Reviews · Uncategorized

Review: Night

Lebanon ~ 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!

Twitter Goodreads

Reviews

Abandon Thought: Review of Where Dreams Descend

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

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

Book: Where Dreams Descend

Summary

In a city covered in ice and ruin, a group of magicians face off in a daring game of magical feats to find the next headliner of the Conquering Circus, only to find themselves under the threat of an unseen danger striking behind the scenes.

As each act becomes more and more risky and the number of missing magicians piles up, three are forced to reckon with their secrets before the darkness comes for them next.

The Star: Kallia, a powerful showgirl out to prove she’s the best no matter the cost

The Master: Jack, the enigmatic keeper of the club, and more than one lie told

The Magician: Demarco, the brooding judge with a dark past he can no longer hide

Where Dreams Descend is the startling and romantic first book in Janella Angeles’ debut Kingdom of Cards fantasy duology where magic is both celebrated and feared, and no heart is left unscathed.

Author: Janella Angeles

Year Published: 2020

Content Warnings: misogyny, character death, emotional abuse, manipulation

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

Where Dreams Descend is one of those rare books that actually surpassed my expectations. It seemed like the sort of book I would like but I didn’t think I would end up adoring everything about it!

Months after reading it, the characters and story are still fresh in my mind. Drawing inspiration from The Phantom of the Opera and Moulin Rouge, Angeles crafted a world that will lure you in with its lavish façade only to trap you in the sinister claws of its secrets.

The book is set in a world where magic could be acquired and rarely, a gift one could be born with. However, it was only socially acceptable for men to take their magic to the stage and become show magicians. Women were expected to only use their magic (although it was often stronger) for labour and domestic tasks. The closest they could get to the spotlight was being a showgirl in an underground club or bar

“Why else destroy light if not envious of its radiance?”

Which brings us to Kallia, a showgirl in one of the aforementioned underground clubs who escaped to join a competition for magicians and carve her name into the spotlight.

Now when I say Kallia is a queen and deserves the world I really do mean it. I loved her determination and ambition, her sass and flair for the dramatic. She knew that she was talented and she demanded the recognition she was due. She faced the sexism in her world head on and was not afraid to put up a fight. There truly is nothing more satisfying than reading about Kallia putting another crusty, misogynistic man in their place. The sexism in the book had parallels with our world, especially the sexism in the entertainment industry.

For much of her life, Kallia was isolated from the world and manipulated. The book addressed her struggle with trauma because of this, hidden beneath a confident and arrogant mask. As well as her flamboyance, there was a vulnerable side to Kallia too. A part of her that was scared to show weakness, scared of failure, scared to let people in, scared that she wasn’t enough. This made her all the more relatable for me.

“Their first mistake was in thinking obstacles gave them an upper hand. Little did they know, she would always find a way to grow through cracks in the stone.”

Another character worth mentioning is Daron. Normally I don’t like the ‘broody love interest with a Tragic Past™’ trope but Angeles pulled it off. I liked how he gradually softened and opened up as Kallia (and the reader) got to know him. And I loved how his slightly awkward and sombre nature contrasted with Kallia’s vibrant character.

“She narrowed her eyes on each judge all the way to the end, and met Daron’s stare with a wink.”

The romance was sweet and full of yearning without being the main focus of the plot- we even get a swoony dance scene! And I’ve seen people saying this book has a love triangle in it but I disagree, to me it seemed like Kallia knew who she wanted to be with and there was only one love interest.

I loved Kallia’s friendship with her assistant, Aaros, and how he was always there to support her (although I wish we got to know more about him). I also loved the friendships she made with Canary and the circus women and how they found kinship and strength in one another. Another side character I liked was Lottie de la Rosa and I hope we see more of her in the sequel.

I can never resist a book with a strong sense of atmosphere and this book definitely delivered in that respect. It was full of elaborateness, music, dancing and glamour with ominous undertones lurking in the background. I loved Angeles’ gorgeous writing and imagery that reflected Kallia’s personality with its drama and intensity.

So you might be wondering: Umairah, if you loved this book so much why did you drop off half a star? And the answer to that would be: the plot. While I loved the mystery, magic and theatrics of the plot, the ending was extremely open ended. It didn’t answer any of the questions the story brought up and left me with even more of them. Personally, I like endings with a bit more resolution but I hope the sequel wraps up all the loose ends.

Where Dreams Descend was a spectacular (or should I say Spectaculore) read that had similar vibes to The Night Circus and gave me everything I found lacking in Caraval. It is a book that tackles themes like misogyny and trauma head on and I would highly recommend it!

What did you think of Where Dreams Descend? Have you read any other books featuring a magical competition/ game? Let me know in the comments!

Twitter Goodreads

Blog Tours · Reviews · Uncategorized

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!

Twitter Goodreads

Reviews · Uncategorized

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!

Twitter Goodreads

Blog Tours · Reviews · Uncategorized

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!

Twitter Goodreads

Reviews · Uncategorized

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!

Twitter Goodreads

Reviews · Uncategorized

A New Favourite: Review of The Kingdom of Copper

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

Book: The Kingdom of Copper

Summary

Return to Daevabad in the spellbinding sequel to THE CITY OF BRASS.

Nahri’s life changed forever the moment she accidentally summoned Dara, a formidable, mysterious djinn, during one of her schemes. Whisked from her home in Cairo, she was thrust into the dazzling royal court of Daevabad and quickly discovered she would need all her grifter instincts to survive there.

Now, with Daevabad entrenched in the dark aftermath of the battle that saw Dara slain at Prince Ali’s hand, Nahri must forge a new path for herself, without the protection of the guardian who stole her heart or the counsel of the prince she considered a friend. But even as she embraces her heritage and the power it holds, she knows she’s been trapped in a gilded cage, watched by a king who rules from the throne that once belonged to her familyand one misstep will doom her tribe.

Meanwhile, Ali has been exiled for daring to defy his father. Hunted by assassins, adrift on the unforgiving copper sands of his ancestral land, he is forced to rely on the frightening abilities the marid, the unpredictable water spirits, have gifted him. But in doing so, he threatens to unearth a terrible secret his family has long kept buried.

And as a new century approaches and the djinn gather within Daevabad’s towering brass walls for celebrations, a threat brews unseen in the desolate north. It’s a force that would bring a storm of fire straight to the city’s gates . . . and one that seeks the aid of a warrior trapped between worlds, torn between a violent duty he can never escape and a peace he fears he will never deserve.

Author: S. A. Chakraborty

Year Published: 2019

  • Plot: 5/5
  • Characters: 5/5
  • Writing: 5/5
  • Overall: Five Fiery Daeva Stars!

When I read The City of Brass last year I liked it and wanted to read the sequel but I didn’t love it. There many aspects I appreciated but I also found it to be quite a tedious read. So I am very glad I did read the sequel, The Kingdom of Copper, because I didn’t just love this book it has become one of my all time favourites!

The book started off with a prologue detailing how the three main characters dealt with the aftermath of what happened at the end of The City of Brass. Then, the story had a five year time jump that I was not expecting. However, it added more to the characters as it became evident that time had hardened them, reinforced the qualities I already associated with them and brought out new ones. It was so interesting to see them look back on the events of The City of Brass with the hindsight, regret, nostalgia and pain that comes with time while for the reader it didn’t feel that long ago at all.

I loved Nahri in this book. She was trapped in Daevabad and she needed all her astuteness and strength to navigate her gilded cage. She pushed against its boundaries and tried to bridge the gap between djinn, daeva and shafit. From the start of the novel it was clear she had already grown so much since the previous book and that growth continued throughout the sequel, especially because without her Afshin she had to rely on her own hard gained power that much more.

Ali also came into his own. Exiled to the desert away from his family and the scheming Daevabad court, he had the space to find his feet and earn the respect and love of people not because he was a prince but because they could tell her genuinely cared about them. After being manipulated using his religious beliefs it was nice to see him thrive somewhere where they were welcomed. Linking to that, I felt the Muslim representation resonated more with me in this book as opposed to the previous one. I loved the way Ali turned to his faith through all the turmoil and it gave him strength

Dara… what can I even say about Dara. In my review of The City of Brass I expressed much dislike towards him- he infuriated me. However in this book, my opinion on him softened. I realised that what I mistook for exasperating arrogance was actually a facade concealing his pain and confusion after centuries of slavery that he couldn’t remember. In The Kingdom of Copper we see a more vulnerable side to him (especially because we get chapters in his POV) and more complexity is added to his character. He loathed himself and his past actions and felt beyond redemption. And yet, he was willing to do those same things again because of his ingrained loyalty to the Nahids and feelings for Nahri.

The side characters were also very well fleshed out especially Jamshid, Muntadhir, Subha, Aqisa and Lubayd. Manizheh, was also introduced and she was such an interesting character. She was so shaped by cruelty it was all she knew and she wasn’t afriad to inflict it as long as it benefited her and those loyal to her. 

Chakraborty’s world building was masterful, creating a vivid, layered world of wonder  and chicanery that simultaneously felt far flung and right on my doorstep. In this book, we learn so much more about the djinn tribes, their history and their politics as well as the world outside of Daevabad. Everything was so detailed from the clothes, the food, the buildings, the customs and the traditions but not in a way that felt overwhelming or unnecessary. The story explored how hatred and discrimination can fester, how people will use anything they can to justify and permeate it and the destruction that causes. 

The plot was so engrossing that I never felt bored for even a moment (unlike the previous book). Even the slower paced parts captured my interest and pushed the story forward. The ending in particular was dramatic, visceral and heart wrenching in every way. It left me reeling with every emotion imaginable.

If you love dynamic, political fantasies The Kingdom of Copper is definitely for you. And if you weren’t too impressed with The City of Brass or found it boring I’d advise you to give the sequel a go, as it’s better in every way. With a gripping and complex plot, incredible multi-faceted characters, Muslim representation and discussion of interesting themes, The Kingdom of Copper delivers in every way!

Have you read The City of Brass? What do you think about political fantasies? Let me know in the comments!

Twitter Goodreads

Reviews · Uncategorized

Monster Princess: Review of Girl, Serpent, Thorn

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

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

Book: Girl, Serpent, Thorn

Summary

A captivating and utterly original fairy tale about a girl cursed to be poisonous to the touch, and who discovers what power might lie in such a curse…

There was and there was not, as all stories begin, a princess cursed to be poisonous to the touch. But for Soraya, who has lived her life hidden away, apart from her family, safe only in her gardens, it’s not just a story.

As the day of her twin brother’s wedding approaches, Soraya must decide if she’s willing to step outside of the shadows for the first time. Below in the dungeon is a demon who holds knowledge that she craves, the answer to her freedom. And above is a young man who isn’t afraid of her, whose eyes linger not with fear, but with an understanding of who she is beneath the poison.

Soraya thought she knew her place in the world, but when her choices lead to consequences she never imagined, she begins to question who she is and who she is becoming…human or demon. Princess or monster.

Author: Melissa Bashardoust

Year Published: 2020

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

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

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

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

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

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

Have you read Girl, Serpent, Thorn? Who was your favourite character? Let me know in the comments!

Twitter Goodreads

Reviews

Into the Shadow: Review of The Damned (Blog Tour)

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

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

Read my review of The Beautiful here!

Book: The Damned (The Beautiful #2)

Summary

Following the events of The Beautiful, Sébastien Saint Germain is now cursed and forever changed. The treaty between the Fallen and the Brotherhood has been broken, and war between the immortals seems imminent. The price of loving Celine was costly. But Celine has also paid a high price for loving Bastien.

Still recovering from injuries sustained during a night she can’t quite remember, her dreams are troubled. And she doesn’t know she has inadvertently set into motion a chain of events that could lead to her demise and unveil a truth about herself she’s not quite ready to learn.

Forces hiding in the shadows have been patiently waiting for this moment for centuries. And just as Bastien and Celine begin to uncover the danger around them, they learn their love could tear them apart.

Author: Renée Ahdieh

Year Published: 2020

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Have you read The Damned? How do you think it compared to The Beautiful? Let me know in the comments!

Twitter Goodreads

Reviews · Uncategorized

In The Spirit of Friendship: Review of Forest of Souls

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

Book: Forest of Souls (Shamanborn #1)

Summary

Sirscha Ashwyn comes from nothing, but she’s intent on becoming something. After years of training to become the queen’s next royal spy, her plans are derailed when shamans attack and kill her best friend Saengo.

And then Sirscha, somehow, restores Saengo to life.

Unveiled as the first soulguide in living memory, Sirscha is summoned to the domain of the Spider King. For centuries, he has used his influence over the Dead Wood—an ancient forest possessed by souls—to enforce peace between the kingdoms. Now, with the trees growing wild and untamed, only a soulguide can restrain them. As war looms, Sirscha must master her newly awakened abilities before the trees shatter the brittle peace, or worse, claim Saengo, the friend she would die for.

Danger lurks within the roots of Forest of Souls, an epic, unrelenting tale of destiny and sisterhood, perfect for fans of Naomi Novik and Susan Dennard.

Author: Lori M. Lee

Year Published: 2020

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What did you think of Forest of Souls? What is your favourite friendship in a book? Let me know in the comments!

Twitter Goodreads


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

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