THE KING IS DEAD by Benjamin Dean

Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda meets The Inheritance Games in this Black LGBTQ+ royal romp full of heart-swooning romance, scandalous secrets and one hell of a mystery.

James has been a prince all of his life, and since he was born, he’s been thrust into the spotlight as the first Black heir to the throne. But when his father unexpectedly dies, James is crowned king at seventeen. Now, the secrets he could keep as a prince with no real responsibility – namely, his sexuality and hidden relationship – are rocked as his life irrevocably changes.

When his boyfriend suddenly goes missing, the royal secrets and scandals that only he knows start to leak online. And when it becomes clear that whoever is behind the messages isn’t going to stop anytime soon, James begins to question everyone around him 


Title : The King is Dead
Authors : Benjamin Dean
Format : eARC
Page Count : 367
Genre : YA Contemporary LGBTQ+
Publisher : Simon & Schuster Children’s UK
Release Date : July 7, 2022

Reviewer : Micky
Rating : ★ ★ ★


Micky’s 3 star review

Headlines:
Queer black protagonist
Mystery suspense
Lots of drama

The King is Dead is an unusual choice of read because I am the opposite of a monarchist but in the same breath, a queer, black young King was a bit too interesting a characterisation to ignore. I did like the LGBTQ+ focus, the parentage twists, the recognition of the inherent racism in the UK and the complicated family and friendships.

There’s a lot of drama in this read and I had to remind myself that James was only 17 and his flitting between attraction, allegiances and risky outings was due to his immaturity. I had to fully suspend realism to get behind this story. I could really see some mirroring in some of the current royal family and racism they’ve experienced and how Jame’s position was viewed by the public and press.

The mystery was a bit far fetched but this was a quick thrilling read which kept a good momentum. I definitely see the Gossip Girl analogy in relation to this book and I think it will appeal to many.

Thank you to Simon and Schuster for the eARC. 

A DARKNESS AT THE DOOR by Intisar Khanani

I’ve been cursed, betrayed, and sold into slavery – but the truth I carry can’t be allowed to die.

Only Rae knows the extent of the corruption at the heart of the kingdom of Menaiya, from the noble lord who betrayed her, to the Circle of Mages whose wards protect the slavers from discovery. Injured and imprisoned on a slave ship, Rae’s options are quickly running out. When a desperate escape attempt goes terribly wrong, she finds herself indebted to a terrifying Fae sorceress.

Now Rae will not rest until she has rescued her fellow prisoners and freed her land from the darkness that has taken hold. To succeed, she’ll need every ally she can find-including Bren, the thief who may have stolen her heart. But Bren is hiding his own bloody secrets, and the curses that encircle Rae have sunk their claws into her mind. With her debts coming due and time running short, all the truths in the world may not be enough to save her kingdom, or herself.


Title : A Darkness At The Door
Author : Intisar Khanani
Series : The Dauntless Path #3
Format : Physical
Page Count : 528
Genre : YA Fantasy
Publisher : HotKey Books
Release Date : July 21, 2022

Reviewer : Micky
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★


Micky’s 4 star review

Headlines:
Heroine with disabilities
Breaking the mold
Fighting, thieving and integrity

Intisar Khanani left us at the end of book two in pain with that ending but A Darkness At The Door did not disappoint. This was a story of tension, tragedy, gore and the fight for justice for those children being trafficked. This was a very full story with twists and turns that was ultimately hugely satisfying.

Rae is the kind of heroine I loved to admire. She broke through people’s expectations of how she should be and behave and that cover came into perspective. Rae’s fight for escape, revenge and justice kept me hooked from page one to the end. Rae’s disabiliy was written well with ability realistically conveyed along with the pain, problems and attitudes that were faced on a daily basis. The magic was a light-ish touch but remained authentic to the dauntless path world.

Bren as a character and Bren with Rae really grew on me more in this book. I liked that neither character changed for one another. The side characters were wonderful, especially Bren’s crew and then Rae’s family. There was only a little of Alyrra which a lapped up but could have managed more.

This series definitely sits in my pile of favourites for world building, consistency and characterisation; Initisar Khanani is an equal favourite.

Thank you to HotKey Books for the review copy.

TOGETHER WE BURN by Isabel Ibanez

An ancient city plagued by dragons. A flamenco dancer determined to save her ancestral home. A dragon hunter refusing to teach her his ways. They don’t want each other, but they need each other, and without him her world will burn.

Eighteen-year-old Zarela Zalvidar is a talented flamenco dancer and daughter of the most famous Dragonador in Hispalia. People come for miles to see him fight in their arena, which will one day be hers.

But disaster strikes during their five hundredth anniversary show, and in the carnage, Zarela’s father is horribly injured. Facing punishment from the Dragon Guild, Zarela must keep the arena—her ancestral home and inheritance —safe from their greedy hands. She has no choice but to take her father’s place as the next Dragonador. When the infuriatingly handsome dragon hunter, Arturo Díaz de Montserrat, withholds his help, she refuses to take no for an answer.

But even if he agrees, there’s someone out to ruin the Zalvidar family, and Zarela will have to do whatever it takes in order to prevent the Dragon Guild from taking away her birthright.


Title : Together We Burn
Author : Isabel Ibanez
Format : Physical
Page Count : 368
Genre : YA Fantasy
Publisher : Titan Books
Release Date : July 5, 2022

Reviewer : Micky
Rating : ★ ★ ★


Micky’s 3 star mini-review

There’s a lot to sell this book:

*dragons
*captivity, victimisation, freedom
*pushing past gender role expectation
*a budding romance

…and all those things made this a decent read but for some reason I didn’t connect to the characters hardly at all and I felt like I was reading this at a distance. I didn’t feel bored, nor did I feel the need to DNF but I finished the book feeling it was okay but mainly with feelings of ambivalence.

I can imagine the themes in this book will work for many readers and if they’re able to connect with the characters, they’ll probably really enjoy this.

Thank you to Titan Books for the review copy.

BELLADONNA by Adalyn Grace

For as long as Signa Farrow has been alive, the people in her life have fallen like stars . . .

Orphaned as a baby, nineteen-year-old Signa has been raised by a string of guardians, each more interested in her wealth than her wellbeing – and each has met an untimely end. Her remaining relatives are the elusive Hawthornes, an eccentric family living at Thorn Grove, an estate both glittering and gloomy.

Its patriarch mourns his late wife through wild parties, while his son grapples for control of the family’s waning reputation and his daughter suffers from a mysterious illness. But when their mother’s restless spirit appears claiming she was poisoned, Signa realizes that the family she depends on could be in grave danger, and enlists the help of a surly stable boy to hunt down the killer.

Signa’s best chance of uncovering the murderer, though, is an alliance with Death himself, a fascinating, dangerous shadow who has never been far from her side. Though he’s made her life a living hell, Death shows Signa that their growing connection may be more powerful – and more irresistible – than she ever dared imagine.


Title : Belladonna
Author : Adalyn Grace
Series : Belladonna #1
Narrator : Kristin Atherton
Format : Physical ARC/audio
Page Count : 416
Genre : YA Fantasy
Publisher : Hodder Books
Release Date : August 30, 2022

Reviewer : Micky
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★ ★


Micky’s 5 star review

Headlines:
Death is in the air
Family unwanted and found
Atmospheric

I read Belladonna by audio and physical copy because when I couldn’t listen to audio, I needed to carry on with the story; it was unputdownable. The whole book oozed atmosphere from the early pages right to the end.

Signa was an unwanted ward, shunted around families who didn’t want her but wanted her inheritance. Eventually, she found herself with an uncle and cousins who Signa actually felt some connection to. You know who else Signa had a connection to? Death…she saw the reaper whenever death was close or imminent. She hated him, wanted to be ignorant to Death’s work and his presence that she felt in chilling ways. But over time, Death had a usefulness in helping solve an urgent mystery of poisoning. Signa came to understand Death and like him. There’s a really compelling romance to root for.

Death’s character grew on me immensely and I think that was aided somewhat by the superb narration. Even though this was a single narrator, Kristin Atherton inhabited Death’s character and voiced him so well. I was intrigued but wary of Silas and I was willing the new family in Percy and Blythe to show Signa the familial connection she was so neglected of. So much went on in Thorn Grove, parties, intrigue, business, death, poisoning and sleuthing.

The whole piece had a gothic feel, it was dark but not heavy. The writing was a joy, pulling you in while keeping you on your toes. This story finishes with a ‘and then….’ feeling and we have a title for a new book. There’s plenty of wrapping up of plot however, so readers will feel okay with where this ends.

Thank you to Hodder Books for the early review copies.

WHEN STARS COME OUT by Scarlett St Clair

Anora Silby can see the dead and turn spirits into gold coins, two things she would prefer to keep secret as she tries to lead a normal life at her new school. After all, she didn’t change her identity for nothing.

Hiding her weirdness is just one of many challenges. By the end of her first day, she’s claimed the soul of a dead girl on campus and lost the coin. Turns out, the coin gives others the ability to steal souls, and when a classmate ends up dead, there’s no mistaking the murder weapon.

Navigating the loss of her Poppa, the mistrust of her mother, the attention of gorgeous and enigmatic Shy, and Roundtable, an anonymous student gossip app threatening to expose her, are hard enough. Now she must find the person who stole her coin before more lives are lost, but that means making herself a target for the Order, an organization that governs the dead on Earth—and they want Anora and her powers for themselves


Title : When Stars Come Out
Author : Scarlett St Clair
Series : When Stars Come Out #1
Format : eARC
Page Count : 418
Genre : YA Fantasy
Publisher : Bloom Books
Release Date : July 26, 2022

Reviewer : Micky
Rating : ★ ★ ★


Micky’s 3 star review

Headlines:
Don’t be fooled by that pretty cover
Scary stuff within
Loose Eurydice/Orpheus retelling

This book was completely not what I expected. That cover made me think light ya fantasy when what is inside is dark, somewhat scary and utterly creepy in parts. If you look back at its previous cover, that definitely gives you more of a feel of what is inside this book.

The above said, I did find myself interested in the word of shifting ravens, death speakers and greek mythology links to Charon, hell hounds and all this in a high school context. Anora was a very interesting character, misunderstood, called crazy and she really had no one on her side. I hated her mum, there was some subtle abuse going on that didn’t get tied up so I hope that’s dealt with in the second book.

When I first met Shy (that full name…), I was a little leery of his interest. The Eurydice element to the story saved my investment, I liked how that part was rolled out and how they connected but I did want to see more depth with these two though. The whole organisation that Shy and others belonged to was suspect and Roth could be friend or foe; I suspect foe.

The plot was dark, really scary for brief moments and it did feel like it had horror elements. Nevertheless, I made it through and I would definitely like to see where the next book goes.

Thanks to Bloom Books for the eARC.

OUR CROOKED HEARTS by Melissa Albert

In our family, we keep our magic close, but our secrets closer . . .

Ivy’s summer kicks off with a series of disturbing events. As unnatural offerings appear on her doorstep, she’s haunted by fragmented memories from her childhood, suggesting there’s more to her mother, Dana, than meets the eye.

Dana’s tale starts the year she turns sixteen, when she embarks on a major fling with the supernatural. Too late she realizes that the powers she’s playing with are also playing with her.

Years after it began, Ivy and Dana’s shared story will come down to a reckoning between a mother, a daughter and the dark forces they never should have messed with.


Title : Our Crooked Hearts
Author : Melissa Albert
Format : Physical
Page Count : 352
Genre : YA Fantasy/Thriller/Horror
Publisher : Penguin
Release Date : June 30, 2022

Reviewer : Micky
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★


Micky’s 4 star review

Headlines:
Hella creepy
Difficult familial relationships
Magic bubbling

This book had a pretty spine-chilling start and that atmosphere pervaded throughout the book. Figuratively looking over your shoulder was on the menu with characters that were very investable in, good and bad.

The story was told between chapters of Ivy a teen, a witness to sinister goings on and then chapters from her mum’s teen years discovering magical crafts. These two characters were not close and reading these stories in tandem worked so well. For Ivy it was about following breadcrumbs, remembering the past and fighting for family.

As a reader, adding up the clues and working out the whole picture was the mission. I had lots of theories along the way and I was not disappointed.

Genre-wise, this is YA with a sense of thriller, fantasy and mild horror (in terms of atmosphere) and one scene that got me a bit freaked. Please always remember I am a wuss when it comes to scary, so many will not find it scary.

Thank you to Penguin for the review copy.

THE BLOOD TRAITOR by Lynette Noni

She’d failed them. All of them. And now she was paying the price.

Kiva thought she knew what she wanted-revenge. But feelings change, people change . . . everything has changed.

After what happened at the palace, Kiva is desperate to know if her friends and family are safe, and whether those she wronged can ever forgive her. But with the kingdoms closer to the brink of war than they’ve ever been, and Kiva far away from the conflict, more is at stake than her own broken heart.

A fresh start will mean a perilous quest, forcing mortal enemies and uneasy allies together in a race against the clock to save not just Evalon, but all of Wenderall. With her loyalties now set, Kiva can no longer just survive-she must fight for what she believes in. For who she believes in. But with danger coming from every side, and the lives of everyone she loves at risk, does she have what it takes to stand, or will she fall?


Title : The Blood Traitor
Author : Lynette Noni
Series : The Prison Healer #3
Format : eARC
Page Count : 482
Genre : YA Fantasy
Publisher : Hodderscape
Release Date : June 14, 2022

Reviewer : Micky
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★ ★


Micky’s 5 star review

Headlines:
Trope check goodness
Unforgiveable?
Page-turner

I am so incredibly sad this series is over but then I couldn’t help race-reading this because it was so unputdownable. Picking up immediately where we were so cruelly left at the end of The Gilded Cage, this installment rushed at my brain like a whirlwind, grabbed me and wouldn’t let go.

Jaren, Jaren, Jaren, Kiva, Kiva, Kiva. Oh the longings, the emotions, the hurt, it was a lot of everything and at this point, I was so invested in this couple that I had to let out the breath I didn’t know I was holding (I’m just messing with you) when they were on the page. The plot was so rich with found family goodness, I simply adored the cast of characters that found themselves on a quest. Tripp was a little more in the background but he still brought light when he was there.

It was so good to finally see the Corentine-Vallentis and other royal family stories go full circle, finding answers to series plot points and Noni delivered so well on these elements. Nothing was rushed, everything was carefully crafted and the journey readers have been taken on felt so worthy of these three books.

Also that last line of the book…precious.

I could definitely read a novella epilogue for these characters, pretty please?

Thank you to Hodder Books for the eARc and the ride!

ORDINARY MONSTERS by J.M. Miro

The Dark Grace is dead.

Feared and despised for the sinister power in her veins, Alyce has spent 100 years wreaking her revenge on the kingdom that made her an outcast. Once a realm of decadence and beauty, Briar is now wholly Alyce’s wicked domain. No one escapes the consequences of her wrath.

Not even the one person who holds her heart.

Princess Aurora saw through Alyce’s thorny facade, earning a love that promised the dawn of a new age. But that love came with a heavy price: Aurora now sleeps under a curse that even Alyce’s vast power cannot seem to break, and their dream of the world they would have built together is nothing but ash.

Alyce vows to do anything to wake the woman she loves, even if it means descending into the monster Briar believed her to be. But could Aurora ever love the villain Alyce has become?

Or is true love only for fairy tales?


Title : Ordinary Monsters
Author : J.M. Miro
Series : The Talents Trilogy #1
Format : Physical ARC
Page Count : 660
Genre : Historical Fantasy/Horror
Publisher : Bloomsbury Publishing
Release Date : June 7, 2022

Reviewer : Micky
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★


Micky’s 4 star review

This has just been such a creepy and absorbing read. It’s a bit of a tome, it’s absorbing and it is incredibly unusual.

It’s a historical fantasy/horror that takes place between the US, London, Scotland, Tokyo…and places in between. There are children with ‘talents’ some of which are pretty scary gifts. And then, there are monsters of different descriptions after them. Thankfully there are some decent adults trying to protect them but then which are decent and which have other agendas? It isn’t clear for much of the book. I cheered all the way for the children.

This is a series starter and it’s going to be a trilogy. It’s atmospheric, eerie, dark and sad. The tension was pretty strong, there’s some gruesome elements but nothing I couldn’t cope with. There were twists on twists.

I’m definitely invested and I will be reading on when the next book is out. I could totally see this as TV series.

Thank you Bloomsbury Books for the gifted copy. The book is out now.

THE THIEF by Megan Whalen Turner

The king’s scholar, the magus, believes he knows the site of an ancient treasure. To attain it for his king, he needs a skillful thief, and he selects Gen from the king’s prison. The magus is interested only in the thief’s abilities. What Gen is interested in is anyone’s guess. Their journey toward the treasure is both dangerous and difficult, lightened only imperceptibly by the tales they tell of the old gods and goddesses.

Eugenides, the queen’s thief, can steal anything – or so he says. Then his boasting lands him in the king’s prison, and his chances of escape look slim.

So when the king’s magus invites him on a seemingly impossible quest to steal a legendary object and win back his freedom, Gen in no position to refuse.

The magus has plans for his king and his country. Gen has plans of his own . . .

Megan Whalen Turner weaves Gen’s stories and Gen’s story together with style and verve in a novel that is filled with intrigue, adventure, and surprise.


Title : The Thief
Author : Megan Whalen Turner
Series : The Queen’s Thief #1
Format : eARC
Page Count : 236
Genre : YA Fantasy
Publisher : Hodder Books
Release Date : May 5, 2022

Reviewer : Micky
Rating : ★ ★ .5


Micky’s 2.5 star review

Headlines:
I hyped this up for myself
Not a lot goes on for the first half
Interesting characters

The Thief is a book I’ve been wanting to read for a few years and it’s finally getting a UK publisher this year. I bit the hand off netgalley and Hodder for this but I think the hype I’d got myself into over it ultimately made me crash and burn.

This is a character-driven, plot light ya fantasy, pitched around a thief (Gen) and his troop of keepers. Basically, for the first half, not a lot happens but there was enough to just about keep me engaged and that was because I really liked Gen. Surprisingly, I came to like his keeper, the Magus.

When things did pick up (a bit) plot-wise, I think I’d got beyond feeling invested. When I look at the other reviews for this book (it’s been released elsewhere for decades), many talk about the slowness of this read but that the investment is worth it for the series. Feeling as I do, I’m unsure whether I will continue.

I’m sad I haven’t nicer thoughts to share, but we can’t always share our book friends’ love for recommendations.

Thank you to Hodder Books for the early review copy. 

ONLY A MONSTER by Vanessa Len

It should have been the perfect summer. Sent to stay with her late mother’s eccentric family in London, sixteen-year-old Joan is determined to enjoy herself. She loves her nerdy job at the historic Holland House, and when her super cute co-worker Nick asks her on a date, it feels like everything is falling into place.

But she soon learns the truth. Her family aren’t just eccentric: they’re monsters, with terrifying, hidden powers. And Nick isn’t just a cute boy: he’s a legendary monster slayer, who will do anything to bring them down.

As she battles Nick, Joan is forced to work with the beautiful and ruthless Aaron Oliver, heir to a monster family that hates her own. She’ll have to embrace her own monstrousness if she is to save herself, and her family. Because in this story . . .

. . . she is not the hero.


Title : Only A Monster
Author : Vanessa Len
Series : Monsters #1
Format : Physical
Page Count : 368
Genre : Fantasy
Publisher : Hodderscape
Release Date : February 17, 2022

Reviewer : Micky
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★


Micky’s 4 star review

Headlines:
Families, rivarlty and time
Complex plot
So clever and twisty

I’m really impressed with this story that kept me gripped in a work week. I was eager to pick this up every evening. While it is a complex plot that builds and builds, it’s not too heavy, if that makes sense.

Joan and the Hunt family were not the bunch of regular humans they seemed at first glance. The reader was quickly introduced to the concept of ‘monsters’ and it took a good portion of the book to find out why they earned that name. They weren’t necessarily the kind of monstrostity I’d initally thought. Everything about how this concept, the world, the time and time jumps were constructed, was incredibly clever. I just went with the flow and found myself pretty enamoured with the creation.

Some of the characters were vile, especially in the earlier part of the story but there were many characters I came to love. June, the protagonist, was out of the loop in her new found power but she was quick to catch on. There was something unique about her amongst her kind because she looked at everything with fresh eyes and she wasn’t overly bound by the rules or impossibilites; this idea fed into the plot well. I really came to like Aaron and Tom but I went back and forth over Nick; his story had so much to unpick.

This story felt very much like a YA fantasy thriller, lots of tension, peril, plot-puzzling and the hint of a triangle. I am so glad there’s more to come from this world and characters, I’m ready to see things turned on their heads again.

Thank you to Hodder Books for the early review copy.

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