Archive | fantasy

Review: A DARKER SHADE OF MAGIC by V.E. Schwab

Kell is one of the last Travelers—rare magicians who choose a parallel universe to visit.

Grey London is dirty, boring, lacks magic, ruled by mad King George. Red London is where life and magic are revered, and the Maresh Dynasty presides over a flourishing empire. White London is ruled by whoever has murdered their way to the throne. People fight to control magic, and the magic fights back, draining the city to its very bones. Once there was Black London—but no one speaks of that now.

Officially, Kell is the Red Traveler, personal ambassador and adopted Prince of Red London, carrying the monthly correspondences between royals of each London. Unofficially, Kell smuggles for those willing to pay for even a glimpse of a world they’ll never see. This dangerous hobby sets him up for accidental treason. Fleeing into Grey London, Kell runs afoul of Delilah Bard, a cut-purse with lofty aspirations. She robs him, saves him from a dangerous enemy, then forces him to another world for her ‘proper adventure’.

But perilous magic is afoot, and treachery lurks at every turn. To save all of the worlds, Kell and Lila will first need to stay alive—trickier than they hoped.

I feel like I’ve been waiting to read this book forever. ADSOM came out in February, but I’ve been making grabby hands since Ms. Schwab first mentioned her work in progress (then dubbed “Pirates, Thieves, and Sadist Kings”) on Twitter. Everyone I follow seemed to love it, so the longer I had to wait for my library hold to come in, the more nervous I became. What if I was the black sheep?

Guys. I am so not the black sheep. THIS BOOK ROCKS.

I’m a white sheep, hooray!

Continue Reading →


Review: THE PERILOUS PRINCESS PLOT by Sarah Courtauld

This is the story of two very different sisters–Eliza, who longs to ride into battle against villains and dragons, and Lavender, who would give anything to be a pampered princess. Before the end of the story both of them have had a chance to fulfill their dreams, though not quite in the way they intended…

Accompanied by their depressed goat, Gertrude, with their granny’s warnings about the Black Death ringing in their ears, they head out into the forest and come face to face with an evil count who definitely does not have their best interests at heart.

Most of the time when I read books, I just enjoy the book. I don’t think about target audiences or age ranges or anything like that. A good book is a good book. But then sometimes I pick up a book like this one and get thwacked between the eyes with the fact that I am not, in fact, the intended audience. And you know what? That’s okay, because kids are going to love this book. Continue Reading →


Review: CRIMSON BOUND by Rosamund Hodge

When Rachelle was fifteen she was good—apprenticed to her aunt and in training to protect her village from dark magic. But she was also reckless— straying from the forest path in search of a way to free her world from the threat of eternal darkness. After an illicit meeting goes dreadfully wrong, Rachelle is forced to make a terrible choice that binds her to the very evil she had hoped to defeat.

Three years later, Rachelle has given her life to serving the realm, fighting deadly creatures in an effort to atone. When the king orders her to guard his son Armand—the man she hates most—Rachelle forces Armand to help her find the legendary sword that might save their world. As the two become unexpected allies, they uncover far-reaching conspiracies, hidden magic, and a love that may be their undoing. In a palace built on unbelievable wealth and dangerous secrets, can Rachelle discover the truth and stop the fall of endless night?

Inspired by the classic fairy tale Little Red Riding Hood, Crimson Bound is an exhilarating tale of darkness, love, and redemption.

Ms. Hodge’s first book, Cruel Beauty, was very much a mixed bag for me. There were things I liked and things I didn’t, and I left the book looking forward to see what her next book would be like. Enter Crimson Bound. After anxiously devouring this mashup retelling of Little Red Riding Hood and The Girl With No Hands, I’m no less settled on Ms. Hodge’s work than I was before. Continue Reading →



One hundred years after falling asleep, Princess Aurora wakes up to the kiss of a handsome prince and a broken kingdom that has been dreaming of her return. All the books say that she should be living happily ever after. But as Aurora understands all too well, the truth is nothing like the fairy tale.

Her family is long dead. Her “true love” is a kind stranger. And her whole life has been planned out by political foes while she slept.

As Aurora struggles to make sense of her new world, she begins to fear that the curse has left its mark on her, a fiery and dangerous thing that might be as wicked as the witch who once ensnared her. With her wedding day drawing near, Aurora must make the ultimate decision on how to save her kingdom: marry the prince or run.

Intellectually, I like the concept of this book. The premise of the original Sleeping Beauty story is creepy. A girl gets cursed so hundreds of men KISS HER WHILE HE SLEEPS?!!? Augh, yuck. And then, once she wakes up, she has to live with that and the knowledge that everyone she has ever known is dead. What a sucky thing to wake up to.

Oh but I was SO BORED. Aurora doesn’t DO anything. She wanders around feeling dazed and lets everyone bully her into being their doll. And while the story may be trying to Say Things about those decisions, the intent doesn’t make it any more pleasant to read.

Note: I received a review copy of this title from the publisher for review consideration.

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Blackstone was once a thriving metropolis. But that was before the Dark Summer—a wave of violence and crime that swept through the city eight years ago, orchestrated by the fearsome Spinning Man. Now the Spinning Man is on the move again, and a boy named Caw is about to be caught in his web.

Caw has never questioned his ability to communicate with crows. But as the threat of a new Dark Summer looms, Caw discovers the underground world of Blackstone’s ferals—those with the power to speak to and control animals. Caw is one of them. And to save his city, he must quickly master abilities he never knew he had . . . and prepare to defeat a darkness he never could have imagined.

Here’s another example of a book that falls into the category of “Life’s too short.” There was nothing I could pinpoint as wrong or bad, precisely. I just wasn’t grabbed. The story may have gotten interesting further on, but nothing about the prose (perfectly adequate) or the characters (nothing spectacular) invited me to find out. Life is too short and I have too many books waiting for me.

Note: I received a review copy of this title from the publisher for review consideration.

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Review: SHADOW SCALE by Rachel Hartman

The kingdom of Goredd: a world where humans and dragons share life with an uneasy balance, and those few who are both human and dragon must hide the truth. Seraphina is one of these, part girl, part dragon, who is reluctantly drawn into the politics of her world. When war breaks out between the dragons and humans, she must travel the lands to find those like herself—for she has an inexplicable connection to all of them, and together they will be able to fight the dragons in powerful, magical ways.

As Seraphina gathers this motley crew, she is pursued by humans who want to stop her. But the most terrifying is another half dragon, who can creep into people’s minds and take them over. Until now, Seraphina has kept her mind safe from intruders, but that also means she’s held back her own gift. It is time to make a choice: Cling to the safety of her old life, or embrace a powerful new destiny?

Thanks to the events at the end of Seraphina, Seraphina’s country, Goredd, is at war with a faction of dragons from Tantamoot. Her fugitive Uncle Orma passes along word that, with enough half-dragons, Seraphina and her kin might be able to construct a kind of mind forcefield strong enough to keep the dragons from incinerating the entire country, so Seraphina and Abdo set out to find the other grotesques from her mind garden. If none of that sounds familiar to you, don’t worry. The book starts with an in-plot recap.

Shadow Scale has left me feeling all mixed up. After three years of waiting, it’s finally in my hands, the ending to Seraphina’s adventure downloaded into my brain. Wow, what an ending it was. The thing about Ms. Hartman’s style of writing is that it’s so deep and intricate that I have a hard time adequately discussing it. Overviews don’t really cut the mustard, but if I talk too much, you might as well skip my review and read the book instead. Lists! I need lists. The big question is did Shadow Scale give me the things I wanted? Continue Reading →


Review: RED QUEEN by Victoria Aveyard

The poverty stricken Reds are commoners, living under the rule of the Silvers, elite warriors with god-like powers.

To Mare Barrow, a 17-year-old Red girl from The Stilts, it looks like nothing will ever change.

Mare finds herself working in the Silver Palace, at the centre of those she hates the most. She quickly discovers that, despite her red blood, she possesses a deadly power of her own. One that threatens to destroy Silver control.

But power is a dangerous game. And in this world divided by blood, who will win?

This review will probably go down as the sloppiest review I’ve ever written. What even can I say? My duty to critical analysis and my response as a reader have collided violently. WHAT SHALL I DO?!

Psh, try to conduct a sedate, analytical review and then devolve into crazed, unrepentant gushing, that’s what. Continue Reading →


Review: THE IMAGINARY by A.F. Harrold

Rudger is Amanda’s best friend. He doesn’t exist, but nobody’s perfect.

Only Amanda can see her imaginary friend – until the sinister Mr Bunting arrives at Amanda’s door. Mr Bunting hunts imaginaries. Rumour says that he eats them. And he’s sniffed out Rudger. Soon Rudger is alone, and running for his imaginary life. But can a boy who isn’t there survive without a friend to dream him up?

A brilliantly funny, scary and moving read from the unique imagination of A.F. Harrold, this beautiful book is astoundingly illustrated with integrated art and colour spreads by the award-winning Emily Gravett.

Aw, a book about imaginary friends! How cute, right? It’s all about the power of imagination and creativity, right? It’s being told from the point of view from the imaginary friend, so it’s all about the power of friendship, right? What twee little fluff, right? Spoonfuls of sugar and chalk drawings, la dee da!

Continue Reading →


Review: THE CHOSEN PRINCE by Diane Stanley

From master storyteller Diane Stanley comes a spellbinding tale based on Shakespeare’s The Tempest of two princes–one chosen, one lost–and a mysterious girl on a magical island, all caught in a great web of destiny.

On the day of his birth, Prince Alexos is revealed to be the long-awaited champion of Athene. He grows up lonely, conscious of all that is expected of him. But Alexos discovers that being a champion isn’t about fame and glory–it’s about sacrifice and courage.

Alexos follows the course of his destiny through war and loss and a deadly confrontation with his enemy to its end: shipwreck on a magical, fog-shrouded island. There he meets the unforgettable Aria and faces the greatest challenge of his life.

Oh, book. How shall I discuss you? On the one hand, I enjoyed you, and you did some pretty awesome things. But on the other hand, parts of you were just not good. Let’s discuss. Continue Reading →


Review: THE FORGOTTEN SISTERS by Shannon Hale

After a year at the king’s palace, Miri has learned all about being a proper princess. But the tables turn when the student must become the teacher!

Instead of returning to her beloved Mount Eskel, Miri is ordered to journey to a distant swamp and start a princess academy for three sisters, cousins of the royal family. Unfortunately, Astrid, Felissa, and Sus are more interested in hunting and fishing than becoming princesses.

As Miri spends more time with the sisters, she realizes the king and queen’s interest in them hides a long-buried secret. She must rely on her own strength and intelligence to unravel the mystery, protect the girls, complete her assignment, and finally make her way home.

I can’t remember how or when I first discovered Shannon Hale’s Princess Academy series, but I do remember the quiet joy of finding myself wrapped in a modern day fairy tale, complete with gentle morals, giddy adventure, and a sunny, happy ending. Young adult literature is my home, don’t get me wrong, but these books hold a special place in my heart. I loved Palace of Stone and was thrilled to learn that there would be one last adventure with Miri, then titled The Dragonfly Sisters. I’m not the same reader I was when I first met Miri and her fellow students, and I did have a harder time getting into the right frame of mind, but The Forgotten Sisters did not disappoint. Continue Reading →


Review: THE WINNER’S CRIME by Marie Rutkoski

The engagement of Lady Kestrel to Valoria’s crown prince means one celebration after another. But to Kestrel it means living in a cage of her own making. As the wedding approaches, she aches to tell Arin the truth about her engagement…if she could only trust him. Yet can she even trust herself? For—unknown to Arin—Kestrel is becoming a skilled practitioner of deceit: an anonymous spy passing information to Herran, and close to uncovering a shocking secret.

As Arin enlists dangerous allies in the struggle to keep his country’s freedom, he can’t fight the suspicion that Kestrel knows more than she shows. In the end, it might not be a dagger in the dark that cuts him open, but the truth. And when that happens, Kestrel and Arin learn just how much their crimes will cost them.


Seriously, that’s it. That’s the whole review. Pain and suffering. You thought The Winner’s Curse hurt? Oh my child, you know nothing. I think I made maybe six notes for the entire book, and at least half of those were simply to mark new names so I wouldn’t forget later. Honestly, it’s hard to write when you’re rolling around in agony.

Note: Spoilers for the first book coming up. Continue Reading →


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