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CURSED by Marissa Meyer

It isn’t true, she wanted to whisper. To lean forward and nuzzle her cheek against his temple. To press him against the wall and mold her body to his. I am not his. I will never be his.

Serilda and Gild cannot break the curses that tether their spirits to Adalheid’s haunted castle. There they remain trapped for eternity. On the night of the Endless Moon, the Erlking means to capture one of the seven gods and so be reunited with his lover, Perchta, who has been banished to the underworld.

But it soon becomes clear that the Erlking’s hunger for vengeance won’t be satisfied with a single wish, and his true intentions have the power to alter the mortal realm forever.

Serilda and Gild have no choice but to thwart his plans, all the while solving the mystery of Gild’s forgotten name, and freeing all the ghosts kept in servitude to the dark ones. As the evil forces gather, it seems only their love is strong enough to sustain them . . .


Title : Cursed
Author : Marissa Meyer
Series : Gild #2
Format : eARC
Page Count : 539
Genre : YA Fantasy
Publisher : Faber Children’s
Release Date : November 8, 2022

Reviewer : Micky
Rating : ★ ★ ★


Micky’s 3 star review

This is a conflicted opinion again from me regarding this duology and I find myself coming out in the 3’s again, which makes me sad. There’s things I love about this duology and a couple of issues that override the love which I’ve outlined below.

I liked:
The characters, from His Grim to Serilda, Gild, the children and more
The storyline was strong
I liked the darkness and gore that surfaced regularly

I struggled with:
The overly long, convolutions of what is a solid plotline in the main
Deep description
Both of these issues made it a very pacey read

The struggles are exactly what I felt with book one when I was hoping to be lifted into a more steady and straight forward pacing.

Thank you to Faber Childrens for the eARC.

THE DRAGON’S PROMISE by Elizabeth Lim

Princess Shiori made a deathbed promise to return the dragon’s pearl to its rightful owner, but keeping that promise is more dangerous than she ever imagined.

She must journey to the kingdom of dragons, navigate political intrigue among humans and dragons alike, fend off thieves who covet the pearl for themselves and will go to any lengths to get it, all the while cultivating the appearance of a perfect princess to dissuade those who would see her burned at the stake for the magic that runs in her blood.

The pearl itself is no ordinary cargo; it thrums with malevolent power, jumping to Shiori’s aid one minute, and betraying her the next – threatening to shatter her family and sever the thread of fate that binds her to her true love. It will take every ounce of strength Shiori can muster to defend the life and the love she’s fought so hard to win.


Title : The Dragon’s Promise
Author : Elizabeth Lim
Series : Six Crimson Cranesw #2
Format : eARC
Page Count : 497
Genre : YA Fantasy
Publisher : Hodder Books
Release Date : August 30, 2022

Reviewer : Micky
Rating : ★ ★ ★


Micky’s 3 star review

Headlines:
Separations and reunions
Star-crossed connection
Paper enchantments

I’m somewhat conflicted over this sequel to Six Crimson Cranes. I really enjoyed book one, the plot, the characters and just the magical elements of this world are mostly enchanting. Book two brought separation for some characters and I just didn’t enjoy the dragon world, not did I enjoy the demon storyline.

What I do love about this book is Shiori, Takken, Kiki and the brothers. Those elements kept me invested and reading on. I really appreciated the reflections Shiori had about her step mother and the connection I saw with her father. Sense of family is strong in this book.

I wanted the kind of tempo I felt in book one and while this was a rather pacey read, it was ultimately satisfying and it did tug on my heartstrings later on. So overall, I do think this is a duology worth reading but it does suffer from second book syndrome in my humble opinion.

Thank you to Hodderscape for the review copy.

DAUGHTER OF THE PIRATE KING by Tricia Levenseller

A page-turning, seafaring adventure from YA fantasy sensation Tricia Levenseller – the first book in the Daughter of the Pirate King trilogy.

‘Kidnapped my interest from the first chapter and never let it go’ Anna Banks, author of Of Triton

Seventeen-year-old Alosa, daughter of the feared Pirate King, is on a mission. She must retrieve an ancient hidden map, the key to a legendary treasure trove. The catch? Alosa needs to conceal her considerable combat skills and allow herself to be captured by her enemies, giving her the perfect opportunity to search their ship.

More than a match for the ruthless pirate crew, Alosa has only one thing standing between her and the map: her captor, the unexpectedly clever and unfairly attractive first mate, Riden. But luckily, she has a few tricks up her sleeve – and no lone pirate can stop the Daughter of the Pirate King.


Title : Daughter of the Pirate King
Author : Tricia Levenseller
Series : Daughter of the Pirate King #1
Format : Physical
Page Count : 320
Genre : YA Fantasy
Publisher : Pushkin Press
Release Date : September 29, 2022

Reviewer : Micky
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★


Micky’s 4 star review

Headlines:
Swashbuckling fun
Parent problems
Frenemies

This book was just a fun romp from start to finish. It was light, adventurous but with solid plot and characterisation. Alosa was like disney Merida but at sea and older. I enjoyed her feisty behaviour, her leadership and her risk-taking.

There were two brothers in this debacle, one good and one bad. I liked the good one…
It was a pretty bloodthirsty read and any killing was just brushed by but it fit the tone of the piece and the fast-paced narrative.

I didn’t like the Pirate King and I’m wanting more about this from book two; he made me sneer when he was on and off the page. I want to know more about Alosa’s mother, so as I say, parent problems.

Daughter of the Pirate King is the kind of read that sweeps you up for a day or so and you don’t think of other books because it occupies your time and mind.

Thank you Pushkin Press for the review copy.

THE GOLDEN ENCLAVES by Naomi Novik – double review!

Saving the world is a test no school of magic can prepare you for in the triumphant conclusion to the Sunday Times bestselling trilogy that began with A Deadly Education and The Last Graduate.

The one thing you never talk about while you’re in the Scholomance is what you’ll do when you get out – not even the richest enclaver would tempt fate that way.

But that impossible dream has somehow come true for El and her classmates. And what’s more, she didn’t even have to become the monstrous dark witch she’s prophesised to become to make it happen. Instead of killing enclavers, she saved them, and now the world is safe for all wizards. Peace and harmony have enveloped all the enclaves of the world.

Just kidding.

Instead, someone else has picked up the project of destroying enclaves in El’s stead, and everyone she saved is at risk again with a full-scale enclave war on the horizon. And so, the first thing El needs to do after miraculously escaping the Scholomance, is to turn straight around and find a way back in.


Title : The Golden Enclaves
Author : Naomi Novik
Series : The Scholomance #3
Format : Hardback / eBook (overdrive)
Page Count : 496
Genre : YA fantasy
Publisher : DelRey UK / Del Rey Books
Release Date : September 27, 2022

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


Micky’s 4 star review

Headlines:
It hurts
The reveals are huge
Clever, clever world; clever, clever author

What an utterly rich series and concept of a world The Scholomance has been. I did not expect to reset my perceptions of this world so much through the final lens of this book, but I did. The reveals Novik brought through The Golden Enclaves were pretty huge and reconceptualised the foundations for the good and bad constructs of this magical world. I was not unhappy about this, simply impressed.

The way things at the end of The Last Graduate had El in depths of despair and I was there with her. I thought the grief was well written the actions that ensued understandable (I have a spoiler tag for more info on this in my GR review). That early part of the book was captivating but a more gentle pace, then we got a blast of speed and the book took off.

I appreciated seeing life in the world outside The Scholomance. How the enclaves worked but more than that, the often priviledged people inside the enclaves with no thought to those less priviledged. That said, the story did have short periods of lull for me where I pushed through a bit and things picked up in a satisfying way. I was a little un satisfied by the wrap up on the New York mother (being vague here).

Overall, this was a great conclusion to the series and it’ll hold a happy place in my reading heart.

Thank you to DelReyUK for the review copy.


Hollis’ 3.5 star review

When I closed the chapter on this book, I was admittedly flying a little high. I thought I’d be smacking this with a four and calling it a day. But the longer it took me to sit down and write this.. the more I doubted, the more I remembered the few bits I struggled with, and so here we are.

First of all, full disclosure, I cried at two different parts. So are there emotions and do they hit? Yes and yes.

Second of all, are there some good character and plot choices along the way that make this a bit less straight forward than we’ve been told to expect (even if we doubted it would be that straight forward)? Also yes and yes.

And did the romance satisfy? Wellll.

Due to s p o i l e r s there are complications with my answer to that last one. But I’m both satisfied and not. Because Novik had El interact with another character in a way I didn’t expect but.. initially, I was fine with it. When it happened again, when circumstances had changed, though? I was not fine with it. I have a feeling, if I filter some low-rated reviews, this might be the number one complaint; outside of people being real tired and bored by the non-dialogue monologues, which, fair! It does get a lot. But honestly you have to sorta be expecting that after two whole books.. (yes, I am a hypocrite because I make the same complaints in series I don’t like but keep reading, so, pfft, it is what it is).

Obviously I can’t talk about anything else, or anything plot-related, so, was this a satisfying end? Yes and no. I was emotional, I was delighted, I was a little sad, I was surprised and also maybe disappointed, I was a lot of things. And ultimately I’m not quite sure I loved this ending enough to put this series on a favourites list — but I do think I would be up for recommending it.. and I definitely want to reread it at some point. Do with that what you will!

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.