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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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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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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A Lush, Imaginative Fantasy with a Badass Heroine

Sorcery of Thorns by Margaret Rogerson

sorcery of thornsYoung adult, fantasy
Hardcover, 456 pages
✭✭✭✭✭

All sorcerers are evil. Elisabeth has known that as long as she has known anything. Raised as a foundling in one of Austermeer’s Great Libraries, Elisabeth has grown up among the tools of sorcery—magical grimoires that whisper on shelves and rattle beneath iron chains. If provoked, they transform into grotesque monsters of ink and leather. She hopes to become a warden, charged with protecting the kingdom from their power.

Then an act of sabotage releases the library’s most dangerous grimoire. Elisabeth’s desperate intervention implicates her in the crime, and she is torn from her home to face justice in the capital. With no one to turn to but her sworn enemy, the sorcerer Nathaniel Thorn, and his mysterious demonic servant, she finds herself entangled in a centuries-old conspiracy. Not only could the Great Libraries go up in flames, but the world along with them.

As her alliance with Nathaniel grows stronger, Elisabeth starts to question everything she’s been taught—about sorcerers, about the libraries she loves, even about herself. For Elisabeth has a power she has never guessed, and a future she could never have imagined.

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My Review

This book was on my list of Most Anticipated Releases of 2019 and I have to say I was not at all disappointed. I read Rogerson’s An Enchantment of Ravens late last year and absolutely loved it so I went into this expecting the same sort of quality but I genuinely think this surpasses her debut.

I’m going to start this review by talking about one of my favourite parts of this book: the world building. The idea of important libraries isn’t in and of itself a new concept to fantasy, but I think the libraries in this story are unique. These aren’t the stuffy libraries of Strange the Dreamer, they’re dark and full of magic. The people inside them are just as much soldiers as they are scholars, and you never know what you’re going to find in the shelves, whether it be a rare book or a secret passage.

The magic system itself is also fascinating to me. Sorcerers once again aren’t a unique concent, but Rogerson’s magic is in the details. The way magic works in this world is complicated, it has many moving parts that end up coming together in a way that is unlike anything I’ve seen in YA fantasy as of yet.

Structurally this book is similar to Rogerson’s first (in that the plot isn’t full of shocking twists) but the actual content is vastly different. Sorcery of Thorns is filled with action-packed adventure, leaving enough quiet parts for you to get deeply attached to the characters, just so you can worry about them more the next time they’re in peril. It keeps you entertained throughout all of it’s 456 pages. I particularly enjoyed the fact that it didn’t try to make itself a whodunit, you know who the villain is fairly early on in the book but then you have to spend the rest of the time figuring out what their plan is, which I thought was engrossing to read about.

One of my favourite things about this book was the characters, especially Elisabeth and Silas. I know for a lot of people one of the selling points for Sorcery of Thorns was a sword-wielding librarian, and I’m very happy to report that Elisabeth is not only that, but also incredibly intelligent and just a little bit of a troublemaker. Nathaniel is what every broody love interest in YA is aiming to be, but none have hit the mark quite like he does. Of course my personal favourite was Silas, for reasons I can’t technically explain without spoilers, but suffice to say he’s unapolgetically himself and entirely too complex to explain in one sentence.

I’m a sucker for romances that pair two badasses together, and that’s exactly what this book does. I know some people had an issue with insta-love in An Enchantment of Ravens (which confuses the fuck outta me because they spend literal months together but I digress) however, you won’t find that here. The romance in this book develops very nicely and I, personally, fell in love with it like I was Icarus and they were the sun.

I feel like everyone and their mother is aware the the love interest in this book is bisexual, it’s been all over Twitter for heaven’s sake, but I feel the need to point out that there’s also an aromantic character! And neither of them are treated as weird by our main character, in the slightest.

Sorcery of Thorns is delightful and magical, a book that is very easy to lose yourself in. I definitely recommend it if you like fantasy that rips your heart out.

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The Urban Fantasy Road Trip We All Need in Our Lives

The Black Veins by Ashia Monet

the black veinsYoung adult, urban fantasy
Ebook, 428 pages
✭✭✭✭✭

In a world where magic thrives in secret city corners, a group of magicians embark on a road trip—and it’s the “no-love-interest”, found family adventure you’ve been searching for.

Sixteen-year-old Blythe is one of seven Guardians: magicians powerful enough to cause worldwide panic with a snap of their fingers. But Blythe spends her days pouring latte art at her family’s coffee shop, so why should she care about having apocalyptic abilities?

She’s given a reason when magician anarchists crash into said coffee shop and kidnap her family.

Heartbroken but determined, Blythe knows she can’t save them alone. A war is brewing between two magician governments and tensions are too high. So, she packs up her family’s bright yellow Volkswagen, puts on a playlist, and embarks on a road trip across the United States to enlist the help of six strangers whose abilities are unparalleled—the other Guardians.

Blog Tour Info

tbv tour banner

I was fortunate enough to get accept for The Black Veins blog tour hosted by CW @ The Quiet Pond, you can see her post here! Thank you to CW for including me in this tour!

My Review

Normally when I write a review I give myself a day or so to collect my thoughts, to stew over my feelings for the book. However, this wasn’t a “normal” reading experience and I have so many things I want to say that I’m saying screw it and shucking tradition.

Let’s get one thing straight: I absolutely loved this book.

If you’ve been here for a while you’ll know I actually had this on my list of 2019 Debuts I ‘m Most Excited For and it somehow managed to surpass all my expectations. This is genuinely the best book I have read this year, potentially ever. The Black Veins is everything I love about YA urban fantasy in one book.

There’s so much I want to say that I don’t even know what to talk about first, so I guess I’ll start with plot. It’s delightfully formulaic, the type of story you can fall into and enjoy easily. It’s immensely entertaining, and Monet’s writing keeps you hooked from the very beginning as they weave the plot together in a way that keeps you coming back for more.

I’m a big big fan of urban fantasy, it’s what originally got me into young adult in the first place, and the world building in this is an example of exactly why that is. I really appreciated the range of powers a magician could have, and the way they weren’t all info dumped on you like you would if the main character was new to the world. I liked the bits of magical history scattered throughout too. It’s always interesting to me to learn the background of a world because I think it provides some nice context, and it was included in a way that was informative and interesting.

I could probably sit here and write a paragraph on why I love all of the Guardians, but I don’t think anyone wants to listen to me ramble for that long so I’ll be concise-ish. Going into this I expected my favourite to be Jay and I wasn’t really wrong, he just shares that spotlight with Caspian and Blythe. I really enjoyed Blythe’s tendency for recklessness. She doesn’t always think things through and sometimes that gets her into trouble, but the other Guardians are there to back her up. Caspian actually reminded me a lot of my real-life significant other, so I might be a bit biased on that one but I think he added a fun element to the story overall.

One of my favourite types is characters that hide the softer layers of themselves under an exaggerated facet of their personality, which is a category both Jay and Cordelia fit under. Storm’s arc was probably my favourite if I’m honest and I liked her personality as an addition to the group.

Now I get to regale you with just how much I love the dynamics in this book and boy should you buckle up.

I was aware going into this that there was no romance, and I’m not sure if that’s for the whole series or just for this one book, but honestly it was so refreshing. I wouldn’t be opposed to there being romance in future installments, but the platonic relationships are what really take the cake. The Guardian’s group dynamic is the best I’ve personally ever encountered in fiction. It’s like if you took the Avengers and then actually made them all interesting. Their banter was just as entertaining as their more heartfelt moments, and it was truly a pleasure to take this journey with them.

The smaller relationships were also absolutely fantastic. In particular the Storm and Daniel relationship really stood out to me as something you don’t see a lot of in YA, and I thought Blythe and Cordelia’s development was honestly just the arc of the century. The bits we got of Antonio and Jay were also very entertaining, and I hope we get more of them together in future installments. 

I briefly touched on the writing earlier, but I honestly feel like I need to go a little more in-depth. Monet’s style is electric and lively, it keeps you turning pages as fast as your fingers will allow. It’s not flowery or excessive, but it is exciting. It suits the story incredibly well, adding another layer of tension to an already tense situation. I’m going to read anything they write just for another taste of this writing.

I feel like I can’t end this review without talking about the representation. A majority of the Guardians are people of colour, and a good number of them are queer too. There’s also a non-binary side character, but the thing I really need to highlight as something I loved was how Monet specifically avoided revealing Caspian’s deadname. As a non-binary person, it was honestly so refreshing to see a character’s name just accepted without a fuss, and it’s something I wish more people would do when writing trans and enby characters.

Author Info

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Ashia Monet is a speculative fiction author whose work almost always includes found families, diverse ensemble casts, the power of friendship, and equal parts humor and drama. Some of her favorite things are The Adventure Zone, Ariana Grande, and the color pink. You can follow her on Twitter @ashiamonet and Instagram @ashiawrites.

You can find Ashia at any of the following places:

Twitter
Instagram
Dead Magic Twitter

Tour Schedule

11th July
CW @ The Quiet Pond 

12th July
Fran @ The Ramblebee
Fadwa @ Word Wonders 

13th July
Melanie @ Mel to the Any/BookTube
Sage @ sageshelves 

14th July
Kate @ Your Tita Kate
Vinny @ Artsy Draft 

15th July
Lili @ Utopia State of Mind
Noémie @ Tempest of Books 

16th July
Marie @ Drizzle and Hurricane Books
Surina @ Book Reviews by the Bloggisters 

17th July
Saoudia @ Recs From Ur Friend
Gretal @ Books and Breadcrumbs 

18th July
Kate @ Reading Through Infinity
Vanessa @ The Wolf & Books 

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Fun, Escapist Fantasy at it’s Finest

A Shifting of Stars by Kathy Kimbray

a shifting of starsYoung adult, fantasy
Ebook, 450 pages
This book was provided to me by Shealea @ Caffiene Tours free of charge in exchange for an honest review.
✭✭✭✭✫

A squandering emperor. A handsome stranger. A reluctant heroine. And the ancient magic that will capsize a kingdom.

Seventeen-year-old Meadow Sircha watched her mother die from the wilting sickness. Tormented by the knowledge that the emperor failed to import the medicine that would have saved her, she speaks out at a gathering of villagers, inciting them to boycott his prized gladiator tournament.

But doing so comes at a steep cost.

Arrested as punishment for her impulsive tongue, Meadow finds herself caught up in the kind of danger she’s always tried to avoid. After a chance meeting with an enigmatic boy, she’s propelled on a perilous trek across the outer lands. But she soon unearths a staggering secret: one that will shift her world—and the kingdom—forever.

Blog Tour Info

I was lucky enough to get accepted for Shealea @ Caffeine Tour’s blog tour for A Shifting of Stars! You can find more info about the tour here. Thank you to Shealea for letting me be part of this tour!

Tour Schedule

July 07
— Blog tour launch at Shut up, Shealea
Becky’s Book Blog
Bemused Bibliophile
Book Reviews from Canada
Polish & Paperbacks
SepiaReads

July 08
A Book Devourer
The Book Piles
The Inked In Book Blog
Tempest of Books

July 09
bewitchingwords
The Infernal Fangirl’s Heaven
Lost in Fiction
Provocatrix
Sage Shelves

July 10
Author interview from Shut up, Shealea
A Bronx Latina Reads
Annotated Paperbacks
Lori’s Bookshelf Reads
Sakhile Whispers
Starlight Reads

July 11
Belle’s Archive
The Bookish Mrs Harding
BookishOwl Reviews
Oro Plata Myta
Your Words My Ink

July 12
Creative post from Shut up, Shealea
& she Reads
A Few Chapters ’til Love
Bookish Kimberly
Celuna Maria
Read at Night

Twitter Chat

There will also be a Twitter chat on July 13th at 9am EST/9pm PHT hosted on the Caffeine Tours Twitter account. I unfortunately won’t be able to join, as that’s 6am in my timezone but I hope everyone that participates enjoys themselves!

My Review

I didn’t really have many expectations going into this book, aside from looking for a fast paced and exciting read. I do think that’s the best way to go into this book, because any expectations you have probably won’t end up the way you want them to.

Overall I enjoyed A Shifting of Stars. It won’t make my list of 2019 favourites, but it was a good experience. Kind of like trying out a new restaurant and knowing you’d go there again but it wouldn’t be the first place you suggest. For me, there were just a few small things that got on my nerves and prevented this from being a perfect book.

Let’s start off by talking about the world building which I actually loved a lot. There was a particular dedication to the history of Erraforge that I loved, and the magic element isn’t a huge focus. I appreciated that there was some interesting politics going on as I enjoy political-based fantasy but it wasn’t anything inventive. It was a pretty classic fantasy world, which isn’t inherently a bad thing, it’s just not necessarily a good thing either. I think it did what it was supposed to, but not much else.

There were quite a few characters in this book and as a side effect of that I think a lot of them were left pretty much undeveloped. I wasn’t a big fan of Meadow until about 75% of the way through the book, I just didn’t think she was all that interesting and it felt like things just kept happening to her as opposed to her being an active participant in the plot. The side characters were more interesting, particularly Casper and Vogel, both of whom I thoroughly enjoyed. I also really appreciated Malthe in that he was an absolutely horrendous person offered exactly no redemption. I really saw where the Red Queen comparison came in here, so if you were mad about the way Maven was handled you’ll probably like this quite a bit more.

Relationships in this book were pretty hit-or-miss for me, and by that I mean most were hits but there was one really big miss. Surprisingly that wasn’t the romance, which I thought was actually very well developed and had good chemistry. I also particularly enjoyed the relationship between Meadow and her father. We often see a lot of mothers in YA fantasy so I thought the fact that she had a good, strong relationship with her dad was a nice touch, especially after they’d been brought together over tragedy. The miss for me was Meadow and her so-called best friend. I say so-called because she didn’t really seem to care about Meadow like, at all? Or at least not as much as Meadow cared about her.

Plot-wise I think this book was pretty solid, although it took quite a while for the real action to kick off. I noticed other people saying the same when I looked at reviews on Goodreads, and I wouldn’t necessarily say that it’s a flaw, rather just something to be aware of. I do have to admit that none of the plot twists really felt all that shocking to me, which is another thing that isn’t inherently bad. Really a lot of your opinion on this book is going to be based on whether you’re looking for an action-packed twisty fantasy novel or not.

The one thing I’m going to complain about here is the writing. It really was not my favourite. There was a lot of telling over showing, which can be fine if done sparingly but it felt like a majority of the emotions our main character felt were told to us, rather than shown. The word choice often felt stilted, like Kimbray had a thesaurus propped open next to her and would refer to that to use a ~special~ word when a plain one would suffice. A key example of this was a scene fairly early on in the book where the word “textile” is used and I’m still not sure if she was talking about a curtain or a blanket. It felt unnecessary a lot of the time, and it pulled me out of the story on more than one occasion.

I definitely think this book is worth checking out if you like slower, political-based fantasy with a dash of adventure and magic. It’s an enjoyable book made up of the best kind of easy escapism. Also, the name Ladislas? Cool as hell.

Author Info

Kathy Kimbray headshot

Kathy Kimbray is a YA author from Australia.

After graduating from the University of Technology, Sydney, with a degree in Media Arts and Production, she went on to complete postgraduate studies in education and spent many years as a primary school teacher.

Now a full-time novelist, Kathy is lucky to be able to tell stories every day.

Aside from writing, Kathy is an avid reader, dancer, language learner, musical theater enthusiast and fan of terrible reality TV. She lives with her husband in Sydney, and dreams of one day owning that elusive chateau in France.

You can find Kathy at any of the following places:
Twitter
FaceBook
Instagram
Goodreads
Website

Playlist

For my stop in the blog tour I’ve also made a playlist that you can list to here! You can also find the tracklist below.

a shifting of stars01. Coattails — Broods
02. I’d Love to Change the World — Jetta
03. Safe & Sound — Taylor Swift ft. The Civil Wars
04. Castle (Huntsman Winter’s War version) — Halsey
05. Breathe — Fleurie
06. Whose Side Are You on — Ruelle
07. No One’s Here to Sleep — Naughty Boy ft. Bastille
08. East of Eden — Zella Day
09. Higher (Stripped) — The Score
10. Shining — X Ambassadors

 

Giveaway Info

You could win 1 signed paperback copy of A Shifting of Stars or 1 Amazon gift card worth 10 USD. Open internationally! You can enter here.

 

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Good Mental Health Rep in Fantasy Isn’t Just a Fever Dream Anymore

The Storm Crow by Kalyn Josephson

the storm crowYoung adult, fantasy
Paperback, 338 pages
✭✭✭✭✭

In the tropical kingdom of Rhodaire, magical, elemental Crows are part of every aspect of life…until the Illucian empire invades, destroying everything.

That terrible night has thrown Princess Anthia into a deep depression. Her sister Caliza is busy running the kingdom after their mother’s death, but all Thia can do is think of all she has lost.

But when Caliza is forced to agree to a marriage between Thia and the crown prince of Illucia, Thia is finally spurred into action. And after stumbling upon a hidden Crow egg in the rubble of a rookery, she and her sister devise a dangerous plan to hatch the egg in secret and get back what was taken from them.

My Review

Folks, I am enamoured with this book. I read a lot of fantasy, but it’s been a while since I was so captured by one that I just could not put it down. I don’t even know where to start with this review because I just want to discuss everything right now and that’s just not possible, so let’s start with the characters.

Our protagonist, Princess Anthia has already become one of my favourite YA protagonists I’ve ever read. There’s a lot I could say about her actually but the most important thing to me as a reader is to highlight how strong she is, not just physically but emotionally too. She’s gone through a lot (more on that later) but she keeps picking herself back up. Her best friend Kiva was a lot of fun, and I really liked the parts about her backstory. We often get sidekicks in YA that are poorly developed, but Kiva is not one of them.

There’s also 2 major male characters, but I wouldn’t call this a love triangle at all. Caylus wasn’t my favourite, but I was entertained by him. Ericen has been formally adopted as my son. No, I am not taking questions at this time. He broke my heart a lot, and I’m hoping we see some really great development in the next book from him. (Sidenote: Am I supposed to be pronouncing it eh-rye-sin or eh-ree-sin or heir-i-sin. I genuinely coudn’t make up my mind until like 30% of the way through where I settled on heir-i-sin.)

And of course there’s also a cast of side characters. Caliza, who I’m lukewarm on but leaning towards like. Auma, who I hope we see more of. Razel, who can burn in the fiery pits of hell. You know, the usual.

I’d figured the world building would be unique in this book because I mean, when was the last time you read about crows that are roughly the size of small horses with various magic powers? But I also really liked that it wasn’t too out there. Like, yeah people can ride on crows that can control the weather, but it’s also a standard fantasy world with kings and queens and warring nations.

I am a big big fan of the way Josephson blended the world building and the plot. I thought it was really well done and added a richness to the story that probably would have been lacking without it. I also like the way that both those elements combined to showcase what I personally think is the idea at the core of the story: that we can learn from past generation’s mistakes.

Another thing that I think was done really well and that I really appreciated was the mental health representation. Anthia is depressed, and both the way it’s handled and the way we get to watch her on her road to recovery is done so well. SFF is notorious for either ignoring the consequences of the plot and how it would affect the characters, or showing poor examples of various types of mental illness.

To me, as a person that’s struggled with depression for 5 years, Thia’s struggles were relatable and understandable. She wasn’t going very well, and she doesn’t just magically get better for the sake of the plot. We watch her learn to cope, to find things in her life worth marching on for, and it’s desperately needed in this genre.

Obviously I have to take a moment to talk about the main relationship because I actually really liked it. Thia and her love interest work really well together. I think they have a lot of chemistry together (*wink wink*) and they’re also good for each other. I’m excited to see their romance develop further in book 2.

Queer rep! And a lot of it! Kiva, Auma, and Caliza are all cannonically attracted to the same gender, as well as other characters that aren’t really important enough for me to bother mentioning. It wasn’t treated as taboo in this world, or any different from het couples, which I loved. I am a little peeved that there’s all these queer characters but 3 of our 4 mains all somehow managed to be, as far as we know currently, straight, but I digress. Things could of course be mentioned in the sequel, and I’m not one to look a gift horse in the mouth.

The only other thing that was anything less than 100% is the writing. It wasn’t bad! It just wasn’t necessarily anything special either. It was entertaining and informative, and really that’s all it needs to do.

I’ve already added The Storm Crow to my favourites shelf, and I hope if you pick it up you love it as much as I did!

Chat With Me

🌩 — Have you read The Storm Crow? If not, are you planning to?

🌩 — Do you have a favourite YA fantasy that you’ve read this year? What is it?

🌩 — What’s a book (fantasy or contemporary) that you think has good mental health rep?

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