Enemies to Lovers and F/F Fantasy: a Match Made in Heaven

Crier’s War by Nina Valera

crier's warYoung adult, fantasy
HarperTeen, October 1st 2019
e-Arc, 448 pages

After the War of Kinds ravaged the kingdom of Rabu, the Automae, designed to be the playthings of royals, usurped their owners’ estates and bent the human race to their will.

Now Ayla, a human servant rising in the ranks at the House of the Sovereign, dreams of avenging her family’s death…by killing the sovereign’s daughter, Lady Crier.

Crier was Made to be beautiful, flawless, and to carry on her father’s legacy. But that was before her betrothal to the enigmatic Scyre Kinok, before she discovered her father isn’t the benevolent king she once admired, and most importantly, before she met Ayla.

Now, with growing human unrest across the land, pressures from a foreign queen, and an evil new leader on the rise, Crier and Ayla find there may be only one path to love: war.

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Blog Tour Information

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First of all I’d like to give a big thank you to Karina @ Afire Pages and HarperTeen for the opportunity to join this blog tour! I recieved an ARC in return for my participation, but of course that didn’t affect my opinions at all. You can find more infortmation about the tour on Karina’s blog here!

You can also enter this giveaway for the chance to win your own copy of Crier’s War (open international).

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My Review

5 stars

5 stars

I’ve been excited about Crier’s War for a really long time. If this book was a recipe it would have all my favourite ingredients, and unlike the time 6-year-old me tried to make cookies with no supervision, it turned out splendidly. There are so many things done spectacularly well in this book that I barely know where to start talking about all of them.

Let’s start with the thing that absolutely blew me away, and with this book that’s the writing. Oh, boy, does Valera know how to string words together to make pretty sentences. It wasn’t quite lyrical, it flowed like water over rocks but it had a sharp edge to it that could cut deep, especially during scenes of intense emotion. Her descriptions were so vivid that it almost felt like you were there, watching it all happen with your own two eyes.

Which, considering this books plot, would probably not be a very safe place to be! I really enjoyed the direction this story took, it felt very no holds barred and exciting. I’m notoriously bad at picking out plot twists, so I definitely found myself surprised more than most people would be, but I do think Valera does a really good job of revealing information in ways that don’t make you want to scream at the characters for being oblivious.

I’m a huge fan of dual POV, and it is executed brilliantly here. I enjoyed reading from both Crier and Ayla’s perspective, although I didn’t know it was going to be 2 POVs until I started reading. The side characters weren’t necessarily as fleshed out as they could have been, but since a majority of the story focuses on Crier and Ayla I understand why they weren’t.

Personally, I enjoyed different things about each of the two characters. I liked Ayla’s rebellion story, I’m a big sucker for revolutions and I really like the way Valera gave her her own personal vendetta, rather than the typical “teenage girl wants to save her country.” Ayla has personal goals that sometimes aligned with the revolution, but I like the fact that they didn’t always.

Crier on the other hand was a much more court politics type storyline (something else I am also a sucker for), and watching her navigate through everything that was thrown at her was fascinating. I’m really interested to see where her character goes, because I think there’s two pretty obvious paths for her and they’re both very exciting.

The relationship in Crier’s War was so fucking good, y’all. This is the kind of enemies to lovers that makes you wish you had an enemy just so you could fall in love with them. The development between Crier and Ayla felt so organic to me, it never felt forced. You watched them grow to care about each other even when they probably shouldn’t. It was beautifully written, and I’m so excited to get more of them in future installments.

I only have one gripe with this book and that’s with Benjy. Not the character himself, I actually quite liked him, but about his relationship with Ayla. The male best friend being in love with the female main character is such an overdone trope, especially when said main character has exactly 1 friend. It annoyed me when it was done in Red Queen, and The Grisha Trilogy and Twilight. The only notable exception is The Hunger Games but that’s mostly because I do not like Peeta one bit, and I don’t see why it was necessary here. Ayla asserts from the beginning that it’s not an option.

All in all, I absolutely adored this book. If you’re looking for a read that will keep you entertained and guess until the very last page then this is the book for you.

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F/F Fantasy Recommendations

Do you love F/F content? Do you want more in fantasy? Then I’ve got the list for you!

In honour of Crier’s War I’ve collected a list of 6 YA fantasy novels with main female/female romances. I haven’t read all of these (although this month is dedicated to F/F and spooky books on my TBR) but I can vouch that they all feature F/F ships. In addition, most of them are second world fantasy with 1 exception and 1 semi-exception, so you’ll find lots of good fantasy content too!

of fire and stars.pngOf Fire & Stars by Audrey Coulthurst

I absolutely love Of Fire & Stars. It’s got such a classic YA fantasy feel to it, buy significantly gayer. Denna and Mare are one of my favourite fictional couples, and I think their relationship develops so organically and they have so much chemistry. Plus, the sequel just recently came out so there’s more to sink your teeth into.

ice massacreIce Massacre by Tiana Warner

If you liked Crier’s War and you want more F/F enemies to lovers Ice Massacre is where to go. It has a side helping of childhood best friends to lovers (yes, same relationship as the enemies) and it also has mermaids. This is one on my TBR for this month, but it comes highly recommended by people I trust.

girls made of snow and glassGirls Made of Snow and Glass by Melissa Bashardoust

I can already hear my friends yelling at me for not having read this yet, but it’s also on my October TBR. This is a gay feminist retelling of Snow White, which honestly is probably enough to sell you but if it isn’t then just look at the cover. Girls Made of Snow and Glass also explores a complex mother-daughter relationship, something you don’t see a lot of in YA.

girls of paper and fire.pngGirls of Paper and Fire by Natasha Ngan

I read Girls of Paper and Fire earlier this year and absolutely adored it. It was everything I wanted and more, and the relationship between Lei and Wren was so so good. They’re both strong characters with their own flaws and I’m incredibly excited to see more of them in the next installment.

labyrinth lostLabyrinth Lost by Zoraida Cordova

Labyrinth Lost is the aforementioned semi-exception to the second world rule. While the book starts in the modern world, a good portion of the plot takes place in an alternate world. This book also sort of has a love triangle, so if you’re looking for classic YA tropes turned on their head then this is a good place to start.

these witches don't burnThese Witches Don’t Burn by Isabel Sterling

These Witches Don’t Burn is the urban fantasy book I’ve included and it’s another one that I’m planning on reading this month! It has a lot of fun things that are very exciting for a YA book, include a good ole fashioned Working With Your Ex trope, something that I absolutely cannot get enough of.

 

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Florida Man Reads a Good Book

Florida Man headlines are some of the most ridiculous, and ridiculously entertaining, things you’ll see on the internet. So I decided to collect some that made me think of fictional characters, and recommend books based on them

If you want to read more about why we get all these crazy headlines out of Florida you can look here! It’s a really interesting read if you’re into that type of thing, but if not you could just read one of these books instead!

Credit for all of these headlines goes to @FloridaMan_ on Twitter!

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the black veinsKatia Darkholme – The Black Veins by Ashia Monet (review)

This was actually the headline that sparked this whole idea and I still think it’s one of the funniest ones. The Black Veins is a YA urban fantasy novel that I very highly recommend checking out if you haven’t already. It’s witty and exciting and everything you could ever want in book.

of fire and starsThandillion – Of Fire & Stars by AudreyCoulthurst

Thandillion is actually a pretty minor character in Of Fire & Stars since the main plot follows his sister and bethrothed uncovering a conspiracy and falling in love. It’s an action packed YA fantasy novel, and the sequel just came out earlier this year so there’s more for you to dig into if you like the first one as much as I did.

the bone witch.pngTea Pahlavi – The Bone Witch by Rin Chupeco

The Bone Witch is a fairly recent read for me, despite being out since 2017 so I’m a little behind on the hype train but better late than never, right? If you like slower fantasies this is a can’t miss YA novel. Honestly, even if you’re a little cautious of slower fantasies The Bone Witch is still well worth picking up.

red white & royal blueNora Holleran – Red, White & Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston (review)

It’s hard for a math nerd like myself to find characters to relate to, so when I saw this tweet I knew I had to mention Nora. Red, White & Royal Blue is an adult contemporary *insert faux gasp here* that absolutely caputred my heart when I read it earlier this year.

1stdLazlo Strange – Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor (review)

I didn’t actually like Strange the Dreamer very much, but this headline captured one of the main characters so well I couldn’t pass it up. This is another YA fantasy novel, a common theme in this post, and it’s also on the slow side but unlike The Bone WitchStrange the Dreamer doesn’t have very many action scenes, it’s a much more studious type of slow.

three dark crownsQueen Katharine – Three Dark Crowns by Kendare Blake

Three Dark Crowns is one of my all time favourite series and this headline… basically sums up the basis of the plot but I picked Katharine for the character to relate this too because she felt like the most like to just stab one of her sisters. This is a very political young adult fantasy, weaved alongside a unique magic system and dynamic characters that make you root from them even if your morals say you shouldn’t.

the bear and the nightingaleSasha Petrovich – The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden

I actually had a few characters in mind for this headline but I decided to go with Sasha because I don’t think I’ve ever recommended this book. The Bear and the Nightingale is an adult historical fantasy set in 14th century Russia, and it reads like the best fairytale. If you liked the setting of Bardugo’s Shadow and Bone then this is one to pick up.

undead girl gangMila Flores – Undead Girl Gang by Lily Anderson

I really just need everyone to read this book honestly. Undead Girl Gang is a young adult urban fantasy novel that has witches and zombies and girls kicking ass. It’s fun while also tackling serious topics like grief, and it’s one of my favourite standalones I’ve ever read.

the hobbitBilbo Baggins – The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien

This one practically wrote itself honestly. Like this is literally the plot to this book. I also don’t think I really need to sell anyone on Tolkien, if you don’t have any interest in reading The Hobbit then I highly doubt anything I say is going to change that. Nonethless this is the only book on this list that’s sort of middle grade, at least that’s where it’s most often shelved, and I did enjoy it a lot more than the Lord of the Rings series.

Epic Fantasy Done Masterfully

The Priory of the Orange Tree by Samantha Shannon

Adult, fantasy
Bloomsbury Publishing, Feb 26 2019
Hardcover, 827 pages

A world divided.
A queendom without an heir.
An ancient enemy awakens.

The House of Berethnet has ruled Inys for a thousand years. Still unwed, Queen Sabran the Ninth must conceive a daughter to protect her realm from destruction—but assassins are getting closer to her door.

Ead Duryan is an outsider at court. Though she has risen to the position of lady-in-waiting, she is loyal to a hidden society of mages. Ead keeps a watchful eye on Sabran, secretly protecting her with forbidden magic.

Across the dark sea, Tané has trained all her life to be a dragonrider, but is forced to make a choice that could see her life unravel.

Meanwhile, the divided East and West refuse to parley, and forces of chaos are rising from their sleep.

My Review

5 stars

5 Stars

I’d never read a Samantha Shannon book before this. I know a lot of people love The Bone Season but I’d never really bothered to pay much attention to it so I had absolutely no idea what I was signing up for when I spent enough money to feed my whole family at McDonald’s on this book. I knew it was epic fantasy, and I knew it had a romance between a queen and her bodyguard, I did not know it would rip out my heart and trample on it, stab it a few times with a sword, and then try to put it back in my chest like nothing had ever happened.

It didn’t work, if you were curious.

The Priory of the Orange Tree is, at it’s core, a book that grabs you by the shirt collar and thrusts you into a world full of dragons and legends and magic. It’s not overly brutal, there’s battle scenes, yes, but as a person that read this not that long after finishing The Dragon Republic (review), I can confidently say the amount of bloodshed in this book is signifcantly smaller than that.

The world building though is *chef’s kiss*. It was so intricate and complicated that I don’t think it’s possible for me to sit here and explain it, but I absolutely loved it. The politics were complex, the myths and legends dotted throughout the history of this land woven so well into culture and religion that it was like they were one and the same.

The main reason I was inspired to pick this book up (aside from the gay, more on that later) was the dragons and boy was I not disappointed. I really enjoyed the way the lore of the dragons was different in different countries. I think the way Shannon based a lot of the Eastern customs around dragons, was fun to read about and it made the two different regions feel that much more different from one another.

*Ariel voice* You want characters? I got plenty.

I adore big casts, and The Priory of the Orange Tree has characters in spades. There are 4 perspectives, and while I definitely had my favourites they all were interesting and enjoyable and they all added to the story in different ways. The side characters were also well fleshed out and dynamic parts of the story that were just as important to the plot as the narrators.

I think the best part of this book was almost undoubtedly the relationships. Beyond the romantic relationships (which I will discuss shortly) I really liked the platonic ones, in particular the complex web that was the court of Inys, but I think all the major characters had strong bonds that were well showcased and complimented both them and the story.

Obviously though, the main selling point on this book for a lot of people is going to be the F/F romance and honestly, I can’t blame. If this is your first time, welcome to epic fantasy, the only genre where you can read about weapons while holding a weapon (it’s the book, they’re all fucking massive). Sabran and Ead were genuinely such a pleasure to read about, I’d pick up absolutely anything Shannon wanted to write about them in the future. I really liked how solid their relationship was, and how they complimented each other so well.

Something I actually hadn’t seen anyone mention yet is that Ead and Sabran aren’t the only canon queer characters in The Priory of the Orange Tree. Although Niclays and Jannart are no longer together (by-product of one of them being dead for not an insignificant amount of time) I still found myself deeply invested in them. My soul for a prequel tbh.

As I previously mentioned, I’d never read anything Shannon had published before, which means I was unprepared for how much I was going to end up loving her writing. The style suited the genre so well, and it made what is naturally a slower book feel almost sticky, like syrup. Slow, but luxurious and delightful for it. I was enthralled the whole way through, and I probably would have devoured it had I not been buddy reading it.

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Chat With Me

🐉 — Do you read epic fantasy often? If so, what’s your fav?

🐉 — What’s your favourite dragon book?

🐉 — Are you planning on reading The Priory of the Orange Tree? Have you already? Let me know what you thought!

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Recent and Upcoming Middle Grade That I’m Excited About

I’m a big fan of middle grade and I actually made one of my reading goals for this year to read more of it. In the spirit of this I’ve assembled a list of recent and upcoming middle grade that I’m want to read (or have read and loved)!

For the purposes of this post I’m counting “recent” as anything publish after January 1st 2018, this is because there was a couple series I wanted to talk about that started in 2018 and I didn’t want to spoil anything by talking about sequels. Upcoming is, of course, anything that’s been announced but not yet released.

I also tried to avoid listing just Rick Riordan Presents books, because while I deeply appreciate what the imprint is doing it’s not the only one publishing fun, diverse middle grade. With that being said, let’s get into it!

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aru shah 1Aru Shah and the End of Time by Roshani Chokshi

Series, #1 & #2 Released

Aru Shah and the End of Time was one of my favourite books of 2018, and while I haven’t read the second book yet I expect it to be the same. Aru is such an amazing character and I love her character growth throughout the first book, as well as her dynamics with the other characters. If you’re hesitant to dive into middle grade this is where I would recommend starting.

city of ghostsCity of Ghosts by Victoria Schwab

Series, #1 Released

I’m down for absolutely anything Schwab writes, and City of Ghostswas no exception. I love the world she set up in this book, it’s very different from anything else she’s created so far, and I really enjoy the whole premise of a girl whose parents are faux-ghost hunters actually being able to see and interact with spirits. The fact that each book is going to take place in a different city is also really cool and I think it’s going to lend a fun episodic feel to the series, similar to Percy Jackson and the Olympians and Harry Potter.

small spacesSmall Spaces by Katherine Arden

Series, #1 Released

This is another one I’ve yet to read, but from reading The Bear and the Nightingale I can guess how good this is going to be. I’m usually not a big horror person, but I love the idea of a fall setting and I trust Arden to make the story interesting enough for me to be able to enjoy this nonetheless. Book 2 also comes out later this year and it looks just as good.

dragon pearlDragon Pearl by Yoon Ha Lee

Standalone, Released

Sci-fi is my favourite genre, so you can imagine my excitement when I heard about an action-packed space opera science fiction middle grade. I read Dragon Pearl earlier this year and absolutely loved it just as much as I had expected to. If you like young adult sci-fi this is definitely the place to start your middle grade escapades!

midsummer's mayhemMidsummer’s Mayhem by Rajani LaRocca

Standalone, Released

Midsummer’s Mayhem is a contemporary fantasy retelling of, you guessed it, Shakespeare’s A Midsummer’s Night Dream and it’s got baking magic. I love food based magic, and I’m really excited to see how it’s done in this book. It also sounds like there’s a fair bit of fun sleuthing-type shenanigans and I’m always down for that.

the bone gardenThe Bone Garden by Heather Kassner

Standalone, Released

Today (August 6th) is actually release day for The Bone Garden so happy book birthday! This has been compared to Neil Gaiman’s The Graveyard Book which I haven’t read but it sounds like an apt comparison to me. Either way a book about a girl made out of magic and bones sounds like the kind of adventure I’m more than willing to dive into.

lalani of the distant seaLalani of the Distant Sea by Erin Entrada Kelly

Standalone, September 3 2019

This is a second world fantasy, which is incredibly exciting for a middle grade. It’s also inspired by Filipino folklore and it sounds like it turns the “chosen one” trope on it’s head and kicks it out the front door. I’ve already mentioned that I really enjoy quests, and I think a quest that’s chosen by the protagonist, rather than something they have to do for some reason beyond their control, is an intriguing idea!

Series, October 15 2019

I think at this point everyone and their mother has heard about Tristan Strong Punches a Hole in the Sky, which has a mouthful of a title and a boy that literally opens a portal with sheer will. It also has trickster gods, my favourite kind of god, and haunted ships. If you’re not excited yet just look at how fantastic the cover is, I’m sure that will change your mind.

the dragon warriorThe Dragon Warrior by Katie Zhao

Series, October 15 2019

More middle grade urban fantasy 2kforever. The Dragon Warriorsounds like another action-packed quest book, which is something I’m always interested in. This one is inspired by Chinese mythology, and our main character sounds delightfully badass. According to the synopsis it also involves different Chinatowns, which I think will be really cool to see!

race to the sunRace to the Sun by Rebecca Roanhorse

Standalone, January 14 2020

I absolutely love Roanhorse’s Sixth World series so I’m really pumped to see how her writing style melds with a middle grade story. This book also sounds like a hoot, full of quests and legends and siblings dynamics, the latter of which are surprisingly absent from a lot of middle grade, especially when it comes to twins. And I think the trials aspect will also be a lot of fun to experience.

ghost squadGhost Squad by Claribel A. Ortega

Standalone, April 7 2020

I! Am! So! Excited! For! This! Book! It’s been described as Stranger Things meets Ghostbusters and honestly that’s everything I’ve ever wanted in a book. Plus, I love paranormal, so I’m very intrigued to read more paranormal MG since it’s a genre that is mostly prevalent in young adult and while I do like it there, I think that branching out is always a good idea.

maya and the rising darkMaya and the Rising Dark by Rena Barron

Standalone, May 5 2020

I’ve had this one lowkey on my radar for a while, but the cover was revealed recently and now I need it with a burning passion. This is another book with Stranger Things as a comp title and I’m beginning to think that’s a big selling point for me. Also, this is set in Chicago, and I feel like it’s rare for books to be set in the Midwest, so it’ll be fun to explore a city through the lens of urban fantasy!

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Honourable Mentions

I had to toss a few in that I’m excited about, but don’t have covers and/or release dates! I’m not going to go into details on these but I wanted to mention them anyways!

The Dragon Egg Princess by Ellen Oh (March 3 2020)
Paola Santiago and the Drowned Palace by Tehlor Kay Mejia (May 2020)

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Chat With Me

🦋 — Are you excited for any of these releases?

🦋 — Do you read middle grade? If so what’s your favourite?

🦋 — Are there any upcoming releases I missed?

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The Princess Themed Readathon You Never Knew You Wanted

If you read my July TBR you might remember that I mentioned my affinity for themed readathons. That comment gave me the idea to host my own, so here we are after much planning and over a month later! I’m pleased to announce the first ever Princess-A-Thon!

I’ve been obsessed with princess movies my whole life so I thought it’d be fun to have a readathon themed around them! Most of these movies are part of the official Disney Princess canon, but a few of them aren’t (including my personal favourite). With that little disclaimer let’s get into some more info!

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General Info

The Princess-A-Thon is a month-long readathon running from September 1st to September 30th 2019 with challenges themed around different fictional princesses.

There are 16 challenges, including reading our group book. Combining challenges is allowed, but you may only count 1 book for 3 challenges. For example, our group book is Ice Massacre (more info on that below!), which can count for Ariel, Elsa & Anna, and Merida but you couldn’t also count if for Belle, because that would be 4 of the challenges. You’re welcome to read any genre and age category of books you wish to fulfill these prompts.

There is a Twitter account you can find here where we’ll be hosting an intro chat on Sunday September 1st at 6pm EST/9pm PST and sprints throughout the month! There is also a Google folder here that has graphics to use in your Twitter threads/blog posts, as well as a rehashing of all the info in this post

👑 SIGN UP FORM 👑  BOOK TRACKER 👑

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Challenges

Snow White: SNOW WHITE (1937) — Read a book over 5 years old

Cinderella: CINDERELLA (1950) — Read a retelling

Aurora: SLEEPING BEAUTY (1959) — Read a book with an iconic villain

Ariel: THE LITTLE MERMAID (1989) — Read the group book (Ice Masscre)

Belle: BEAUTY AND THE BEAST (1991) — Read a book heavy on romance

Jasmine: ALADDIN (1992) — Read a book with criminal activities

Odette: THE SWAN PRINCESS (1994) — Read a book you predict to be 5 stars

Pocahontas: POCAHONTAS (1995) — Read a book by an indigenous author

Anastasia: ANASTASIA (1997) — Read a book inspired by history

Mulan: MULAN (1998) — Read a book with military or war themes

Kida: ATLANTIS: THE LOST EMPIRE (2001) — Read a book inspired by a culture other than your own

Tiana: THE PRINCESS AND THE FROG (2009) — Read a book with magic practitioners

Rapunzel: TANGLED (2010) — Read a book over 500 pages

Merida: BRAVE (2012) — Read a book with a strong female protagonist

Elsa & Anna: FROZEN (2013) — Read a book with strong family dynamics

Moana: MOANA (2016) — Read a book with an adventure

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Group Book

Our group book for this readathon is Ice Massacre by Tiana Warner! This is a young adult fantasy, and you can find it on Goodreads here. I’ve also provided the cover and synopsis below!

ice massacre coverA mermaid’s supernatural beauty serves one purpose: to lure a sailor to his death.

The Massacre is supposed to bring peace to Eriana Kwai. Every year, the island sends its warriors to battle these hostile sea demons. Every year, the warriors fail to return. Desperate for survival, the island must decide on a new strategy. Now, the fate of Eriana Kwai lies in the hands of twenty battle-trained girls and their resistance to a mermaid’s allure.

Eighteen-year-old Meela has already lost her brother to the Massacre, and she has lived with a secret that’s haunted her since childhood. For any hope of survival, she must overcome the demons of her past and become a ruthless mermaid killer.

For the first time, Eriana Kwai’s Massacre warriors are female, and Meela must fight for her people’s freedom on the Pacific Ocean’s deadliest battleground.

There will be a Twitter chat to discuss the book and general readathon progress on Saturday August 31st at 6pm EST/9pm PST. I hope you can join us!

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Teams

Teams in this readathon are mostly for fun, but each team also has a small advantage! You can pick what team you’d like to be based on which colour you prefer, which advantage you’re most interested in or even what team your friends joined! The teams are as follows:

Team Faerie’s advantage is the ability to make books count for 4 challenges!

Team Mermaid’s advantage is the ability to change their TBR throughout the month!

Team Warrior’s advantage is the ability to start 3 days early on August 29th!

Team Witch’s advantage is the ability to DNF as many books as they’d like!

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If you have any more questions you can DM the readathon Twitter account as linked above! Feel free to @ us in your TBR posts, and don’t forget to use #PrincessAThon in your updates! I hope you have fun participating!

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The New Gold Standard for Sequels

The Dragon Republic by R.F. Kuang

the dragon republicAdult, fantasy
E-ARC, 560 pages
This book was provided to me by Edelweiss free of charge in exchange for an honest review.

In the aftermath of the Third Poppy War, shaman and warrior Rin is on the run: haunted by the atrocity she committed to end the war, addicted to opium, and hiding from the murderous commands of her vengeful god, the fiery Phoenix. Her only reason for living is to get revenge on the traitorous Empress who sold out Nikan to their enemies.

With no other options, Rin joins forces with the powerful Dragon Warlord, who has a plan to conquer Nikan, unseat the Empress, and create a new Republic. Rin throws herself into his war. After all, making war is all she knows how to do.

But the Empress is a more powerful foe than she appears, and the Dragon Warlord’s motivations are not as democratic as they seem. The more Rin learns, the more she fears her love for Nikan will drive her away from every ally and lead her to rely more and more on the Phoenix’s deadly power. Because there is nothing she won’t sacrifice for her country and her vengeance.

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My Review

5 stars

5 stars

When I read The Poppy War last year I was utterly blown away, so like any normal human I didn’t think it was possible for Kuang to out do her first book. How do you take a book that’s the perfect intersection of gripping, heart-wrenching, and exciting and make it better? I’m still not sure, but I can tell you somehow she managed it.

Just a warning, this whole review is going to be very gushy and potentially a little rambley because I am still unable to control myself. I promise there will be at least a few coherent thoughts in here… hopefully.

R.F. Kuang showed off some serious writing ability with her first book, and The Dragon Republic is only better. She’s not overly descriptive, but it fits the story she’s telling incredibly well. The master of introspection, I don’t think I’ve ever read an adult fantasy book that’s given me such a detailed look at the main character and their thought process. Every decision Rin makes is well explained and you understand why she makes it even if it’s not the choice you would made. Which let’s be honest, it usually isn’t.

As a fantasy lover world building is one of my favourite parts of any book, and unique world building is a plus. This book takes what was already one of the most interesting magic systems I’ve ever read, and went further with it. The Dragon Republic gives us a more in depth exploration of not just the magic, but the politics and history of this world that Kuang has created. It both leaves you reeling and craving more.

Of course, world building doesn’t make a book, but as with The Poppy War all the pieces come together in such a way that is cohesive and almost startling in the level of depth behind them. This translates most noticeably in the plot, where details you thought insignificant early in the book come back around as one piece in a ginormous puzzle. I’ll admit I know about as much about military strategy as I do thermonuclear astrophysics, which is exactly nothing, but Kuang explains everything well enough that you don’t need to have a knowledge base to understand what’s going on, and I appreciated that she took the time to put in scenes where characters were actually discussing the various tactics instead of just dumping them into the readers lap.

I feel like the only character it’s actually safe to talk about in any sort of detail without massive spoilers is Rin, but honestly, I have enough to say about her that’s probably not a bad thing. I enjoyed Rin in book 1, I thought she was an interesting character with an amusing tendency to unequivocally make the Dumb Bitch choice in any situation. I absolutely fucking loved her in The Dragon Republic. She’s such a dynamic character, entertaining to read about and so morally grey I’m sure her soul resembles concrete, complete with cracks of questionable origin.

The side characters, who I am going to talk about in the vaguest way possible, were fantastic. There actually wasn’t that many new characters that played huge roles in this installment, but there was a lot of familiar faces that I was ecstatic to see again. All the different people that populate this world are all so dynamic and complex. I think any of them could have their own books, but they work the best as pieces in Rin’s story.

As with it’s predecessor, The Dragon Republic is dark and brutal. The characters in this world aren’t exactly what we would call “good people” and they don’t always (practically never) make good decisions, but watching the trials and tribulations they go through is incredibly entertaining, even if you’re flinching the whole way through. This is a book that takes no prisoners, and honestly you’re probably better off dead than suffering through being kept alive.

If you liked The Poppy War you’re going to absolutely love The Dragon Republic, and even if you didn’t like the first one I still think this second one is worth a read.

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Chat With Me

⚔️ — Have you read The Poppy War? Are you looking forward to The Dragon Republic?

⚔️ — What is a fantasy book that you love the world building of?

⚔️ — Who is your favourite morally grey character?

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Books to Get You Through a 125-Year Cryosleep

Welcome to the third installment of my Film Hangovers series! This week brought us the end of season 6 of The 100 and if you’re anything like me you’re desperately awaiting any news about season 7. To tide you over until then, I have some recommendations that’ll hopefully help you get through the next few months!

This was actually pitched as The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planetmeets The 100 so I had no choice but to include it. Ironically, it’s the only book on this list that I haven’t read but by reading the synopsis I can pretty confidently say that this definitely sounds like something that’ll be up your alley if you’re a fan of the show.

1tpwThe Poppy War by R.F. Kuang

The Poppy War is the only adult title here, but nonetheless I think it fits very well with the brutality of the last few seasons. Rin also reminds me quite a bit of Octavia, especially in terms of the way their characterz develope. There’s also a lot of plot elements throughout the show that align with The 100 very well in my opinion.

the sandcastle empireThe Sandcastle Empire by Kayla Olson

I feel like no one talks about this book and it’s a damn shame because it’s so good. To me this is very comparable to a particular season 2 storyline, but I also just think the general tone aligns well with the first seasons as well. Plus, the main character of The Sandcastle Empirereminds me a lot of both Raven and Clarke.

an ember in the ashesAn Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir

This is another book where I feel like brutality and harshness match the later seasons of The 100, but I also think this has the most similar world building to any of the varied societies in the show, specifically the grounders. In addition the tone of An Ember in the Ashes is the one that feels the most akin to the show to me.

aurora risingAurora Rising by Amie Kaufman & Jay Kristoff

There’s a lot of elements in Aurora Rising that match up with the show in my opinion but the one that really sold me on the comparison is the squad dynamic, more specifically that none of them get along for a good chunk of the book. I also think the atmosphere really matches season 1 and most of season 2.