Blog Tours · Reviews · Uncategorized

We Find Ourselves in the Sea: Review of The Ones We’re Meant to Find (Blog Tour)

Yemen Crisis ~ Black Lives Matter Stop AAPI Hate~ Free Palestine ~ Kashmir Bleeds 

Hello! Today I am so excited to bring my stop on the blog tour for The Ones We’re Meant to Find by Joan He as I’m a member of her street team (Hesina’s Imperial Court)! For more information check out the launch post here!

Review:

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

Book: The Ones We’re Meant to Find

*Click here for all the buy links*

Author: Joan He

Year Published: 2021

Summary (click for dropdown)

One of the most twisty, surprising, engaging page-turner YAs you’ll read this year—We Were Liars meets Black Mirror, with a dash of Studio Ghibli.

Cee has been trapped on an abandoned island for three years without any recollection of how she arrived, or memories from her life prior. All she knows is that somewhere out there, beyond the horizon, she has a sister named Kay. Determined to find her, Cee devotes her days to building a boat from junk parts scavenged inland, doing everything in her power to survive until the day she gets off the island and reunites with her sister.

In a world apart, 16-year-old STEM prodigy Kasey Mizuhara is also living a life of isolation. The eco-city she calls home is one of eight levitating around the world, built for people who protected the planet―and now need protecting from it. With natural disasters on the rise due to climate change, eco-cities provide clean air, water, and shelter. Their residents, in exchange, must spend at least a third of their time in stasis pods, conducting business virtually whenever possible to reduce their environmental footprint. While Kasey, an introvert and loner, doesn’t mind the lifestyle, her sister Celia hated it. Popular and lovable, Celia much preferred the outside world. But no one could have predicted that Celia would take a boat out to sea, never to return.

Now it’s been three months since Celia’s disappearance, and Kasey has given up hope. Logic says that her sister must be dead. But as the public decries her stance, she starts to second guess herself and decides to retrace Celia’s last steps. Where they’ll lead her, she does not know. Her sister was full of secrets. But Kasey has a secret of her own. 


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

The Ones We’re Meant to Find was an atmospheric and twisty read that brought together science fiction and climate fiction in a dystopian world– with Studio Ghibli vibes for extra spice.

Reading this book was a unique experience that had its ups and downs and at the end I felt a strange mix of awe, poignancy and bewilderment that left me mulling over the story for days afterwards. The Ones We’re Meant to Find is something special, the sort of book that stays with you, lingering in the corners of your mind. I don’t think I was as emotionally invested as I wanted to be but I appreciated the depth and scope of the story, the nuanced characters and subversion of the usual tropes. 

At the beginning of the book I was very, very confused and had no idea what was going on but as I progressed I realised that was how I was supposed to feel. The book is structured in a way that confuses you in the start as you grapple to understand this ravaged dystopian world and the characters’ places in it and there is a distinct sense that something is not right but as a reader you lack the necessary information to know what that something is.

As the book progresses you are gradually given the puzzle pieces and there was a point where I had a giant OHH! moment because I finally had enough pieces to make sense of it all. If you don’t like books that have convoluted plots and never spell anything out explicitly to the reader then this is definitely not for you. But I would also say if you start reading and feel disheartened because you don’t understand what is happening I would advise you to keep going because it all comes together eventually and it does so beautifully

“Alone is an island. It’s an uncrossable sea, being too far from another soul, whereas lonely is being too close, in the same house yet separated by walls because we choose to be”

The story focused on Cee and Kasey and switched between their vastly different perspectives. Cee was passionate, lively and determined and her chapters were full of hope and pain and longing. On the other hand, Kasey was a genius who was logical and very emotionally detached. She often wondered why she was different to everyone else, why she felt less, reacted less, became less attached to others… felt less human.

I loved how He emphasised the contrast between them by writing Cee’s perspective in the first person and Kasey’s in the third. Cee was likeable in a very conventional way that I think most people would relate to but Kasey’s character was refreshing and different to what we normally see in YA fiction. She wasn’t what anyone would usually describe as likeable but I think a lot of people will be able too see themselves in her too. 

The book was set in an Earth poisoned by humans beyond repair and plagued with extreme weather and devastating natural disasters, the only refuge being eco cities that floated in the sky. The book questioned if humanity deserved to be saved if it had brought its own demise upon itself. If it was more important to live freely or live in a way that preserved our planet. If it was fair that innocent people had to suffer for the destructive, polluting acts of others. It served as a chilling reminder that our greed and unsustainable lifestyles are pushing the planet over the brink.

At a personal level, the book explored the bond between two sisters that not even the ocean or hundreds of years could sever. The relationship between Kasey and her sister was rocky at times and they had very different perspectives on life but I loved how their unconditional love for each other shone through with every decision they made.

There is so much more that I want to say about this book that I can’t in this review because it would spoil the most important parts. The best way to go into the book is with absolutely no idea what it’s about beyond the little information provided in the summary so that the plot twists and turns have the maximum impact. The Ones We’re Meant to Find is a story brimming with profound emotion that spills over the pages, straight into your heart. I definitely recommend it!

About the author:

Joan He was born and raised in Philadelphia but still will, on occasion, lose her way. At a young age, she received classical instruction in oil painting before discovering that storytelling was her favorite form of expression. She studied Psychology and East Asian Languages and Cultures at the University of Pennsylvania and currently writes from a desk overlooking the Delaware River. Descendant of the Crane is her debut young adult fantasy. Her next novel, The Ones We’re Meant to Find, will be forthcoming from Macmillan on May 4th, 2021.

Tour schedule:

Monday, April 26

Tiffany | Sara | Carina | Anthony

Tuesday, April 27th

Chloe | Avery | Jenni

Wednesday, April 28

Lauren | Bella | Charvi

Thursday, April 29

Iza | Shenwei | Ace

Friday, April 30

Stella | Lexie | Kristi | Finn

Saturday, May 1

Umairah(me!!!) | Justice

Sunday, May 2

Sarah | Fin | Ming

Monday, May 3

Julith | Cathy | Adrienne | Victoria

Tuesday, May 4

Leeann | Isabelle | Asher

Wednesday, May 5

Trinity | Jenna | Jasmin

Thursday, May 6

Katie | Sophie | Ceillie

Friday, May 7

Althea | Lili | Alessa | Paola

What did you think of The Ones We’re Meant to Find? What are your favourite climate fiction books? Let me know in the comments!

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Reviews · Uncategorized

A Gift and a Curse: Review of Reaper of Souls

Yemen Crisis ~ Black Lives Matter ~ Free Palestine ~ Kashmir Bleeds 

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

Book: Reaper of Souls

Summary (click for dropdown)

After so many years yearning for the gift of magic, Arrah has the one thing she’s always wanted—at a terrible price. Now the last surviving witchdoctor, she’s been left to pick up the shattered pieces of a family that betrayed her, a kingdom in shambles, and long-buried secrets about who she is.

Desperate not to repeat her mother’s mistakes, Arrah must return to the tribal lands to search for help from the remnants of her parents’ people. But the Demon King’s shadow looms closer than she thinks. And as Arrah struggles to unravel her connection to him, defeating him begins to seem more and more impossible—if it’s something she can bring herself to do at all.

Set in a richly imagined world inspired by spine-tingling tales of voodoo and folk magic, Kingdom of Souls was lauded as “masterful” by School Library Journal in a starred review. This explosively epic sequel will have readers racing to the can’t-miss conclusion.

Author: Rena Barron

Year Published: 2021

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

I was so excited to read Reaper of Souls as I was completely enthralled by the first book in the trilogy. I have to admit, while the book had a lot of strong points, it didn’t fully live up to my expectations and pales in comparison to Kingdom of Souls. I think my problem is that objectively it is exactly the sort of interesting, twisty book that I usually love but it just failed to engage me and all the aspects of the first book that I loved weren’t as compelling to me in this one.

In this book Arrah was a lot more mature and also much wearier and worn out by all that she had been through and all that she had yet to do. Haunted by her past actions, it was interesting to see Arrah realise that the magic she had sacrificed so much for was a double edged sword that she couldn’t trust herself to wield only for the good of others. Comparing her decisions at the end of this book to her decisions at the start of Kingdom of Souls it was clear how far she has come and how her outlook on the world has changed. The only thing that didn’t diminish for me in this book is how much I love Arrah. She wasn’t perfect, she made reckless decisions and did morally questionable things but she was also strong and loyal and in her heart she wanted the best for everyone. I like how she was at one with herself and owned her mistakes even as she often walked the fine line between hero and monster in the eyes of others.

This book was also Rudjek’s time to shine– he even had chapters from his perspective. In the previous book I felt like he was less self-assured so I liked how he stepped up in this book and came into his own, taking on leadership and initiative. I liked how the barriers between Arrah and Rudjek being together were explored and how they communicated about it but I didn’t love their relationship as much as I did in book one. As I was reading I became less and less engaged in their romance and cared less and less about whether or not they’d get to be together.

I read most of Kingdom of Souls in one sitting unable to stop and desperate to find out what would happen next. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case for Reaper of Souls. For most of the book I wasn’t engaged by the plot and there were many points whilst reading where I was so close to DNFing but didn’t because I remembered how much I enjoyed the first book and convinced myself it would get better. However, near the end of the book there were some good plot twists and I think the book ended on enough of a strong point to convince me to read the final book in the trilogy when it comes out. The thing I disliked the most about the plot was Dimma and the Demon King’s story. I can’t really explain why without spoiling too much but even though it was an important part of the storyline I didn’t like the focus being taken off of Arrah and Rudjek because they were the ones I cared about.

Although it built on the same ideas as Kingdom of Souls- magic being a gift and a curse, the corrupting nature of power and love that destroys as well as heals– I liked Reaper of Souls but nowhere near as much as the first book. However, I would recommend fans of book one to give the sequel a chance because I know for a fact that there are a lot of people who enjoyed it more than I did. 

Have you read Reaper of Souls? What did you think? Let me know in the comments!

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Discussion Posts · Uncategorized

10 Fantasy And Sci-fi 2021 Book Releases To Be Excited About

#RescuePH ~ End SARS ~ Black Lives Matter ~ Free Palestine ~ Kashmir Bleeds 

Hello booksicles!

After a month of not posting at all… I’m back! And hopefully, I’ll be able to blog more regularly from now on. Today, I bring you 10 of my most anticipated fantasy and sci-fi releases of 2021 (not including sequels) and what an amazing year for books 2021 is set to be. I’m extremely excited and I hope after reading this post you’ll be as excited as I am!

Rise of the Red Hand by Olivia Chadha

This sounds amazing especially because it seems like it will have a lot of social commentary and discuss climate change.

Release date: January 19th 2021

Summary:52727554

A rare, searing portrayal of the future of climate change in South Asia. A streetrat turned revolutionary and the disillusioned hacker son of a politician try to take down a ruthlessly technocratic government that sacrifices its poorest citizens to build its utopia.

The South Asian Province is split in two. Uplanders lead luxurious lives inside a climate-controlled biodome, dependent on technology and gene therapy to keep them healthy and youthful forever. Outside, the poor and forgotten scrape by with discarded black-market robotics, a society of poverty-stricken cyborgs struggling to survive in slums threatened by rising sea levels, unbreathable air, and deadly superbugs.

Ashiva works for the Red Hand, an underground network of revolutionaries fighting the government, which is run by a merciless computer algorithm that dictates every citizen’s fate. She’s a smuggler with the best robotic arm and cybernetic enhancements the slums can offer, and her cargo includes the most vulnerable of the city’s abandoned children.

When Ashiva crosses paths with the brilliant hacker Riz-Ali, a privileged Uplander who finds himself embroiled in the Red Hand’s dangerous activities, they uncover a horrifying conspiracy that the government will do anything to bury. From armed guardians kidnapping children to massive robots flattening the slums, to a pandemic that threatens to sweep through the city like wildfire, Ashiva and Riz-Ali will have to put aside their differences in order to fight the system and save the communities they love from destruction.

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The Gilded Ones by Namina Forna

I love the sound of this West African inspired fantasy- especially the ‘fighting the emperor in an army of girls’ bit!

Release date: February 9th 2021

Summary:61D-I3FLNnL

Sixteen-year-old Deka lives in fear and anticipation of the blood ceremony that will determine whether she will become a member of her village. Already different from everyone else because of her unnatural intuition, Deka prays for red blood so she can finally feel like she belongs.

But on the day of the ceremony, her blood runs gold, the color of impurity–and Deka knows she will face a consequence worse than death.

Then a mysterious woman comes to her with a choice: stay in the village and submit to her fate, or leave to fight for the emperor in an army of girls just like her. They are called alaki–near-immortals with rare gifts. And they are the only ones who can stop the empire’s greatest threat.

Knowing the dangers that lie ahead yet yearning for acceptance, Deka decides to leave the only life she’s ever known. But as she journeys to the capital to train for the biggest battle of her life, she will discover that the great walled city holds many surprises. Nothing and no one are quite what they seem to be–not even Deka herself.

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The Infinity Courts by Akemi Dawn Bowman 

A YA sci-fi that has been pitched as ‘Warcross meets Black Mirror’… what’s not to love?

Release date: April 6th 2021

Summary:54304172

Eighteen-year-old Nami Miyamoto is certain her life is just beginning. She has a great family, just graduated high school, and is on her way to a party where her entire class is waiting for her—including, most importantly, the boy she’s been in love with for years.

The only problem? She’s murdered before she gets there.

When Nami wakes up, she learns she’s in a place called Infinity, where human consciousness goes when physical bodies die. She quickly discovers that Ophelia, a virtual assistant widely used by humans on Earth, has taken over the afterlife and is now posing as a queen, forcing humans into servitude the way she’d been forced to serve in the real world. Even worse, Ophelia is inching closer and closer to accomplishing her grand plans of eradicating human existence once and for all.

As Nami works with a team of rebels to bring down Ophelia and save the humans under her imprisonment, she is forced to reckon with her past, her future, and what it is that truly makes us human.

From award-winning author Akemi Dawn Bowman comes an incisive, action-packed tale that explores big questions about technology, grief, love, and humanity.

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Witches Steeped in Gold by Ciannon Smart

I actually have an arc of this book which I’m hoping to read this month and I can’t wait! How can you not be excited by the prospect of this revenge-driven, Jamaican-inspired fantasy?

Release date: April 20th 2021

Summary:51813582._SY475_

Divided by their castes. United by their vengeance.

Iraya has spent her life in a cell, but every day brings her closer to freedom—and vengeance.

Jazmyne is the queen’s daughter, but unlike her sister before her, she has no intention of dying to strengthen her mother’s power.

Sworn enemies, these two witches enter a precarious alliance to take down a mutual threat. But revenge is a bloody pursuit, and nothing is certain—except the lengths they will go to win this game.

Deadly, fierce, magnetically addictive: this Jamaican-inspired fantasy debut is a thrilling journey where dangerous magic reigns supreme and betrayal lurks beneath every word.

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The Ones We Left Behind by Joan He

Joan He is the queen of plot twists and earth-shattering endings so I can’t wait to be destroyed by this book. And the cover is just *swoons*.

(the author has had a lot of legal issues with the publisher of her first book which incurred big legal fees so it’s even more important to preorder this book if you can to show your support)

Release date: May 4th 2021

Summary:54017953

One of the most twisty, surprising, engaging page-turner YAs you’ll read this year—We Were Liars with sci-fi scope, Lost with a satisfying resolution.

Cee awoke on an abandoned island three years ago. With no idea of how she was marooned, she only has a rickety house, an old android, and a single memory: she has a sister, and Cee needs to find her.

STEM prodigy Kasey wants escape from the science and home she once trusted. The eco-city—Earth’s last unpolluted place—is meant to be sanctuary for those commited to planetary protection, but it’s populated by people willing to do anything for refuge, even lie. Now, she’ll have to decide if she’s ready to use science to help humanity, even though it failed the people who mattered most.

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Son of the Storm by by Suyi Davies Okungbowa

I love reading books about fantasy scholars because I can always relate to their bookishness and love of learning. And I’m intrigued about the aspect of the story that involved discovering suppressed histories!

Release date: May 11th 2021

Summary:55277030

A young scholar’s ambition threatens to reshape an empire determined to retain its might in this epic tale of violent conquest, buried histories, and forbidden magic.

In the thriving city of Bassa, Danso is a clever but disillusioned scholar who longs for a life beyond the rigid family and political obligations expected of the city’s elite. A way out presents itself when Lilong, a skin-changing warrior, shows up wounded in his barn. She comes from the Nameless Islands–which, according to Bassa lore, don’t exist–and neither should the mythical magic of ibor she wields. Now swept into a conspiracy far beyond his understanding, Danso will have to set out on a journey that reveals histories violently suppressed and magic only found in lore. 

[Add on Goodreads]

The Wolf and the Woodsman by Ava Reid

I’ve heard this book has a most excellent enemies to lovers romance and I’m intrigued that it’s inspired by Hungarian history and Jewish mythology

Release date: June 8th 2021

Summary:cover211725-medium

In the vein of Naomi Novik’s New York Times bestseller Spinning Silver and Katherine Arden’s national bestseller The Bear and the Nightingale, this unforgettable debut— inspired by Hungarian history and Jewish mythology—follows a young pagan woman with hidden powers and a one-eyed captain of the Woodsmen as they form an unlikely alliance to thwart a tyrant.

In her forest-veiled pagan village, Évike is the only woman without power, making her an outcast clearly abandoned by the gods. The villagers blame her corrupted bloodline—her father was a Yehuli man, one of the much-loathed servants of the fanatical king. When soldiers arrive from the Holy Order of Woodsmen to claim a pagan girl for the king’s blood sacrifice, Évike is betrayed by her fellow villagers and surrendered.

But when monsters attack the Woodsmen and their captive en route, slaughtering everyone but Évike and the cold, one-eyed captain, they have no choice but to rely on each other. Except he’s no ordinary Woodsman—he’s the disgraced prince, Gáspár Bárány, whose father needs pagan magic to consolidate his power. Gáspár fears that his cruelly zealous brother plans to seize the throne and instigate a violent reign that would damn the pagans and the Yehuli alike. As the son of a reviled foreign queen, Gáspár understands what it’s like to be an outcast, and he and Évike make a tenuous pact to stop his brother.

As their mission takes them from the bitter northern tundra to the smog-choked capital, their mutual loathing slowly turns to affection, bound by a shared history of alienation and oppression. However, trust can easily turn to betrayal, and as Évike reconnects with her estranged father and discovers her own hidden magic, she and Gáspár need to decide whose side they’re on, and what they’re willing to give up for a nation that never cared for them at all.

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She Who Became the Sun by Shelley Parker-Chan 

Everything EVERYTHING about this adult historical fantasy sounds amazing!

Release date: July 20th 2021

Summary:48727813._UY1143_SS1143_

Mulan meets The Song of Achilles in Shelley Parker-Chan’s She Who Became the Sun, a bold, queer, and lyrical reimagining of the rise of the founding emperor of the Ming Dynasty from an amazing new voice in literary fantasy.

To possess the Mandate of Heaven, the female monk Zhu will do anything

“I refuse to be nothing…”

In a famine-stricken village on a dusty yellow plain, two children are given two fates. A boy, greatness. A girl, nothingness…

In 1345, China lies under harsh Mongol rule. For the starving peasants of the Central Plains, greatness is something found only in stories. When the Zhu family’s eighth-born son, Zhu Chongba, is given a fate of greatness, everyone is mystified as to how it will come to pass. The fate of nothingness received by the family’s clever and capable second daughter, on the other hand, is only as expected.

When a bandit attack orphans the two children, though, it is Zhu Chongba who succumbs to despair and dies. Desperate to escape her own fated death, the girl uses her brother’s identity to enter a monastery as a young male novice. There, propelled by her burning desire to survive, Zhu learns she is capable of doing whatever it takes, no matter how callous, to stay hidden from her fate.

After her sanctuary is destroyed for supporting the rebellion against Mongol rule, Zhu takes the chance to claim another future altogether: her brother’s abandoned greatness.

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The Wild Ones by Nafiza Azad

The cover of this book was released recently and I am completely and utterly in love with it… I could just frame it and stare at it all day long.

Release date: August 3rd 2021

Summary:https___culturess.com_files_image-exchange_2017_07_ie_61444

From William C. Morris Finalist Nafiza Azad comes a thrilling, feminist fantasy about a group of teenage girls endowed with special powers who must band together to save the life of the boy whose magic saved them all.

Meet the Wild Ones: girls who have been hurt, abandoned, and betrayed all their lives. It all began with Paheli, who was once betrayed by her mother and sold to a man in exchange for a favor. When Paheli escapes, she runs headlong into a boy with stars in his eyes. This boy, as battered as she is, tosses Paheli a box of stars before disappearing.

With the stars, Paheli gains access to the Between, a place of pure magic and mystery. Now, Paheli collects girls like herself and these Wild Ones use their magic to travel the world, helping the hopeless and saving others from the fates they suffered.

Then Paheli and the Wild Ones learn that the boy who gave them the stars, Taraana, is in danger. He’s on the run from powerful forces within the world of magic. But if Taraana is no longer safe and free, neither are the Wild Ones. And that…is a fate the Wild Ones refuse to accept. Ever again.

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Jade Fire Gold by June C.L. Tan

I LOVE A GOOD DUAL POV NARRATIVE!

Release date: November 2nd 2021

Summary:51062420._SY475_

Told in a dual POV narrative reminiscent of An Ember in the Ashes, Jade Fire Gold is a YA fantasy is inspired by East Asian mythology and folk tales. Epic in scope but intimate in characterization, fans of classic fantasies by Tamora Pierce and the magical Asiatic setting of Avatar: the Last Airbender will enjoy this cinematic tale of family, revenge, and forgiveness.

In order to save her grandmother from a cult of dangerous priests, a peasant girl cursed with the power to steal souls enters a tenuous alliance with an exiled prince bent on taking back the Dragon Throne. The pair must learn to trust each other but are haunted by their pasts—and the true nature of her dark magic.

[Add on Goodreads]

What are you most anticipated 2021 fantasy/ sci-fi book releases? What do you think of mine? Let me know in the comments!

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Reviews · Uncategorized

Violent Ends: Review of These Violent Delights

#RescuePH ~ End SARS ~ Black Lives Matter ~ Free Palestine ~ Kashmir Bleeds 

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

Book: These Violent Delights

Summary

Perfect for fans of The Last Magician and Descendant of the Crane, this heart-stopping debut is an imaginative Romeo and Juliet retelling set in 1920s Shanghai, with rival gangs and a monster in the depths of the Huangpu River.

The year is 1926, and Shanghai hums to the tune of debauchery.

A blood feud between two gangs runs the streets red, leaving the city helpless in the grip of chaos. At the heart of it all is eighteen-year-old Juliette Cai, a former flapper who has returned to assume her role as the proud heir of the Scarlet Gang—a network of criminals far above the law. Their only rivals in power are the White Flowers, who have fought the Scarlets for generations. And behind every move is their heir, Roma Montagov, Juliette’s first love…and first betrayal.

But when gangsters on both sides show signs of instability culminating in clawing their own throats out, the people start to whisper. Of a contagion, a madness. Of a monster in the shadows. As the deaths stack up, Juliette and Roma must set their guns—and grudges—aside and work together, for if they can’t stop this mayhem, then there will be no city left for either to rule.

Author: Chloe Gong

Year Published: 2020

Content Warnings: Blood, violence, gore, character deaths, explicit description of gouging self (not of their own volition), murder, weapon use, insects, alcohol consumption, parental abuse (from author’s website)

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

BREAKING NEWS! Recently, sobs of anguish have been issuing from Shakespeare’s grave at random hours of the day. There is much speculation over the cause but I’ll let you in on a secret: Shakespeare’s ghost is weeping on the other side because finally, after all these years, he’s been outdone. Who by? Chloe Gong and her painfully beautiful debut, These Violent Delights.

Did my heart love till now? I think not. This book has become one of my favourite reads of all time because simply put, it is perfect in every way. It is a young adult historical novel with elements of science fiction/ fantasy that retells Romeo and Juliet in 1920s Shanghai with rival gangs, a monster and a mysterious contagion for extra spice.

I’ve read Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet and while I appreciate that it’s extremely well written, I very much dislike it because I just find the plot illogical (if you disagree don’t come at me these things are subjective). Luckily, These Violent Delights took everything I dislike about the original play and made it into something that I adore with all my heart- that in itself is a miracle as far as I’m concerned.

I did however enjoy being able to pick up on the many small Romeo and Juliet references scattered throughout. The author included tiny details that showed how much thought and care had gone into the retelling. A non-spoilery example would be how in the novel Juliette often says things that have double meanings to hide her true intentions which is exactly what Juliet does in Shakespeare’s play.

Even better than the references were the clever ways Gong tweaked the plot to keep the reader guessing whether they were familiar with Romeo and Juliet or not. Because it’s a retelling, I thought I knew exactly how the plot would go but it completely inverted my expectations and left me reeling in shock.

The prose was so beautiful that I was captivated from the first sentence. It was intense and lyrical, Gong skilfully crafted vibrant, authentic atmospheres with just a few words. I adored the third person omniscient narration because it gave the story a sense of scope and grandeur. We get glimpses into the minds of so many characters and I loved that each one had their own distinct voice. It was definitely the most beautiful and experimental writing I’ve seen in a debut and Gong really pulled it off!

Juliette Cai was the heiress to the Scarlet Gang who had spent the past four years in America and come back different in many ways- only to find out Shanghai had done the same. She was smart, brave and reckless with nerves of steel and deadpan humourit was hard to not love her. Juliette Cai had so much more agency and power than Juliet Capulet and I loved to see it! She truly was a force to behold and I was cheering her on throughout. Her rage at the injustices of her world- the racism, misogyny, greed, xenophobia, lack of empathy- was palpable and it was so interesting seeing Shanghai through her eyes.

I think Juliette’s diaspora story is one that will resonate with many people. She found herself in a position where in America she was too Eastern to be accepted and when she returned to Shanghai, she was too Western to be accepted. That sense of not knowing who she was or where she truly belonged permeated her story arc.

Roma Montagov was the heir to the White Flowers. His inner conflict was so interesting because deep down inside he was soft, sensitive and dreamy hated being the heir to a gang. He wished he could just disappear with his loved ones and live a quiet life but at the same time, he was scared to relinquish the protection and privilege his position of power gave him. I loved his relationship with his younger sister, Alisa, it was so sweet. 

The main storyline of the book wasn’t focused on Juliette and Roma’s relationship but that didn’t make it any less memorable. Gong turned the original play on its head so that when they met at the start of the novel it wasn’t their first encounter because they were already exes with a complicated history full of lies and betrayal.

I loved this twist for two reasons. Firstly, because it took out the ‘insta love’ aspect that I didn’t like in Romeo and Juliet. Secondly, because it made their relationship so much more intense and dynamic. They had to get to know each other all over again, these harder and colder versions of themselves. They had to grapple with conflicting feelings of love and hate that have been festering for so many years. They weren’t children anymore and their love wasn’t romantic and innocent because the environment they were in would never allow it. Sometimes, the only way they could show their love was through painful, cruel choices. It was messy, angsty and the levels of yearning were through the roof. And the saddest part was it was through no fault of their own but as a result of the hatred and tension between the two gangs.

Their relationship was charged, unpredictable and quite honestly tragic (which is quite fitting considering the novel is a retelling of a tragedy). This picture basically sums it up (Roma would be the one with the rose, Juliette with the knife).

The side characters were all amazing and shone in their own rights. Gong’s take on Benvolio and Mercutio with Benedikt and Marshall was spot on and their relationship was so precious. Especially with Marshall, she really captured Mercutio’s dramatic, sarcastic nature perfectly. All of their scenes made me smile.

I was so glad that Juliette got some wing women too! Kathleen (who was trans!) was so kind and soft, I felt bad for her because she always took too much on and felt too much then ended up neglecting herself. I also found passionate, headstrong Rosalind to be an interesting character. Instead of taking too much on, she kept too much bottled up inside. She was so similar to Juliette it was uncanny, the only difference was that one was the heir and the other wasn’t. I loved how even though their personalities clashed they were there for each other always.

And if you found fiery Tybalt to be infuriating in Romeo and Juliet… wait until you meet Tyler. Gong really hit the nail on the head with him, capturing the same volatile nature that makes Tybalt so detestable. His arrogant nature was a façade for his weaknesses but obviously he got away with it because he was a man. While Juliette, the extremely competent heir, had to work twice as hard to prove her worth.

The world-building was immersive and detailed, it felt like a glimpse of the past. I liked how both the Scarlet Gang and the White Flowers were both so distinct in their general aesthetics and in their core values and principles. 1920s Shanghai was a brilliant backdrop for the story. It was a setting full of contrasts and divisions mirroring the divisions and conflicts between the characters. Gong also seamlessly wove in a commentary on the destructive effects of imperialism and colonialism, racism and xenophobia into the narrative and setting making the story all the more relevant and hard-hitting.

I also loved the subtleties of language that the author portrayed: the characters switched between different dialects, different languages were used in different settings, words were more meaningful in one language as opposed to another. As someone who sometimes merges at least four different languages into one sentence, I appreciated it very much and it made the world feel more real and alive.

I thought the addition of the contagion and the monster was genius. It expanded on a tiny detail in the play and gave the story more urgency by increasing the stakes. It also served as a plot device exposing the ugliness, greed and apathy lying beneath Shanghai’s vibrant exterior. The monster was like a metaphor for the monstrosities of imperialism and colonialism that were ravaging Shanghai. The protagonists were given the challenge of defeating a monster without becoming one themselves.

I found it chillingly similar to real life how those in power couldn’t see how dangerous the disease was and didn’t see the need to address it. For example, both Roma and Juliette’s parents were too proud and accustomed to power to think anything could unseat it. Leaving the younger generation to pick up the pieces and find a solution.

These Violent Delights is a brilliant read that captures all the drama, humour, action and emotion of the play it retells whilst also making it more relevant and exciting for modern day readers. This is a book I would recommend to everyone (as long as you can handle the more gory aspects) that will entertain and provoke thought.

The twists were truly incredible and the ending was the most exquisite form of agony. I don’t know how I will survive until the sequel comes out. I obviously won’t spoil what happens but suffice to say: these violent delights really do have violent ends.

Have you read These Violent Delights? What were your thoughts? Are there any Shakespeare retellings that you would recommend? Let me know in the comments!

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A Light in the Darkness: Review of Night

End SARS ~ Black Lives Matter ~ Free Palestine ~ Kashmir Bleeds ~ Junk Terror Bill

Thank you to the author for providing me with an e-ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review. All opinions expressed are my own.

Book: Night (North #2) 

Summary

After months in captivity, Apaay managed to escape Yuki’s labyrinth with her life. But her freedom did not come without a steep cost. When the Face Stealer, the North’s most notorious demon, calls in her blood oath, Apaay must heed his demand. Debts, after all, must be repaid.

As Apaay attempts to navigate her uprooted life, something dark slithers among the snow-dusted conifers of the North. A long-dead war is unfinished, and there are those who would see it revived. In a place where misplaced loyalty could mean her death, Apaay must look inward to repair her broken soul—for if she cannot place trust in those around her, she might find enemies are closer than they appear.

In this stunning follow-up to Below, Alexandria Warwick brings the second book in her dark and seductive North series to thrilling new heights.

Author: Alexandria Warwick

Year Published: 2020

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

Night was the sequel to Below that expanded on the first book well, although it was a bit too overwhelming at times.

In this book, Apaay was out of survival mode and everything that had befallen her in the labyrinth came crashing down on her. Her trauma was explored in a raw, emotive manner, so much so that her guilt, grief and despair were almost palpable. I felt sad watching her push everyone trying to help her away and make choices that were clearly going to lead to more pain but she was in such a dark place and that was the only way she could cope.

Below was about Apaay realising her self worth and knowing that she was enough exactly the way she was. In Night, she had to learn to forgive herself and leave the past behind her. It was emotional watching her slowly see a glimmer of light in the darkness and begin to work towards it.

I was very surprised that Ila quickly became my favourite character. I loved her strength, wisdom and determination. In this book, it was her turn to go on a journey of self discovery and it was interesting to see her navigate her expanding world. I was sad that her friendship with Apaay broke down but I do understand the importance of walking away from friendships that bring nothing but pain. I still wish they could have communicated with each other more.

I think I was supposed to like the Face Stealer in this book… but I didn’t. He has had some growth, there is a better side to him and he has shown remorse for previous events but I still think he has a long way to go before I can like him as a character. His intentions were always so murky and I never knew whether to take him at face value or not (pun not intended).

It was interesting to see Apaay’s opinion of the Face Stealer shift but there were times when it hinted at a possible future romance between them and I really hope that doesn’t happen! I would hate that. There would be an unsettling power imbalance and I can’t see Apaay forgiving him enough to love him.

While Below was mostly confined to a shifting and perilous labyrinth, its sequel, Night, expanded greatly on the world. I loved the contrast between the tight, trapped atmosphere of the first book and the sense of vastness in the second as we got to learn more about the subtleties of the world. The plot was much slower paced than the first book and there is nothing wrong with that, but I didn’t like how the pace sped up rapidly near the end making the ending feel rushed and confusing.

As Apaay’s world increased the scope of the plot increased too. Suddenly, the stakes were much higher than Apaay’s mission to save her sister. The fate of nations were balancing on a knife edge and war was on the horizon. However, one of my favourite aspects of Below was how personal it was to Apaay. As I closely followed her story I became more and more invested and compelled to keep reading. The widening of the plot’s scope made me feel less engaged with the story as I had to get my head around all these new components and characters and therefore felt less connected to them all.

I understand that it was necessary for the story but it made the novel feel like a transition between the first and third upcoming book. Therefore, I enjoyed it less than the first. But because of this I am very excited to read the next book as now that the larger plot is established I think I will be more invested in the next part of the story!

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Blog Tour: Crowning Soul by Sahira Javaid

Lebanon ~ Black Lives Matter ~ Free Palestine ~ Kashmir Bleeds ~ Junk Terror Bill

Hello booksicles! Today I bring you my stop on the Crowning Soul blog tour (hosted by Qamar Blog Tours) with some information about the book and mood boards!

About the book:

  • Title: Crowning Soul
  • Author: Sahira Javaid
  • Publication date: September 8th, 2020
  • Genre: YA Fantasycrowning soul cover-1696946039..jpg

Synopsis:

Be swept away in this unique fantasy debut from Sahira Javaid. A spellbinding adventure of belonging, finding hope and where the price of a soul is another soul’s fate. Perfect for the fans of InuYasha, Children of Blood and Bone and The Candle and The Flame.

Nezha Zaman considers her gift to control fire a dangerous secret. A secret that unravels when she encounters a vengeful shadow jinni in a maze garden that has been stalking her family, and knows about her power.

Weeks after seeing the demonic being, Nezha is torn from her world through her backyard pond and transported into another dimension which sought out the light inside her heart.

Nezha learns from two unicorns that the dimension is her family’s roots, and the light is a fragment of an angel’s shattered soul. The three must work together to find the soul’s shards in a land teeming with shape-shifting jinn.

If Nezha fails to stop the corrupted Iron Prince, the malevolent jinn at his side will shatter her soul next.

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Mood boards:

Here are the mood boards I made inspired by the book! They are based on three of the main characters: Nezha, Sapphire and Thunderbolt.

Nezha MoodboardThunderbolt & Sapphire Moodboard

About the author:

Sahira Javaid is a YA Fantasy writer and poetess from Ottawa who shares her poems on her Twitter page and her website. Fond of animals, nature and learning, she passes time with reading about the world around her, nature’s healing ways, chatting with friends and making others smile and laugh every time she gets. Her poetry book Crack of Dawn is available on Amazon and other online retailers.

Twitter  Website  Pinterest  Goodreads

Thank you to Qamar Blog Tours for making this possible!

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We Cheat Death: Review of Dangerous Remedy (Blog Tour)

Lebanon ~ Black Lives Matter ~ Free Palestine ~ Kashmir Bleeds ~ Junk Terror Bill

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

Book: Dangerous Remedy

Summary

The first in a dazzling, commercial, historical adventure series set in the extravagant and deadly world of the French Revolution. A whirlwind of action, science and magic reveals, with a diverse cast of fearless heroines, a band of rebels like no other.

Camille, a revolutionary’s daughter, leads a band of outcasts – a runaway girl, a deserter, an aristocrat in hiding. As the Battalion des Mortes they cheat death, saving those about to meet a bloody end at the blade of Madame La Guillotine. But their latest rescue is not what she seems. The girl’s no aristocrat, but her dark and disturbing powers means both the Royalists and the Revolutionaries want her. But who and what is she?

In a fast and furious story full of the glamour and excesses, intrigue and deception of these dangerous days, no one can be trusted, everyone is to be feared. As Camille learns the truth, she’s forced to choose between loyalty to those she loves and the future.

Author: Kat Dunn

Year Published: 2020

Content Warnings: violence, death, execution, human experimentation

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

Dangerous Remedy was an action packed read best summed up as queer Stranger Things meets Frankenstein during the French Revolution. It was a fun, enjoyable and quick read that I’d definitely recommend although I lacked the emotional investment that might have increased my rating.

I loved the fast pace of the story that still kept the balance between dynamic, dramatic scenes and quieter ones. The tight structure of the book was held together with short chapters ending on cliffhangers that compelled me to keep reading (I was so grateful for the short chapters, the number of books I’ve read recently with massive chapters is quite honestly draining). The plot twists were exciting although I saw a few coming and I also loved how the ending gave me closure while leaving enough loose ends to make me want to read the next book.

Camille was the protagonist one of the POV characters. Although personally, I didn’t find her to be the most likeable character she was still really interesting to read about and had admirable qualities. However, I was confused as to why the other characters in the book were all either in love with or really fond of her… I didn’t understand what there was to like. But I think that was the thing about Camille, she had a sense of purpose and drive that drew people in and made them forget about everything else. There were several mentions in the book of her having ‘weak lungs’ although it didn’t go into detail. I haven’t seen another book of this genre featuring a character with any sort of health issue before.

As I said, Camille did have admirable qualities. She had a burning desire to bring about justice and ‘do the right thing’ (even if she didn’t always know what that was) and she was a versatile, strong and pragmatic leader not afraid to resort to intimidation or violence to achieve her goals. The main reason I didn’t like her was that she had serious communication issues when it came to her personal relationships, I wished she would just sit and talk things out instead of avoiding it.

Ada was the other POV character and she was amazing. She was a smart and curious scientist and I loved to see it. I felt so angry for her not being able to go to university because she was a woman. I liked how she was kind, brave and a surprisingly good actress, making people see only what she wanted them to.

I liked her relationship with Camille and how their soft, romantic moments broke up the action. There were times when I wished Ada would set more boundaries with her but she loved her so much that she excused everything. But on the other hand, no relationship is perfect and the way they always chose each other despite their differences was lovely.

Olympe was a girl with supernatural powers after being subject to human experimentation (slightly similar to Eleven from Stranger Things). She didn’t have as much of an active role in the story, there times when I wished I could read a chapter from her perspective. I did like how we see her dealing with her trauma and slowly coming into her own. I also liked Guillaume, the calm, principled and wise big brother figure full of philosophic advice. And Al was a snarky character who pretended to be self serving but I always felt like he secretly cared about everyone the most. I really liked his friendship with Ada, it was unexpected.

In general, the battalion were so lovable, Dunn definitely pulled off the found family trope- I loved their camaraderie and banter! In terms of diversity, both Ada and Guillaume were POC, Camille was bisexual, Ada was lesbian and Al was gay. I loved how they made a group where they accepted each other without question, even if the wider society didn’t.

Dangerous Remedy was a high-octane read set to the historical backdrop of the French Revolution that I enjoyed very much and I can’t wait to read the next book.

Have you read Dangerous Remedy? Are you planning on reading it? What are your favourite books with the found family trope? Let me know in the comments!

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A Celestial Serenade: Review of Star Daughter

Lebanon ~ Black Lives Matter ~ Free Palestine ~ Kashmir Bleeds ~ Junk Terror Bill

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

Book: Star Daughter

Summary

The daughter of a star and a mortal, Sheetal is used to keeping secrets. Pretending to be “normal.” But when an accidental flare of her starfire puts her human father in the hospital, Sheetal needs a full star’s help to heal him. A star like her mother, who returned to the sky long ago.

Sheetal’s quest to save her father will take her to a celestial court of shining wonders and dark shadows, where she must take the stage as her family’s champion in a competition to decide the next ruling house of the heavens–and win, or risk never returning to Earth at all.

This gorgeously imagined YA debut blends shades of Neil Gaiman’s Stardust and a breathtaking landscape of Hindu mythology into a radiant contemporary fantasy.

Author: Shveta Thakrar

Year Published: 2020

Content Warnings: absent parent, critically ill parent, hospitalization, panic attack, person held captive and tortured

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

Star Daughter was a lyrical read interwoven with Hindu mythology that will reel you in and hold you in a starry embrace until the very last page. 

Sheetal Mistry was a girl caught between two worlds- half human, half star. Her mother was a star who went back to the sky when Sheetal was young, leaving her with her father. All her life, Sheetal had to hide who she was and lay low with her shimmering silver hair died black and her starsong held in. Until one day, after an accident with her starfire that hospitalized her father, Sheetal had to ascend to the sky and participate in a celestial competition to save him.

I loved how Sheetal gradually made her own place in both her worlds where she could be herself without fear. Her grief, pain and sense of abandonment was palpable and raw. She had to deal with the pressure and self-doubt of so much relying on one performance in what was basically a celestial talent show and I felt so worried and nervous for her. I loved how Thakrar contrasted Sheetal dealing with average teenager problems and high stakes magical dilemmas all in a short time span.

The side characters were really likeable too. Sheetal’s best friend Minal was a ray of sunshine– I loved their supportive friendship- and although I was annoyed at him at first Dev grew on me. Sheetal’s relationships with her family, especially her father and mother, were well fleshed out and given time to develop.

Star Daughter was a novel bursting at its seams with magic. The ethereal stars with their silver blood and hair, inspiring humans to create heartfelt works of art. The bustling Night Market which seemed so wondrous I wish it was real. It was a story full of whimsy and possible impossibilities that captivated my imagination.

I’m not an ownvoices reviewer for this book so it’s not my place to discuss the representation but it was a pleasure to learn about Hindu mythology and the nakshatras. I loved the author’s note at the start where she explained the inspirations behind the book (one of them being Neil Gaiman’s Stardust), her love for fantasy and how she wrote the story about a magical desi Hindu girl that she had always wished to read.

The book explored the themes of legacy, identity and how it’s important to own our mistakes and flaws as much as our accomplishments. I was going to give it 4.5 stars until the last few chapters where some of the plot twists made little sense to me and were confusing. Overall however, Star Daughter was an enjoyable, standalone novel that I would highly recommend to all fans of low fantasy!

Have you read Star Daughter? What are your favourite books inspired by mythology? Let me know in the comments!

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A Brilliant Conclusion: Review of Court of Lions (Blog Tour)

Lebanon ~ Black Lives Matter ~ Free Palestine ~ Kashmir Bleeds ~ Junk Terror Bill

Hello booksicles! I’m so honoured and excited to be a part of the Caffeine Book Tours blog tour for Court of Lions by Somaiya Daud (which you can find out more about in this launch post). In my stop, I’ll be sharing my thoughts about the book in a review along with my own quote graphics.

About the book:

  • Title: Court of Lions
  • Author: Somaiya Daud
  • Publisher: Flatiron Books
  • Publication date: 06 August 2020
  • Genres: Young Adult, Science Fiction

Synopsis:

Two identical girls, one a princess, the other a rebel. Who will rule the empire?

After being swept up into the brutal Vathek court, Amani, the ordinary girl forced to serve as the half-Vathek princess’s body double, has been forced into complete isolation. The cruel but complex princess, Maram, with whom Amani had cultivated a tenuous friendship, discovered Amani’s connection to the rebellion and has forced her into silence, and if Amani crosses Maram once more, her identity – and her betrayal – will be revealed to everyone in the court.

Amani is desperate to continue helping the rebellion, to fight for her people’s freedom. But she must make a devastating decision: will she step aside, and watch her people suffer, or continue to aid them, and put herself and her family in mortal danger? And whatever she chooses, can she bear to remain separated, forever, from Maram’s fiancé, Idris?

Amazon   B&N   Book Depository   IndieBound   Goodreads 

Review:

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

Content Warnings: violence, death, physical abuse, grief, themes of colonialism 

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

Court of Lions was a stunning sequel to Mirage that concluded the duology perfectly. I loved how much more Moroccan culture was incorporated into it. More delicious food descriptions (this book made me crave sfenj so badly), clothes, language references, henna, haggling in the souk, small cultural details that made my heart swell with joy and even Moroccan marriage traditions (including the all important wardrobe changes!) which made me wish someone would invite me to a Moroccan wedding (although that’s impossible with the current situation). And the cover of the book is so gorgeous! I never thought I’d see a book cover with two Moroccan girls resplendent in qaftans and selhams!

This book had a much slower pace than the first, with more of an emphasis on politics and forging alliances and I thought it worked really well and seemed realistic. All the choices the characters made sense and came together at the end nicely.

HOPE was given to a person who might reshape the WORLD (1)

Amani shone through in this book even more than she did in the first. She was brave, smart and versatile in a way Maram, for all her strengths, was not. I was already impressed with her growth in Mirage but in this book she grew even more. Although she hadn’t been raised to navigate courts she was smart, she knew how to influence people and understood the importance of symbolism. I admired the way Amani held to her hope of a better world and never, ever stopped fighting for it. I also loved how her relationship with Idris developed and how they dealt with the bumps on the road. 

Maram also had her time to shine, quite literally, because she gets her own 3rd person POV chapters! Although they were few and far between they gave so much insight into her and her character development in this book was top-tier. I loved her journey of accepting and loving her Kushaila heritage and working through her father’s conditioning. Seeing the grief, fear and anguish beneath her icy exterior, seeing the soft parts of her that were always there but pushed down by the Vath, seeing her take the time to explore herself and come into her own was so emotive and touching. If Mirage was where Amani found her strength and resilience to act, Court of Lions was the same for Maram.

In Kushaila there were degrees of love_

 

I loved her romance with Aghraas. The way they saw and accepted each other immediately and the slow burn of their relationship was exquisitely done. For someone who was taught that emotions were weakness and was used to constantly being on the defensive it was amazing to see Maram examine her emotions and lower her defenses completely around someone. Daud really does write romance well!

Amani and Maram’s friendship was so well fleshed out. The way they slowly regained each others’ trust and rebuilt a strong, sisterly relationship based on trust was beautiful to behold. Furthermore, the side characters and the complex web of relationships between them, Amani and Maram were also extremely well fleshed out and engrossing. And I loved how many strong, brave women were introduced into the story!

The Vath who governed us were concerned with policing and surveillance, not growth and prosperity

Court of Lions dealt with rebellion, liberation and the trials that come with them. How do you dismantle an imperial structure built to break you when it has become so interwoven with society? How do you convince people that rebellion is worth the risk? It also explored trauma and how the characters each dealt differently with their own.

I loved how much more world building we got in this sequel. We get to explore so many more places in Andala through the characters eyes as well as learning more about the world’s history and lore. The emphasis on the different tribes and their cultures was lovely to see especially as it reflected the diversity among the Amazigh tribes in the real world. It saddened me how the Vath dismissed them as all the same and sought to erase their cultures but unfortunately that also reflects our world too. However, I wish we got to see more of the universe the book is set in and understand Andala and the Vath’s position in it. There are multiple references to a galactic law but we never know who enforces it and why it matters so much.

We never used to give a thought To separation, and now, for us To be together again Is beyond our dreams...

All in all, Court of Lions was a brilliant conclusion and I’d highly recommend this duology to everyone as I love it with all my half Moroccan heart!

About the author:

Somaiya Daud is the author of Mirage and holds a PhD from the University of Washington in English literature. A former bookseller in the children’s department at Politics and Prose in Washington, D.C., now she writes and teaches full time.

Author website   Facebook   Goodreads   Twitter   Instagram 

Giveaway:

Caffeine Book Tours is holding a giveaway, the prizes are five (5) paperback editions of Mirage and five (5) hardcover editions of Court of Lions by Somaiya Daud it is:

  • Open to United States (US)
  • Ends on 11 August 2020 (Philippine time)

This is the link to the rafflecopter to enter the giveaway.

Court of Lions blog tour schedule

Thank you so much to Shealea from Caffeine Book Tours for making all of this possible!

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The Space Moroccans: Review of Mirage

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

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

Book: Mirage

Summary

In a star system dominated by the brutal Vathek empire, eighteen-year-old Amani is a dreamer. She dreams of what life was like before the occupation; she dreams of writing poetry like the old-world poems she adores; she dreams of receiving a sign from Dihya that one day, she, too, will have adventure, and travel beyond her isolated moon.

But when adventure comes for Amani, it is not what she expects: she is kidnapped by the regime and taken in secret to the royal palace, where she discovers that she is nearly identical to the cruel half-Vathek Princess Maram. The princess is so hated by her conquered people that she requires a body double, someone to appear in public as Maram, ready to die in her place.

As Amani is forced into her new role, she can’t help but enjoy the palace’s beauty—and her time with the princess’ fiancé, Idris. But the glitter of the royal court belies a world of violence and fear. If Amani ever wishes to see her family again, she must play the princess to perfection…because one wrong move could lead to her death.

Author: Somaiya Daud

Year Published: 2018

Content Warnings: violence, physical abuse, torture, themes of colonialism

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

Mirage was a Moroccan and Amazigh (who are the indigenous people of North Africa) inspired sci-fi (with the feel of a fantasy) and it was quite literally the book of my dreams. I don’t think words can convey how much this book means to me but I’ll give it a go!

I’m half Moroccan Amazigh and reading a book so interwoven with Moroccan and Amazighi culture and history meant the world. From aspects like the food (all the food descriptions made me so hungry!), language, clothes and traditions to more subtle cultural nuances, I’ve never read a book where I felt so seen! There was a specific scene, where one character taught another to cook miloui (a type of Moroccan flatbread), which I could directly relate to because I remembered when my mum taught me to cook it myself! 

Mirage explored colonialism, cultural appropriation and erasure, themes that are relevant today and have been throughout history not just in Morocco but all over the world. I loved how poetry was an important motif as a method of resistance and rebellion. Also, there was a religion (that felt slightly reminiscent of Islam) in the book that revolved around a deity called Dihya and historically, Dihya was an Amazigh warrior queen who for many symbolises anti-colonialism and feminism. 

“Even your happiness is rebellion.”

The book is set on a planet called Andala (and its two terraformed moons called Cadiz and Gibra) which had been conquered by an empire from another planet called the Vathek, at the time the book is set Andalans had been suffering under their brutal rule for years. Amani was an eighteen-year-old Kushaila girl (Kushaila were the oldest tribe group on Andala) kidnapped from her village on Cadiz to be Princess Maram’s body double at public events as they looked pretty much exactly the same. She was thrust into a completely unfamiliar world that was dazzling on the surface but sinister beneath where she had to navigate court intrigue and politics and weather violence and slavery

“Change takes bravery, yabnati.”

I loved Amani as she was so strong in the face of adversity. Her identity, agency and future dreams were stolen from her but she survived, she adapted to her situation and made a place for herself. Gradually, she built up the courage and resilience to channel her anger at the injustices her people endured into action. I also loved how she was smart, soft and kind with immense loyalty for her loved ones and her people and a passion for poetry, throughout the book I was rooting for her. I also adored her forbidden romance with Idris. I don’t usually like insta-love romances but theirs was so emotive and poignant without becoming the main focus of the book.

Maram was one of the most interesting characters I’ve ever read about. Her father, the king, was Vathek and her mother was Kushaila. All her life she had been taught to hate her mother’s legacy and people while also being disdained by the Vath for her Kushaila blood. There was nowhere she truly belonged and was accepted as she was. She channeled the turmoil inside her through being cruel so no one would think her weak or see her pain. Gradually, as Amani befriends her and starts to understand her the reader does too. We see her vulnerability, grief and helplessness and instead of a cruel princess we see a boat lost at sea in need of a lighthouse to guide its way home. Maram and Amani’s sisterly friendship was beautifully done.

“It was a cruel person that judged a child by their parent’s legacy.” 

The sci-fi aspect of the book was a bit confusing as the boundaries of their technology weren’t established and at times it felt more like a fantasy novel. But this is a very minor observation as it had no impact on my enjoyment or love for the book.

Mirage was a brilliant novel with powerful, uncompromising writing and strong female characters that I love with all my heart. If you haven’t read it yet… what are you waiting for?

Have you read Mirage? Do you like books set on fictional planets? Let me know in the comments!

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