Reviews · Uncategorized

Monster Princess: Review of Girl, Serpent, Thorn

Thank you to Hodderscape for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. All opinions expressed are my own.

Book: Girl, Serpent, Thorn

Author: Melissa Bashardoust

Year Published: 2020

  • Plot: 3.5/5
  • Characters: 4/5
  • Writing: 4.5/5
  • Overall: 4/5

Girl, Serpent Thorn was a novel reminiscent of a fairy tale. Influences from Persian mythology were intricately woven throughout creating a tapestry of deadly beauty with monsters and magic in every thread. One of my favourite parts was actually the author’s note at the end explaining the inspirations behind certain aspects of the book, an important one being an epic poem called The Shahnameh. It is clear that so much thought and love went into creating the world.

Soraya was a princess cursed to be poisonous to the touch. She had spent her entire life hidden away in the shadows, starved of human contact. Meanwhile, her twin brother was the shah and dwelled in the sunlight and adoration of the people. Soraya felt resentful and crushingly, achingly lonely but she tried not to show it. She thought innocent thoughts and actions were the only thing stopping her from becoming a monster but in her darkest hours she wondered if it would be easier to become the monster others already thought her to be.

I loved Soraya’s journey of self acceptance. This could have easily been a villain origin story but it wasn’t and while there were many moments when Soraya gave into her darker impulses she always brought herself back and rejected monstrosity. Her story showed that protecting someone with lies often isn’t protection at all and when too many secrets accumulate it can be more deadly than poison. Soraya’s relationship with Parvaneh was sweet and hopeful. Their romance wasn’t a major part of the book but the way they saw a beauty in each other that no one else did was heart warming.

In a lot of YA fantasy, the parents are often dead or have no part to play in the story. That wasn’t the case with Girl, Serpent, Thorn. I loved how Soraya’s relationship with her mother was portrayed. Many secrets surfaced between them and their relationship was often messy and strained but there was an overwhelming sense of love, appreciation and respect between them that grew as the story progressed.

The writing was gorgeous and lyrical and completely drew me in. However, I wish the plot was a bit stronger. Some of the events that happened felt too contrived or convenient and some details needed more explanation. However overall Girl, Serpent, Thorn was a magical, Persian-inspired read with a compelling main character and a f/f romance that I would definitely recommend.

Twitter Goodreads

Black Lives Matter |Free Palestine |Kashmir Bleeds|Junk Terror Bill

 

Reviews

Into the Shadow: Review of The Damned

Thank you to Hodderscape for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. All opinions expressed are my own.

Read my review of The Beautiful here!

Book: The Damned (The Beautiful #2)

Author: Renée Ahdieh

Year Published: 2020

  • Plot: 4/5
  • Characters: 4.5/5
  • Writing: 4/5
  • Overall: 4/5

The Damned was a magical read that expanded upon the first book well, answering many of the questions that I had whilst giving me more. I loved diving back into the glamorous yet monstrous world of The Beautiful and learning more about the characters. However, it wasn’t a five star read like the first book was for me because I felt like it tried to cram a bit too much in without adequate explanation.

Celine was grappling with the trauma of what happened to her at the end of The Beautiful. She felt like she had lost herself in the midst of confusion, nightmares and terror gripping her when she was perfectly safe. For Celine, this book was about self discovery– in more ways than one. She showed even more fortitude and determination than in the previous book and I was rooting for her throughout.

Celine took centre stage in The Beautiful and Bastien had little character development, whereas The Damned saw him take the spotlight and have his own arc too. His POV chapters were in the first person and in the present tense, as opposed to everyone else’s POV chapters being in the third person and the past tense, making it feel as if it was primarily his story. We get to see the most of his inner conflict as he dealt with his own trauma and navigated uncharted waters in a familiar world. He wanted to be a better version of himself despite the darkness inside him and he went on a journey to find out what that meant. I liked discovering more depth to his character and it helped me to better understand him.

“Love and loyalty are not always the same thing. Loyalty is easy. Love is doing what is right, even when it is difficult.”

I loved getting to learn more about the side characters especially Odette and Jae. I think they both deserve their own spin off books because they’re amazing and have the most interesting back stories. We get to see the POVs of so many more characters in comparison to The Beautiful such as Bastien, Odette, Jae, Arjun and more. I was actually surprised that we don’t see Celine’s POV until around a quarter of the book. I liked reading from new perspectives even though at first it slowed the pace down too much.

The Damned didn’t hold back with the supernatural: vampires, werewolves, fey, goblins and more. We are introduced to the magical realms of the summery Sylvan Vale and the wintry Sylvan Wyld– equally dangerous despite their appearances. The plot became more about the greater picture than any one character’s goals which I liked but, as I mentioned earlier, too many components were introduced without being properly fleshed out. The conflict between the Brotherhood and the Fallen could have also felt more high stakes.

I really enjoyed The Damned but it felt like it was mainly setting the stage for the next book. I originally thought this series was a duology but it turns out there’s going to be a third book and I cannot wait!

Twitter Goodreads

Black Lives Matter |Free Palestine |Kashmir Bleeds|Junk Terror Bill

 

Reviews · Uncategorized

In The Spirit of Friendship: Review of Forest of Souls

Thank you to Page Street Kids for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. All opinions expressed are my own.

Book: Forest of Souls

Author: Lori M. Lee

Year Published: 2020

  • Plot: 4/5
  • Characters: 4.5/5
  • Writing: 4/5
  • Overall: 4.5/5

Forest of Souls was a magical read about the strength of friendship and developing self worth. It was one of my most anticipated releases of the year and I really liked it!

The main character was Sirscha, a spy-in-training who discovers she is the first soulguide in living memory and the only one capable of restraining the vicious, dangerous Dead Wood. I loved her uncompromising fierceness, skill and strength- she was a force that you definitely would not want to be on the wrong side of!

No matter how hard Sirscha trained and how skilled she became most people never saw any value in her because of her low station. This resulted in a fear of never being enough and a desire to be worthy and seek external validation that drove her every action. These fears, of failure and disappointing those around us, are something I think that many people can relate to and it’s amazing seeing Sirscha start to realise that her worth isn’t tied to what others think of her. 

Another key aspect of this novel was unconditional friendship. I’ve never seen a YA fantasy that puts a friendship front and centre instead of a romance and it was a beautiful thing to behold. Saengo was Sirscha’s best friend and despite their differences, especially in rank, they were inseparable and would do anything for each other. Through all the trials and tribulations their friendship stood firm where others would have wavered and it gave them the strength to keep fighting for each other. My only wish is that Saengo gets more of an active role in the next book because I really would have liked to see more of her in action.

I’ve always been intrigued by magic systems in books and the system in Forest of Souls was one of the most interesting I’ve ever seen. The author has said that it was inspired by Hmong shamanism and it had a heavy emphasis on spirits and souls as the source of magic. It also had an elemental aspect with the five Shamanic Callings being fire, water, earth, wind and light. Separate to this there were also the Shadowblessed who could manipulate shadows. I loved how well fleshed out the system was and the fact that spirit familiars were necessary to channel the magic was probably my favourite part of it.

I loved the Dead Wood, the chilling forest of souls referenced by the title, as it was so morbid and visceral while also serving as a symbol for how hatred can endure and power can corrupt even the most well intentioned person. A large chunk of the book was spent in the Dead Wood and its surroundings which was great but I hope too see much more of the world in the sequel. Overall, Forest of Souls was a brilliant YA fantasy novel that is beautiful both inside and out.

Twitter Goodreads


Sereadipity supports Black Lives Matter and stands against racism and discrimination in all its forms. I intend to work harder to uplift Black voices and books by Black authors.

This carrd is constantly being updated with petitions, ways to donate, resources to educate ourselves and more. This thread by Myonna @itsmyoreads on Twitter has a list of videos by Black booktubers talking about Black Lives Matter, allyship and being Black in the book community that I’d recommend to watch and subscribe to their channels as well.

Reviews · Uncategorized

Review: The Order of the Pure Moon Reflected in Water

Thank you to Tor.com for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. All opinions expressed are my own.

Book: The Order of the Pure Moon Reflected in Water

Author: Zen Cho

Year Published: 2020

  • Plot: 3.5/5
  • Characters: 4/5
  • Writing: 3/5
  • Overall: 3.5/5

The Order of the Pure Moon Reflected in Water was a novella pitched as a found family wuxia fantasy. It was a fun read with a fair bit of humour but it also had the themes of war, religion and identity woven in. 

The book really focused on the found family trope and I really liked the ragtag group of bandits and the strong bonds between them. I loved Tet Sang and Guet Imm so much and the way their relationship developed was perfect in every way. However, I couldn’t connect with any other characters apart from them and I wish the side characters got more ‘screen time’ too.

Although the book is described as wuxia there was definitely less martial arts action and more focus on world building, the dynamics between the characters, their emotions and how they were dealing with past traumas. Personally, I liked that about the novella but if you’re looking for an action-packed book this might not be for you.

I found the writing style quite hard to follow, some of the phrasing felt off to me and I had to go back and reread bits of it to understand what was happening. However, I really liked the dialogue and banter between the characters- quite a few scenes made me laugh. Even though it was a novella it packed in a lot of world building but in an interesting way that gradually revealed more about the world, the war, the customs and the religious beliefs.

I would definitely recommend this book as it’s a short, fun but also meaningful read however I do wish some aspects of characterization and plot had a bit more depth.

Twitter Goodreads


Sereadipity supports Black Lives Matter and stands against racism and discrimination in all its forms. I intend to work harder to uplift Black voices and books by Black authors.

This carrd is constantly being updated with petitions, ways to donate, resources to educate ourselves and more. This thread by Myonna @itsmyoreads on Twitter has a list of videos by Black booktubers talking about Black Lives Matter, allyship and being Black in the book community that I’d recommend to watch and subscribe to their channels as well.

Reviews · Uncategorized

The Black Cat: Review of The Court of Miracles

Thank you to the author, Kester Grant, for providing me with a review copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. All opinions expressed are my own.

Book: The Court of Miracles

Author: Kester Grant

Year Published: 2020

  • Plot: 3/5
  • Characters: 3/5
  • Writing: 3/5
  • Overall: 3/5

The Court of Miracles was a novel inspired by Les Misérables, set in an alternate, early 1800s Paris where the French Revolution had failed. There was a lot that I liked and enjoyed about the book but I also felt a lack of connection to the characters and the plot which lessened the overall impact for me.

The story followed Nina Thénardier for many years of her life, with a few time skips, who was a member of the Thieves’ Guild of The Court of Miracles constantly trying to protect those she loved. The Court of Miracles was basically a criminal underworld consisting of people cast out from and struggling in society, seeking the safety, protection and belonging they couldn’t find anywhere else. It was divided into nine guilds with different specialties for example The Guild of Thieves, The Guild of Smugglers, The Guild of Assassins, etc. Things like race, religion and even family ties made no difference in the Miracle Court, Nina herself was French-Algerian and many side characters were POC.

Nina was clever, agile and decisive, the best thief of her guild and known as ‘The Black Cat’. She often got herself into and out of dangerous situations and came up with complex plots to achieve her goals. There was no boundary, no obstacle she would overcome to protect and save her loved ones. I admired her survival instinct and bravery but there was something missing and I couldn’t bring myself to care. I think it’s because I found the writing style quite detached and sometimes even disjointed and I struggled to understand her feelings, motivations and thought processes. However, I did find her relationship with Ettie (her adopted sister) really sweet.

The mysterious Miracle Court with its rules, conflicts and lore was well fleshed out and I also liked how the book conveyed the grim depths of the struggles of the poor and contrasted it to the opulent indifference of the rich. The plot had multiple time skips and minimal explanation of what was happening in favour of explaining the world and history that made it very hard to follow and connect with, so much so that even the major plot twists at the end had little to no effect on me. However, I had no prior knowledge of Les Misérables so maybe if I did it would have helped, I’m not sure.

Overall, I liked The Court of Miracles but while it had the makings of a new favourite it fell short for me and I’m still not sure if I’ll want to read the sequel, however, if it sounds like an interesting read to you I’d still reccomend you to give it a try.

Twitter Goodreads


Sereadipity supports Black Lives Matter and stands against racism and discrimination in all its forms. I intend to work harder to uplift Black voices and books by Black authors.

This carrd is constantly being updated with petitions, ways to donate, resources to educate ourselves and more. This thread by Myonna @itsmyoreads on Twitter has a list of videos by Black booktubers talking about Black Lives Matter, allyship and being Black in the book community that I’d recommend to watch and subscribe to their channels as well.

 

Reviews · Uncategorized

Stolen Memories, Stolen Lives: Review of Incendiary

Thank you to Hodderscape for providing me with a review copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. All opinions expressed are my own.

I interviewed Zoraida Córdova for the Incendiary blog tour- read it here!

Book: Incendiary

Author: Zoraida Córdova

Year Published: 2020

  • Plot: 4.5/5
  • Characters: 4.5/5
  • Writing: 4.5/5
  • Overall: 4.5/5

Incendiary was an action-packed fantasy set in a world inspired by 15th century Spain, reimagining the Inquisition. While it had many of the tropes that are common in YA fantasy such as a main character with rare/ special powers it didn’t feel boring or unoriginal to me and managed to make those common tropes exciting.

One of my favourite aspects of the book was the magic system. It was heavily based on the senses and the mind which is not something I see often (most magic systems I’ve seen are more physical or elemental). In the book, the kingdom of Puerto Leones conquered neighbouring Memoria and sought to wipe out its magically gifted people, the Moria. They had magical abilities of four types: Robári (can take people’s memories), Persuári (can influence and bring people’s emotions to life), Ventári (can tell if someone is lying) and Illusionári (capable of conjuring illusions). Moria with no magic were called Olvidados

Moria were feared, hunted, persecuted and killed by the crown of Puerto Leones and the Robári were the most feared of them all. Which brings us to our main character, Renata Convida, a Robári who was kidnapped by the King’s Justice as a child and was used to steal memories from royal enemies. Memories that contained information leading to the deaths of thousands of Moria. However, the Moria rebels (called the Whispers) rescued her and let her join their ranks but they never let her have their trust. When Dez, the commander of her unit and the only person who truly trusted and cared about Ren, was captured, Ren had to go under cover and complete his mission no matter the cost.

Ren’s character development was amazing and I really felt sorry for her. Her mind was filled with so many stolen memories yet she couldn’t remember so many of her own. Her people would never forget her actions that caused so much harm and pain and she lived with the burden of that guilt even though her actions were the result of manipulation as a child. Her relationship with the King’s Justice was so twisted- how could she hate him when he was good to her? How could she love him when he made her do monstrous deeds she didn’t understand at the time? This conflict inside her led to her need to prove she was capable and worthy of trust and every time she failed the pain deepened

I did predict the majority of the plot twists but they were still quite thrilling and there were still a couple of shocking twists I didn’t see coming. Incendiary was a gripping fantasy full of espionage and betrayal that you don’t want to miss.

Twitter Goodreads


Sereadipity supports Black Lives Matter and stands against racism and discrimination in all its forms. I intend to work harder to uplift Black voices and books by Black authors.

This carrd is constantly being updated with petitions, ways to donate, resources to educate ourselves and more. This thread by Myonna @itsmyoreads on Twitter has a list of videos by Black booktubers talking about Black Lives Matter, allyship and being Black in the book community that I’d recommend to watch and subscribe to their channels as well.

Reviews · Uncategorized

The Golden Dragon: Review of Don’t Call the Wolf

Thank you to HarperTeen for providing me with a review copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. All opinions expressed are my own.

Book: Don’t Call the Wolf

Author: Aleksandra Ross

Year Published: 2020

  • Plot: 3/5
  • Characters: 3.5/5
  • Writing: 4/5
  • Overall: 3/5

Don’t Call the Wolf was a story inspired by Polish mythology with all the wisp-like trappings of a fairy tale. The ambiance of the monster-ridden forest and the themes of fate, loyalty and kindness drew me in and I was enjoying it until the last few chapters where I felt let down by an ending that was too rushed and didn’t make that much sense.

Ren was the human-lynx shifter queen of her forest, fighting a losing battle against the monsters and the Golden Dragon plaguing her lands. She was loved by the animals she presided over and reviled by the humans in the nearby village as a monster. The help she needed came in the form of a dragon slayer called Lukasz– the last of the Wolf-Lords. Seventeen years ago his family had fled their home as the Golden Dragon descended upon it and ever since, one by one, his brothers returned in an attempt to slay it only to be never seen again.

I liked the fairy tale structure of the book with the regular flashbacks to Lukasz’s brothers and the story behind each one’s disappearance. It created an ominous sense of fate and inevitability that constantly made me wonder if their quest was futile as so many had failed before them which kept me on edge. I also loved the aspects from Slavic folklore such as the strzygi, nawia and even Baba Yaga.

My main issue was that the ending of the book felt so contrived and rushed in what was attempt to surprise the reader and invert the usual tropes but just didn’t make any sense and disappointed me.

I would recommend Don’t Call the Wolf to anyone who loves stories inspired by fairy tales and folklore or books that explore themes such as what makes a person a monster and if people can be born evil or if they are made but be warned that the ending may disappoint.

Twitter Goodreads

Sereadipity supports Black Lives Matter and stands against racism and discrimination in all its forms. I intend to work harder to uplift Black voices and books by Black authors.

This carrd is constantly being updated with petitions, ways to donate, resources to educate ourselves and more. This thread by Myonna @itsmyoreads on Twitter has a list of videos by Black booktubers talking about Black Lives Matter, allyship and being Black in the book community that I’d recommend to watch and subscribe to their channels as well.

 

 

Reviews · Uncategorized

Review: Once Upon an Eid

Thank you to Amulet Books for providing me with a review copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. All opinions expressed are my own.

  • Book: Once Upon an Eid
  • Editors: S. K. Ali and Aisha Saeed
  • Year Published: 2020
  • Overall rating: 4.5 stars

Once Upon an Eid was a heart warming and uplifting anthology all about the indescribable joy of Eid and its power to bring people together. It was full of wholesome, own-voices Muslim representation and it’s a brilliant read for Muslims and non-Muslims alike. As a Muslim, I felt like a saw a small piece of myself in every story and I think many others will feel the same. I loved how Muslims with so many different cultures and Eid traditions were represented. Reading this anthology during Ramadan made the experience even better, filling me up with fuzzy, warm joy!

(1) Perfect by Jamilah Thompkins-Bigelow, 4 stars: A twelve-year-old Black American hijabinista named Hawa was nervous about spending Eid-ul-Fitr with her father’s side of the family from Guinea in New York. Despite what her father thought, she didn’t feel like the ‘perfect Mandinka girl’ at all. It was about accepting all the different parts of herself and becoming closer to family. I could really sympathise with how awkward it can be to navigate language barriers and meet unfamiliar extended family.

(2) Yusuf and the Great Big Brownie Mistake by Aisha Saeed, 4 stars: Yusuf was distraught when his favourite Eid tradition of making brownies went wrong and his sister decided she had grown out of it. This one was about the importance of tradition, but also how it can change. About how doing things with family can make them better.

(3) Kareem Means Generous by Asmaa Hussein, 4.5 stars: Generosity is a core value that Islam teaches and, as the title suggests, this story was about a boy called Kareem learning about the importance of generosity and kindness by helping out a friend. He realised that not every one was as lucky as him and giving brought him more happiness than keeping everything to himself.

“Anytime you share something you love, it comes right back to you like a boomerang. You never lose it.”

(4) Don’ut Break Tradition by S. K. Ali, 4.5 stars: For Nadia, this Eid didn’t feel special because her mum was ill. This story was all about how Nadia was determined to make Eid special for her mother and the rest of her family. It was about the power of tradition and the magnitude small gestures can have. I loved how every member of the family was represented by a donut and the hopeful message the story had which really resonated with me.

(5) Just Like Chest Armor by Candice Montgomery, 4 stars: Eleven-year-old Leila decided that she was ready to wear hijab, however, her parents weren’t so sure. She took her time with it learning how to wear it and feel comfortable with it before wearing it outside. She decided that she didn’t mind how other people reacted to her hijab because it was how she wanted to express her faith and it felt right for her. I liked how this story went against the idea that some people have that Muslims are ‘forced’ to wear hijab and it instead showed the pride, strength and connection that wearing hijab can bring. I also loved this story’s emphasis on colour.

(6) Gifts by Rukhsana Khan, 4 stars: Idrees was excited for Eid because he was excited to receive his gifts. He gradually realised though that the real gifts in his life were the non material aspects like love, memories and worship.

“It’s not the gift. It’s the love behind it”

(7) The Feast of Sacrifice by Hena Khan, 4 stars: This one was set around Eid-ul-Adha. Humza and his siblings had to stay with their grandparents whilst their parents embarked on the Hajj pilgrimage. As the eldest sibling, Humza was struggling having to be more responsible for his siblings and didn’t like his grandparents’ less exciting way of celebrating Eid. This story was about making sacrifices, about not being selfish and being able to give for someone else to receive. It was also about the importance of community in Islam, especially around Eid.

(8) Seraj Captures the Moon by G. Willow Wilson and Sara Alfageeh, 4 stars: This was a really cute graphic short story where a boy called Seraj goes looking for the Eid moon in a hot air balloon. It was also about the importance of sometimes blocking out all the noise and distractions to focus on faith and sharing joy.

(9) Searching for Blue by N. H. Senzai, 5 stars: This story was about celebrating Eid at a refugee camp in Greece. Bassem felt like their prayers were going unanswered and they had been forgotten. However, with everyone banding together they all managed to pull together a joyful, hopeful Eid for everyone despite their circumstances. It was really thought provoking and presented the many hardships and sorrows that refugees face and the writing was beautiful.

(10) Creative Fixes by Ashley Franklin, 4.5 stars: Makayla’s family had converted to Islam and all the changes to their lives were a lot for her to take in. It was about her finding the self confidence to be proud of herself and enjoy her first Eid.

“It’s hard to see the beauty in things when you can’t see past your insecurities”

(11) Taste by Hana Alkaf, 5 stars: Alia’s mother had been in a car accident and was in hospital, she was so upset and ridden with guilt that all her food lost its taste. But that wouldn’t stop her from cooking the lontong they had every Eid. It was about opening up to family and the power of food to bring people together. The writing was so compelling, I loved it!

(12) Eid Pictures by Jamilah Thompkins-Bigelow, 4 stars: This was a moving poem about how Eid celebrations have changed over time and how the first Black Muslims in America must have celebrated their first Eids there.

(13) Not Only an Only by Huda Al-Marashi, 4 stars: This story focused on a girl called Aya who was the only Muslim in her school which she didn’t mind until an uncomfortable lesson about Sunni and Shia Muslims. The main message of the story was Sunni or Shia, we’re all Muslims- one community- and that it what matters most.

(14) Maya Madinah Chooses Joy by Ayesha Mattu, 4 stars: Maya Madinah didn’t know how to enjoy Eid after her parents had divorced. She hated everyone else’s joy and wanted to run away. This was a story about embracing change and focusing on creating love and joy around yourself.

(15) Eid and Pink Bubble Gum, Insha’Allah by Randa Abdel-Fattah, 4 stars: Deyana, her three younger siblings and her parents were embarking on their annual Eid-ul-Fitr road trip to visit her grandparents who lived near Sydney. She missed the peace she had when she was an only child and found her brothers and sister frustrating beyond belief. This story was about how love between family can overcome anger and the importance of patience and responsibility. It was really cute and funny.

All the short stories in the anthology were sweet and simple with a young main character and a moral or lesson to learn. I thought this was a good thing making the book accessible to a vast audience and a wide range of ages. I loved how all the stories focused on the core values of Islam and the true spirit of Eid: faith, family, community, kindness, generosity, responsibility and joy.

Twitter Goodreads

 

 

Reviews · Uncategorized

The Cosmic Horror Road Trip: Review of Ruthless Gods

Thank you to Wednesday Books for providing me with a review copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. All opinions expressed are my own.

Book: Ruthless Gods (Wicked Saints #2)

Author: Emily A. Duncan

Year Published: 2020

Trigger Warnings: blood and lots of it

  • Plot: 3/5
  • Characters: 3.5/5
  • Writing: 4/5
  • Overall: 3/5

Ruthless Gods, the sequel to Wicked Saints, was partly a road trip through a malevolent forest, partly an exploration of divinity and full of meddling ancient gods. The plot was a weak point for me in the first book and unfortunately it was just as weak for me in this one however I fell even more in love with the gothic vibes.

The dark atmosphere created by the nightmarish Salt Mines, the menacing forest, the monsters inspired by Slavic mythology and all the eyes and teeth and blood was deeply unsettling in the best way.  I also loved how we got to learn more about the gods and their background and the way themes of divinity, humanity and monstrosity were entwined so thoroughly it was hard to tell them apart.

In this book, Serefin was struggling to come to terms with all that happened at the end of the previous book whilst trying to get the support of his court. And on top of all that, he had an eldritch god with mysterious motives trying to invade his mind. I liked him even more in this book, his point of view chapters were like a breath of fresh air sometimes. I also liked how his dynamics with both Kacper and Ostyia changed and developed.

Another character that I liked was Parijahan. We get to learn a lot more about the past she was running from and her motivations- she turned out to be a really interesting character. If anything, I would read the next book in the series just to find out how her path will be important to the overall story. And I have to mention Katya! As soon as she walked in she became one of my favourite characters. I don’t want to spoil anything about her but I’ll say this: she was brilliant.

However, Nadya and Malachiacz ended up being my main issue with Ruthless Gods. After the horrible, treacherous thing Malachiacz pulled at the end of Wicked Saints guess what Nadya wanted to do? She wanted to save him, she wanted to bring him back to humanity. But as far as I was concerned, he made his own choices and he had to live with them- why was it her job to fix him? And whilst she was telling herself she had secret plans and she needed his help, it was obvious that wasn’t her main motive. They had an interesting dynamic but I wished Nadya would act as if she’d learned something from all that happened to her in Wicked Saints aside from a few rare moments of self-reflection. Malachiacz knew what he wanted to achieve and no one and nothing would stand in his way.

The plot was too disjointed for me with lots of different things occurring and hinted at that didn’t connect together very well. I found it hard to care about their goals or understand why they were so important. I think I’d love this series much more if the plot was as gripping as the world it is set in and I’m still not sure if I’ll be reading the last book in the trilogy.

Twitter Goodreads
Reviews · Uncategorized

Magic and Monsters and Tragic Power: Review of Wicked Saints

Book: Wicked Saints

Author: Emily A. Duncan

Year Published: 2019

Trigger Warnings: blood, self-harm, parental abuse

  • Plot: 3/5
  • Characters: 4/5
  • Writing: 4.5/5
  • Overall: 3.5/5

Wicked Saints was set in a gothic, icy, war torn world filled with magic where even gods were not what they seemed. I was swept away by the gorgeously dark aesthetic, intriguing mythology and almost lyrical writing although I felt the plot of the story was quite weak, lessening the overall effect for me.

The two countries, Kalyazin (inspired by Russia) and Tranavia (inspired by Poland) had been at war for centuries. The Kalyazi people believed in a pantheon of gods and there were clerics who could commune with them to receive magical power. However the people of Tranavia had forsaken the gods and relied on their own blood magic. This difference of beliefs is what triggered the war, no country willing stop until it brought the other to its knees. I loved how all the magic, monsters and gods were all intricately entwined and influenced by Slavic mythology!

Nadya was the last known Kalyazi cleric and could commune with the entire pantheon of gods. She was a shining beacon of hope for her people, the key to winning the war. When Tranavian forces attacked the monastery she lived in, she had to flee to keep that hope alive. Enter Malachiacz (said Mah-lah-kee-ash) a monstrous Tranavian blood mage, shrouded in mystery, who offered to help her.

To be blunt, I don’t like Nadya. All along Nadya thought she was scheming and doing everything it took to help her people when it seemed to me like she was just being led by the whims of others and not doing anything of worth at all. Apart from her admirably sarcastic nature there was nothing much to like about her. While it was predictable, I did find her relationship with Malachiacz intriguing because of the way their greatly opposing beliefs clashed. Although I don’t like him either, Malachiacz was much more interesting as a character. Mysterious, dangerous and very clever but also awkward and vulnerable in a way that you can never tell if he’s being sincere or if it’s an act but you want to believe its the former. Honestly though, if Nadya knew what’s good for her she’d stay away from him but these book characters never do.

The other point of view character was a Tranavian prince named Serefin and I liked him a lot more. He was called back home after years at war and was trying to make sense of all the odd things going on around him and the secrets his father held. He also had a visual impairment. Serefin’s friends- Ostyia and Kacper– were great and I loved the dynamic between the three of them. Ostyia especially was brilliant with her fierce, vivacious personality. I also loved the witch Pelageya and I think she was the only character who had any clue what on earth was going on. And I wished we got to learn more about Parijahan and Rashid.

As I said earlier, the plot was what broke this book for me. I just couldn’t see the point in any of it. Even as I sat down to write this review I realised that while I could remember all the characters’ names, the places and magic system but I had no idea what exactly happened to them in the book. And then I realised its because the plot was so underwhelming that I couldn’t bring myself to care about it enough to remember it.

Wicked Saints explored themes of religion, power and morality which are really interesting and probably would have been more so if the plot was more interesting too. I’d say it’s a novel for anyone who loves books with a dark, gothic and monstrous atmosphere.

Twitter Goodreads