THE WINTER DUKE by Claire Eliza Bartlett

SHE SURVIVED THE CURSE. NOW SHE MUST SURVIVE THE THRONE.

All Ekata wants is to stay alive—and the chance to prove herself as a scholar. Once Ekata’s brother is finally named heir to the dukedom of Kylma Above, there will be nothing to keep her at home with her murderous family. Not her books or her experiments, not her family’s icy castle atop a frozen lake, not even the tantalizingly close Kylma Below, a mesmerizing underwater kingdom that provides her family with magic. But just as escape is within reach, her parents and twelve siblings fall under a strange sleeping sickness, and no one can find a cure.

In the space of a single night, Ekata inherits the title of duke, her brother’s captivating warrior bride, and ever-encroaching challengers from without—and within—her ministry. Nothing has prepared Ekata for diplomacy, for war, for love. . .or for a crown she has never wanted. If Kylma Above is to survive, Ekata must seize her family’s magic and power. And if Ekata is to survive, she must quickly decide how she will wield them both.


Title : The Winter Duke
Author : Claire Eliza Bartlett
Format : Hardback
Page Count : 400
Genre : YA Fantasy/LGBTQIA
Publisher : Titan Books
Release Date : October 13, 2020

Reviewer : Micky
Rating  : ★ ★ ★ ★


Micky’s 3.5-4 star review

I’m rounding this one up to 4 stars.

This was a YA fantasy with a historical feel. It had some foundations in Russian royal history and I enjoyed that element and this was some brutal family right here. The dukedom were out to kill one another for power, and the protagonist Ekata, felt justifiably out of the running as an insignificant daughter about to travel away to university. A curse hit and she found herself in a new position.

“Long live Her Grace.” Impossible, impossible. I was a middle child of thirteen.

This read had some great strong points, it was definitely a feminist tale. The title of Duke was genderless, power could be held equally between men and women but there’s a but. In reality, Ekata was surrounded by men who made her feel like a fool, wielded their power over her and used their gender to quash her thoughts, words and ideas.

All my life, these men had ignored me. It had never bothered me until now.

Those contrasts of what seemed to be equality and in acutality wasn’t, were frustrating for Ekata and the reader but this was the story, how Ekata navigated this. All this happened in the middle of a bride parade and Ekata chose her consort, a young woman. The romance and LGBTQ+ elements were a little weak but the protagonist was only 16 and so that did feel in the background somewhat. I would have liked this to have felt more developed, however.

I enjoyed the worlds of above and below and honestly, I read this over two days whenever I could; it had an unputdownable feel. There were elements to this story that felt unique, the magic was vague, unfathomable and mysterious, which I liked. Overall this was a good read and bonus, it was a standalone.

Thank you to Titan Books for the very pretty hardback review copy.

ALL THE STARS AND TEETH by Adalyn Grace

As princess of the island kingdom Visidia, Amora Montara has spent her entire life training to be High Animancer – the master of souls. The rest of the realm can choose their magic, but for Amora, it’s never been a choice. To secure her place as heir to the throne, she must prove her mastery of the monarchy’s dangerous soul magic.

When her demonstration goes awry, Amora is forced to flee. She strikes a deal with Bastian, a mysterious pirate: he’ll help her prove she’s fit to rule, if she’ll help him reclaim his stolen magic.

But sailing the kingdom holds more wonder – and more peril – than Amora anticipated. A destructive new magic is on the rise, and if Amora is to conquer it, she’ll need to face legendary monsters, cross paths with vengeful mermaids, and deal with a stow-away she never expected… or risk the fate of Visidia and lose the crown forever. 


Title : All the Stars and Teeth
Author : Adalyn Grace
Series : All the Stars and Teeth #1
Format : Paperback
Page Count : 416
Genre : YA Fantasy
Publisher : Titan Books
Release Date : August 4, 2020

Reviewer : Micky
Rating  : ★ ★ ★ ★ .5


Micky’s 4.5 star review

This book wowed me on a number of fronts, I found it a totally unexpected YA fantasy with very little resting on predictable tropes or plot directions. I thought Adalyn Grace was a fresh voice and I didn’t realise how much I was ready for that kind of palate cleansing until I read this.

ALL THE STARS AND TEETH was unapologetically gory and blood-thirsty in parts, there was no smoothing of the gritty and I embraced this world masked by secrets. The protagonist, Amora was the most un-princessy princess I’ve come across in a while. She was fiesty, uninterested in appearances, she wanted to be a fighter and a sailor. She also had serious wanderlust.

The start of the story had her world come crashing down and everything unleased from there, dark magic, sea monsters, a pirate, a mermaid and some very shady characters. The characters that became the crew of Keel Haul found their way into my heart, so that by the end I was so fond of them. Alongside Amora, Bastian was a great character, his secrets and magic were fascinating. The low-level romance was pitched just right.

One of the best things about this book was the feminist tone throughout. I’m about to drop a mild SPOILER in here, so skim on if you don’t want to read that. In the story, Amora had a very obvious period accident on her clothing…we do not read these things enough in books and I commend Adalyn Grace for including this and also for how she wrote the guys’ reactions to it. Everything about Amora was generally feminist and the male characters in the Keel Haul crew had feminist undertones too.

This gorgeous cover contained a great debut and series starter all rolled into one. I simply cannot wait to be back with these characters and read on with the series. This is definitely a 2020 read I’m going to remember.

Thank you to Titan Books for the review copy.

NVK by Temple Drake

A hypnotic, unforgettable Gothic page-turner soon to be a cult classic

One night in 2012, Zhang Guo Xing takes a group of European clients to a fashionable high-end nightclub in Shanghai. While there, he meets a strikingly beautiful young Finnish woman called Naemi Vieno Kuusela. The physical attraction between them proves irresistible, and they embark on an intoxicating affair. But Naemi is not what she appears to be…

To Zhang’s surprise, she veers between passion and wariness, conducting the relationship entirely on her own terms. He feels compelled to find out more about her, and is swiftly drawn into a web of intrigue, mystery, and horror. Is she a ghost? A demon? Do the living dead walk the streets of twenty-first century Shanghai?


Title : NVK
Author : Temple Drake
Format : Paperback
Page Count : 320
Genre : Thriller
Publisher : Titan Books
Release Date : March 17, 2020

Reviewer : Micky
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★


Micky’s 4 star review

This book could not be further out of my usual reading comfort zone if it tried and yet that synopsis reeled me in like a newborn flounder. It claims to be a page-turner and it was definitely that, I read it in one sitting on a Saturday afternoon/evening. The story intrigued me, creeped me out and kept me guessing. The cover and the title are very clever.

Don’t wander into this book if you have sensitive scruples or a weak stomach. Do wander into the book if it’s out of your comfort zone, I don’t like horror and this was just creepy at times, not scary. Zhang, the protagonist, had a wife and son living elsewhere and on the periphery of the story, they really did not factor into his high-powered business Shanghai life. Naemi’s story was creepy from it’s start a long time ago, she was of Sami/Finnish heritage and she had travelled the world.

The relationship between these two was both restrained and passionate with neither of them in control or understanding each other. I was there to find out who or what Naemi was and I actually felt sorry for her a number of times. The Mad Dog character brought a real richness to the story and I enjoyed reading about the doubts he created in Zhang’s mind.

As the book progressed the creep-factor increased for me. Please bear in mind that I am a wuss with scary books and so for many I am sure the creepiness would be mild. The book reached a cresendo and then ended with a question mark for me. Nevertheless, I was satisfied with the culmination, mystery and the story as a whole. I would definitely read Temple Drake again.

Thank you to Titan Books for early copy for review.

THE STARS WE STEAL by Alexa Donne

Engagement season is in the air. Eighteen-year-old Princess Leonie “Leo” Kolburg, heir to a faded European spaceship, only has one thing on her mind: which lucky bachelor can save her family from financial ruin?

But when Leo’s childhood friend and first love Elliot returns as the captain of a successful whiskey ship, everything changes. Elliot was the one that got away, the boy Leo’s family deemed to be unsuitable for marriage. Now, he’s the biggest catch of the season and he seems determined to make Leo’s life miserable. But old habits die hard, and as Leo navigates the glittering balls of the Valg Season, she finds herself failing for her first love in a game of love, lies, and past regrets.


Title : The Stars We Steal
Author : Alexa Donne
Format : Paperback
Page Count : 400
Genre : YA Sci-fi/Retelling
Publisher : Titan Books
Release Date : February 4, 2020

Reviewer : Micky
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★


Micky’s 4 star review

THE STARS WE STEAL had the ingredients for Micky kryptonite with space, sci-fi and YA…that was before I even heard it was a retelling of Persuasion, so I was truly sold at that point. The execution didn’t let me down and won’t let fans of the original down if they have an open mind about the age of the characters and an in-the-future interpretation.

Leo was a likeable heroine from early on. She was a feisty, curvy feminist with a little more confidence than the original ‘Ann’. The premise for this world, included an ice-age on Earth, a huge fleet of ships and a royalty system. There was a context of haves and have-nots. I enjoyed the politics, corrupt as they were and nepotism was the flavour of the month. Leo navigated this world, the fleet of ships with quiet insight, courage and snark.

I was a commodity in a pretty dress, on display for all to see.

Captain-to-be Elliot Wentworth returned to Leo’s life in unexpected way and they were not fast friends. Old hurts, jealousies and feelings were a roller coaster for these two. I struggled to really like Elliot, there was nothing essentially wrong with him but he didn’t give me the feels that the character he’s based upon demanded. However, when they were together, the chemistry was catchy.

Great side characters, both good and downright nasty, aiding this book along. There were family, friends and acquaintences that offered a rich tapestry. I liked Daniel and Evgenia a lot but Leo’s close family were hard to fathom until they weren’t.

The fast-paced story that ensued had me glued to my book, I found it difficult to put down and there were some mysteries along the way. This was truly a cast of YA characters, so lovers of Persuasion have to be ready accept this different age range and some of the decisions and behaviours that come with that age. I loved the conceptualisation in space and in YA, I appreciated the fun that they had on their ships and I enjoyed the ‘vlag’ season.

I highly recommend this fun, dynamic retelling of a classic in space. I think readers will engage with the fun characters and setting.

Thank you to Titan books for the gorgeous finished copy for review.

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.