust issues and fun to read. El and Orion were an interesting grumpy and grumpy/sometimes sunshine.

Plotting and planning was a big part of this year’s graduating class and I did not see that final plan coming. The magic complexity went up a notch and I was able to follow but also I was agog at the skills need to set things in motion.

Naomi Novik made these characters elevate from sophomore to senior and I’m still rather enamoured by this world. Bring me book three on a plate, please!

Thank you to Del Rey UK for the gorgeous review copy.

SAILOR PROOF by Annabeth Albert

The sexy Navy chief and his best friend’s adorkable little brother… 

It’s petty, but Naval Chief Derrick Fox wishes he could exact a little revenge on his ex by showing off a rebound fling. His submarine is due to return to its Bremerton, Washington, home base soon and Derrick knows all too well there won’t be anyone waiting with a big, showy welcome.

Enter one ill-advised plan…

Arthur Euler is the guy you go to in a pinch—he’s excellent at out-of-the-box solutions. It’s what the genius music-slash-computer nerd is known for. So when he finds out Derrick needs a favor, he’s happy to help. He can muster the sort of welcome a Naval Chief deserves, no problem at all.

Except it is a problem. A very big problem.

When Arthur’s homecoming welcome is a little too convincing, when a video of their gangplank smooch goes enormously viral, they’re caught between a dock and a hard place. Neither of them ever expected a temporary fake relationship to look—or feel—so real. And Arthur certainly never considered he’d be fighting for a very much not-fake forever with a military man. 


Title : Sailor Proof
Author : Annabeth Albert
Series : Shore Leave (book one)
Format : eARC
Page Count : 320
Genre : LGBTQIAP+ romance
Publisher : Carina Press
Release Date : September 28, 2021

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★


Hollis’ 2 star review

It feels like it’s been a while since I’ve read or requested anything by Albert but in truth it hasn’t been that long — she’s just put out so many books I’ve lost any and all sense of time. But the ones I have picked up have been few and far between and the results have been more fine or just okay than anything that really got me excited. I had sorta suspected I had outgrown the author. Or at least the books she was putting out after a certain point. But with this new series, and a return to her military-theme, I thought to give it a go.

But I was right.

There is nothing wrong or bad about this story. Nothing annoyed me, nothing was unforgivable, but I just wasn’t interested or moved. I was ambivalent or bored. This didn’t really do anything new, which is fine, but neither was I entertained by the content.

So I’m calling it. I think Albert and I are done. We had a great ride, though, I not only enjoyed but flat out loved so many of the author’s books and series. I’ve just clearly moved on.

But if you’re interested to give this a go, here are some fun tropes to expect: best friend’s younger brother. Fake dating. And “oh no there’s only one bed”. This’ll definitely hit the right notes for many readers. So take this review with the usual grain o’salt.

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

NEW RELEASE TUESDAY – SEPTEMBER 28, 2021

Happy “where’d all my money go?” new release Tuesday, everyone!

As you know, the most exciting day of the week in this community is the day that follows the one we all dread (Mondays for the nope) and today we’re going to highlight some of the new books chipping away at our bank accounts — but each one is so worth it.


The Last Graduate by Naomi Novik is the sequel to the author’s A Deadly Education. This YA fantasy serves up everything from book one and then some.

Summer Sons by Lee Mandelo is a “sweltering, queer Southern Gothic that crosses Appalachian street racing with academic intrigue, all haunted by a hungry ghost.

Dark Rise by C.S. Pacat is.. you already stopped reading, didn’t you? The first non-graphic novel offering from the author of The Captive Prince series brings us an enemies-to-lovers queer YA fantasy and yup, we need it. Want a little more? “[..] heroes and villains of a long-forgotten war are reborn and begin to draw new battle lines.

Once Upon A Broken Heart by Stephanie Garber is a off shoot series from the caraval world that can attract fans and new readers alike. This is a battle of wills between the fates and humans including kisses, apples, foxes and bows.



Are there any titles out today you’re excited for? Let us know in the comments below! 

ONCE UPON A BROKEN HEART by Stephanie Garber

From Stephanie Garber, the #1 New York Times bestselling author of CaravalOnce Upon a Broken Heart is the first book in a new series about love, curses, and the lengths that people will go to for happily ever after.

Evangeline Fox was raised in her beloved father’s curiosity shop, where she grew up on legends about immortals, like the tragic Prince of Hearts. She knows his powers are mythic, his kiss is worth dying for, and that bargains with him rarely end well.

But when Evangeline learns that the love of her life is about to marry another, she becomes desperate enough to offer the Prince of Hearts whatever he wants in exchange for his help to stop the wedding. The prince only asks for three kisses. But after Evangeline’s first promised kiss, she learns that the Prince of Hearts wants far more from her than she’s pledged. And he has plans for Evangeline that will either end in the greatest happily ever after, or the most exquisite tragedy…


Title : Once Upon A Broken Heart
Author : Stephanie Garber
Series : Once Upon A Broken Heart #1
Format : Paperback
Page Count : 402
Genre : YA fantasy
Publisher : Hodder Books
Release Date : September 30, 2021

Reviewer : Micky
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★


Micky’s 4 star review

Headlines:
Different broken hearts for different reasons
Trust…who?
Apples, foxes, arches and kisses

This was such a fun and gripping world to get caught up in. Once Upon A Broken Heart was magical, sarcastic, funny and twisty. The whole book was an experience (plot and characters aside) with great formatting for newspaper articles and notes.

This felt different to the Caraval world and I was glad of that. The south and then the north felt totally different from those previous books and I would affirm that reading the series first is unnecessary, you’ll only miss a deeper meaning on a few nuggets of information.

Evangeline was a worthy protagonist, she felt mature in some ways but she had a tendency to react to events and then act without thinking things through. That said, I really enjoyed everywhere the plot went, it truly was unpredictable. Predictably however, I really liked Jacks and despite his nefariousness, I really wanted to see him romantically entwined. That fate is utterly untrustworthy and but I’m 100% Team Jack.

I can’t wait to see where this story goes in the next book. Stephanie Garber created a different yet intertwined world with her previous series. This series is right up my street and I’m already a fan.

Thank you to Hodder Books for the early review copy.

UNDER THE WHISPERING DOOR by TJ Klune

Under the Whispering Door is a contemporary fantasy with TJ Klune’s signature “quirk and charm” (PW) about a ghost who refuses to cross over and the ferryman he falls in love with.

When a reaper comes to collect Wallace Price from his own funeral, Wallace suspects he really might be dead.

Instead of leading him directly to the afterlife, the reaper takes him to a small village. On the outskirts, off the path through the woods, tucked between mountains, is a particular tea shop, run by a man named Hugo. Hugo is the tea shop’s owner to locals and the ferryman to souls who need to cross over.

But Wallace isn’t ready to abandon the life he barely lived. With Hugo’s help he finally starts to learn about all the things he missed in life.

When the Manager, a curious and powerful being, arrives at the tea shop and gives Wallace one week to cross over, Wallace sets about living a lifetime in seven days.

By turns heartwarming and heartbreaking, this absorbing tale of grief and hope is told with TJ Klune’s signature warmth, humor, and extraordinary empathy.


Title : Under the Whispering Door
Author : TJ Klune
Format : ARC
Page Count : 384
Genre : LGBTQIAP+ fantasy
Publisher : Tor Books
Release Date : September 21, 2021/October 28, 2021

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


Hollis’ 4 star review

Anyone else find they go back to the cover of a book they’ve just read and notice things they didn’t before? Because it me.

Here, at the end, he’d found a friend.

Surprising no one, this book made me cry. A lot.

I can’t grieve for myself.”
Of course you can. We do it all the time, regardless of if we’re alive or not, over the small things and the big things. Everyone is a little bit sad all the time.”

If you’ve read the synopsis for this one, there honestly isn’t a whole lot more I can say without ruining everything. But this story deals with grief, death, and the unfortunate reality of hindsight and perspective; and how often it occurs to us too late. But it’s also about being a better person, or trying to be, even if — especially if — there’s no benefit to you. Just doing the right thing because it’s what should be done.

What if across the top, written in bold letters (and in Comic Sans!) was a summation of Wallace Price’s life that was less than flattering? HE DIDN’T DO A WHOLE LOT, BUT HE HAD NICE SUITS! or, worse, NOT THAT GREAT, IF I’M BEING HONEST.

For all the tears, and for all the story is saying something lovely, though not particularly profound — though maybe the simplicity makes it profound? you decide — I’ll admit that, some fun antics with the characters who live in this bizarre tea house side, there was only so much that could happen, that we could see play out. The journey is mostly internal for Wallace, our lead, to relive moments of his life, to relearn things he had forgotten, to be better. We do sort’ve go through some motions, which makes sense because, I mean, he’s dead, all he has is motions to go through, but this story is almost all character-driven. There is more action, more excitement, near the end, though. Both related to, but also not, to all my tears. There’s one character, Cameron, well.. yeah, lots of tears for that one.

Honesty was a weapon. It could be used to stab and tear and spill blood upon the earth. Wallace knew that; he had his fair share of blood on his hands because of it. But it was different now. He was using it upon himself, and he was flayed open because of it, nerve endings exposed.

You’ll definitely find some Klune-esque humour, though not quite to the extremes he can often get, and some of his characters — Mei, Nelson — all but leap off the page in your face. As much as I enjoyed Wallace, and Hugo, they weren’t my favourites; and seeing as the story focuses the most of them, that might be why this isn’t a full five stars. Their parts were sometimes lovely, moving, and often sweet. But when I think back on this story, which I’m sure I will, they won’t be the first ones to come to mind.

We don’t murder people.
Maim, then.”
We don’t do that either.
Nothing’s stopping us. You told me that we should always try and achieve our dreams.
I didn’t have murder in mind when I told you that.”
That’s because you think too small.”

Full of thoughtful exploration and devastating observations, tea, and equal parts cozy and sad and strange, as long as you don’t go thinking this is another The House in the Cerulean Sea — though you may see a little blink and you miss it throwaway reference to it, and another of Klune series or two — I think you’ll really appreciate this story. But don’t forget to pack the tissues.

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


Micky’s 5 star review

Headlines:
Bruised but full heart
Whimsical beauty within
For tea-lovers

I’m sitting staring at my screen trying to find the words, after reading all the beautiful words in Under the Whispering Door. This story of Wallace’s journey from life and to the beyond captured my mind and my heart completely; I did not want to let go.

This story is about loneliness, finding a famiy and purpose while also finding out about the secrets beyond life, at least a fantastical representation of that. I thought what Klune has created here was poignant, whimsical, emotional and incredibly funny at times. Considering the themes of death and grief, the wit balanced out all the things, as did the characters.

This world was a surprise around every corner, from Mei to the tea plants and the manager to the door. The story of the husks was especially gut wrenching. The connection between Wallace and Hugo was something special, hearts pounded, love abounded and that was just me…

I cried, I laughed and I treasured. Just do yourself a favour and pick this book up.

Thank you to Tor and Black Crow PR for the precious review copy.

NEW RELEASE TUESDAY – SEPTEMBER 21, 2021

Happy “where’d all my money go?” new release Tuesday, everyone!

As you know, the most exciting day of the week in this community is the day that follows the one we all dread (Mondays for the nope) and today we’re going to highlight some of the new books chipping away at our bank accounts — but each one is so worth it.


Iron Widow by Xiran Jay Zhao is probably one of the most anticipated books out today but that doesn’t mean much because this whole list is unreal. This book fuses Chinese history with mecha science and is also pitched as Pacific Rim meets The Handmaid’s Tale and, lastly, is amazing.

Under the Whispering Door by TJ Klune continues the anticipated trend with this new release which, despite the cover art, is not connected to The House in the Cerulean Sea. This offering features reapers and grief. Pack the tissues.

Into the Dying Light by Katy Rose Pool is the final instalment in the author’s The Age of Darkness series that promises shattered hearts, fallen cities, and gods on the rise. Can’t wait.

The Bronzed Beasts by Roshani Chokshi is another finale! We don’t want to know anything about this one but we imagine there’s mystery, romance, and more to come.

The Legacy by Elle Kennedy is a collection of four novellas set in the author’s Off-Campus world.



Are there any titles out today you’re excited for? Let us know in the comments below! 

IRON WIDOW by Xiran Jay Zhao

The boys of Huaxia dream of pairing up with girls to pilot Chrysalises, giant transforming robots that can battle the mecha aliens that lurk beyond the Great Wall. It doesn’t matter that the girls often die from the mental strain. 

When 18-year-old Zetian offers herself up as a concubine-pilot, it’s to assassinate the ace male pilot responsible for her sister’s death. But she gets her vengeance in a way nobody expected—she kills him through the psychic link between pilots and emerges from the cockpit unscathed. She is labeled an Iron Widow, a much-feared and much-silenced kind of female pilot who can sacrifice boys to power up Chrysalises instead.​ 

To tame her unnerving yet invaluable mental strength, she is paired up with Li Shimin, the strongest and most controversial male pilot in Huaxia​. But now that Zetian has had a taste of power, she will not cower so easily. She will miss no opportunity to leverage their combined might and infamy to survive attempt after attempt on her life, until she can figure out exactly why the pilot system works in its misogynist way—and stop more girls from being sacrificed.


Title : Iron Widow
Author : Xiran Jay Zhao
Series : Iron Widow (book one)
Format : eARC
Page Count : 400
Genre : YA fantasy
Publisher : PenguinTeen
Release Date : September 21, 2021

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★.5


Hollis’ 4.5 star review

I’ve gone from one debut to another, had huge expectations for both, and yet wow what a different experience has been had. I’m actually | | close to rounding up and giving this the full five star treatment, to be honest. It’s so close to that feeling. And wow has it been a long time since I’ve felt that.

How do you take the fight out of half the population and render them willing slaves? You tell them they are meant to do nothing but serve from the minute they are born. You tell them they’re weak. You tell them they’re prey. You tell them over and over, until it’s the only truth they’re capable of living.

You’ve probably seen the pitch by now : The Handmaid’s Tale meets Pacific Rim and I think that’s actually a great vibe to have going into this because it lives upto it so well. But there’s also a lot more going on than just that so don’t worry. Much awaits you.

Men want us so badly for our bodies, yet hate us so much for our minds.

But before you even get to the story the author has a fabulous note to explain their inspiration, their themes, and more. It did such a great job setting the tone for this story and even though I’m very spoiler averse (not that there were any) I really appreciated the insight.

[..] nothing in this world has been created, built, or set up in our favour. If we want something, we have to push back against everything around us and take it by force.”

Maybe I should actually talk about the book though? As with many favourites, though, sometimes that’s hard to do. Because even though this book isn’t subtle about its themes, there is still nuance to explore, evolutions to witness, and a few little surprises that didn’t exactly surprise me but I was delighted to see play out.. only to then be actually surprised by something. Which maybe happened once or twice. I was digging it.

Love cannot save me. I choose vengeance.

As for the romance, well. I don’t know if it counts as a spoiler but for those who haven’t yet seen the reveal, and want to experience that on page, I won’t say anything. It isn’t hard to search out if you’re curious though! That said, I would’ve liked some of it to be a little better developed but.. well, again, saying more would be a spoiler.

Rarely, no matter how much I love a book, do I feel the desire to flip back to the beginning and immediately reread. But Iron Widow makes me want to do so. I’m sure there were things I missed because I d e v o u r e d this in one sitting but I will save my reread until book two comes out. Which, like.. can that be now? Please?

[..] he’s trying to worm into my mind and shackle me down with morals, so he can feel more comfortable about my existence. Too bad. I am exactly the kind of ice-blooded, rotten-hearted girl he fears I am. And I am fine with that.

If you want to read a down-with-the-patriarchy story that is less “girl power!” and more “I am sick of this shit”; about a character who streaks right past shades of grey and fully embraces the dark; who claws her way out of the pain, literal and figurative, of existence to fight, every day, and challenge everything she’s been brought up to believe; in a world where pilots are both celebrity and saviour as they battle aliens.. and I mean, I could go on. I haven’t even touched on Li Shimin who, besides Zetian, stole my heart.

Preorder this book, request this book, beg you library to buy it. Do whatever you can to read this book.

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

ANY WAY THE WIND BLOWS by Rainbow Rowell

In Carry On, Simon Snow and his friends realized that everything they thought they understood about the world might be wrong. And in Wayward Son, they wondered whether everything they understood about themselves might be wrong.

In Any Way the Wind Blows, Simon and Baz and Penelope and Agatha have to decide how to move forward.

For Simon, that means deciding whether he still wants to be part of the World of Mages — and if he doesn’t, what does that mean for his relationship with Baz? Meanwhile Baz is bouncing between two family crises and not finding any time to talk to anyone about his newfound vampire knowledge. Penelope would love to help, but she’s smuggled an American Normal into London, and now she isn’t sure what to do with him. And Agatha? Well, Agatha Wellbelove has had enough.

Any Way the Wind Blows takes the gang back to England, back to Watford, and back to their families for their longest and most emotionally wrenching adventure yet.

This book is a finale. It tells secrets and answers questions and lays ghosts to rest.

Carry On was conceived as a book about Chosen One stories; Any Way the Wind Blows is an ending about endings. About catharsis and closure, and how we choose to move on from the traumas and triumphs that try to define us. 


Title : Any Way the Wind Blows
Author : Rainbow Rowell
Series : Simon Snow (book three)
Format : eBook (overdrive)
Page Count : 579
Genre : YA fantasy
Publisher : Wednesday Books
Release Date : July 6, 2021

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★


Hollis’ 4 star review

After book two, I didn’t think this series could actually come back from where it had (and hadn’t) gone. I thought the magic was quite literally gone from both characters (some literally) and this world and my heart.

And then this one happened. Sure, my expectations were in the ground and maybe that helped but this did so many things right and in ways I’m actually finding hard to articulate. Which is one thing that wasn’t missing from this book : communication.

Overall, though, everything just felt.. more fun. Not lighthearted by any means but there were moments of joy and sweetness, absolutely. There’s no real baddie to battle but instead these characters are fighting for each other and for themselves and for a future, and a love, and that was really well done. There are still some reveals, still something of a villain, so there’s definitely some plot driving this and all of it is just really well balanced.

My one complaint might be the ending. Because it doesn’t feel like one, it feels a bit abrupt, but I don’t know how it could’ve made better, either. So there’s that.

Now that we have this finale I would like to one day reread, even if it means slogging through book two, only to see if, in hindsight, something about that middle instalment works. But also because now that it’s over.. I want to live it, again.

If, like me, book two put you off or made you hesitant to complete this.. give it a go. Pick it up. I do not think you’ll regret coming back to this world.

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.