Monday, 19 October 2020

Review - Queen of Shadows

Throne of Glass stack + Aelin print designed by JemlinC

Title: Queen of Shadows
Series: Throne of Glass (Goodreads)
Publisher: Bloomsbury 
Genre: Fantasy, Romance
Author: Sarah J. Maas   
Age Group: YA
Source: Waterstones (purchased)


So much happened in this book and my love for this series only gets stronger and more intense as the Throne of Glass series progresses! Something that I have noticed so far about all the books is that the beginnings are usually a bit slow to develop and it can take a few chapters before the action begins to take place. This doesn’t spoil the books in any way, at least not for me, but I mention this so that readers are aware and advise them to stick with the books because once the action picks up you do not want to miss it. As the series goes on and I continue to review them I’m finding it harder and harder to keep my reviews as free from spoilers as possible because so much has changed for Celaena since A Throne of Glass so I will advise to read with caution as there will be minor spoilers.

The one constant strength for me throughout all the books, and especially in Queen of Shadows, is Celaena’s personal development. If you are a long time fan or a new fan of the series then you will be aware of the burdens Celaena has had to carry. These burdens have only increased and become heavier since the previous book, Heir of Fire, when Celaena’s true identity was revealed (Aelin of Terrasen). To go from being an assassin to a young queen with a kingdom to save is a heavy burden for anyone, and Celaena does struggle with it, but importantly with the support and love from her close friends they help her too overcome her struggles and burdens.

She could forgive the girl who had needed a captain of the guard to offer stability after a year in hell; forgive the girl who had needed a captain to be her champion. But she was her own champion now. And she would not add another name of her beloved dead to her flesh.

That leads me to the best element of this book and for me that was the multiple relationships that were developed. Though more importantly, it was the individual developments of particular characters too. The strongest and most beautiful individual developments for me were Manon, Lysandra and Rowan. Whilst the relationships that stood out for me were Celaena and Lysandra’s, Celaena and Rowan’s as well as Manon and Elide’s. I desperately want to discuss so many of these characters and their story arcs but then I’d honestly end up writing a uni length essay and nobody really wants that. So I’m going to focus on Manon’s development as well as the relationship between Celaena and Rowan.

I think you would find it very difficult to argue with any hardcore fan of this series that Maas is in no doubt a fantastic writer of strong, fierce, and independent women! Manon is certainly no exception to this strongly worded statement. When we first met Manon in Heir of Fire she was a blindly loyal and unquestioning follower of her Grandmothers. However, following events in the previous book this is no longer the case. From early on in Queen of Shadows Manon is suddenly lost and beginning to doubt her unquestioning loyalty and this is what makes her development in this series so interesting. There is a fantastic couple of scenes which I think really highlight Manon’s beginning developments. If what has started in Queen of Shadows continues to get stronger in the next few books than her individual story arc is for me is one to watch closely. I think something that’s very important about personal development for characters is that it cannot happen without the right people present in their lives to challenge them and for Manon the two most important and willing challengers in Queen of Shadows are Asterin and Elide. In one particular scene Manon states that Elide cannot understand her struggles because she has not lived them. However, Elide very quickly responds that actually she can relate because she too has faced the same struggles and so openly challenges Manon exemplifying for me the strengths of their developing friendship and Manon’s personal journey too:

Is your broken kingdom worth it?” Elide dared to ask. […] “I do not expect a human to understand what it is like to be an immortal with no homeland. To be cursed with eternal exile.” Cold, distant words. Elide said, “My kingdom was conquered by the King of Adarlan, and everyone I loved was executed. My father’s lands and my title were stolen from me by my uncle, and my best chance of safety now lies in sailing to the other end of the world. I understand what it is like to wish—to hope.” “It is not hope. It is survival.” Elide gently rolled a bandage around the witch’s forearm. “It is hope for your homeland that guides you, that makes you obey.”

Finally Celaena and Rowan’s relationship has already come so far since the previous book, Heir of Fire, and I am totally in love with how much they mean to each other and the support they have and give to one another. What’s fantastic about the multiple perspectives given to us in this book is that we are finally able to see what goes on inside both their minds and honestly reading from Rowan’s perspective had my heart melting. There were so many moments that had me laughing, almost in tears of laughter a lot of times, and others that had me weak at the knees because of their emotional vulnerability. Celaena can absolutely look after herself but that doesn’t mean she’s immune to weak moments, because no one is, and to have Rowan look out for her is absolutely fantastic especially when she willingly asks for his help. Sometimes a persons strength comes from being able to ask for help. Rowan truly cares for Celaena and this example that I’m going to share and leave you with proves that:

Rowan had thought he knew fear. He had thought he could face any danger with a clear head and ice in his veins. Until Lorcan appeared from the shadows, so fast that Rowan hadn’t even scented him, and put that knife against Aelin’s throat.’

Synopsis (Goodreads)


Celaena Sardothien is cloaked in her assassin's hood once more. She is back in Rifthold, but this time she is no one's slave. She must delve into her most painful memories and fight for her survival, while resisting a smouldering passion that might very well consume her heart. And she will face her former master, the King of Assassins, again - to wreak revenge for a decade of pain...

Key Quotes

There were two men in this city responsible for destroying her life and the people she’d loved. She would not leave Rifthold until she’d buried them both.'

‘[she] reminded herself that she’d been trained to kill with her bare hands long before she’d ever learned to melt bones with her fire. She did not need the extra strength, speed, and agility of her Fae form to bring down her enemies.

There were many, many debts to be paid before she left Rifthold and took back her throne. Starting now. Fortunate that she was in a killing sort of mood.’

Everything—everything was for Dorian, for his friend. For himself, he had nothing left to lose. He was nothing more than a nameless oath-breaker, a liar, a traitor.’

“I hear hell is particularly nice at this time of year.

Similar Reads

The Cruel Prince, From Blood and Ash, Serpent & Dove, Shadow and Bone, Six of Crows, The Shadows Between Us, Red Queen 


Who's your favourite character or relationship?

Have you read Queen of Shadows, let me know your thoughts!

What books would you recommend for fantasy readers?

I wasn't too keen on the direction of Celaena and Chaol's relationship at the beginning but by the end something seriously changed my mind and Chaol redeemed my appreciation for his character.

Chaol's consistent friendship and loyalty to Dorian has always been a strength of his character. One of the enjoyable aspects of the series is their bromance!

Sunday, 20 September 2020

Review - Serpent & Dove

Serpent & Dove, with art prints

Title: Serpent & Dove
Series: Serpent & Dove (Goodreads)
Publisher: HarperTeen 
Genre: Fantasy, Romance

Author: Shelby Mahurin
Age Group: YA
Source: Book depository (purchased)


If you are looking for a new must read debut then I would totally recommend Serpent & Dove by Shelby Mahurin. Furthermore, this book is definitely one to read if you are a fan of enemies to lovers, character driven plot and romance. Also not to forget, there’s witchcraft! I couldn’t put this book down and I read it within two days of starting it because I became so invested in the story, especially the development of the individual characters, as well as the relationships between them.

What really stood out for me in this book was the relationship between Lou and Reid, it is literally the biggest driving plot of this book, and it was developed superbly. However, I can never resist a strong independent women in a novel and Lou is no exception. I honestly found myself laughing at her antics so many times throughout reading Serpent & Dove that I felt super happy when I did finally finish it. For example, without giving too much away there’s an absolutely fantastic scene between Lou and Ansel that had me laughing uncontrollably that I have to share it. Lou is definitely one determined woman, she’ll take no prisoners when it comes to achieving what she wants, but she won’t abuse their friendship as seen between her and Ansel. Below is the scene where Lou refuses to stop singing a bawdy song to hopefully get Ansel to take her around the castle out of her small confined room (though you’ll have to read the book to find out what happens next, the song only gets better the more Lou sings of it 😉):

“I told you to stop talking.” I fell back on the bed in resignation. […] To Ansel’s annoyance, I began to hum. “No humming either.” I ignored him. “‘Big Titty Liddy was not very pretty, but her bosom was big as a barn,’” I sang. “‘Her creamery knockers drove men off their rockers, but she was blind to their charms—’” “Stop!” His face burned so vivid a scarlet it rivaled my husband’s. “What are you doing? That—that’s indecent!” “Of course it is. It’s a pub song!”

I genuinely think that the friendship that began to develop between Lou and Ansel throughout the book was also another enjoyable aspect of Serpent & Dove and proved that this wasn’t just a book centred on the enemies to lovers plot that in my opinion mainly drives the books story forward.

What I also really enjoyed was the friendships Lou has especially between her and Coco. Both women are witches and strong independent women but what really stood out for me was their trust and protection for one another, they would do anything for each other. Also the element of friendship helped balance out the romantic relationship between Lou and Reid. Below is a scene between Coco and Lou that I just couldn’t resist sharing because not only does is it show that they have each other’s backs but that only with each other can they truly be themselves throughout the majority of the book. Fair warning, there is some language that some may consider inappropriate:
‘…Coco sighed and shook her head. “Married to a Chasseur . . . When I heard the news, I didn’t believe it.” A small grin touched her lips. “You’ve got balls the size of boulders.” I laughed louder this time. “You are so depraved, Coco—” “And what of your husband’s balls?” She waggled her eyebrows fiendishly. […] My cheeks hurt from smiling. I knew it was wrong—what with the cursed, dying Monsieur Bernard lying next to me—but the heaviness in my chest gradually eased as Coco and I fell back into our easy banter. It felt good to see a friendly face after wading through a sea of hostile ones for two straight days—and to know she was safe. For now.

The last few things I will mention is that I personally felt the magic was lacking in this book. For a book heavily advertised about witchcraft I did feel there was very little of this throughout the book, though there are some scenes that do rely heavily on magic, but these happened very rarely in my opinion, and I was left a little disappointed by this. Hopefully, the sequel will have more. Also, although I enjoyed the relationship between Lou and Coco I felt that Coco’s individual development lacked something. As the only black character so far to be seen in this book with a major role this was slightly disappointing and I truly hope that in the sequel she is developed more as an individual outside of her friendship with Lou.

Synopsis (Goodreads)

Bound as one to love, honor, or burn. 

Two years ago, Louise le Blanc fled her coven and took shelter in the city of Cesarine, forsaking all magic and living off whatever she could steal. There, witches like Lou are hunted. They are feared. And they are burned. 

Sworn to the Church as a Chasseur, Reid Diggory has lived his life by one principle: thou shalt not suffer a witch to live. His path was never meant to cross with Lou's, but a wicked stunt forces them into an impossible union—holy matrimony. 

The war between witches and Church is an ancient one, and Lou's most dangerous enemies bring a fate worse than fire. Unable to ignore her growing feelings, yet powerless to change what she is, a choice must be made. 

And love makes fools of us all.

Key Quotes 

His daughter’s death had been a warning: one did not exploit the witches without consequence.’
‘All manner of pastries perched there on glorious display: iced cakes and sugar loaves and chocolat tartlets, as well as macarons and fruit danishes of every color. Raspberry eclairs and an apple tarte tatin completed the display. Out of all this decadence, however, the enormous sticky buns—with their cinnamon and sweet cream—made my mouth truly water.’
“Why are you dressed like a man?” “Have you ever worn a corset?” I spun around to face him, reattaching my mustache with as much dignity as I could muster. “I doubt you’d ask such a question if you had. Trousers are infinitely more freeing.”
‘Marriage. To a Chasseur. There had to be another way, any other way— Bile rose in my throat, and before I could stop it, I heaved a spectacular arc of vomit onto the Archbishop’s feet. He leapt away from me with a disgusted cry. “How dare you—!” He raised a fist to strike me once more, but the Chasseur moved with lightning swiftness. His hand caught the Archbishop’s wrist. “If this woman is to be my wife,” he said, swallowing hard, “you will not touch her again.”
My purpose since birth had been to die.’ 

Similar Reads 

The Shadows Between Us, From Blood and Ash, House of Earth and Blood, The Beautiful, House of Salt and Sorrows, Bone Crier's Moon, The Bridge Kingdom, The Cruel Prince, A Court of Mist and Fury


Have you read Serpent & Dove, what did you think?

What similar book would you recommend to someone who enjoyed this book?

Besides the heavy elements of enemies to lovers trope I really enjoyed the personal developments of Lou and Reid regarding their own personal challenges to their long held prejudices.

Sunday, 6 September 2020

Review - Godsgrave

Mia Corvere booksleeve and Nevernight Chronicle stack
Title: Godsgrave
Series: Nevernight Chronicle (Goodreads)
Publisher: Harper Voyager
Genre: Fantasy
Author: Jay Kristoff   
Age Group: Adult
Source: Received as a gift


The one thing you should never do when reading a book about assassins is to become attached to the characters. This could be as deadly a mistake as the deaths given out by those very same assassins. When I first read Nevernight I wasn’t sure what to expect and from what other reviews said it didn’t completely sound like my kind of book. But I was super lucky to receive the series as a gift and I’m so glad I did because I consumed both Nevernight and Godsgrave within days. If you have read the first book than this series only gets better and more intense, if you haven’t then what are you waiting for? Seriously though if you haven’t yet read either of the books in the Nevernight chronicles then its one I’d suggest to readers who enjoy morally questionable characters, a strong female protagonist, and a complex mythology that isn’t instantly resolved by the end of the first two books. And very quickly for those that have read Nevernight this sequel is fantastic for the very reason that the world Mia lives in is expanded beyond the Red Church and the mystery of the Darkin is developed too. 

If you’ve read Nevernight then you are probably aware of Kristoff’s writing style but if you haven’t then it can potentially put readers off from reading the book. Personally, I struggled too to begin with because I wasn’t sure, but my advice is to give his writing a chance because once you get past the first few chapters and allow the story to develop you won’t even think about the style of writing in such an active way. Godsgrave is written in the same style as the first book and its actually become rather enjoyable. I personally now really admire the complexities of Kristoff’s writing style and the use of parallel scenes that I feel are tropes specific to Kristoff’s works. For me, and hopefully other readers of this series, I find that Kristoff is a very clever and creative writer. I think this is showcased very well during the opening chapters when Godsgrave shifts between past and present narration that builds up curiosity and confusion (but in a good way!) that merges very well into the whole books story.

What I really loved about Godsgrave, besides the development of Mia, was the introduction of the gladatii. Kristoff creates such complex and intriguing characters that are always fully developed, even when they are supporting characters. But he’s also super cruel too because readers can’t help but develop a love for these supporting characters only to have terrible things happen to them, I will not say what these events are, and I will only happily remind you along with myself that this is a book about a church of assassins so don’t expect nice things to happen! I fell very quickly into the trap of coming to like some of the new characters especially Sid, Maggot, and Bladesinger and very quickly felt my heart ripped apart by the events that occurred (more fool me, what was I expecting, nothing good happens when there are blood thirsty assassins!). It’s not only the readers who fall into the trap of falling for these characters and investing time in caring for them, but Mia our protagonist does too, and watching the fallout of her newly found relationships only serves more pain for ourselves and Mia. One scene that I think was worth sharing was between Maggot and Mia who has her wounds tended by the young physician and demonstrates why you’ll love the new characters too (some swearing included):

‘Maggot looked her digits over, stroking her chin. And gentle as falling leaves, she took hold of Mia’s smallest finger. “It won’t hurt,” she promised. “I’m very good at this.” “All riiiiiaaaaaaaaaaaaAAAGHH!” Mia howled as Maggot popped her finger back into place, quick as silver. She rose from the slab and bent double, clutching her hand. “That HURT!” she yelled. Maggot gave a solemn nod. “Yes.” “You promised it wouldn’t!” “And you believed me.” The girl smiled sweet as sugar-floss. “I told you, I’m very good at this.” She motioned to the slab again. “Sit back down.” [..] The little girl took hold of Mia’s ring finger, looked up at her with big, dark eyes. “I’m going to count three,” she said. “All riiiiiaaaaaaaaaaaaFUCK!” Mia roared as Maggot snapped the joint back into place. She rose and half-danced, half-hopped about the room, wounded hand between her legs. “Shit cock twat fucking fuckitall!” “You swear an awful lot,” Maggot frowned.You said you were going to count three!” Maggot nodded sadly. “You believed me again, didn’t you?” Mia winced, teeth gritted, looking the girl up and down. “ . . . You are very good at this,” she realized. Maggot smiled, patted the bench. “Last one.”

The other relationship worth mentioning that is rather enjoyable throughout Godsgrave is the interactions between Mia, Mr Kindly, and Eclipse. There are honestly far too many great examples that I could pick and share but what I will say is that I love the way that each time these three spend time together I’m left in fits of laughter and leaves me feeling less tense after some of the more violent events that occur throughout the book. Though, I would suggest that you don’t fall into the trap of thinking Mr Kindly and Eclipse nice beings, like many characters in this series beware of their double dealings and selfish motives. I leave you with this scene where Mr Kindly introduces himself and his kind personality to Sid (again, some swearing):

“You know. What I am.” Sid winced, trying to swallow. He whispered almost lower than she could hear. “Darkin.” Mia said nothing, dark eyes locked on his. “And that deserves a bloody strangling?” he pressed. “Keep your fucking voice down,” Mia spat, looking about the other cells. “ . . . advice best followed by everyone concerned . . . ?” Sidonius’s eyes grew wide as the shadowcat faded into view on Mia’s shoulder. “Bugger me . . . ,” he breathed. “ . . . a generous offer, but no, thank you . . .” “And thank you for telling me all looked clear,” Mia whispered. The not-cat tilted his head. “ . . . i can’t be perfect in every way . . .”

Synopsis (Goodreads)

Mia Corvere has found her place among the Blades of Our Lady of Blessed Murder, but many in the Red Church hierarchy think she's far from earned it. Plying her bloody trade in a backwater of the Republic, she's no closer to ending the men who destroyed her familia; in fact, she's told directly that Consul Scaeva is off limits. But after a deadly confrontation with an old enemy, Mia's suspicions about the Red Church's true motives begin to grow.

Key Quotes

‘The Hanging Gardens of Ashkah. Its flowers made of flesh and bone.’
‘She was still covered in dried blood, old sweat, dust. Sitting in the straw, she tried not to picture the faces of the men she’d killed in the Pit. She’d needed to impress, and she’d done so . . . after a fashion. She’d killed dozens who’d stood in her way before now. But still, those Pit fighters had only been doing as they were bid . . . “I feel like shit,” she sighed. “ . . . you do not smell particularly pleasant either . . .” “That’s not what I—” “ . . . you cannot afford to pity those men, mia. swimming this deep, your compassion will only serve to drown you. you must be as hard and as sharp as the men you hunt . . .”
She felt her shadow ripple, the dark swelling at her feet. “ . . . dangerous, that one . . .” “The same could be said of every woman I know.”
Nothing brings the familia together like a nice afternoon of slaughter.’

Similar reads

Aurora Rising, Ninth House, Game of Thrones, The Priory of the Orange Tree, Six of Crows, Illuminae, The Poppy War, Gideon the Ninth, The Cruel Prince.


I really enjoyed the developed relationship between Mia and Ash as well as Mercurio too.

Mia continues to be one of my favourite strong female protagonists, I love her complexities and the difficulties she has to face which challenge her, either for the best or worse.

Have you read this book, if so what did you think? I'd love to hear your thoughts!

Have you read this series? What did you think?

Sunday, 2 August 2020

Review - A Court of Wings and Ruin

A Court of Wings and Ruin
Title: A Court of Wings and Ruin
Series: A Court of Thorns and Roses (Goodreads)
Publisher: Bloomsbury 
Genre: Fantasy, Romance

Author: Sarah J Maas
Age Group: YA
Source: Amazon (purchased)


The end to a series is always bittersweet and A Court of Wings and Ruin is no exception. This was such a beautiful ending to a fantastic series. If you enjoy books with strong liberated and complex women than this is a series I would definitely recommend to you. It is also a great series if you value the importance of family and friendship too, exploring the highs, lows and complications of these very relationships. One of the main themes that runs through the series and is especially prominent in A Court of Wings and Ruin is that of acceptance of ones self and of others. This theme is especially linked to the characters that have faced traumas and are considered LGBTQ+. Though this series and this book in particular explore and discuss some difficult themes and issues there are still lots of fun and light-hearted moments too especially in relation to the friendships of the Inner Circle and the romantic relationships as well. Maas is an incredible writer not only because she creates strong and compelling characters and creates absorbing worlds but because she explores themes and issues of importance through the safety of a fantasy novel.

There will be some spoilers below!

Throughout the A court of Thorns and Roses series as well as in A Court of Wings and Ruin in particular there has always been the theme of trauma, living it and trying to overcome it. More importantly, it is not just woman that experience trauma but the men too which for me is so important to highlight because in real life no matter what your sex, gender, sexuality or race anyone could be a victim of a traumatic experience. Therefore, for Maas not to discriminate and say that it is only woman that experience and have to face traumas is a huge positive of this book and series overall. The protagonist Feyre is the most obvious character to undergo and face traumas as well as having to overcome them. However, I would like to mention the other characters Nesta and Lucian in particular who also live through painful traumas and how they have to process it afterwards. One of the main themes is sexual assault and lack of consent or forced consent and this relates in particular to Lucian. Lucian is pursued relentlessly by the priestess Ianthe who tries to force him into a non-consensual sexual relationship. Below is an extract of one of the scenes where Ianthe tries to sexually assault Lucian. I think it highlights that it is not just women who are sexually assaulted and are the only victims of this kind of assault but can actually be the perpetrators of assault and that men can actually also be the victims of sexual assault too. To say that it is only woman who are the victims of sexual assault is a dangerous way of thinking and that is why I believe Maas is an important author because she dispels this harmful ideology and actually highlights that men can be the victims of sexual assault and that women can be the ones to perform it too.

I heard Lucien first. “Back off.” A low female laugh. Everything in me went still and cold at that sound. […] “Do not touch me,” he growled. And then I was moving. I masked the sound of my footfalls, silent as a panther as I stalked to the little clearing where they stood. Where Lucien stood, back against a tree—twin bands of blue stone shackled around his wrists. I’d seen them before. On Rhys, to immobilize his power. Stone hewn from Hybern’s rotted land, capable of nullifying magic. And in this case … holding Lucien against that tree as Ianthe surveyed him like a snake before a meal. She slid a hand over the broad panes of his chest, his stomach. And Lucien’s eyes shot to me as I stepped between the trees, fear and humiliation reddening his golden skin.’

Although there are some challenging themes and issues this series and A Court of Wings and Ruin explore there are still tons of happy and uplifting moments and relationships too. For me the most powerful friendship and family relationships that bring enjoyment and happiness to this series and A Court of Wings and Ruin in particular is that of the Inner Circle. Feyre begins this book as a spy in another court and once she’s completed her task of undermining its High Lord and breaking their military defences she is able to return home to her own court. On trying to get home she and Lucian are attacked but are rescued by Azriel and Cassian. I love this moment when Feyre and Cassian are reunited after months of separation because it emphasises the strength and purity of their friendship:

I met those laughing, fierce hazel eyes. Cassian’s smile softened. “Hello, Feyre.” My throat tightened to the point of pain, and I threw my arms around his neck, embracing him tightly. “I missed you, too,” Cassian murmured, squeezing me.’

Feyre and Cassian’s friendship is only one example of those found amongst those in the Inner Circle and it is this groups pure love and devotion to each other that is the most beautiful and powerful part of A Court of Wings and Ruin and the series overall. In fact, it is the Inner Circle that is one of the most outstanding elements of this book and series and why I love this series as a whole. It is not only because they are devoted to each other and make me laugh at times between their interactions, but because they prove that there are always complications even when you love someone unconditionally, and it is these conflicts that can potentially strengthen a relationship and stresses the importance of accepting others for who they are, both the good and the bad.

Synopsis (From Goodreads)

Looming war threatens all Feyre holds dear in the third volume of the #1 New York Times bestselling A Court of Thorns and Roses series.

Feyre has returned to the Spring Court, determined to gather information on Tamlin's manoeuvrings and the invading king threatening to bring Prythian to its knees. But to do so she must play a deadly game of deceit – and one slip may spell doom not only for Feyre, but for her world as well.

As war bears down upon them all, Feyre must decide who to trust amongst the dazzling and lethal High Lords – and hunt for allies in unexpected places.

In this thrilling third book in the #1 New York Times bestselling series from Sarah J. Maas, the earth will be painted red as mighty armies grapple for power over the one thing that could destroy them all.

Key Quotes

'He might have completed the Great Rite with Ianthe of his own free will, but he certainly hadn’t enjoyed it. Some line had been blurred—badly. And my heart shifted a bit in my chest […] The weight of that jeweled knife and belt seemed to grow. “I wish I had been there to stop it. I should have been there to stop it.” I meant every word. Lucien squeezed our linked arms as we rounded a hedge, the house rising up before us. “You are a better friend to me, Feyre,” he said quietly, “than I ever was to you.”
I see you brought home a new pet,” she said, nose crinkling with distaste. Something like fear had entered Lucien’s eye, as if he, too, beheld the monster that lurked beneath that beautiful face. Indeed, it seemed he had heard of her already. Before I could introduce him, Lucien bowed at the waist. Deeply. Cassian let out an amused grunt, and I shot him a warning glare. Amren smiled slightly. “Already trained, I see.
“He wanted a—gift. In exchange. The Ouroboros.” The Suriel let out a sound that might have been a gasp—delight or horror, I did not know. “The Mirror of Beginnings and Endings.” “Yes—but … I cannot retrieve it.” “You are afraid to look. To see what is within.” “Will it drive me—mad? Break me?” It was an effort not to flinch at that monstrous face, at the milky eyes and lipless mouth. All focused upon me. “Only you can decide what breaks you, Cursebreaker. Only you.
… My gift is truth—and yet I have been living a lie my entire existence.” I squeezed her hand once more. “You’ll tell them when you’re ready. And I’ll stand by you no matter what. Until then … Your secret is safe. I won’t tell anyone—even Rhys.” “Thank you,” she breathed. I shook my head. “No—thank you for telling me…”

Similar Reads

The Cruel Prince, Serpent & Dove, Shadow and Bone, Six of Crows, From Blood and Ash, The Shadows Between Us, Shatter Me, Red Queen.


People that experience trauma do not always need to be strong afterwards, it will take time to process and come to terms with the traumatic experience. It will potentially be easier or more manageable with the right and supportive people surrounding you to help process the trauma.

When coming to terms with being LGBTQ+ it is on that persons terms that they must be comfortable and willing to talk to people. They should not be forced into sharing who they are until they have themselves accepted who they are and are comfortable that they will be accepted by those that matter to them most.

I really loved the developed relationships between Feyre and her sisters, Elain and Nesta. Also this book stresses that Rhys is more than just interested in sex with his partner but willing to sacrifice himself for his Court and people, with no exceptions!

Have you read the A Court of Thorns and Roses series, what did you think? 

If you've read A Court of Wings and Ruin I'd love to hear your thoughts!

Sunday, 19 July 2020

Review - Nevernight

Title: Nevernight
Series: Nevernight Chronicle (Goodreads)
Publisher: Harper Voyager
Genre: Fantasy

Author: Jay Kristoff   
Age Group: Adult
Source: Received as a gift


This is my first time reading a Jay Kristoff book and for a while I put off reading it because I was unsure about other reviewers concerns for trigger issues and whether I would be comfortable reading Nevernight because of this. However, in the end I decided I would in fact read this book and was so glad I did because it was absolutely amazing. Yes, there are difficult themes and issues but I personally felt they were handled safely, respectfully, and considerately by the author. This is in no way a young adult book, though there are a number of mature young adults that have read it, but notably Nevernight is classed as an adult fantasy. If you are considering reading this book then do, you will not be disappointed, but you need to be aware that there are some themes and issues that might trigger some readers more than others. Key trigger warnings are the discussion of child slavery and rape. Other triggers to note are scenes involving sex, crude language and violence. As I already said this is an adult book but there are some young adults, such as 18 year olds, that may choose to read this and I think it only right that they are aware of some difficult issues that may arise without giving in-depth spoilers.

At first, reading Nevernight I was left feeling rather jarred by the way the narrator speaks and felt rather unsure of whether this books narration would work for me. But I did not let it stop me from reading and even though I was initially unsure I actually grew to enjoy the books form of narration. Mr Kristoff is a fantastic writer because even though readers might come into the book unsure of his chosen narrative tone they mostly leave having enjoyed the book and this is because of the strength of his character development and exciting world building. The opening chapter was so clever and in its own way beautiful because of Mr Kristoff’s chosen language and descriptions. Without giving too much away the opening chapter begins with us meeting Mia, the protagonist, as she takes part in two actions one involving sex and the other involving a murder. Though these actions do not take place at the same time they are introduced together because the language used to describe them is almost the same, because some phrases are used to describe both, and I actually really enjoyed how Kristoff cleverly brought these scenes together. Below is an extract from the simultaneous scenes which I believe encompass some of the cleverness and strength of Kristoff’s writing abilities (please be aware that the first is alluding to sexual scenes and the other to an assassins murder):

Was this the way it should feel? Was this the way it should be? [...] And she’d known the first was usually the worst. She’d thought herself ready; soft enough, wet enough, wanting enough. That everything the other street girls had said between the giggles and the knowing glances wouldn’t be true for her. 'Close your eyes,' they’d counselled. 'It’ll be over soon enough.'

Is this the way it should feel? Is this the way it should be? […] And she knew the first was usually the worst. She’d thought she wasn’t ready; not strong enough, not cold enough, that Old Mercurio’s reassurances wouldn’t be true for her. 'Remember to breathe,' he’d counselled. 'It’ll be over soon enough.'

I really loved Nevernight's protagonist Mia Corvere she is most definitely an anti-heroine but one who you cannot help but love and become heavily invested in her journey to seeking revenge for her wronged family. I always love a book that has a strong female protagonist and Mia certainly does not disappoint in this respect. Not only can she wield a blade and kill as assassin’s are known to do but she also wields a filthy mouth, and honestly some of her language will leave you open-mouthed in astonishment. Though most people don’t use such crude and violent language it is not inconceivable that women would be afraid to speak it either, in most cases used in emotional distress or anger, and for that reason I respect Mia because she is not a mollycoddled young lady but one who is openly expressive and unapologetic. Below is an extract of dialogue which I think exhibits some of Mia’s unapologetic speech and attitude (caution! there is some crude language): 

'You know, I’ve never understood that. How being named for a woman’s nethers is somehow more grievous than any other insult. Seems to me calling someone after a man’s privates is worse. I mean, what do you picture when you hear a fellow called a cock?' […] 'You imagine an oaf, don’t you?' […] An exhalation of clove-sweet grey into the air between them. 'Cock is just another word for "fool." But you call someone a c–t, well…' The girl smiled.

The most endearing relationship for me was between Mia and Mr Kindly, if you are to learn one thing it’s that Kristoff loves some irony. Many of Mia and Mr Kindly’s interactions left me entertained most than some of the other characters interactions. What I loved most was their shared sarcasm and dry wit as well as their to-and-fro jibes at one another, that hinted at a subtle underlying love and respect for one another. Their relationship for me was definitely the strongest element of this book. Thus, I leave you with a short and sweet dialogue between Mia and Mr Kindly (though I have saved you the best for when you read the book):

'…bravo…' Mister Kindly had said. '…if only i had hands to applaud…' Mia smacked her backside. 'I’d settle for lips to kiss my sweet behind.' '…i would have to find it first…' 'Arses are like wine, Mister Kindly. Better too little than too much.' '…a beauty and a philosopher. be still, my beating heart…'

Synopsis (Goodreads)

Mia Corvere is only ten years old when she is given her first lesson in death.

Destined to destroy empires, the child raised in shadows made a promise on the day she lost everything: to avenge herself on those that shattered her world.

But the chance to strike against such powerful enemies will be fleeting, and Mia must become a weapon without equal. Before she seeks vengeance, she must seek training among the infamous assassins of the Red Church of Itreya.

Inside the Church's halls, Mia must prove herself against the deadliest of opponents and survive the tutelage of murderers, liars and daemons at the heart of a murder cult.

The Church is no ordinary school. But Mia is no ordinary student.

The Red Church is no ordinary school, but Mia is no ordinary student.

The shadows love her.

And they drink her fear.

Key Quotes

'Truth is, there’s no difference between your nethers and mine. Aside from the obvious, of course. But one doesn’t carry any more weight than the other. Why should what’s between my legs be considered any smarter or stupider, any worse or better? It’s all just meat, Don Tric. In the end, it’s all just food for worms...'
'Your mind will serve you better than any trinket under the suns,' she’d said. 'It is a weapon, Mia. And like any weapon, you need practice to be any good at wielding it.' 'But mother—'No, Mia Corvere. Beauty you’re born with, but brains you earn.'
'Why did you attack us?' 'If Naev had attacked her, the sands would be redder. Naev asked why they followed her. And now Naev knows. Naev wonders at the girl’s skill. And now Naev sees.' The veiled woman looked back and forth between them, made a slurping sound. 'Sees a pair of fools.' […] 'Who are you calling fool, shorty?' The woman glanced in his direction. 'The boy whose throat Naev could have cut.
“…Sometimes weakness is a weapon. If you’re smart enough to use it.” 

'I think it’s time to recruit the most dangerous man in these halls,' she said. Tric looked back up to the Hall of Songs, the Shahiid they’d just fled from. “I thought we just ran away from the most dangerous man in these halls.” Mia tried to smile. Settled for shaking her head. 'You’ve obviously not spent enough time with librarians, Don Tric.'

Similar reads

Game of Thrones, Throne of Glass, Six of Crows, Red Sister, The Shadowdance Trilogy, The Priory of the Orange Tree, Aurora Rising, Ninth House, Wicked Saints, Vicious.


I actually really enjoyed the additional footnotes and felt they helped with the world building for the book. It maybe didn't phase me as much as some readers because I am so used to reading footnotes for classical books I studied in school.

Mia is a very strong protagonist and very complex, for me books that contain complex characters are always more enjoyable because you have to work at understanding the protagonist and other characters.

Other characters that I enjoyed in this book were the supporting Naev and Chronicler Aelius.

Have you read this book, if so what did you think? I'd love to hear your thoughts!

If you haven't yet read this book or series do you think you will consider reading it? I hope I have potentially convinced a few of reading this series if they haven't already, and if you do I'd love to hear your thoughts.

Friday, 3 July 2020

Review - The Language of Thorns: Midnight Tales and Dangerous Magic

The Language of Thorns
Title: The Language of Thorns: Midnight Tales and Dangerous Magic
Series: Grishaverse (Goodreads)
Publisher: Orion 
Genre: Fantasy, Retelling's

Author: Leigh Bardugo   
Age Group: YA
Source: Amazon (purchased)


If you are a fan of Leigh Bardugo’s Shadow and Bone trilogy as well as her Six of Crows duology then this collection of short stories is a must read. The Language of Thorns contains six short stories that characters in the Grishaverse themselves would have grown up with. These are dark and twisted tales that leave the reader wanting more. Though there are some happy endings, not a single one is a ‘happily ever after’. Bardugo leaves readers unnerved and satisfied equally, with her version of a twisted ‘happy’ ending. Each of the short stories is also influenced by other classic fairy tales and books, some more familiar than others. Though there are elements of retelling's of these classic fairy tales The Language of Thorns remains exciting and refreshing. You need not have read Bardugo’s other books set in the Grishaverse world as these short stories can be read as a standalone too. What really bring all these stories to life is the artwork included on each page which changes and grows at the same pace as the written stories. The artwork brings the stories to life and makes the collection immersive and beautiful, alongside the talented words of Leigh Bardugo.

Sara Kipin, illustrations
Ayama and the thorn wood

I really enjoyed the first book in this collection. Part of the fun for this story, as well as for all the others too, was figuring out which classic fairy tales and books had influenced each retelling. I wont share all of the influences but the most obvious one was Beauty and the Beast. In Ayama and the thorn wood a young wolfish prince is born and as he grows older is hidden away only to escape and terrorise the kingdom. But a young courageous yet physically unattractive young woman is sent to negotiate with the beast. Will she be devoured or free the kingdom?

Coyotes surrounded the palace, howling and clawing at the walls, and tore the insides from a guard who had been sent to chase them away. Their frenzied baying hid the screams of the queen as she looked upon the creature that had slipped squalling from her womb. This little prince was shaped a bit like a boy but more like a wolf, his body covered in slick black fur from crown to clawed foot. His eyes were red as blood, and the nubs of two budding horns protruded from his head.’

There is one character other than Ayama that stood out for me in this story and that was the underestimated grandmother Ma Zil. I love this quote that at first might seem harsh and uncaring actually becomes the wisest and important by the end of the story:

‘Ayama’s brows still creased with worry, so her grandmother said, “Come now, Ayama. You know how the stories go. Interesting things only happen to pretty girls; you will be home by sunset.”

Do only interesting things happen to the prettiest girls, or the ones who get their feet a little muddy?

The too-clever fox

I also enjoyed this story too but did find the ending rather predictable. The obvious influence for this story was Little Red Riding Hood, the animals in The too-clever fox are hunted down and begin to disappear mysteriously one at a time. As with many of the stories in this collection do not underestimate a single woman! The too-clever fox in this story is named Koja and even though he is wily and cunning this is what leads to his downfall.

‘A lesser creature might have let his grief get the better of him. He might have taken to the hills and high places, thinking it wise to outrun death rather than try to outsmart it.’

Does being clever mean outsmarting a hunter, or falling prey to their smarter charms?

The witch of Duva

‘There was a time when the woods near Duva ate girls.’

I neither liked nor disliked this story in the collection but for me it just didn’t stand out from some of the stronger ones. The witch of Duva is influenced by Hansel and Gretel and unlike some of the others sticks quite closely to the fairy tale of which it is influenced by. However, don’t be deceived just as all the stories in this collection the character and endings are never what they seem.

She lifted her spoon, but still she hesitated. She knew from stories that you must not eat at a witch’s table. But in the end, she could not resist.’

Who can resist the call of sugar in the deep dark woods?

Little Knife

This was one of the weaker stories in the collection for me, it wasn’t terrible, it just didn’t give me the same enjoyment as some of the others did. It was also the trickiest one to figure out the retelling influence for and had me confused for quite some time. I eventually had to look it up on the Grishaverse website because I could not figure it out with a little help.

Like many stories in this collection there is a beautiful girl and in Little Knife there are hundreds of desperate suitors to win her hand in marriage. There are three tasks given to all of the suitors when the girls father deems one man unsuitable for her daughters hand in marriage but who keeps passing the tests.

‘…remember that to use a thing is not to own it. And should you ever take a bride, listen closely to her questions.

Would you rather a prince or a pauper, or the freedom from any man?

The soldier prince

I wasn’t too sure what to make of this story, I can’t say that I really enjoyed it but I certainly didn’t dislike it. I was definitely conflicted about my feelings after reading this short story. The soldier prince is most obviously influenced by The Nutcracker with the main character of this short story being the actual nutcracker himself. There is plenty of magic in this story and I certainly enjoyed reading from the perspective of the nutcracker and as a standalone short story I think I would have enjoyed it more. However, as a story in this twisted collection it just didn’t stand out and was one of the weaker ones for me.

“...Wanting is why people get up in the morning. It gives them something to dream of at night. The more I wanted, the more I became like them, the more real I became.” “I am perfectly real,” protested the nutcracker. The Rat King looked at him sadly.

Do you show kindness to your toys by the magical chance they just might be watching and waiting to whisk you away? 

When water sang fire

This is by far the longest story in the whole collection and the one that hides an incredible easter egg for the readers of Shadow and Bone. This story is influenced by The Little Mermaid and for me the most connected to the Grishaverse world. I enjoyed this story and the friendship between Ulla and Signy showing that with the power they possessed they became their own individual and joint threat. The youngest prince of the sildroher, the term used instead of mermaid, thinks to use the power of the girls for his own selfish gain, which leads to the beginning of a dangerous and alluring visit to the human world.

Would the power to sing free you or curse you?

‘In those days, the sildroher did not cower beneath the waves, afraid of sailors who might spy their smooth limbs and silver tails. […] Now their laws are different. They know the land is a place of danger. Yet they still long for the taste of mortal life. That is the problem with making a thing forbidden. It does nothing but build an ache in the heart.’

Sara Kipin, illustrations

Synopsis (From Goodreads)

Love speaks in flowers. Truth requires thorns.

Travel to a world of dark bargains struck by moonlight, of haunted towns and hungry woods, of talking beasts and gingerbread golems, where a young mermaid's voice can summon deadly storms and where a river might do a lovestruck boy's bidding but only for a terrible price.

Inspired by myth, fairy tale, and folklore, #1 New York Times–bestselling author Leigh Bardugo has crafted a deliciously atmospheric collection of short stories filled with betrayals, revenge, sacrifice, and love.

Perfect for new readers and dedicated fans, these tales will transport you to lands both familiar and strange—to a fully realized world of dangerous magic that millions have visited through the novels of the Grishaverse.

This collection of six stories includes three brand-new tales, all of them lavishly illustrated with art that changes with each turn of the page, culminating in six stunning full-spread illustrations as rich in detail as the stories themselves.

Key Quotes

‘…she came to the banks of a stream, its surface so bright with starlight it was as if someone had peeled the rind from the moon like a piece of fruit and laid it in a gleaming ribbon upon the forest floor.’

‘Ayama did not want to take the knife, but she did. It was light as a dry seedpod. It seemed wrong that death should feel like nothing in her hands.’

“I can bear ugliness…I find the one thing I cannot live with is death.”

“…The trap is loneliness, and none of us escapes it. Not even me.”

‘She knew the idea of fire. She’d been taught about it, sung the word. But seeing it – so close and so alive… It was like having a little sun to keep all for herself.’

Similar reads

Serpent & Dove, A Court of Thorns and Roses, To Kill a Kingdom


What was your favourite story in this collection?

What other books would you recommend that are influenced by retelling's?

What do you value most in other people? In this collection the idea of beauty is challenged constantly and asks us as readers to question whether we value this more highly than anything else. More importantly, it suggests that beauty if abused can lead to corruption and the oppression of women.

If you've read the others books in the Grishaverse world, did you enjoy this collection, experiencing the stories that the characters themselves would have grown up with?

Tuesday, 30 June 2020

Review - Crooked Kingdom

Crooked Kingdom

Title: Crooked Kingdom
Series: Grishaverse (Goodreads)
Publisher: Orion
Genre: Fantasy 
Author: Leigh Bardugo   
Age Group: YA
Source: Amazon (purchased)


I instantly grabbed Crooked Kingdom off my bookshelf straight after I finished Six of Crows because I had to desperately know what would happen to the characters in this incredible series. I was hooked and invested already by the first book in this duology and was left wanting even more by the end of it too! I have already said in my Six of Crows review that Bardugo has become a much stronger author but I honestly cannot overstate how much I mean this, and if you read Crooked Kingdom you will hopefully feel the same as me. Crooked kingdom begins straight away from the cliff-hanger of the previous book and it is definitely one that leaves you needing to know the answer to. A great cliff-hanger always ensures that a reader will return and showcases an authors ability to leave their readers devastated but enthralled (which reader doesn’t want to be left reeling and desperate for more?). If you’ve read both the original trilogy and Six of Crows then you might agree with me when I say that this duology gives us much stronger and complex friendships and relationships then seen in the trilogy and for me that made the duology more exciting and intense.

I still very much love Kaz and Nina but in Crooked Kingdom there were some different stand out individuals and relationships for me. All the relationships, friendships and individuals are given continued equal development but some themes and issues stood out more for others than in Six of Crows. The stand out individuals that had the most recognisable developments in Crooked Kingdom for me were Jesper, Matthias and Wylan. Matthias in particular faced the difficulties of challenging and untangling his prejudices as a druskelle, a group of people who fear and hunt down Grisha, which is a process that began in the previous book when he met and developed a relationship with Nina (a Grisha he’d previously helped capture). Do all romances begin with a Kidnapping and potential threat of trial and succeed? Well, this is certainly the case for Nina and Matthias who both equally challenge and hold each other to account for their individual prejudices. In Matthias’ case the druskelle has taught him to fear a group of people who possess a power they cannot understand (importantly the druskelle are not the only groups of people who fear Grisha, other cultures in Crooked Kingdom also express fear and prejudices too). However, in the previous book and continued in Crooked Kingdom is Matthias’ struggle to challenge internalised prejudices, this is never an easy task and does not happen overnight, in fact for many people, just as it is for Matthias, it can be a lifelong struggle. As a druskelle Matthias had lived with a purpose and had security in his life but is now willing to see and challenge the negative aspects of his past, with the right people to help, and Nina is the most vocal in this task but also the most loving in allowing Matthias the time he needs without expecting an overnight change. This is one of the few interactions between Matthias and Nina which I think showcases their joint journey to challenging their individual, as well as cultural prejudices, giving hope that change can happen. But both are aware that this cannot happen if someone is forcibly pressured into changing instead accepting that there are difficulties to overcome from both individuals prejudices and it is not a one sided struggle:

“Do you remember what you said to me, Nina? You wished King Nikolai would march north and raze everything in his path.” “I was angry—” “You had a right to your anger. We all do. That’s the problem. Brum won’t stop. The drüskelle won’t stop. They consider it their holy mission to destroy your kind.” It had been his mission too, and he could still feel the distrust, the pull toward hatred. He cursed himself for it. “Then we’ll find a way to change their minds. All of them.”

I couldn’t stop reading this book and I honestly found myself reduced to fits of laughter at some points along the way and couldn’t contain my excitement at some of the romantic relationships that evolved throughout. If you are looking for a new book or series with positive LGBTQ+ representation than this duology and Crooked Kingdom in particular is perfect for that very reason. During a scene Wylan is having his features adjusted by a Grisha, I wont say who but readers of Shadow and Bone will be thrilled! During this scene Jesper comments on and makes suggestions to help the Grisha restore Wylan’s features, which is one of the cute and beautiful moments between Jesper and Wylan:

“His brow should be narrower,” Jesper said, peering over [...] “Just a little bit. And his lashes were longer.” “I didn’t know you were paying attention,” murmured Wylan. Jesper grinned. “I was paying attention.”

I think this is one of the magical abilities of fantasy, especially ya fantasy, which is the genres ability to help and safely explore the themes and issues of acceptance. I have already indicated those of challenging prejudices and sexualities but there is also the exploration of learning difficulties, in particular dyslexia, and the struggles and difficulties faced by those individuals too and finding a path towards support and acceptance too. So for me Crooked Kingdom is not only fantastic because it’s a fantasy and develops Bardugo’s Grishaverse world but because she engages with and explores important themes and issues relevant to real life.

“It’s easier when you’re younger, but so is everything. Children learn languages more easily. They learn mathematics more easily.” “And they’re unafraid,” said Wylan quietly. “It’s other people who teach them their limits.”
Crooked Kingdom 

Synopsis (From Goodreads

Welcome to the world of the Grisha.

Kaz Brekker and his crew of deadly outcasts have just pulled off a heist so daring even they didn't think they'd survive. But instead of divvying up a fat reward, they're right back to fighting for their lives.

Double-crossed and badly weakened, the crew is low on resources, allies, and hope. As powerful forces from around the world descend on Ketterdam to root out the secrets of the dangerous drug known as jurda parem, old rivals and new enemies emerge to challenge Kaz's cunning and test the team's fragile loyalties.

A war will be waged on the city's dark and twisting streets - a battle for revenge and redemption that will decide the fate of the Grisha world.

Key Quotes

'Kuwei cleared his throat. “I would prefer to go to Ravka.” “I’d prefer a pair of sable-lined swimming trunks,” said Jesper. “But we can’t always get what we want.” […] “I would prefer to go to Ravka,” he repeated more firmly. Kaz’s flat black gaze fastened on Kuwei and held. Kuwei squirmed nervously. “Why is he looking at me this way?” “Kaz is wondering if he should keep you alive,” said Jesper. “Terrible for the nerves. I recommend deep breathing. Maybe a tonic.” “Jesper, stop,” said Wylan. “Both of you need to relax.” Jesper patted Kuwei’s hand. “We’re not going to let him put you in the ground.” Kaz raised a brow. “Let’s not make any promises just yet.” 

'I may not have Kaz’s devious mind, but I am a dangerous girl.’ - Inej Ghafa

All Saints,” he shouted as pain tore through his shoulder. He really hated being shot. […] Just a scratch, but it hurt like hell, and he was bleeding all over his new tweed jacket. “This is why it doesn’t pay to try to look respectable,” he muttered.'

“Young man—” Jesper pointed his gun at the scholar’s chest. “Move.” “Jesper!” his father said. “Don’t worry, Da. People point guns at each other all the time in Ketterdam. It’s basically a handshake.” “Is that true?” his father asked as the scholar grudgingly moved aside…’

“A lock is like a woman,” he’d said blearily. “You have to seduce it into giving up its secrets.” [...] Sure, a lock was like a woman. It was also like a man and anyone or anything else—if you wanted to understand it, you had to take it apart and see how it worked. If you wanted to master it, you had to learn it so well you could put it back together.’ 

“Matthias—” “I don’t have it.” She yanked herself free, shame crawling over her skin like fire over a forest floor. “Then who does?” she hissed. “Kaz.” She stilled. “Are you going to creep into his bed?” Nina released a huff of disbelief. “He’d slit my throat.” She wanted to scream her helplessness. There would be no bargaining with Kaz.

Similar reads

Shadow and Bone, The Raven Boys,  A Darker Shade of Magic


Are you excited for the tv show?

Have you read Crooked Kingdom? Let me know your thoughts!

How do you try to challenge some of your own prejudices? We all have them, it's what we do with them that matters.

Leigh Bardugo has said that she might write a third book in the very distant future for what is currently a duology, would you be interested in reading it (if it happens, of course)?