THE HOLLOW HEART by Marie Rutkoski – double review!

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

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

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

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


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

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


Micky’s 4 star review

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thank you to Hodder Books for the finished review copy.


Hollis’ 4 star review

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

The grabby hands were just too too real.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

VIPER by Bex Hogan

He will make me a killer. Or he will have me killed. That is my destiny.

Seventeen-year-old Marianne is fated to one day become the Viper, defender of the Twelve Isles.

But the reigning Viper stands in her way. Corrupt and merciless, he prowls the seas in his warship, killing with impunity, leaving only pain and suffering in his wake.

He’s the most dangerous man on the ocean . . . and he is Marianne’s father.

She was born to protect the islands. But can she fight for them if it means losing her family, her home, the boy she loves – and perhaps even her life?


Title : Viper
Author : Bex Hogan
Series : Isles of Storm & Sorrow #1
Format : Paperback
Page Count : 400
Genre : YA Fantasy
Publisher : Orion Children’s Books
Release Date : April 18, 2019

Reviewer : Micky
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★


Micky’s 4 star review

Fast-paced pirate-y high jinks
YA with brutal events, descriptive gore
Trust issues on trust issues

Hooked from the first few pages, Viper plunged me into the world of Marianne, daughter of a brutal sea captain, dictator and killer. Her life was pretty miserable but she’d learnt the art of survival, mistrust and battle skills. A lot happened in these pages, plenty of twists and turns and it was the kind of book that didn’t break pace but it didn’t make me exhausted by that fact.

There was brutality and heartbreak within these pages. For YA, this was pretty graphic on the battle stakes, killing and torture on the agenda. However, it fitted in well with the story, the characters and plot. There was a time where Marianne found a family who became hers, all the feels gushed over this.

The friends/found family built over the story, connections and trust were interesting to read. I am completely invested in more of this story, where the magic takes the crew of the Viper and Marianne herself. Roll on book two!

RED WOLF by Rachel Vincent

For as long as sixteen-year-old Adele can remember, the village of Oakvale has been surrounded by the dark wood—a forest filled with terrible monsters. A forest that light itself cannot penetrate.

Unlike her fellow villagers, Adele cannot avoid the dark wood.

Adele is one of a long line of guardians: women who secretly take on the form of a wolf, in order to protect their village.

But when accepting her fate means giving up the boy she loves, abandoning the future she imagined for herself, and breaking her own moral code, she must decide how far she is willing to go to keep her neighbors safe.


Title : Red Wolf
Author : Rachel Vincent
Format : Paperback ARC
Page Count :359
Genre : YA Fantasy
Publisher : Harper 360YA
Release Date : August 5, 2021

Reviewer : Micky
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★


Micky’s 4 star review

Headlines:
Such easy reading
Fresh retelling vibes
Unexpected plot directions

We’ve had a few wolf stories hit the shelves this year and they’ve all worked for me. What is totally in Red Wolf’s favour is the writing and ease with which the reader can sink into this story and not want to put it down.

Red Wolf set the scene well immediately, a dark wood, evil woodland creatures and a village at risk. I will say no more as the events that arise from there were pretty unexpected and I was hooked to the page.

The Duvall women in this story were captivating; they were brave, humble and focused. Adele had a lot of carry on her shoulders and she struggled to adjust, very understandably. I thought Max was a great character, supporter, feminist and I definitely need more of him.

This book has left me wanting more. It was full of action, pace and some tragedy. This is my first book by Rachel Vincent but she’s reeled me in.

Thank you to Harper360 YA for the review copy.

THREADNEEDLE by Cari Thomas

Within the boroughs of London, nestled among its streets, hides another city, filled with magic.

Magic is the first sin. It must be bound.

Ever since Anna can remember, her aunt has warned her of the dangers of magic. She has taught her to fear how it twists and knots and turns into something dark and deadly.

It was, after all, magic that killed her parents and left her in her aunt’s care. It’s why she has been protected from the magical world and, in one year’s time, what little magic she has will be bound. She will join her aunt alongside the other Binders who believe magic is a sin not to be used, but denied. Only one more year and she will be free of the curse of magic, her aunt’s teachings and the disappointment of the little she is capable of.

Nothing – and no one – could change her mind before then. Could it? 


Title : Threadneedle
Author : Cari Thomas
Series : The Language of Magic #1
Format : Paperback ARC
Page Count :576
Genre : Fantasy
Publisher : Harper Voyager
Release Date : May 27, 2021

Reviewer : Micky
Rating : ★ ★ ★ .5


Micky’s 3.5 star review

Headlines:
Fantasy in a contemporary London setting
Coming of age
Magic exploration

I enjoyed the setting of Threadneedle immensely, I thought the idea of a contemporary London as the backdrop for this tale added an interesting layer. Anna was a mousey, scared character on first glance but she was living in a controlling household where free-thinking, never mind free actions were not permissable. Anna had a lot of character development through the book.

I don’t know why, but I thought this was adult fantasy when it was overtly YA from the off. That meant some teen drama and behaviour I wasn’t expecting and I don’t know if it was just that change to my expectations that brought this read down a bit. I wasn’t always keen on Anna’s grudging companions through the story although some did grow on me.

The themes of freedom, exploration and finding yourself were welcome ones and that was interesting reading in a magical context. This is a long book and the pacing had moments of slowness but then it picked up with gusto and I was enthused to continue.

Overall, this was an appealing concept, a good start to a series and it has a fantastic cover . It will be interesting to see where the series goes.

Thank you to Harper Voyager for the early review copy.

MALICE by Heather Walter

Once upon a time, there was a wicked fairy who cursed a line of princesses to die, and could only be broken by true love’s kiss. You’ve heard this before, haven’t you? The handsome prince. The happily-ever-after.

Utter nonsense.

Let me tell you, no one actually cares about what happens to our princesses. I thought I didn’t care, either. Until I met her.

Princess Aurora. The last heir to the throne. The future queen her realm needs. One who isn’t bothered that I am the Dark Grace, abhorred and feared for the mysterious dark magic that runs in my veins. Aurora says I should be proud of my gifts. That she . . . cares for me. Even though it was a power like mine that was responsible for her curse.

But with less than a year until that curse will kill her, any future I might see with Aurora is swiftly disintegrating – and she can’t stand to kiss yet another insipid prince. I want to help her. If my power began her curse, perhaps it’s what can lift it. Perhaps, together, we could forge a new world.

Nonsense again. Because we all know how this story ends, don’t we? Aurora is the beautiful princess. And I-

I am the villain.


Title : Malice
Author : Heather Walter
Format : Paperback ARC
Length : 468
Genre : YA Fantasy
Publisher : Del Rey UK
Release Date : April 13, 2021

Reviewer : Micky
Rating  : ★ ★ ★


Micky’s 5 star review

Headline:
Twisty plot
Retelling heaven, so fresh
Exponential explosion

Welp, what am I supposed to do with myself now? Malice consumed my down time in a work week, going to bed reading it, waking up thinking about it, finishing and now staring into the distance…

So cleverly written, Malice delivered a plot of intricacy that was carefully built and easily followed. Inspired by Sleeping Beauty but really, so far removed, Alyce was a wonderful, morally grey protagonist. She was oppressed but slowly rising above that difficult life, inspired by the cursed crowned princess Aurora. The contrast of the graces’ powers and the dark grace’s power was such an interesting aspect to the story. Rose was a complex, love to hate character.

Aylce and Aurora’s friendship to more was so well written and credible but also, it was peppered with problems, roadblocks and ultimately a lot of difficulties. While I got to know Aurora less than I hoped (I’m such a greedy reader), there was enough connection there. As an Alyce fan, I needed some better times for her, people to trust (like who?), and friendship.

I am beyond glad there’s another book because I’m in freefall. I need some resolution, some more Alyce, some revenge, some regret. I think you can see that I have all the feelings.

This was a stunning read, a page-turner and the kind of book that makes you wish away the months till you can get hold of the next. I highly advise taking a dive into this book.

Thank you to DelRey UK for the early review copy.

ODIN’S CHILD by Siri Petterson

An epic fantasy trilogy from Norway about thousand-year-old secrets, forbidden romance, and what happens to those who make a deal with the devil comes at last to the United States!

“Imagine lacking something that everyone else has. Something that proves you belong to this world. Something so vital, that without it, you are nothing. A plague. A myth. A human.”

Fifteen winters old, Hirka learns that she is an Odin’s child – a tailless rot from another world. Despised. Dreaded. And hunted. She no longer knows who she is, and someone wants to kill her to keep it a secret. But there are worse things than humans, and Hirka is not the only creature to have broken through the gates…

‘Odin’s Child’ is unique fantasy with Norse roots. An epic clash of xenophobia, blind faith and the right or will to lead.

The first in a trilogy, Odin’s Child is a thrilling modern fantasy epic.


Title : Odin’s Child
Author : Siri Petterson
Series : The Raven Ring #1
Format : eARC
Page Count : 519
Genre : Folklore/Retelling
Publisher : Arctis
Release Date : March 23, 2021

Reviewer : Micky
Rating : ★ ★ .5


Micky’s 2.5 star review

Headlines:
Ravens
Tails
Beliefs smashed

Whilst the title might suggest a link with old Norsk gods, it actually doesn’t refer to that lore or known belief system at all. The phrasing ‘odin’s child’ isn’t necessarily explained (nor is much else) but it refers to Hirka, the girl poised on womanhood being not of the world she was born into but from another world.

Things I liked about the book were some of the characters like Hirka (MC), Rime and Errik but the story and the world never grabbed me. The plot was long and convoluted and when you lacked the foundations or explanations as a reader, it really was frustrating. I stuck around for the characters.

This was a long book and to be honest, I spent much of it confused. There is no show and no tell, you just have to stick around for 500+ pages to get some sense of the world building and these tenets – the might, the blind, binding, the rite. I remain confused about some elements of the world, even at the end.

I did have to have a conversation with friend who read it to help decide whether to dnf or stick with it. Am I glad I stuck with it? I’m not sure to be honest and sadly, I don’t see myself continuing with the series.

Thank you to the publisher for the early review copy.

THEFT OF SUNLIGHT by Intisar Khanani

I did not choose this fate. But I will not walk away from it.

Children have been disappearing from across Menaiya for longer than Amraeya ni Ansarim can remember. When her friend’s sister is snatched, Rae knows she can’t look away any longer – even if that means seeking answers from the royal court, where her country upbringing and clubfoot will only invite ridicule.

Yet the court holds its share of surprises. There she discovers an ally in the foreign princess, who recruits her as an attendant. Armed with the princess’s support, Rae seeks answers in the dark city streets, finding unexpected help in a rough-around-the-edges street thief with secrets of his own. But treachery runs deep, and the more Rae uncovers, the more she endangers the kingdom itself.


Title : Theft of Sunlight
Author : Intisar Khanani
Series : Dauntless Path#2
Format : eARC
Page Count : 528
Genre : YA Fantasy
Publisher : Hot Key Books
Release Date : March 23, 2021

Reviewer : Micky
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★.5


Micky’s 4.5 star review

Headlines:
Slavery
Changing perspectives
Trust and betrayal
Oh you didn’t…

I slipped into the writing of The Theft of Sunlight with such ease and comfort. It was a joy to be back into the world and to enjoy Intisar Khanani’s writing. I didn’t need a Thorn recap because I found it to be such a memorable read.

It was utterly clever to be back with the characters of Thorn but from a different perspective. Alyrra was not the MC but she was a huge part of the story, viewed from Rae (Amraeya) the MC’s story. Rae was not from a noble family but found herself amongst the royal family. Rae was daring, brave and stupid all at once and she had a disability that was so well written. That disability didn’t define her.

I may be a bit roughed up around the edges, but I’m holding together.

This was a story about slavery, with some difficult themes and sometimes some difficult scenes. I appreciated the author’s willingness to take the story into this territory in YA and I was utterly gripped and cared about what was happening in these lands.

Magic remained on the agenda but it wasn’t conveyed in a positive light. The plot overarching this series involving magic, curses, wards and mages has a dark vibe and I’m eager to know more.

There was a little promise of affection and romance but not much beyond suggestion, that felt the right kind of pitch but I foresee Rae’s story going further. Right now I’m trying to forget where we’ve been left with probably a year before the next book but I will wait as patient as I can for anything Intisar writes.

I thoroughly enjoyed this second book in the Dauntless Path series and I cannot wait to read on.

Thank you to the author for the early review copy.

NAMESAKE by Adrienne Young – double review!

Trader. Fighter. Survivor.

With the Marigold ship free of her father, Fable and its crew were set to start over. That freedom is short-lived when she becomes a pawn in a notorious thug’s scheme. In order to get to her intended destination she must help him to secure a partnership with Holland, a powerful gem trader who is more than she seems.

As Fable descends deeper into a world of betrayal and deception she learns that her mother was keeping secrets, and those secrets are now putting the people Fable cares about in danger. If Fable is going to save them then she must risk everything, including the boy she loves and the home she has finally found.

Filled with action, emotion, and lyrical writing, New York Times bestselling author Adrienne Young returns with Namesake, the final book in the captivating Fable duology.


Title : Namesake
Author : Adrienne Young
Series : Fable #2
Format : eARC / eBook (overdrive)
Page Count : 368
Genre : YA Fantasy
Publisher : Wednesday Books
Release Date : March 16, 2021

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


Micky’s 4 star review

Headlines:
Cover win & inside goodness
Full & satisfying
Trousers over dresses

Helmsman. Dredger. Trader. Orphan. Father. Daughter.

This second piece in the duology did not let me down. I can’t tell you how relieved that makes me when I loved book one, there’s always that trepidation over the next one. This story, this crew, Fable and West really captured my book-loving heart and being able to follow the story to completion was everything.

Interestingly, Fable was a little less tough and a little more weepy in Namesake, showing a vulnerability I didn’t expect. Talking of expectations, family continued to be a key theme in this instalment and it was hard to trust anyone related to Fable.

One of the things that captivated me in Fable was the diving and dredging; I loved for those moments in this book too and there were plenty. I just found that element so interesting, vivid, dangerous and wild.

Even from above, I could feel them – the soft songs of the gemstones hidden in the reef below.

West really struck me with the faith he had in Fable. She pulled some tough decisions, some gut feelings that weren’t based in much and he made things happen as a consequence. West was morally grey but 100% committed. I loved how their power dynamic played out, push and pull but one more in control than the other.

I am all satisfaction at the story, pacing and characterisation of this duology. This will sit happily on my shelves as a favourite.

Thank you to Wednesday Books for the early review copy.


Hollis’ 2.5 star review

Pretty bummed this one didn’t even live up to book one for me. It hadn’t been a smash hit but I certainly didn’t expect to be a) so bored and b) so unimpressed with all the random circumventing of events as the MC and her love interest just took turns going behind each others’ backs to “save each other” so that c) we could have some minor conflict and drama. Eyeroll.

Sorry, maybe that’s harsh but it got tiresome. Especially as the big reveal and climax happens and in a blink of an eye it’s all over.

Ultimately I like where we ended up, I guess, but it felt like a trek to get there. And half of this series wouldn’t even exist if people had just shared information with each other, so. That says a lot.

My experiences with Young have definitely been unpredictable and this series is no exception. Not sure I’ll feel inclined to pick her up again but I’m glad I gave this a try after all the recommendations from buddies. Sorry I let you down — again!

ALL THE TIDES OF FATE by Adalyn Grace

Through blood and sacrifice, Amora Montara has conquered a rebellion and taken her rightful place as queen of Visidia. Now, with the islands in turmoil and the people questioning her authority, Amora cannot allow anyone to see her weaknesses.

No one can know about the curse in her bloodline. No one can know that she’s lost her magic. No one can know the truth about the boy who holds the missing half of her soul.

To save herself and Visidia, Amora embarks on a desperate quest for a mythical artifact that could fix everything―but it comes at a terrible cost. As she tries to balance her loyalty to her people, her crew, and the desires of her heart, Amora will soon discover that the power to rule might destroy her.


Title : All The Tides Of Fate
Author : Adalyn Grace
Series : All The Stars & Teeth #2
Format : ebook/audio
Page Count : 384
Genre : YA Fantasy
Publisher : Titan Books/MacMillan Audio
Release Date : February 2, 2021

Reviewer : Micky
Rating  : ★ ★ ★ .5


3.5 stars

Headlines:
New roles
All at sea
Who needs a man?

This was ultimately a satisfying finale in this exciting duology from Adalyn Grace. I was fortunate to do both audio and the ebook, having review copies of both formats and I enjoyed both experiences. While this installment didn’t hit the heights of book one, I was still happy with the completion.

Amora seemed to have taken a few steps back initially in this book but she was in a new role and grieving. Expectations were heavy on her shoulders and she seemed to falter in decision-making, direction and leadership. Those early and mid-way wobbles made her believable but perhaps not as likeable. The whole, ‘search for a husband cover’ made me sigh heavily but the direction this went was a good outcome.

I felt happiest reading this book when the crew were back together on Keel Haul. I loved the voyages, the team, the banter and togetherness. One of the story directions killed me and I’m still not okay with that event.

This was a fast paced read/listen and pretty exciting with a great wrap up. The last 20% of the read was probably my favourite section. The narration was good with single pov narration that captured Amora, her age and her character well.

Thank you to Titan Books and Macmillan Audio for the early review copies.

THE GILDED ONES by Namina Forna

Sixteen-year-old Deka lives in fear and anticipation of the blood ceremony that will determine whether she will become a member of her village. Already different from everyone else because of her unnatural intuition, Deka prays for red blood so she can finally feel like she belongs.

But on the day of the ceremony, her blood runs gold, the color of impurity–and Deka knows she will face a consequence worse than death.

Then a mysterious woman comes to her with a choice: stay in the village and submit to her fate, or leave to fight for the emperor in an army of girls just like her. They are called alaki–near-immortals with rare gifts. And they are the only ones who can stop the empire’s greatest threat.

Knowing the dangers that lie ahead yet yearning for acceptance, Deka decides to leave the only life she’s ever known. But as she journeys to the capital to train for the biggest battle of her life, she will discover that the great walled city holds many surprises. Nothing and no one are quite what they seem to be–not even Deka herself.



Title : The Gilded Ones
Author : Namina Forna
Series : Deathless #1
Format : Paperback ARC
Page Count : 400
Genre : YA Fantasy, BIPOC
Publisher : Usbourne Publishing
Release Date : February 4, 2021

Reviewer : Micky
Rating  : ★ ★ ★ ★



Micky’s 4 star review

When I read a YA fantasy, I have certain expectations and some of that is that I will see familiar tropes, storylines and features to the story. The Gilded Ones bucked the trends and delivered on what felt to be a particularly unique story.

Deka the main character, was a young woman who was oppressed and as her inital true nature was revealed, her kind was reviled, a demon of these lands. There were so many more reveals to come but the idea of a race that was tortured and persecuted made for a compelling story.

The Gilded Ones was a story mainly about women and it was a story steeped in misogyny. Otera was a land that favoured male roles and oppressed women and girls. There were themes that were difficult to read and witness but there were hopeful and empowering elements woven through this story. There were also some great twists to the story as characters were revealed. I appreciate a storyline that makes you question what you initally thought.

This was a complex world but the world-building was layered in a way that didn’t confuse and brought you along the journey at a pace that worked. I will definitely be continuing with this series and I am impressed by Namina Forna’s debut.

Thank you to Usbourne Publishing for the early review copy.