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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 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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

 

 

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Review: Rules for Being a Girl (Blog Tour)

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

Book: Rules for Being a Girl

Authors: Candace Bushnell and Katie Cotugno

Year Published: 2020

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

Rules for Being a Girl was a short, sharp feminist novel about a girl navigating the expectations, constraints and rules society puts upon women whilst fighting to make her voice heard.

Marin was a top student and co-editor of the school newspaper along with her best friend, Chloe. Everyone, including her, admired their interesting and charismatic English teacher, Mr Beckett (or ‘Bex’) but that all changed until he tried to kiss Marin. There were so many red flags and I could painfully see how he had gradually manipulated her. Marin was horrified- she trusted him and thought he valued her for her skill as a student. What angered her more was that it felt like there was nothing she could do, her school suggesting she was to blame or that she misread the situation, when what he did was wrong. This triggered her to write an article in her school newspaper titled, ‘Rules for Being a Girl’ expressing outrage at a world where girls are scrutinised and dismissed.

Over the course of the book, Marin’s eyes gradually opened to the casual sexism all around her and she started to talk about it and fight back against it. With the help of another teacher she started a feminist book club (my favourite aspect of this book) giving her a place to meet like-minded people and start conversations about intersectional feminism. The book was also rife with feminist book recommendations for example, Bad Feminist by Roxane Gay and We Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.

I wished we got to learn more about Marin and see smaller details and nuances to her character. But I did love the strong support network around her from her parents to her friends from the book club that gave her the strength to speak out for herself and for others. Her friend Chloe represented how sometimes people can be dismissed by those closest to them which was also important.

It was a short, simple read better suited to younger end of the YA audience. Whilst the straightforward style was perfect for getting the message across it felt a bit too simplistic for me at times but I would still say Rules for Being a Girl is a worthwhile, thought provoking read.

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Review: All Your Twisted Secrets

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: All Your Twisted Secrets

Author: Diana Urban

Year Published: 2020

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

All Your Twisted Secrets was a young adult escape room thriller that gradually revealed a web of secrets and lies. It was a quick and fast-paced read, driven forward by the tension between the characters, and I found it exciting although I predicted most of the plot twists.

Six teens were supposedly invited to a scholarship dinner but upon arrival they realised it was a trap– they were locked in the room and told to choose someone to die within an hour or they would all meet untimely ends. There was Amber, an incredibly talented music geek. Sasha, a smart and ambitious queen bee. Robbie, a popular athlete and Amber’s boyfriend. Diego, the class genius and entrepreneur. Priya, a quiet and lonely magic trick enthusiast. And Scott, mysterious and known for drug dealing. Confusion and panic ensued but as they all tried to get out alive the past was dredged up and they realised there was more connecting them than they initially thought.

The novel alternated between the locked room and flashbacks of the past to help us understand how the relationships and conflicts between the characters had changed and how they affected their actions in the room. I liked this structure as it created a fast, exciting pace and slowly revealed the characters’ personalities.

Furthermore, the book incorporated many themes like bullying, suicide, drug abuse, school pressures, mental health and peer pressure in a way that cleverly showed the effects these issues have on people’s lives without seeming forced. It also explored moral ideas surrounding accepting responsibility for one’s actions and what happens when someone doesn’t.

However, I wasn’t overly impressed with the ending because I’d predicted who had put them in the room already and I found it a bit over the top. The characters were interesting, each with their own goals, problems and secrets. They could have had a bit more depth but I do appreciate that it’s hard to balance that many characters.

So in conclusion, All Your Twisted Secrets was a thriller that I would definitely recommend to anyone looking for a fast-paced read that, as the title suggests, is full of twists and secrets.

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Review: The Last Human

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.

Book: The Last Human

Author: Zack Jordan

Year Published: 2020

  • Plot: 1/5
  • Characters: 2.5/5
  • Writing: 3.5/5
  • Overall: 2.5/5

The Last Human was a space opera set in a galaxy where the most feared species were Humans due to their destructive natures. In all honesty, I found it quite disappointing: the first half of the book was rather intriguing but that interest was promptly demolished by the second half.

The story followed a young Human called Sarya who was raised by Shenya the Widow (Widows being one of the many alien species in the book). She was trying to hide her species as she was the last Human in the Network-connected galaxy she lived in. Until her secret came out and as she ran for her life she discovered that everything was controlled by greater powers than she could ever comprehend.

The alien species belonging to the Network were ranked in tiers of intelligence going from one to five (and maybe beyond…). Their notion of ‘intelligence’ was never properly explained but the idea was the higher your intelligence tier the faster and more advanced your thought processes and capabilities would be. Humans would probably fall somewhere in tier two. There were also group intelligences with hive minds which were disconcerting but in an interesting way.

The only aspect of the book that I appreciated (and that pushed the rating up) was the world building. The way the different aliens, lower intelligences and the Network all interacted with each other quite seamlessly was impressive and original. Furthermore, the various alien species created were all unique, I especially liked how Sarya’s Widow upbringing affected her character and their mother-daughter relationship was one of the things that drew me in during the first half of the book. I also liked how the intelligence tier system created a hierarchy and affected the dynamic between characters.

The plot is what really ruined this book for me. Lots of different things happened and many characters were introduced and I had no idea why but I was sure it was leading up to something meaningful… but then it didn’t. As I said earlier, the first half was quite good, it built up Sarya’s character and the world and had a fairly fast paced plot that felt like it was building up to something. But then in the second half of the book it felt like the plot was forgotten in favour of vague philosophical rambling that threw away all the development previously established. I could tell it was trying to explore ideas surrounding free will, the vastness of the universe (and our insignificance in comparison) and the price of maintaining order in such a sprawling Network but it didn’t come through very well for me. It all just seemed quite confusing and meaningless and it wasn’t properly integrated into the story just haphazardly dumped in.

Sarya had no character development. Despite her massive journey across the universe, despite all the shocking truths she had learnt, she stayed the same. And that goes for the side characters too. On top of that, her motivations were very hard to understand and I had no idea why her actions kept contradicting themselves.

I felt let down by The Last Human, it had so much potential but it was all thrown away by the end. But despite how I felt about it, the book is still worth giving a chance as the world created is very intriguing and maybe the philosophical ideas will resonate with others more than they did with me.

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The Goose Girl: Review of Thorn

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

Book: Thorn

Author: Intisar Khanani

Year Published: 2020

Trigger warnings: physical and emotional abuse, sexual assault (off page), animal death (off page)

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

Thorn was a retelling of ‘The Goose Girl’ (a fairy tale by the Brothers Grimm) that slowly unfurled its petals to reveal a tale that had me captivated throughout. Out of curiosity, I read The Goose Girl before reading this novel and I think it truly is a stunning retelling that keeps the best parts of the fairy tale whilst adding some much needed depth and character development.

Princess Alyrra longed to be free of her family’s physical and emotional abuse, her court’s derision and her rank as a princess. She longed to live how she chose to do so. However, that desire seemed impossible when Kestrin, a prince from a vast and powerful land, sent her a marriage request she would not be able to refuse. Until a vengeful sorceress swapped Alyrra’s body with that of an accompanying noble girl in order to achieve her mysterious goals and inadvertently made Alyrra’s dreams came true. Taking on the role of a goose girl, Alyrra forged a new life surrounded by people who valued and cared for her. But as time passed and secrets unravelled she realised her choice to accept her fate would have consequences she wouldn’t be able to bear.

Alyrra’s character development was superb. At the start of the book she was scared, unsure of herself and the world and would rather be passive than stand up for herself. The entire book was about her journey of realising that once she overcame her fears and doubts she could be powerful and she could make a difference to the world. Her strong sense of moral justice and desire to help people no matter what pushed her past her limits to do things she never thought she could before. By sticking to her core beliefs she found her inner strength and overcame seemingly impossible odds. What a power arc!

I also liked Kestrin because he respected Alyrra’s right to choose her own life and while he certainly tried to persuade her to his cause he gave her space to become who he wanted to be. I loved the unwavering support from Alyrra’s friends: Sage, Violet, Ash and Rowan. The way she gradually opened up to them and began to heal from her past traumas with their love was beautiful. But most of all I adored Falada the talking Horse (yes, with a capital H it’s not a typo). He was wise, funny, generally amazing and always had encouragement and advice for Alyrra whenever she needed it. Truly, a legend.

Thorn cleverly explored many complex themes from the notion of justice to slavery, revenge, social hierarchy and much more. However, what I did want more of was world building. I didn’t feel properly grounded in the world created as I didn’t learn enough about its distinctive cultures, customs and places.

Nevertheless, I loved Thorn overall with its complex, empowered heroine, its magical plot and its thought provoking ideas. I can’t wait to read whatever Khanani writes next!

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