A Shadow in the Ember by Jennifer L. Armentrout

Summary:
Born shrouded in the veil of the Primals, a Maiden as the Fates promised, Seraphena Mierel’s future has never been hers. Chosen before birth to uphold the desperate deal her ancestor struck to save his people, Sera must leave behind her life and offer herself to the Primal of Death as his Consort.   
However, Sera’s real destiny is the most closely guarded secret in all of Lasania—she’s not the well protected Maiden but an assassin with one mission—one target. Make the Primal of Death fall in love, become his weakness, and then…end him. If she fails, she dooms her kingdom to a slow demise at the hands of the Rot. 
Sera has always known what she is. Chosen. Consort. Assassin. Weapon. A specter never fully formed yet drenched in blood. A monster. Until him. Until the Primal of Death’s unexpected words and deeds chase away the darkness gathering inside her. And his seductive touch ignites a passion she’s never allowed herself to feel and cannot feel for him. But Sera has never had a choice. Either way, her life is forfeit—it always has been, as she has been forever touched by Life and Death.

Book Cover

Review:
I just finished this book less than an hour ago. So, I think I’ll write this review in the ‘what I liked/what I didn’t like’ format while everything is still fresh in my mind.

What I Liked:

I liked Sera. She’s known her destiny her whole life. She’s resigned to it. But when things don’t go as planned, Sera’s life is changed. Her life still isn’t her own, but she lives at the grace of the Queen, her mother. I thought Sera was interesting because she’s a trained killer, but one with moral objections to killing. She doesn’t think very highly of herself. She basically is just trying to make the best of a bad situation, but she believes herself to be a monster. I liked her fire despite that belief. She’s stubborn and doesn’t know when to keep her mouth shut. She’s funny and fierce. I really liked her.

The world building was interesting. I had a bit of a hard time putting aside the thought of how everything that was in this book became what it is in From Blood and Ash. But when I did, I was really interested by the world. Especially once Sera goes with Nyktos to his court. I loved the mythology and world building around the gods and Primals and their realm. I already can’t wait to learn more about it in the next book in this series and hopefully in the next FBAA book.

I liked Nyktos. I liked him when we met him as Ash and I liked him when his true identity was revealed. I think he was a bit harsh at times. But I’m very excited to see him fight falling in love with Sera and failing. It’s clear that he has a good heart and does his best to help those that need it. The sad story of his parents was good backstory for him. I just liked him.

I really loved the draken. I loved getting to know some of the characters we met briefly in The Crown of Gilded Bones and I loved seeing the baby draken. This sort of goes with the world building, but learning more about the draken was one of my favorite parts of the story. Baby Jadis and Reaver were definitely one of the highlights of this book.

What I Didn’t Like:

I didn’t love the similarities between Sera and Nyktos and Poppy and Casteel. There were a few lines and scenes that felt like the couples were mirroring each other. I couldn’t tell if this was intentional, or if it just happened like that. But it totally took me out of the story when it happened.

The ending, oh, the ending. I just wanted more. The place that this story ended left me wondering what the hell. It felt like it didn’t end in a good concluding place. I wouldn’t call it a cliff hanger, but it just ended and I wanted to know more about what the hell they were going to do next.

This book was 650 pages and it still felt like nothing happened. I understand that Armentrout was setting the scene with how Sera’s life had been since things didn’t go as planned, but it felt like that part of the story really dragged on. We got to know all these characters that she loved and hated, but once she goes with Nyktos, I assume we’re not going to see them again because they’re all in the mortal realm. And yet, I wanted the side characters we meet in Nyktos’ court to be more developed. We only learn a little bit about a few of them, but some seemed like they’ll play a bigger role in the story and I wanted to know more about them. At times, it felt like they were just there because it wouldn’t make sense for Sera and Nyktos to be the only characters in the book.

Overall, I did enjoy reading this book. The sex scenes were excellent. I did grow to love Sera and Nyktos. I will absolutely be continuing the series. I’m incredibly excited to see how this book will tie into the new FBAA book that’s coming out in March. I’m also excited to see what will happen in the next book (which I believe is the conclusion) in this series.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Blogtober Book Review: For the Wolf by Hannah Whitten

Summary:
The first daughter is for the Throne.
The second daughter is for the Wolf.

For fans of Uprooted and The Bear and the Nightingale comes a dark fantasy novel about a young woman who must be sacrificed to the legendary Wolf of the Wood to save her kingdom. But not all legends are true, and the Wolf isn’t the only danger lurking in the Wilderwood.
As the only Second Daughter born in centuries, Red has one purpose-to be sacrificed to the Wolf in the Wood in the hope he’ll return the world’s captured gods.
Red is almost relieved to go. Plagued by a dangerous power she can’t control, at least she knows that in the Wilderwood, she can’t hurt those she loves. Again.
But the legends lie. The Wolf is a man, not a monster. Her magic is a calling, not a curse. And if she doesn’t learn how to use it, the monsters the gods have become will swallow the Wilderwood-and her world-whole.

Book Cover

Review:
For the Wolf was chosen by my book club for September. I’m so glad that we ended up reading this book because it’s going to be one of my 2021 favorites. This story really pulled me in and spit me out in a way that a book hasn’t in a while. I alternated between the eBook and the audiobook because I just could not story reading this story. I needed to know how it ended. I stayed up until way later than I should have so that I could finish.
There are two daughters. The first, Neve, will become Queen, in time. And the second, Redarys, was to be given over to the Wilderwood, and the Wolf that lived there. There hasn’t been a second daughter in many years, so when it’s finally time for Red to be given to the Wolf, the people hope that the Wolf will finally return their kings to them. But there’s so much in the legends of the Wilderwood that just isn’t true. That’s what the heart of this story really is, learning the truths behind the tales and how to right the wrongs that have been done.
The world really fascinated me. There was just so much of it that it was hard to get a handle on at times. The kings from legend, the ones supposedly trapped by the Wolf, brought all of the kingdoms together under one ruler, the first daughter. So, there are quite a few different places mentioned and once I just sort of ignored everywhere other than the Wilderwood and Red’s home, it was less confusing. This world felt vast, so narrowing it down felt necessary for me to enjoy it rather than get lost in trying to remember all the names that didn’t really need remembering. So, the Wilderwood is incredibly mysterious, but also endlessly fascinating. I was filled with so many questions. I think Whitten did a good job creating suspense and mystery by not answering questions, but I think some of those questions could have been answered a bit sooner and still had the same or a similar effect on the story. But the setting of the Wilderwood was stunning. I could picture it and I’m not usually very good at picturing settings, especially in fantasy stories.
The characters were ones that were easy to love. Red is a fierce woman that willingly goes into the Wilderwood to meet the Wolf because she has magic that she’s kept hidden, a magic that she’s terrified will hurt her sister if she cannot control it. But when she learns the truth of the Wolf, she falls for him, slowly. He tries to protect her, Eammon. But his protection is in the form of keeping secrets (one of my least favorite tropes). I think their romance was a little bit insta-lovey which I don’t usually love. But I think the way that it was set up worked for this story. I still liked them both individually and grew to love them together. By the end, I was definitely invested in their romance. I think the lack of clarity with the way the Wilderwood’s magic worked honestly just added to the story. I usually like well explained magic, but it somehow worked for this story.
Overall, I loved this book even with the few things that I didn’t like. I also might have died a little reading the preview we got of book two. I am beyond excited to learn more about the kings and what will end up happening with Neve. Plus, man is that book cover to die for and the cover for book two is just as stunning. I cannot wait to read more from Whitten in the future.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

The Bone Shard Daughter by Andrea Stewart

Summary:
The Sukai Dynasty has ruled the Phoenix Empire for over a century, their mastery of bone shard magic powering the monstrous constructs that maintain law and order. But now the emperor’s rule is failing, and revolution is sweeping across the Empire’s many islands.
Lin is the Emperor’s daughter, but a mysterious illness has stolen her childhood memories and her status as heir to the empire. Trapped in a palace of locked doors and old secrets, Lin vows to reclaim her birthright by mastering the forbidden art of bone shard magic.
But the mysteries behind such power are dark and deep, and wielding her family’s magic carries a great cost. When the revolution reaches the gates of the palace itself, Lin must decide how far she is willing to go to claim her throne – and save her people.

Book Cover

Review:
The Bone Shard Daughter follows quite a few different characters. Because of this, it was hard to really get into until a decent way into the book. It felt like it took a really long time to get to know each of the characters because we were following so many different people. Despite that, I did end up really enjoying this book. I did grow to love all of the characters and their individual journeys. I liked how each of the characters played an important role in the overall plot. Stewart really did a great job bringing the story full circle so that all the bits and pieces connected to one another. The plot felt like it was really well done. It was complex and detailed, but still pretty easy to follow. There were some mysteries that I thought I’d totally put together only to find out in later reveals that I was wrong. I love books that surprise me, so I really liked this.
The world building was also really interesting. It felt a little bit out of balance though. So, the Empire has many islands. It says that right in the summary. But because of the characters we follow, we only see maybe three islands total. We don’t really hear very much about the other islands either. It was just a little unbalanced to me because if there really is a full-scale rebellion going on, shouldn’t it be happening on all of these many islands? Aside from that issue that I had, I thought the world building and the setting was great. I could really see in my head what was happening with the island that sank. I thought the setting of the palace was a good one. But I think what interested me the most was the mythology and legends of the people that came before. Those that Lin’s family defeated and supposedly protects the Empire from their return. I’d love to know more about them.
Overall, this was a slow buildup of a story. I think the second book is going to be way more fast paced since so much of the buildup was done in the first book. It has characters that I found myself invested in (some queer!) and eager to know how things will unfold for them. I really liked that the reader got to see and learn things that the characters didn’t know yet. It did a wonderful job of creating suspense and anticipation while we waited for the characters to learn what the reader already knew. I definitely can’t wait for the second book.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Amanda’s Beginner Fantasy Recommendations

Hi, lovelies! I did a post a few weeks ago where I recommended books for those that are interested in exploring the science fiction genre (find it here!) I had fun creating that list, so I’m going to do it again, but this time with fantasy books. These are adult and young adult books that I think would be good places to start if you’re new to fantasy.

Middle Grade

Aru Shah and the End of Time (Pandava Quartet, #1)

Aru Shah and the End of Time by Roshani Chokshi
“Twelve-year-old Aru Shah has a tendency to stretch the truth in order to fit in at school. While her classmates are jetting off to family vacations in exotic locales, she’ll be spending her autumn break at home, in the Museum of Ancient Indian Art and Culture, waiting for her mom to return from her latest archeological trip. Is it any wonder that Aru makes up stories about being royalty, traveling to Paris, and having a chauffeur? One day, three schoolmates show up at Aru’s doorstep to catch her in a lie. They don’t believe her claim that the museum’s Lamp of Bharata is cursed, and they dare Aru to prove it. Just a quick light, Aru thinks. Then she can get herself out of this mess and never ever fib again. But lighting the lamp has dire consequences. She unwittingly frees the Sleeper, an ancient demon whose duty it is to awaken the God of Destruction. Her classmates and beloved mother are frozen in time, and it’s up to Aru to save them. The only way to stop the demon is to find the reincarnations of the five legendary Pandava brothers, protagonists of the Hindu epic poem, the Mahabharata, and journey through the Kingdom of Death. But how is one girl in Spider-Man pajamas supposed to do all that?”

Furthermore (Furthermore, #1)

Furthermore by Tahereh Mafi
“Alice Alexis Queensmeadow 12 rates three things most important: Mother, who wouldn’t miss her; magic and color, which seem to elude her; and Father, who always loved her. Father disappeared from Ferenwood with only a ruler, almost three years ago. But she will have to travel through the mythical, dangerous land of Furthermore, where down can be up, paper is alive, and left can be both right and very, very wrong. Her only companion is Oliver whose own magic is based in lies and deceit. Alice must first find herself—and hold fast to the magic of love in the face of loss.”

The Girl and the Ghost by Hanna Alkaf
“Suraya is delighted when her witch grandmother gifts her a pelesit. She names her ghostly companion Pink, and the two quickly become inseparable. But Suraya doesn’t know that pelesits have a dark side—and when Pink’s shadows threaten to consume them both, they must find enough light to survive . . . before they are both lost to the darkness.”

Young Adult

The Scapegracers (Scapegracers, #1)

The Scapegracers by Hannah Abigail Clarke
“An outcast teenage lesbian witch finds her coven hidden amongst the popular girls in her school, and performs some seriously badass magic in the process. Skulking near the bottom of West High’s social pyramid, Sideways Pike lurks under the bleachers doing magic tricks for Coke bottles. As a witch, lesbian, and lifelong outsider, she’s had a hard time making friends. But when the three most popular girls pay her $40 to cast a spell at their Halloween party, Sideways gets swept into a new clique. The unholy trinity are dangerous angels, sugar-coated rattlesnakes, and now–unbelievably–Sideways’ best friends. Together, the four bond to form a ferocious and powerful coven. They plan parties, cast curses on dudebros, try to find Sideways a girlfriend, and elude the fundamentalist witch hunters hellbent on stealing their magic. But for Sideways, the hardest part is the whole ‘having friends’ thing. Who knew that balancing human interaction with supernatural peril could be so complicated?”

White Hot Kiss by Jennifer L. Armentrout
“Layla just wants to fit in at school and go on a date with Zayne, whom she’s crushed on since forever. Trouble is, Zayne treats Layla like a sister–and Layla is a half demon, half gargoyle with abilities no one else possesses. And even though Zayne is a Warden, part of the race of gargoyles tasked with keeping humanity safe, Layla’s kiss will kill anything with a soul–including him. Then she meets Roth–a demon who claims to know her secrets. Though Layla knows she should stay away, it’s tough when that whole no-kissing thing isn’t an issue. Trusting Roth could ruin her chances with Zayne, but as Layla discovers she’s the reason for a violent demon uprising, kissing the enemy suddenly pales in comparison to the looming end of the world.”

The Gilded Wolves (The Gilded Wolves, #1)

The Gilded Wolves by Roshani Chokshi
“It’s 1889. The city is on the cusp of industry and power, and the Exposition Universelle has breathed new life into the streets and dredged up ancient secrets. Here, no one keeps tabs on dark truths better than treasure-hunter and wealthy hotelier Séverin Montagnet-Alarie. When the elite, ever-powerful Order of Babel coerces him to help them on a mission, Séverin is offered a treasure that he never imagined: his true inheritance. To hunt down the ancient artifact the Order seeks, Séverin calls upon a band of unlikely experts: An engineer with a debt to pay. A historian banished from his home. A dancer with a sinister past. And a brother in arms if not blood. Together, they will join Séverin as he explores the dark, glittering heart of Paris. What they find might change the course of history–but only if they can stay alive.”

The Iron King by Julie Kagawa
“Something has always felt slightly off in Meghan’s life, ever since her father disappeared before her eyes when she was six. She has never quite fit in at school or at home. When a dark stranger begins watching her from afar, and her prankster best friend becomes strangely protective of her, Meghan senses that everything she’s known is about to change. But she could never have guessed the truth – that she is the daughter of a mythical faery king and is a pawn in a deadly war. Now Meghan will learn just how far she’ll go to save someone she cares about, to stop a mysterious evil, no faery creature dare face; and to find love with a young prince who might rather see her dead than let her touch his icy heart.”

These Witches Don't Burn (These Witches Don't Burn, #1)

These Witches Don’t Burn by Isabel Sterling
“Hannah’s a witch, but not the kind you’re thinking of. She’s the real deal, an Elemental with the power to control fire, earth, water, and air. But even though she lives in Salem, Massachusetts, her magic is a secret she has to keep to herself. If she’s ever caught using it in front of a Reg (read: non-witch), she could lose it. For good. So, Hannah spends most of her time avoiding her ex-girlfriend (and fellow Elemental Witch) Veronica, hanging out with her best friend, and working at the Fly by Night Cauldron selling candles and crystals to tourists, goths, and local Wiccans. But dealing with her ex is the least of Hannah’s concerns when a terrifying blood ritual interrupts the end-of-school-year bonfire. Evidence of dark magic begins to appear all over Salem, and Hannah’s sure it’s the work of a deadly Blood Witch. The issue is, her coven is less than convinced, forcing Hannah to team up with the last person she wants to see: Veronica. While the pair attempt to smoke out the Blood Witch at a house party, Hannah meets Morgan, a cute new ballerina in town. But trying to date amid a supernatural crisis is easier said than done, and Hannah will have to test the limits of her power if she’s going to save her coven and get the girl, especially when the attacks on Salem’s witches become deadlier by the day.”

A Song Below Water (A Song Below Water, #1)

A Song Below Water by Bethany C. Morrow
“Tavia is already at odds with the world, forced to keep her siren identity under wraps in a society that wants to keep her kind under lock and key. Never mind she’s also stuck in Portland, Oregon, a city with only a handful of black folk and even fewer of those with magical powers. At least she has her bestie Effie by her side as they tackle high school drama, family secrets, and unrequited crushes. But everything changes in the aftermath of a siren murder trial that rocks the nation; the girls’ favorite Internet fashion icon reveals she’s also a siren, and the news rips through their community. Tensions escalate when Effie starts being haunted by demons from her past, and Tavia accidentally lets out her magical voice during a police stop. No secret seems safe anymore—soon Portland won’t be either.”

Winterwood by Shea Ernshaw
Be careful of the dark, dark wood…Especially the woods surrounding the town of Fir Haven. Some say these woods are magical. Haunted, even. Rumored to be a witch, only Nora Walker knows the truth. She and the Walker women before her have always shared a special connection with the woods. And it’s this special connection that leads Nora to Oliver Huntsman—the same boy who disappeared from the Camp for Wayward Boys weeks ago—and in the middle of the worst snowstorm in years. He should be dead, but here he is alive, and left in the woods with no memory of the time he’d been missing. But Nora can feel an uneasy shift in the woods at Oliver’s presence. And it’s not too long after that Nora realizes she has no choice but to unearth the truth behind how the boy she has come to care so deeply about survived his time in the forest, and what led him there in the first place. What Nora doesn’t know, though, is that Oliver has secrets of his own—secrets he’ll do anything to keep buried, because as it turns out, he wasn’t the only one to have gone missing on that fateful night all those weeks ago. For as long as there have been fairy tales, we have been warned to fear what lies within the dark, dark woods and in Winterwood, New York Times bestselling author Shea Ernshaw, shows us why.”

Adult

The Ten Thousand Doors of January

The Ten Thousand Doors of January by Alix E. Harrow
“In a sprawling mansion filled with peculiar treasures, January Scaller is a curiosity herself. As the ward of the wealthy Mr. Locke, she feels little different from the artifacts that decorate the halls: carefully maintained, largely ignored, and utterly out of place. Then she finds a strange book. A book that carries the scent of other worlds, and tells a tale of secret doors, of love, adventure and danger. Each page turn reveals impossible truths about the world and January discovers a story increasingly entwined with her own.”

The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern
“Zachary Ezra Rawlins is a graduate student in Vermont when he discovers a mysterious book hidden in the stacks. As he turns the pages, entranced by tales of lovelorn prisoners, key collectors, and nameless acolytes, he reads something strange: a story from his own childhood. Bewildered by this inexplicable book and desperate to make sense of how his own life came to be recorded, Zachary uncovers a series of clues—a bee, a key, and a sword—that lead him to a masquerade party in New York, to a secret club, and through a doorway to an ancient library hidden far below the surface of the earth. What Zachary finds in this curious place is more than just a buried home for books and their guardians—it is a place of lost cities and seas, lovers who pass notes under doors and across time, and of stories whispered by the dead. Zachary learns of those who have sacrificed much to protect this realm, relinquishing their sight and their tongues to preserve this archive, and also of those who are intent on its destruction. Together with Mirabel, a fierce, pink-haired protector of the place, and Dorian, a handsome, barefoot man with shifting alliances, Zachary travels the twisting tunnels, darkened stairwells, crowded ballrooms, and sweetly soaked shores of this magical world, discovering his purpose—in both the mysterious book and in his own life. “

The City We Became (Great Cities, #1)

The City We Became by N.K. Jemisin
“Five New Yorkers must come together in order to defend their city. Every city has a soul. Some are as ancient as myths, and others are as new and destructive as children. New York City? She’s got five. But every city also has a dark side. A roiling, ancient evil stirs beneath the earth, threatening to destroy the city and her five protectors unless they can come together and stop it once and for all.”

The House in the Cerulean Sea by T.J. Klune
“A magical island. A dangerous task. A burning secret. Linus Baker leads a quiet, solitary life. At forty, he lives in a tiny house with a devious cat and his old records. As a Case Worker at the Department in Charge Of Magical Youth, he spends his days overseeing the well-being of children in government-sanctioned orphanages. When Linus is unexpectedly summoned by Extremely Upper Management he’s given a curious and highly classified assignment: travel to Marsyas Island Orphanage, where six dangerous children reside: a gnome, a sprite, a wyvern, an unidentifiable green blob, a were-Pomeranian, and the Antichrist. Linus must set aside his fears and determine whether or not they’re likely to bring about the end of days. But the children aren’t the only secret the island keeps. Their caretaker is the charming and enigmatic Arthur Parnassus, who will do anything to keep his wards safe. As Arthur and Linus grow closer, long-held secrets are exposed, and Linus must make a choice: destroy a home or watch the world burn. An enchanting story, masterfully told, The House in the Cerulean Sea is about the profound experience of discovering an unlikely family in an unexpected place—and realizing that family is yours.

These are some books that I think would be good for anyone trying out the fantasy genre for the first time. I love all of these books and I highly recommend them. What books would you recommend for someone new to fantasy?

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

The Crown of Gilded Bones by Jennifer L. Armentrout

Summary:
She’s been the victim and the survivor…
Poppy never dreamed she would find the love she’s found with Prince Casteel. She wants to revel in her happiness but first they must free his brother and find hers. It’s a dangerous mission and one with far-reaching consequences neither dreamed of. Because Poppy is the Chosen, the Blessed. The true ruler of Atlantia. She carries the blood of the King of Gods within her. By right the crown and the kingdom are hers.
The enemy and the warrior…
Poppy has only ever wanted to control her own life, not the lives of others, but now she must choose to either forsake her birthright or seize the gilded crown and become the Queen of Flesh and Fire. But as the kingdoms’ dark sins and blood-drenched secrets finally unravel, a long-forgotten power rises to pose a genuine threat. And they will stop at nothing to ensure that the crown never sits upon Poppy’s head.
A lover and heartmate…
But the greatest threat to them and to Atlantia is what awaits in the far west, where the Queen of Blood and Ash has her own plans, ones she has waited hundreds of years to carry out. Poppy and Casteel must consider the impossible—travel to the Lands of the Gods and wake the King himself. And as shocking secrets and the harshest betrayals come to light, and enemies emerge to threaten everything Poppy and Casteel have fought for, they will discover just how far they are willing to go for their people—and each other.
And now she will become Queen… 

The ​Crown of Gilded Bones (Blood and Ash, #3)

Review:
The Crown of Gilded Bones is the third book in the From Blood and Ash series. If you’d like to read my reviews for the first two books, they’re linked here: From Blood and Ash review and A Kingdom of Flesh and Fire review. I’m going to start this review by saying that if you haven’t read the first two books and you plan to, eventually, maybe come back to this review after you’ve done that. I won’t be spoiling anything from The Crown of Gilded Bones, but I will probably be spoiling events from the first two books.
In this third installment of the series, we start right where book two left off. Poppy and Casteel have arrived in Atlantia. There is so much new information being thrown at Poppy. I really liked the way that Armentrout deals with this. Instead of info-dumping, Poppy sort of absorbs everything she’s hearing, maybe asks one or two questions, but saves most of her questions for when there’s actually time for her and Casteel or her and Kieran to sit down and talk about it all. Poppy is the rightful Queen of Atlantia. She has a choice to make whether or not to accept this responsibility. I liked that Poppy wasn’t forced to become the queen just because she is the rightful ruler by blood. Her choice isn’t taken away from her once again, it’s up to her to decide if she wants to be queen. I liked the interactions between Poppy and Casteel and Casteel’s parents. I liked that everything wasn’t just fine and dandy. There was conflict and conversation before being able to actually develop Poppy’s relationship with her mother and father-in-law.
The Wolven come into play often in this book. As Poppy is Queen by blood, the blood of a God, they are loyal to her. I loved this aspect of the story. She’s a little bit uncomfortable with it and her moments spending time with the Wolven definitely added some moments of levity to an action packed and otherwise serious story.  I liked meeting more of the Wolven and even the infamous Gianna. I think Poppy’s bond to the Wolven was a really interesting aspect of the story. She’s exploring what that bond entails (communicating telepathically??) and how it works.
This leads me into Poppy’s godly abilities. There isn’t anyone alive to teach Poppy how to use her abilities. She is a descendent of Nyktos, so she has power over life and death, but as she’s learning in this book, her powers are so much more than that. I really liked seeing Poppy explore her abilities and figure out what she can do and how to do it. I think that it’s another great way that Poppy gains control over her own life. She can do these incredible things, like healing people from the brink of death or the opposite. But she has to choose to learn how and choose to use her powers.
Now, the sex scenes in this book are to die for. There were so many specific sex scenes that I wanted to happen and Armentrout blessed us with them. And not at all surprising, these scenes were even better than what I’d hoped for. I think Armentrout is doing an incredible job showing sex as something natural and fluid thing. Poppy watches someone doing something, because Wolven are very open about their nudity and attraction, and then she tries it with Casteel. I think this is such a great part of the book. There is no shame when it comes to sex for any of the characters and I think that’s such an important thing. I think sex is today’s world can be considered such a taboo and sometimes shameful thing to talk about and I’m so glad that Armentrout only shows it in positive ways.
The world is also opening up so much more. We learn more about the history of the world and we visit new places in Atlantia as well as a secret new place. I think this world is such an interesting one. I have a feeling we will be seeing even more, as there was definitely some foreshadowing of places to come for the rest of the series. It’s here that I also want to mention all the answers we finally get. I was left with so many questions at the end of A Kingdom of Flesh and Fire and almost all of them were answered, though Armentrout certainly left me with an entirely new set of questions. It’s interesting because I had the questions I went into this book with answered but I finished the book and still have so many questions and yet I still feel satisfied with the answers I did get.
Poppy and Casteel are absolutely one of my favorite bookish couples. I think the development of their relationship is so incredibly done. They really are so well suited. Casteel gives Poppy the freedom of choice that she so desperately needs and Poppy gives Casteel the love and support that he needs. They both manage to know exactly what the other needs when they need it. And their sexual chemistry is nothing short of perfection. I loved that even in the most serious of moments, they are joking and being completely inappropriate with one another. It’s just so fitting for who their characters are and how they are together.
Overall, this series just keeps getting better and better. I was absolutely devastated by the events in the final 100 pages of this book and I will be anxiously awaiting book four to see how things play out. I can’t say that I’m not incredibly excited to see a rage filled Poppy take on Solis. It’s going to be glorious and there are so many new things and new information in play. I think the series will just continue to get better and better and I cannot wait.

Quotes:

“I would kill any and all who stood between Casteel and me because we deserved to be together. We deserved a future, a chance to explore each other’s secrets. To love one another. We deserved to simply…live. I would do anything to ensure that.”

“You are the foundation that helps me stand. You are my walls and my roof. My shelter. You are my home.”

“I’d spent the better part of my life clothed from chin to floor, and more than half of my face covered. I knew how to hide. I was only now learning how to be seen.”

“I do not want to be party to forcing you into yet another role you did not ask for nor desire. I will not replace the veil you loathed with a crown you hate. If you do not want to take the Crown, I will support you,” he swore, and the intensity in his words captured me. The irrevocable oath he was making. “And if you decide you want to take what is yours, claim the throne, I will set this entire kingdom on fire and watch it burn if that ensures that the crown sits on your head.”

“Bravery is a fleeting beast, isn’t it? Always there to get you into trouble, but quick to disappear once you’re where you want to be.”

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

A Court of Silver Flames by Sarah J. Maas

Summary:
Nesta Archeron has always been prickly-proud, swift to anger, and slow to forgive. And ever since being forced into the Cauldron and becoming High Fae against her will, she’s struggled to find a place for herself within the strange, deadly world she inhabits. Worse, she can’t seem to move past the horrors of the war with Hybern and all she lost in it.
The one person who ignites her temper more than any other is Cassian, the battle-scarred warrior whose position in Rhysand and Feyre’s Night Court keeps him constantly in Nesta’s orbit. But her temper isn’t the only thing Cassian ignites. The fire between them is undeniable, and only burns hotter as they are forced into close quarters with each other.
Meanwhile, the treacherous human queens who returned to the Continent during the last war have forged a dangerous new alliance, threatening the fragile peace that has settled over the realms. And the key to halting them might very well rely on Cassian and Nesta facing their haunting pasts.
Against the sweeping backdrop of a world seared by war and plagued with uncertainty, Nesta and Cassian battle monsters from within and without as they search for acceptance-and healing-in each other’s arms.

A ​Court of Silver Flames (A Court of Thorns and Roses, #4)

Review:
Okay, after finishing this 700+ page book, I have so many thoughts and feelings. But I think that I am going to write this review similarly to how I reviewed Kingdom of Ash. I am going to break this up into sections of things I liked and didn’t like. Then maybe a few overall thoughts. I want to start that I read this entire book within 24 hours. Once I started, I just could not put it down. I also want to say that I rated this book 4 stars. The things that I didn’t like are specifically what made me lower my rating. So, lets get into it!

What I Liked:

I loved Nesta. I would 100% die for her. I want her to turn her gaze on me and say terribly mean things. I want to sit with her, Gwyn, and Emerie and read in the House of Wind. I think her character growth was really well done. She’s full of anger and self-loathing, but we get to see her pull herself out of that with some help from the other characters.

The House of Wind was my favorite character. As much as I loved Nesta in this one, the House takes the cake for me. I couldn’t help but smile and feel comforted every time the House did or didn’t listen to Nesta. I also loved the why behind the House’s behavior.  

Gwym and Emerie are two women that, like Nesta, have been through some shit. But they don’t know all the details of Nesta’s past and they show her kindness when Nesta doesn’t feel like she deserves it. Seeing the blossoming friendship of these three was absolutely one of the best aspects of this story.

Along with the above point, I really liked that Nesta wasn’t just absorbed into the Inner Circle. She made her own friends, her own found family, her own inner circle. The love they had for one another was wholesome as fuck and I loved it.

The stairs. I feel like I have to mention the stairs. I don’t know who made 10k stairs to get into the House of Wind but it’s fucking illogical and I hate it. But I also couldn’t help but love what those stairs did for Nesta by the end of the book. They became more than the thing trapping her in the House of Wind. She made those stairs her bitch. She down them again and again, making more progress every time she tried. I think they were an interested outlet for her to not think, or to think, or to work out aggression. A friend said “Nest is the true stairmaster” and she’s damn right.

The worldbuilding was another thing I really enjoyed. We get to learn some new things about The Prison. We go back to the Middle and learn some history about that. We learn history about the creatures that were in power before they Fae. I thought all of this was done well and without just dumping new information on us.

Along with the worldbuilding, I was to specifically mention the Valkyrie. I loved the research that Gwyn was doing and how that research was incorporated into the girls’ training. I loved the idea and the history of the Valkyrie and I hope to see more about this.

Nesta’s backstory was filled in some. In the original trilogy, we learn about Nesta and Elain from Feyre’s perspective. But we don’t really learn much about what things were like before they were poor. With Nesta, we learn more about the Archeron’s mother and how horrible she was. I think this backstory for Nesta was so important to her character and really filled in details of why she behaved the way she has for so long.

I’m torn between liking and being disappointed by the fact that there wasn’t really a huge reconciliation between the three Archeron sisters. I liked that there wasn’t because that sort of forgiveness will take time to heal, time for them to figure out a new sort of relationship for them. But also, I just want everyone to love each other.

I also liked that while Feyre and Rhysand are obviously in this story, I feel like we got enough that the story didn’t feel like it was actually about them. (Aside from one thing that a friend pointed out which I will mention in the things that I didn’t like.) Their involvement in the story was mostly minimal, aside from a bit of pushing the plot forward. But these moments where they’re pushing the plot forward by giving orders and what not make sense because Nesta and Cassian are members of the Night Court, which makes Feyre and Rhysand their rulers. So, they obviously must follow the orders of their rulers.

I think the way that Maas showed Nesta struggling was done beautifully. At times, it was almost painful to read through the parts where Nesta is really struggling. At one point, her and Cassian are hiking through the woods and that scene had me sobbing for her. I think Nesta’s internal struggle was so powerful. Seeing her grow and work through all of those feelings was an honor.

Finally, Nesta and Cassian are the couple of my dreams. Maas really stepped up her game in terms of the sex scenes. I liked that they toyed with one another. I liked that at the same time, they were almost toying with themselves. They both were filled with so much lust for one another that they couldn’t control it. But despite that, they didn’t immediately have sex. The blowjob scene was excellent. There was build up to them finally having sex and I think that was done so well.

Things I Didn’t Like:

I didn’t like Rhysand. It breaks my heart to write that because I loved him with my whole heart in the first three books. But he was a bit reminiscent of Tamlin at times in this book and I really didn’t like it. There were medical concerns that he (and everyone else) kept from Feyre and that really upset me. The whole shield thing honestly just made me feel a little icky. I also think he was so horrible to Nesta for no good reason. He continues to be horrible even after he sees into her mind, experiences her trauma alongside her. I just didn’t like him and that was very upsetting.

The second thing I didn’t like had to do with the ending. Nesta does something to save someone and it was really reminiscent of another one of her characters. I didn’t like it in that book either. I’m trying not to spoil, so, I’ll just say that I didn’t think it was necessary for her to do this specific thing. I think the choice that Nesta made will have repercussions in the coming books and I’m interested to see what they are but mad about it still.

Nesta learned to train and all of that, but I feel like she never really learned about her magic. She’s filled with Silver Fire which means something but I feel like it was only briefly explained and we didn’t really get to delve into it. I sort of understand because Nesta didn’t want to use her magic. But she did lots of things she didn’t want to in this book. I would have liked to see a bit more exploration of her magic.

Now, I mentioned above about Feyre and Rhysand being involved in this book. I want to say that I didn’t like how they were essentially the only reason there was a plot. It makes sense because they’re the rulers. But I feel like it would have been better for Nesta to be doing all of the things she did for herself (after that initial push for her to train with Cassian and work in the library) but instead she only tried to scry again because Feyre and Rhysand needed her to. I feel like they were in control of everything Nesta did and I didn’t like that. The same friend that pointed this out also mentioned that it could be looked at like Nesta was doing this for her family, but at this point, Nesta didn’t give a shit about her family. She didn’t have the same motivations of protecting Elain because she felt like an outsider. So, I didn’t like that Feyre and Rhys were basically the reason that Nesta did most of the things that she did.

I also didn’t like how little we saw of Mor. Morrigan is one of my favorites and she was basically absent from this book with minimal explanation of what she was doing. I’m sure this was on purpose because I believe she’s getting her own book as well. But I need more Mor content in my life.

Overall Thoughts:

I enjoyed this book. I’ve been in a reading slump, so being able to devour this book in one day felt so good. But also, it made my reading slump worse because what the hell do I read after this that can compare? I think many people were disappointed that the plot in this book was minimal, but I actually liked that. I think it was a great way to build up to whatever is going to happen in the next books. I don’t know how I would place this in my order of favorites for the series, but I definitely would die for Nesta. I love her and understand her so much better after this book.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

The Blade Between by Sam J. Miller

Summary:
Ronan Szepessy promised himself he’d never return to Hudson. The sleepy upstate town was no place for a restless gay photographer. But his father is ill and New York City’s distractions have become too much for him. He hopes that a quick visit will help him recharge.
Ronan reconnects with two friends from high school: Dom, his first love, and Dom’s wife, Attalah. The three former misfits mourn what their town has become—overrun by gentrifiers and corporate interests. With friends and neighbors getting evicted en masse and a mayoral election coming up, Ronan and Attalah craft a plan to rattle the newcomers and expose their true motives. But in doing so, they unleash something far more mysterious and uncontainable.
Review:
Hudson has a rich, proud history and, it turns out, the real estate developers aren’t the only forces threatening its well-being: the spirits undergirding this once-thriving industrial town are enraged. Ronan’s hijinks have overlapped with a bubbling up of hate and violence among friends and neighbors, and everything is spiraling out of control. Ronan must summon the very best of himself to shed his own demons and save the city he once loathed.
The Blade BetweenReview:
Thank you, NetGalley and the publishers for providing me with an eARC in exchange for an honest review. I requested The Blade Between because a friend of mine was absolutely raving about it. I’m glad that I requested it because I flew through this book. I don’t know that I would say I enjoyed it, but it was definitely an experience.
So, I want to mention first that the writing was incredible. There were so many great lines and fantastic descriptions in this book. I cannot say enough good things about Miller’s writing. He managed to make it a creepy and atmospheric story, but also convinced us to love these very flawed characters. I think there were some really interesting topics covered in a thoughtful way. This story follows Ronan as he returns to his home town of Hudson, a place he has no fond memories of. But his father is dying and it’s time he finally returns. But things escalate and suddenly he’s fighting against the gentrification of a town he grew up hating. I really liked this aspect of the story. Ronan has so many mixed feelings about his hometown, but he still does his damnedest to save it. I also loved all of the antics that Ronan and his friends participate in to ‘save’ the town. I think there were definitely some moments that were a bit extreme, but the author did a really good job showing character motivations that were almost understandable. It wasn’t hard to sympathize with these characters.
I also think the author did a really great job of creating different and interesting characters. Even though the story sort of jumped around with who it was following, I had no issues distinguishing between any of them. They were all unique and interesting. Now, the plot was fascinating. I loved the fantasy elements that were included in the story. The bits about the whales was absolutely creepy but only got creepier with the inclusion of the ghosts that play a role in the story.
Overall, I think this was a horrifying and excellent story. I will absolutely be reading more books by this author. Miller’s writing was exceptional and memorable. I think the characters were easy to love, even when they were doing shitty things. I just couldn’t put this book down. I highly recommend this one for fans of horror or darker fantasy books.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

The Awakening by Nora Roberts

Summary:
In the realm of Talamh, a teenage warrior named Keegan emerges from a lake holding a sword—representing both power and the terrifying responsibility to protect the Fey. In another realm known as Philadelphia, a young woman has just discovered she possesses a treasure of her own…
When Breen Kelly was a girl, her father would tell her stories of magical places. Now she’s an anxious twentysomething mired in student debt and working a job she hates. But one day she stumbles upon a shocking discovery: her mother has been hiding an investment account in her name. It has been funded by her long-lost father—and it’s worth nearly four million dollars.
This newfound fortune would be life-changing for anyone. But little does Breen know that when she uses some of the money to journey to Ireland, it will unlock mysteries she couldn’t have imagined. Here, she will begin to understand why she kept seeing that silver-haired, elusive man, why she imagined his voice in her head saying Come home, Breen Siobhan. It’s time you came home. Why she dreamed of dragons. And where her true destiny lies—through a portal in Galway that takes her to a land of faeries and mermaids, to a man named Keegan, and to the courage in her own heart that will guide her through a powerful, dangerous destiny…
The Awakening (The Dragon Heart Legacy, #1)Review:
The Awakening is Roberts newest trilogy and I was not disappointed. I’m going to keep this review short because no one is surprised that I loved this book.
I think it’s been really interesting to see Roberts delve more into fantasy books. She has quite a few series that have a bit of light fantasy in them, but this series has a whole new world within it. I think the world was very interesting and vividly written.
Breen Kelly was kind of an annoying character, but as we learn more about her childhood, her annoying behaviors are more understandable. She grew up with a mother that belittled her most of her life, left her feeling like she shouldn’t or couldn’t try new things that she might love. She works a job she doesn’t love to pay her bills. But when she finds out her mother has been keeping money that Breen’s father sent for Breen, her life changes. I think Breen had some growth. It was great to see her try new things and realize that she might actually good at these things. The only thing I didn’t like about this aspect of the story is the process of getting a book published. Breen starts writing a novel while she’s vacationing in Ireland. And by summer’s end she’s finished her novel, queried and found and agent, and gotten a book deal. This is so incredibly unrealistic that it left a bad taste in my mouth.
Overall, I really enjoyed this book. It was full of adventure and magic with a hint of romance. I liked that we got to see Breen learning the magic and training with swords. I think the new world she discovered was fascinating. I am definitely excited for the next book in the series.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Blogmas Book Review: A Kingdom of Flesh and Fire by Jennifer L. Armentrout

GoodReads Summary:
A Betrayal…
Everything Poppy has ever believed in is a lie, including the man she was falling in love with. Thrust among those who see her as a symbol of a monstrous kingdom, she barely knows who she is without the veil of the Maiden. But what she does know is that nothing is as dangerous to her as him. The Dark One. The Prince of Atlantia. He wants her to fight him, and that’s one order she’s more than happy to obey. He may have taken her, but he will never have her.
A Choice…
Casteel Da’Neer is known by many names and many faces. His lies are as seductive as his touch. His truths as sensual as his bite. Poppy knows better than to trust him. He needs her alive, healthy, and whole to achieve his goals. But he’s the only way for her to get what she wants—to find her brother Ian and see for herself if he has become a soulless Ascended. Working with Casteel instead of against him presents its own risks. He still tempts her with every breath, offering up all she’s ever wanted. Casteel has plans for her. Ones that could expose her to unimaginable pleasure and unfathomable pain. Plans that will force her to look beyond everything she thought she knew about herself—about him. Plans that could bind their lives together in unexpected ways that neither kingdom is prepared for. And she’s far too reckless, too hungry, to resist the temptation.
A Secret…
But unrest has grown in Atlantia as they await the return of their Prince. Whispers of war have become stronger, and Poppy is at the very heart of it all. The King wants to use her to send a message. The Descenters want her dead. The wolven are growing more unpredictable. And as her abilities to feel pain and emotion begin to grow and strengthen, the Atlantians start to fear her. Dark secrets are at play, ones steeped in the blood-drenched sins of two kingdoms that would do anything to keep the truth hidden. But when the earth begins to shake, and the skies start to bleed, it may already be too late.
A Kingdom of Flesh and Fire (Blood and Ash, #2)Review:
Is this a new favorite series of mine? Yes. Was Armentrout already a favorite author of mine? Yes. So, was this totally a surprise? No, not really.
I’m not going to go too deep into a summary like I do in some reviews because this is the second book in a series and I don’t want to spoil anything. So, A Kingdom of Flesh and Fire follows Poppy and Casteel as Poppy has had the world she knows completely upended. She’s learned things about the kingdom she grew up in that are horrifying and change everything for her. That’s about all you’re getting because most of the details of this are spoilers for book one.
Poppy is my queen. I love her with my whole heart. She’s been hurt many times. In her childhood, she witnessed her parents killed. She learned to fight so that she would never be defenseless again. This was a huge asset in this book because she proves again and again that she’s not someone to be fucked with. I want to reread this book again just to count how many times she stabbed Casteel or threatened to stab him. I thought it was really interesting that Poppy escaped the confinement of being the Maiden only to find herself confined once again in a completely different situation. I loved the development of her new confinement. She proved herself a useful ally and I loved seeing Poppy finally take her life into her own hands. Seeing her finally get to make choices for herself and what she wanted made me so happy.
Now, Casteel. I love him. I understand why Poppy is so mad at him, but I love him. I think it was really interesting that Armentrout used the secret keeping trope (which I usually hate) to create a huge conflict between Poppy and Casteel and then have them work through the lies and the deceptions. I was fascinated seeing Poppy figure out how to trust Casteel again after the lies he told her. I loved how determined Casteel was. He wanted Poppy. He wanted to save his brother. He wanted to save his kingdom. But his plans all change when he actually meets Poppy. He figures out a potential way to get all of the things that he wants. And I think that really spoke to who Casteel is as a person and a leader. I just love him with my whole heart.
Overall, I’m obsessed with this series. I think the world building is so well done and Armentrout has built a world that I’m infatuated with. I think this history of the world and how that history has been changed in the minds of the people is so interesting. I think the Gods are also very interesting. The fact that they’re all ‘sleeping’ is so intriguing and I cannot deal with how this story ended. I also have to mention there are a handful of steamy sex scenes and they were exactly what I wanted them to be. I think it was all around an excellent book and as I said in my review for the first book, if you like fantasy romance you will love this.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Blogmas Book Review: From Blood and Ash by Jennifer L. Armentrout

GoodReads Summary:
A Maiden…
Chosen from birth to usher in a new era, Poppy’s life has never been her own. The life of the Maiden is solitary. Never to be touched. Never to be looked upon. Never to be spoken to. Never to experience pleasure. Waiting for the day of her Ascension, she would rather be with the guards, fighting back the evil that took her family, than preparing to be found worthy by the gods. But the choice has never been hers.
A Duty…
The entire kingdom’s future rests on Poppy’s shoulders, something she’s not even quite sure she wants for herself. Because a Maiden has a heart. And a soul. And longing. And when Hawke, a golden-eyed guard honor bound to ensure her Ascension, enters her life, destiny and duty become tangled with desire and need. He incites her anger, makes her question everything she believes in, and tempts her with the forbidden.
A Kingdom…
Forsaken by the gods and feared by mortals, a fallen kingdom is rising once more, determined to take back what they believe is theirs through violence and vengeance. And as the shadow of those cursed draws closer, the line between what is forbidden and what is right becomes blurred. Poppy is not only on the verge of losing her heart and being found unworthy by the gods, but also her life when every blood-soaked thread that holds her world together begins to unravel.
From Blood and Ash (Blood and Ash, #1)Review:
How am I supposed to succinctly explain why and how much I loved this book? Armentrout is one of my favorite authors and has been for many years. So, I bought this immediately after it came out, but waited until the second book came out so I could binge read them.
From Blood and Ash follows Poppy. Poppy is the Maiden, which means there are many restrictions on the things she’s allowed to do. This includes who she’s allowed to speak to, touch, and many other medieval ideas. Poppy does her best to follow all of the rules set for her, but she wants more from her life. She has wants and desires. One of the biggest is that she wants to help defend herr kingdom. One of her guards, Vikter, has spent years teaching her how to fight. When Poppy was a child her parents were killed and she never wants to be defenseless like that again. So, she learns to fight and she can’t always stop herself from doing things she probably shouldn’t. When her close friend and guard is killed defending her, she gets a new guard, Hawke. The time she spends with Hawke and the things they talk about lead Poppy to start questioning he role as Maiden and her whole life.
I’m going to stop my summary there because things get pretty complicated after Poppy and Hawke meet. I loved this book. I adored Poppy and I want to reread this book already. Poppy is a fighter. She fights for others before she will fight for herself. She accepts punishments she doesn’t deserve so that others she cares for won’t face punishments. She has a huge heart despite having been treated so poorly by so many people. I love Poppy so much. I also love Hawke. I thought the secrets he was keeping were so interesting. I just wanted to know more about what he knew. Hawke was just all around a fascinating character. There were so many clues about who he really was and I think Armentrout did such a great job of giving us clues and slowly revealing the truth.
Overall, this world and its politics were absolutely fascinating. I just wanted to learn more. I loved the characters. I think Armentrout did such a great job of giving the reader characters we could easily be invested in, and developing relationships, both platonic and romantic, that we would die for. I am very excited to have read this book and I immediately jumped into the second book, so I will have a review for the second book shortly. I also am eagerly awaiting book three. If you like fantasy romance, this will not disappoint.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Blogmas Book Review: Black Sun by Rebecca Roanhorse

fullsizeoutput_3401GoodReads Summary:
In the holy city of Tova, the winter solstice is usually a time for celebration and renewal, but this year it coincides with a solar eclipse, a rare celestial event proscribed by the Sun Priest as an unbalancing of the world.
Meanwhile, a ship launches from a distant city bound for Tova and set to arrive on the solstice. The captain of the ship, Xiala, is a disgraced Teek whose song can calm the waters around her as easily as it can warp a man’s mind. Her ship carries one passenger. Described as harmless, the passenger, Serapio, is a young man, blind, scarred, and cloaked in destiny. As Xiala well knows, when a man is described as harmless, he usually ends up being a villain.
Crafted with unforgettable characters, Rebecca Roanhorse has created an epic adventure exploring the decadence of power amidst the weight of history and the struggle of individuals swimming against the confines of society and their broken pasts in the most original series debut of the decade.
Black Sun (Between Earth and Sky, #1)Review:
Thank you to NetGalley and the publishers for providing an eARC in exchange for an honest review. Black Sun was such a detailed and involved fantasy. Just as the synopsis says, it’s an epic adventure that explores power, history, and characters that are not what people assume they are. I think that’s what I liked most about this book. The characters were so well developed and fascinating. They were all people trying to live outside of what they’re ‘supposed’ to be.
The story follows several characters Xiala, Serapio, and Narampa. Xiala is Teek, which is a culture that has many stories surrounding them. This was clear in the way that others treated Xiala. She’s an excellent captain, but her crew still treats her as other because she is Teek. I really liked seeing Xiala and Serapio develop a friendship because while that was happening, we got to learn more about Xiala and the Teek. I just genuinely liked Xiala. She’s fierce and powerful. She doesn’t take anyone’s shit. Serapio was a fascinating character. For him, we got to go back and forth between the present (where he’s traveling with Xiala) and his past to see how he got to be traveling with Xiala. I think the mythology (I don’t know that his character’s story is actually based on real myths, but there’s definitely mythology about him in the story) surrounding him and his destiny was incredibly interesting. I thought it was really interesting to see him learn the things he needed to complete the destiny that his mother set in motion. Serapio is blind, but that doesn’t hinder him in any way. He can see through the eyes of crows, and his other senses are very well developed. I liked Serapio because he knew what his mission was and did his best to follow through. I like his relationship with Xiala and I feel like it developed very naturally. Finally, Narampa (or Nara). She’s the Sun Priest, but she’s also a girl from a not so good part of town. Many were surprised when she was named successor to the last Sun Priest. I liked Nara because she knew she was facing challenges, but she still really wanted to make positive changes to the world she is a part of. But she’s faced with many people that do not agree with her. Her challenges just grow greater as the story progresses. I’m very intrigued with her backstory and her criminal brother. I am eager to see how that will play out in the rest of the series. There is one more character I should mention, he isn’t introduced until something specific happens in the story, but I have a feeling he will play a larger role in the rest of the series. Okoa is the son of someone important. He returns from what is essentially college for warriors and is thrown into the politics of his clan. I wanted to know more about him, mostly where his story will go from here.
Overall, the first half of the book was a bit slower than the second half. The world was so intricate and fascinating. There was so much detail from the setting to the different parts of the world and the politics within each part. The ending absolutely slayed me and I’m dying to know what will happen now that things didn’t go the way Serapio planned or expected. I am definitely a huge fan of this book and highly recommend it for fantasy lovers. I do also want to mention that it’s a really diverse story. It’s inspired by pre-Colombian America’s, so it’s almost exclusively Indigenous peoples. It is also filled with casually queer people. Xiala is bisexual and there are several trans or nonbinary side characters. I am definitely eager for the next book.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Blogmas Book Review: The Once and Future Witches by Alix E. Harrow

GoodReads Summary:
In 1893, there’s no such thing as witches. There used to be, in the wild, dark days before the burnings began, but now witching is nothing but tidy charms and nursery rhymes. If the modern woman wants any measure of power, she must find it at the ballot box.
But when the Eastwood sisters–James Juniper, Agnes Amaranth, and Beatrice Belladonna–join the suffragists of New Salem, they begin to pursue the forgotten words and ways that might turn the women’s movement into the witch’s movement. Stalked by shadows and sickness, hunted by forces who will not suffer a witch to vote-and perhaps not even to live-the sisters will need to delve into the oldest magics, draw new alliances, and heal the bond between them if they want to survive.
There’s no such thing as witches. But there will be.
The Once and Future WitchesReview:
Last year, I read Harrow’s debut novel (The Ten Thousand Doors of January) and it was easily one of my absolute favorite books of 2019. Well, Harrow has done it again. I’m glad I picked up The Once and Future Witches before 2020 was over so that I can happily say this book is absolutely one of my top favorite books of 2020.
Harrow created such an incredible story. I first want to talk about the powerful and stunning writing. I don’t often sticky tab my books, but I went through three packs of sticky tabs just marking lines that really stuck out to me. I cannot get enough of Harrow’s writing. I was in awe after her debut, but I am doubly in awe now. She has the ability and creativity to write such stunning prose that really packs a punch. I adored all of the little things too. The chapters starting with each sister and mimicking how they were all introduced, this continuing through the book when the sisters were apart. I just cannot get over how beautifully written this book was.
Now, the plot. It was just as excellent as the writing. We follow three sisters, James Juniper (June, the youngest sister), Agnes Amaranth (Agnes, the middle sister), and Beatrice Belladonna (Bella, the eldest sister). The sisters grew up in the south with a father that was abusive and a mother that died giving birth to June. When June was still just a kid, Agnes and Bella left and June felt abandoned. The two older sisters both had their reasons for leaving (yes, I did absolutely love how this aspect of the story came full circle when the two finally talked about it). Flash forward to present day, somehow, all three sisters have ended up in New Salem. June is hiding from the law, so of course, the first thing she does after arriving in New Salem is join in at a Suffragist protest where women are demanding their right to vote. Agnes is newly pregnant and works in a mill, living in a quiet boarding house. She’s unsure about keeping the baby and knows the father cannot love all of her. She’s walking home from work and also finds herself at this protest. Bella, a librarian, (yes, this is exactly the shit I live for, so thank you Alix Harrow) finds hidden words she remembers her grandmother, Mags, saying to them and she finds herself drawn to the protest and saying the words. Suddenly, there is a link between the sisters and Bella is saying the words. A tower appears and this is where the story starts. I don’t want to go too much into the plot except to say that it was a slow story, but I devoured every page. I loved the meandering story that showed us who these sisters really were and would become. All three have issues from their childhood that they need to overcome, grudges to forgive one another for, and secrets they’re not sure they’re ready to share. I love these three with my whole heart.
I do want to mention that the side characters are just as incredible as the sisters. There are a diverse cast of supporting characters, from black female love interests (yes, there is indeed a female/female romance, thank you again for this), to a trans woman. I love that though this is a historical story, there were still diverse characters that were included. I can’t speak to the representation as I am not trans or black, but from an outside perspective these characters seemed to be portrayed thoughtfully and with purpose. I liked that the female love interest was black because it brought this new perspective of what life in New Salem during this time period was like for people of color, something the sisters might not have thought about.
The magic in The Once and Future Witches was absolutely fascinating. Each chapter was started with a spell. In this story, you must know the words, the ways, and have the will. I thought this was such an interesting way to do magic. I really liked the messages that were shared with the magic. That women are powerful and smart. They know not to write these things down and instead pass them to their daughters in songs, children’s rhymes, and things that men wouldn’t even suspect. I adored the magic and the way that women came together to work this magic and teach one another the few things they’d learned in their lives.
Overall, this is absolutely one of my favorite books of 2020. Harrow is easily a favorite author of mine and I am dying to know what she will publish next. This book and everything about it was nothing short of a stunning master piece and I already cannot wait to reread so I can highlight and underline all of my favorite parts. If you like witches, historical fiction, women empowering other woman, and diverse stories, then this is the book for you.

Quotes:

“One witch you can laugh at. Three you can burn. But what do you do with a hundred?”

“If he peeled back her pretty skin he’d find nothing soft or sweet at all, just busted glass and ashes and the desperate, animal will to stay alive.”

“That’s all magic is, really: the space between what you have and what you need.”

“A girl is such an easy thing to break: weak and fragile, all alone, all yours. But they aren’t girls anymore, and they don’t belong to anyone. And they aren’t alone.”

“Because it’s easy to ignore a woman.” Juniper’s lips twist in a feral smile. “But a hell of a lot harder to ignore a witch.”

“Seems to me they’re the same thing, more of less. Witching and women’s rights. Suffrage and spells. They’re both…They’re both a kind of power, aren’t they? The kind we aren’t allowed to have.”

“She is a silhouette on the windowsill, an apparition in the alley, a woman there and gone again. She is a pocket full of witch-ways and a voice whispering the right words to the right woman, the clack of a cane against cobbles.”

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

The City We Became by N.K. Jemisin

GoodReads Summary:
Five New Yorkers must come together in order to defend their city in the first book of a stunning new series by Hugo award-winning and NYT bestselling author N. K. Jemisin.
Every city has a soul. Some are as ancient as myths, and others are as new and destructive as children. New York City? She’s got five.
But every city also has a dark side. A roiling, ancient evil stirs beneath the earth, threatening to destroy the city and her five protectors unless they can come together and stop it once and for all.
The City We Became (Great Cities #1)Review:
The City We Became was weird in all the best ways. The synopsis for this story is short, so I’m going to try to explain it a bit. There are six characters that we follow. Each of these characters represents an important part of New York City. In this world, cities come alive, and that’s what is happening in New York in this story. The city creates avatars from its important parts, sometimes one, sometimes more. This is where things got weird. Each of the boroughs was described to have personalities that fit with the people and culture of each borough. It was a bizarre but interesting way to get to know New York. As I’ve never spent much time there, I can’t speak to the accuracy. But it sure was interesting. One of the best parts of this book was the different parts of New York trying to get along and work together. I was fascinated by the things that they didn’t like about one another.
The villain in this story was also fascinating. It’s sort of an unknowable thing. I still sort of don’t really understand who or what it was. But it was following a different path than what it did with previous cities. I thought this made the story more interesting. The stakes had been upped and no one was listening to Sao Paolo when he tried to tell them that. The mystery of this villain is definitely what’s keeping me interested in the second book.
Overall, this book was confusing and weird. But I still loved it. I really loved the ending. The battle was won, but war was beginning and things were far from over. I liked that things were left in a happy place, a celebration before getting back to work. The reader is still left with questions, but we know that things right now are okay. This review is all over the place and I don’t really think I explained anything at all. But here it is.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

The Shadowed Sun by N.K. Jemisin

GoodReads Summary:
Gujaareh, the city of dreams, suffers under the imperial rule of the Kisuati Protectorate. A city where the only law was peace now knows violence and oppression. A mysterious and deadly plague now haunts the citizens of Gujaareh, dooming the infected to die screaming in their sleep. Someone must show them the way.
The Shadowed Sun (Dreamblood, #2)Review:
The Shadowed Sun is the second book to the Dreamblood duology, but this book is set ten years after the first. I had the same problem that I did with the first book. It took me about 100 pages to actually get into the story and care about what was going on. I think what was weird for me was that I felt like this book could be read completely separate from the first book and the reader wouldn’t really miss much.
In this book, the city we came to know is pretty different. The characters we’re following is also different. Gujaareh is being ruled by the Kisuati Protectorate. One of the Kisuati that’s left in charge of Gujaareh is a character from the first book. I really liked her for this whole book. She stood up for what she thought the right thing was, even when that wasn’t always what she was ‘supposed’ to believe.
In this new Gujaareh, there is a nightmare plague going around that the Hetewa can’t figure out. I really liked that as the reader we got to know what was going on with this aspect of the story. I also liked that we got to see more of the world. Two of the Sharers are sent on a mission to work with the rightful heir to Gujaareh. This was definitely the most interesting part of the story. Getting to see the Shares out of their comfort zone and getting to know a bit more about the desert tribes was really interesting.
Jemisin did such an incredible job building the world for this series. I thought this world was so interesting. I really liked learning about the different customs of the desert tribes but I also still really enjoyed the customs and faith of Gujaareh.
Overall, I enjoyed this book. I still had a hard time getting invested in the characters. I think it was definitely easier in this book because I was familiar with the world and a few of the characters. I am very excited to read The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms series, as that’s the only books of Jemisin’s that I haven’t read yet.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Blogtober Book Review: The Killing Moon by N.K. Jemisin

GoodReads Summary:
In the ancient city-state of Gujaareh, peace is the only law. Upon its rooftops and among the shadows of its cobbled streets wait the Gatherers – the keepers of this peace. Priests of the dream-goddess, their duty is to harvest the magic of the sleeping mind and use it to heal, soothe…and kill those judged corrupt.
But when a conspiracy blooms within Gujaareh’s great temple, the Gatherer Ehiru must question everything he knows. Someone, or something, is murdering innocent dreamers in the goddess’s name, and Ehiru must now protect the woman he was sent to kill – or watch the city be devoured by war and forbidden magic.
The Killing Moon (Dreamblood, #1)Review:
The Killing Moon is a book that honestly might be a little over my head. I’ve finished it, but I still feel a little bit confused. From what I understand this is a world inspired by ancient Egypt. There are people that are trained to be Gatherers and they essentially kill people that are corrupt, or also those that are old or sick (this confused me because there’s also Sharers that heal, so I didn’t get why Gatherers killed the sick too). But Gatherers are only a part of society in Gujaareh (Don’t ask me how to pronounce that). There is a neighboring kingdom (I don’t think that’s the right word, but I’m going with it) that does not believe the way that those of Gujaareh do. When an ambassador from this neighboring kingdom is selected to be gathered, Ehiru (the Gatherer) listens to what she has to say and starts thinking that there are secrets he isn’t privy to. He does not gather her. Instead, he travels with her to her kingdom to find the truth to the things she’s told him.
I’m going to be honest; I was extremely confused for the first 100 or so pages. But once the story got going, I couldn’t put it down. The world was vivid and beautiful. It was full of complex and interesting beliefs. I liked the characters but couldn’t get as invested in them as I would have liked. I enjoyed them all, but I just didn’t care as much as I did with Jemisin’s Broken Earth trilogy. I liked that this story was so dark. It wasn’t outright gory or anything, but there were so many dark themes and concepts that really interested me. It really brings a great conversation to the topic of morality and specific people having the power to kill others under the concept of religion.
Overall, I enjoyed this book. I’m very eager to see what happens in the next book. It’s not my favorite book by Jemisin that I’ve read, but it was an incredible story.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.