Blog Tours · Uncategorized

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.

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Thank you to Qamar Blog Tours for making this possible!

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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!

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Uncategorized

Introducing A Thousand Nights Book Club!

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

Hello booksicles!

Today I have some very exciting news to share. As a Muslim, I’m always seeking to support Muslim authors and recommend their books. I also love to read fantasy and science fiction- it’s my favourite genre!

So, I decided to combine two things very close to my heart and created A Thousand Nights, an online book club with a focus on science fiction and fantasy (SFF) by Muslim authors.

After some online research I realised how few SFF books by Muslim authors there are, and how hard they are to find out about. In response to this, I compiled a spreadsheet of all the SFF books by Muslim authors I could find so that they can be all in one place and more accessible to everyone.

About A Thousand Nights:

The aim of this club is to celebrate SFF books by Muslim authors and expose more people to them, diversifying their reading. 

Members of the club will vote on a book to read, which will be read and discussed over the course of two months before another book is chosen. This will take place on Discord, a platform for group discussion and chats. It is very easy to make an account and anyone can join.

To join the club and get the link for its Discord server you can either sign up here or message @_AThousandBooks on Twitter. Also, you can follow A Thousand Nights’ Twitter page (@_AThousandBooks) for updates about the club and SFF books by Muslim authors.

I hope to see you there! 

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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!

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

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

Interviews · Uncategorized

Sereadipity Interviews… Intisar Khanani!

Greetings, booksicles!

A while back I interviewed Intisar Khanani about Thorn her spellbinding retelling of The Goose Girl which came out earlier in the year. It is with great excitement that I share that interview with you today and I really appreciate the time Intisar took to answer my questions.

Here’s a bit about the book:

A princess with two futures. A destiny all her own

Between her cruel family and the contempt she faces at court, Princess Alyrra has always longed to escape the confines of her royal life. But when she’s betrothed to the powerful prince Kestrin, Alyrra embarks on a journey to his land with little hope for a better future.

When a mysterious and terrifying sorceress robs Alyrra of both her identity and her role as princess, Alyrra seizes the opportunity to start a new life for herself as a goose girl.

But Alyrra soon finds that Kestrin is not what she expected. The more Alyrra learns of this new kingdom, the pain and suffering its people endure, as well as the danger facing Kestrin from the sorceress herself, the more she knows she can’t remain the goose girl forever.

With the fate of the kingdom at stake, Alyrra is caught between two worlds and ultimately must decide who she is, and what she stands for.

Interview:

Hello and thank you for doing this interview with me! Thorn is a retelling of The Goose Girl. Why do you like this fairy tale and therefore decide to retell it?

The Goose Girl is a rather strange story about a princess who goes off to marry her betrothed, has her identity stolen by her maid along the way, and happily goes off to be a goose girl upon arrival in her new land. She also has a talking horse (who never tells anyone what happened) and, in the original, can command the wind, though she apparently forgot to use this power to defend herself from the maid.

The story raises so many questions for me – mostly beginning with “Why?” Why not protect yourself from the maid? Why go off to be a servant without even attempting to reclaim your position? Why be complicit in your own silencing?

All these questions gave me lots of room to play, and to make the fairy tale my own while still remaining true to it. I loved the story growing up, even with all its plot holes and oddities, and so it was the perfect story to adopt when I decided to try my hand at writing a novel.

Tell us a bit about the protagonist, Alyrra, and her journey.

I wrote Alyrra in large part because I was sick and tired of seeing YA fantasy heroines who saved the day by transforming into warriors or superheroes or sorceresses – because, frankly, if that’s what it takes to save the day, we’re all in very big trouble. In trying to understand Alyrra further, I realized that the answer to one of the “why” questions above – why a princess would walk away from a position of privilege and power – was because she had never experienced it as such; she had never felt safe in her rank or title, so the opportunity to escape it would certainly appeal. And so, Alyrra comes from a history of abuse, something she struggles to overcome over the course of the book (because no, you can’t snap your fingers and get over it), and she saves the day by being true to herself and principles, and finding her own strength and voice. Honestly, I’m in awe of her.

[I’m in awe of Alyrra too!]

One of the main themes in the novel is justice and the many forms it can take. Why did you decide to explore this theme?

This was actually an issue I was really struggling with – not just justice, but mercy, and justice without mercy, and the line between justice and revenge – in the years that I was working on these revisions, and my questions found a natural home in this story. My first draft was a much lighter, fluffier book, but the story grew with me over the years, into what it is now.

Describe the prominent characters in Thorn as recipes.

Tough question! Augh!

Princess Alyrra (aka Thorn): Honey cakes, maybe? She’s naturally sweet and rather understated. Admittedly, she has a core of iron, but you shouldn’t put that in the recipe.

Prince Kestrin: Cinnamon bun inside a puzzle box. Seriously. There has to be a recipe for that somewhere.

Red Hawk (a thief lord): Tagine made with ghost peppers. Yeah, that’s not a recipe, but he’s down home and friendly and also hecka dangerous.

Sage (a friend): A nice bowl of lentil soup, no airs, all substance and warmth. You know, all told, I think Sage is the safest bet here.

Sorry if these were not quite the answers you were looking for… XD

[These were exactly the sort of answers I was looking for! And for anyone who doesn’t know, ghost peppers are some of the hottest in the world!]

Were there any specific cultures/ mythologies that inspired Thorn?

Not per se. I drew very, very lightly from specific North African cultures (and, actually, climate, flora, and fauna), but I wanted the kingdom of Menaiya to be more fantasy than a clear parallel to reality. Similarly, Alyrra’s homeland of Adania has only a passing resemblance to an old German hall, and only if you squint just so.

Are there any other fairy tales would you want to retell in the future?

So many! I am currently trying really hard to refrain from writing a gender-swapped Sleeping Beauty set in a dystopian, post-apocalyptic future, in which a young girl accidentally wakes up a Fae lord who was put in cryogenic sleep for Very Good Reasons. And I’ve also got a Red Riding Hood retelling beckoning me, featuring a military courier and a pack of enemy werewolves. So many books, so little time!

[Please write these stories Intisar, PLEASE!]

Thorn was originally self-published as an e-book. How were the experiences of self-publishing and traditional publishing different?

In a lot of ways, they were very similar, except that I had a team of support through my publishers. So, for example, I always go through multiple rounds of edits with beta readers and freelance editor. In this case, I did everything I could do with those folks, and then took my manuscript to my editor and her team in order to kick it up another notch.

With marketing, my UK publisher, Hot Key, was incredibly engaged and came up with some fantastic ways to reach and engage readers. HarperTeen was much more opaque, though I suspect a lot was going on out of sight. But I still had to do all the same marketing I would have done for an indie release, plus whatever else I could do – not a surprise, mind you! Whether you publish yourself or go the traditional route, authors nowadays are fully expected to engage in their own marketing.

Can you tell us a bit about The Theft of Sunlight? And will we get any more books featuring Alyrra?

The Theft of Sunlight features Rae, who is introduced at the end of Thorn via the included short story, The Bone Knife. In Theft, Rae heads to the capital city from her home, and somehow (strangely enough) finds herself serving Princess Alyrra as an attendant. (It is rather odd, but you know, I think there was an author involved in arranging that.) The story picks up within a week or so of Thorn ending, so we do get to see Alyrra (and Kestrin, and a few other friends) again, but all from Rae’s perspective as she takes up a few strands that were left loose at the end of the last book. I’m afraid I don’t have any more books featuring Alyrra as a point-of-view character – her story is largely told – but we will get to catch up with her through other folks’ eyes. 🙂

About the author:

Intisar Khanani grew up a nomad and world traveler. Born in Wisconsin, she has lived in five different states as well as in Jeddah on the coast of the Red Sea. She currently resides in Cincinnati, Ohio, with her husband and two young daughters. Prior to publishing her novels, Intisar worked as a public health consultant on projects relating to infant mortality and minority health, which was as close as she could get to saving the world. Now she focuses her time on her two passions: raising her family and writing fantasy.

To find out about new releases, giveaways, and so forth, subscribe to Intisar’s monthly author newsletter.

Thank you again to Intisar Khanani for answering my questions!



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

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

Reviews · Uncategorized

Review: The Order of the Pure Moon Reflected in Water

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

Book: The Order of the Pure Moon Reflected in Water

Author: Zen Cho

Year Published: 2020

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Reviews · Uncategorized

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

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

Book: Don’t Call the Wolf

Author: Aleksandra Ross

Year Published: 2020

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

Reviews · Uncategorized

The Cosmic Horror Road Trip: Review of Ruthless Gods

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

Book: Ruthless Gods (Wicked Saints #2)

Author: Emily A. Duncan

Year Published: 2020

Trigger Warnings: blood and lots of it

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Discussion Posts · Uncategorized

10 SFF Books by Muslim Authors

Ramadan Kareem my booksicles!

It’s my favourite month of the year- Ramadan! Which means it’s also the perfect time for some brilliant fantasy and sci-fi recommendations by Muslim authors for your #MuslimShelfSpace. Some are books that I’ve read and enjoyed and others are from my tbr and they are all perfect for the Ramadan Readathon hosted by Nadia at Headscarves and Hardbacks.

1) An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir

  • A gripping read full of magic, jinn, plot twists galore and a fight for freedom. But be warned: Sabaa Tahir will kill your darlings. The other books in the series are A Torch Against the Night and A Reaper at the Gates with the final book, A Sky Beyond the Storm being released this December!

2) We Hunt the Flame by Hafsah Faizal

  • This one is set in a fantasy world inspired by Ancient Arabia where a lost artefact must be found in order to restore magic along with a fun cast of characters and a good bit of enemies to lovers. The sequel, We Free the Stars, will be released next January.

3) The City of Brass by S. A. Chakraborty

  • A con woman meets a djinn warrior in 18th century Cairo and they go to a city called Daevabad where six djinn tribes reside. The other books in the trilogy are called The Kingdom of Copper and The Empire of Gold which will come out this June!

4) Thorn by Intisar Khanani

  • A stunning retelling of The Goose Girl fairy tale where a girl succeeds by finding her inner strength and sticking to her core beliefs. It’s a standalone but the author has also written a series called The Sunbolt Chronicles.

5) The Light at the Bottom of the World by London Shah

  • It’s 2099. The world has been engulfed by the sea, life continues underwater and Leyla McQueen decides to compete in the London Submersible Marathon in a bid to win her father’s freedom. This book is the first in a duology.

6) The Bird King by G. Willow Wilson

  • A historical fantasy set in 1491 Grenada about a flight for freedom and the importance of tolerance and love. G. Willow Wilson is also the author of the Ms. Marvel comics and Alif the Unseen.

7) Mirage by Somaiya Daud

  • Mirage explores themes of colonialism, erasure, appropriation and more in a Moroccan-inspired setting following the story of eighteen-year-old Amani. The sequel, Court of Lions, will be released this August.

8) The Candle and the Flame by Nafiza Azad

  • This book is set in Noor, a beautiful city along the Silk road and is, in the author’s own words, about ‘women being women in the most fantastic ways possible’.

9) The Bloodprint by Ausma Zehanat Khan

  • The Companions of Hira fight the dark power of the Talisman and search for a text called The Bloodprint. This book is the first instalment of The Khorasan Archives with the others being The Black Khan,  The Blue Eye and The Bladebone being released this year. 

10) The Gauntlet by Karuna Riazi

  • Described in the summary as ‘a steampunk Jumanji with a Middle Eastern flair’ and about some children who are sucked into a game called The Gauntlet of Blood and Sand. The sequel coming out this August is called The Battle.

What are your favourite SFF books my Muslim authors? Let me know in the comments!

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Reviews · Uncategorized

Magic and Monsters and Tragic Power: Review of Wicked Saints

Book: Wicked Saints

Author: Emily A. Duncan

Year Published: 2019

Trigger Warnings: blood, self-harm, parental abuse

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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