Mini Reviews · Reviews · Uncategorized

Camping Trip Mini Reviews

Hi friends! I’ve recently returned from a big camping trip where I got to read a whole handful of books. So I’m just going to do the tiniest of mini-reviews for each one, and if anybody wants to know more or talk more about any of these books, hit me up in the comments. Without further ado, camping trip mini reviews (all are spoiler-free)!

# of Pages: 439

Time it took me to read: 2 days

# of pages a day to finish in a week: 63

Rating: 5 out of 5

This book was a Secret Santa gift given by a co-worker who doesn’t read, he just picked it out because he thought it looked cool on Amazon. And I have to say, I was excited to read it regardless because I’d heard great things about it, but my friend really made a great pick! I started out thinking this retelling might be a little cheesy, because the character’s names are “Roma” and “Juliette”, so pretty on-the-nose, and in the setup it’s pretty obvious who the other side characters are supposed to be if you’ve read Romeo and Juliet. But this is not the simple love at first sight then die unnecessarily story. Both Roma and Juliette are well-developed characters with a past history, and the ruthless, bloody gangster backdrop makes for a really interesting read. I’m not super familiar with early 20th-century history, so I’m not sure how much of the 1920’s Shanghei is fiction and how much is history, but either way it was monstrously compelling. I’d say the story is a little slow to start, but ramps up quickly and is impossible to put down after a point. I’m so very excited for the sequel later this year, and would definitely recommend this book to anyone who is a fan of YA, classic story retellings, or historical romances.

# of Pages: 511

Time it took me to read: 2 days

# of pages a day to finish in a week: 73

Rating: 5 out of 5

I’ve only ever done a Throwback review way back in the day where I got to talk about Leigh Bardugo, so I’m stoked to finally be getting that chance again. If you haven’t heard of Leigh Bardugo’s Grishaverse, I’m not sure what rock you’ve been hiding under. A few months ago the wildly popular Shadow and Bone series premiered on Netflix, which covers characters from a few different series of Bardugo’s. The events of King of Scars have not been covered in the show (yet), but I’m hopeful for the future. Anyway, King of Scars is a re-read for me, because I read it years ago when it first came out, and the sequel was recently released, and I wanted to read them back-to-back. I could literally spend pages talking about why Leigh Bardugo is no-doubt one of the top authors in YA currently, but I’ll try to keep it to a few sentences. The “Grishaverse” world she has built is incredibly detailed and vivid, with each country based on the cultures of real-world places (Ravka = Russia, Kerch = The Netherlands/Amsterdam specifically). Having a fantasy world based on the real world in some ways really grounds the reader and makes it immersive. For characters, these books are pretty large cast, and she does a great job flipping perspectives while keeping the reader engaged no matter who’s story you’re reading. These books are incredibly fast paced and impossible to put down. I loved it just as much this time around as I did the first time.

# of Pages: 588

Time it took me to read: 2 days

# of pages a day to finish in a week: 84

Rating: 5 out of 5

Sequel to King of Scars, Rule of Wolves is equally fantastic. I really enjoyed the opportunity I had to read them back to back, I think it added a lot to my understanding of all of the details and plot points of this final installment. Not a whole lot to say here that I didn’t say in the previous review, Leigh Bardugo is a master world-builder and storyteller. Each of her many characters are pretty much equally engaging, and her pacing is always perfect. I think of all of my camping books I finished this one the quickest, because I honestly, truly could not stop reading it. Rule of Wolves did not end as I expected in a lot of ways, but I think all of the storylines that needed to be wrapped up were, but Bardugo always leaves herself room for writing new adventures, and I’m hoping I guessed right and she teased a new story with old favorites coming someday. Anyway, if you haven’t read any Leigh Bardugo, just do yourself a favor and get into the Grishaverse. Here is my official recommendation for the order you should read her three Grishaverse series: Six of Crows duology, Shadow and Bone trilogy, King of Scars duology. This order is not entirely chronological, but as someone who has read all of these books originally in chronological order, I can tell you you’ll have more fun reading it in the order I provided.

# of Pages: 365

Time it took me to read: 3 days

# of pages a day to finish in a week: 52

Rating: 4 out of 5

This book was a big shift from everything else I was reading on this trip, I really wanted to have a little bit of variety after reading only YA fantasy. The World That We Knew is a historical fiction novel set in Europe during the Holocaust, and like most of Alice Hoffman’s work that I’ve read, has just a touch of magic added to move it along. Lea is a young Jewish girl living in Berlin during the second world war. Her mother will do anything to get her out of the country, so she works with the daughter of a rabbi to construct a golum, a being made of clay that will serve the wishes of its master. Lea’s mother names the golum Ava and sends the two off to Paris, where she hopes they will be safe. The World that We Knew tells the story of men, women, and children across Germany and Paris who fight for the survival of themselves and others. It’s very well researched and provides many facts and figures of the devistation wrought by the Nazis during the Holocaust. Alice Hoffman is a wonderful writer, her historical novels are some of my favorites, but one thing kept me from falling completely in love with this story, and it took me a while to put my finger on it. I think that, personally, I was sort of brought out of the story because it focused on too many different characters, it left me hard-pressed to become particularly attached to any of them. And in certain sections she’d be telling the story of a character fleeing arrest by the Germans, and then it would flow into an objective, real fact about the prison those that were arrested that day were sent to, and how many died. While I appreciated the facts as a history buff, it sort of transported me out of the story and back to reality, which was for me not my favorite decision she made. But overall I’d definitely recommend the book to anyone who enjoys WW2 historical fiction.



Thanks for hanging in there everybody, I’ll be back with more regularly scheduled reviews and summaries soon. Hope everyone has a great August ❤

Reviews

Spin the Dawn by Elizabeth Lim (Book 1)

# of Pages: 387

Time it took me to read: 3 days

# of pages a day to finish in a week: 55

Rating: 4 out of 5

Maia Tamarin is the fourth child of one of the greatest tailors in A’landi, and the most talented of her siblings. But as the only daughter, she is forbidden from taking ownership of her father’s shop and fulfilling her dreams of being a master tailor. Until one day when a messanger comes from the palace, wishing to take her father to the emperor to become a royal tailor. Maia’s father is too sick, and her brother has nowhere near her skill. So with the gift of her grandmother’s scissors and the blessing of her father, she disguises herself as one of her brothers and is off to the palace.

When she arrives, she finds that she will be pitted against eleven other master tailors for the honor of being the new imperial tailor. The tasks are set and judged by the future empress, Lady Sarnai, who is known for her harsh judgement. Maia knows that she has what it takes to fill the role, despite being a woman, and is willing to risk everything, including exposure, to bring this honor to her family.

But what she doesn’t expect is to gain the attention of Edan, the Emperor’s Lord Enchanter. Somehow he seems to see right through her, though to anyone else she seems to be the unremarkable son of a tailor. However, when Lady Sarnai sets a seemingly impossible final task, Maia’s only hope is to team up with Edan to complete gowns known only in legend.

Note:

Hi friends, normally in this situation I’d write a review along with a summary of this book, since it’s the first in a series. However, since the second book is out already and I intend on reading it soon, I’m going to skip the summary, because they honestly take me forever to write and I’d rather just write a simple review for this book. But the good news is that this post will be entirely spoiler-free, so I hope you enjoy!

Review:

I’d like to start out by saying that this book was the breath of fresh air that I needed. Because the last few books I’ve read have either been heavy but wonderful (read Chain of Iron) or lighter but not that enjoyable (the last two books I’ve read for book club). But this month’s book club book was a great pick by my friend Dani. In just one sentence, the reason I liked this book so much was because it was easy breezy fantasy with a romance you’re rooting for and a fast paced, engaging plot.

So let’s break this down. We’ll start with what I mean when I say “easy breezy fantasy”. Much of YA fantasy these days I find gets really into intense world building with really intense fantasy themes, such as leading a rebellion or trying to save a kingdom from eternal darkness, etc. But this story is just about a girl who wants to be a master tailor, despite being forbidden because she’s a woman. And then the girl falls in love with a boy she isn’t supposed to have, and the follow up story is all about how they can go about being together. No super intense themes, just a super chill Mulan-meets-Project-Runway vibe.

I’ll talk about the cast just briefly, because they were certainly not particularly remarkable. Maia is the kind of protagonist that you root for right away. She’s lovably naive but fiercely determined, a winning combo for a YA protagonist, if not a particularly original one. There are “villains” working against her at every turn, I do sort of like the idea that there is no single antagonist that she’s going head to head against. And I’ll just briefly mention Edan, Maia’s charming partner in crime. They’ve got that fun back-and-forth banter going on throughout, and great adventure-partner chemistry. The two of them are enjoyable to read about from the beginning of their journey to the end.

Finally, to end my high notes I’ll take a paragraph to talk about plot and pacing. As I talked about a little bit above, the basic plot of this is like a mix of Mulan, Project Runway, with a little dash of Aladdin/Genie for flavor. None of the bits separately are particularly original, but the combination of them certainly is. I will say that I think the blurb on the back of the book was a little bit misleading, because I thought the Project Runway storyline was going to last longer, but the book has a lot more to offer beyond just that competition aspect, I’ll leave it at that to avoid any spoilers. And because there was so many different plot pieces in a book that isn’t even 400 pages, that meant the pacing had to be quick to fit everything in, which I was into because the last few books I’ve read have not been particularly fast paced, which I’m often fine with but I needed something fast paced and light to help me get back into a reading run.

To finish off the review, I’ll talk a little about why I left off a star. For me, a five star read has to be something that really hits on all cylinders, is entirely enjoyable to read, and usually has some sort of X factor. This book didn’t really have anything that I could fault, besides being a little tropey and cheesy at times (which in my opinion is usually not a fault), but it certainly didn’t have anything that screamed X factor. It is a thoroughly enjoyable story that I am excited to read the sequel to, but I’m not rushing out to my local bookstore to buy it right away or agonizing over having to wait, so this one is a solid four for me.

End Review

If you liked Spin the Dawn, try:

Sea of Shadows by Kelley Armstrong

Shadow of the Fox by Julie Kagawa

The Glass Spare by Lauren Destefano

Girls of Paper and Fire by Natasha Ngun

Reviews · Summaries

Chain of Iron by Cassandra Clare (The Last Hours Book 2)

# of Pages: 656

Time it took me to read: 3 days

# of pages a day to finish in a week: 94

Rating: 5 out of 5

Cordelia Carstairs has loved James Herondale since she was a girl. She should be happy as can be, since she’s due to marry him. But this marriage comes on the aftermath of scandal, and it is a marriage of convenience in order to save Cordelia’s reputation: so not the romantic dream she always imagined. Besides, James loves Grace Blackthorn, he’s made that clear: this will be a marriage in name only, between friends, until they can get divorced in a years time and move on with their lives. All James has to do is resist seeing Grace, and Cordelia must shield her true love from her new husband.

Meanwhile, Lucie Herondale works tirelessly to bring the boy she loves, Jesse Blackthorn, back from the grave. This brings her into an uneasy alliance with Grace, Jesse’s sister, who is the only one who understands that Jesse’s soul hangs between life and death, and that there must be a way to bring him back. But necromancy is powerful magic, forbidden to the Nephilium, which forces Lucie and Grace to the Downworld, where the warlocks may be their only chance at success.

All this while a killer stalks London. Killing Shadowhunter after Shadowhunter, the entire Enclave is on edge, as no one can even catch a glimpse of the killer. Though James and Cordelia believe they have defeated Belial, James’s demon grandfather for now, they cannot help but think that he is somehow behind the mayhem. Along with their friends, Cordelia and James must figure out who is behind the murders and stop them before something even worse is unleashed upon London to threaten everything they hold dear.

Note:

Hi all, I’m soooo thrilled to be taking the time to review a Cassandra Clare book on this blog. I’m a huge fan of pretty much everything she’s done (besides the Mortal Instruments, but that’s another story), so this book was such a treat and an easy five.

However, to anyone who HAS read Cassandra Clare before, you know she is the QUEEN of large casts and complex plots. So I’m going to be styling this review / summary pretty differently. The review is going to be short, sweet, and spoiler-free. However, instead of doing the normal cast and summary sections after, I’m going to do sort of a blend. I’m going to hit major plot points, and then I’m going to do short sections on important character pairings and give a brief overview of what happens between them. It’s definitely going to be chaotic, but I think it will be the best way to get everything covered without having to actually write a 10,000 word summary.

Don’t worry I will very clearly mark where the spoiler section begins and ends, and believe me when I say that section will be RIFE with spoilers so please if you haven’t read Chain of Iron yet, skip at least that section if not the whole review, because this book is really worth remaining spoiler-free for.

Review:

I just wanted to take a few paragraphs to give a spoiler-free review. Well, really, this is just a chance for me to rant about how much I love Cassandra Clare and why, so if you’re also a fan, so glad you’re here to hang out, or if you’ve been wondering whether or not to give Cassandra Clare a try, hopefully this will be the push you need.

First off I’ll start with the world-building. Truly, nobody out there in YA today has such an expansive, detailed, and vivid urban fantasy world. She has a dozen “main cast” books written already, with more in the works, as well as several side cast stories (most of which I haven’t gotten around to reading yet). But everything she puts out is consistently excellent, and her historical fiction series (The Infernal Devices and The Last Hours), are well researched in their settings of Victorian and then Edwardian England, respectively. They feel so authentic, with everything from the parties to the social standards and even the clothing. It was all so very complex during that period, and though I’m no historian, I think that she really gives it that authentic edge while ridding with some of the rules where it fits her, since the Shadowhunters are a secret society within society, so while she keeps the sexist bits to a certain extend, certainly nobody would ever call her women repressed or powerless, which I love.

Anyway, onto the cast. As I mentioned before, nobody does large cast like Cassie Clare, and I’m truly not sure anyone ever will. Because unlike some large cast stories I’ve read, Clare really takes the time to delve deep into the side stories, so much so that they really read as just as important as the main storyline. Every character feels important, and is developed accordingly across her trilogies. In The Last Hours in particular, it’s such a treat for fans of the Infernal Devices because the main cast of The Last Hours are the children of the main cast of The Infernal Devices, so not only do you have a new generation to get to know and love, there are still plenty of moments from their parents that make true fans melt.

Lastly, as I am trying to keep this somewhat brief, I’ll cover plot. As well as being the queen of large cast, Cassie Clare is also the queen of complex storylines. There is always SO much going on, in every single book, and the chapters jump around from character to character, so you’d think it would be hard to keep track. But no, I’ve never found myself loosing the thread of one plotline as she moves to another. Everything is woven together seemingly effortlessly (though I’m sure it actually takes monumental effort). And her favorite thing to do is to start each book with a ton of seemingly unconnected plotlines but, by the end, many of them end up coming together as interwoven and related the entire time, which is undoubtably genius.

So anyway, I loved everything about this book, there are certainly parts that hurt, but it’s that beautiful hurt of a good story told well. And that last bit is not a spoiler, because you know if you’ve ever read a Cassie Clare book that she is going to hurt you somehow.

!!!SPOILERS BELOW!!!

Seriously, stop right here if you want to avoid spoilers. And I beg you not to spoil yourself if you ever have any intention of reading this book. Please, rather than spoiling yourself I’d rather you click from this page and pick up this book from the bookstore, online, or your library and start reading it right now.

Characters:

James and Cordelia: The story starts with James and Cordelia’s wedding. In the first book, Cordelia claims that James was with her all night, unchaperoned, the night he burned down Blackthorn manor at the behest of Grace. In order to save Cordelia’s honor and reputation, James agrees that they will marry. The two of them agree that it will be a marriage for appearances only, and then after a year they can divorce as friends and be with other people. Thus this story begins with the marriage between these two friends. Cordelia loves James desperately, always has, but swears that he will never know it. James, underneath it all, loves Cordelia certainly, but Grace Blackthorn has a bracelet locked around his wrist that makes him have complete devotion and loyalty to her. Their marriage is comfortable, and Cordelia only becomes closer to James, and vice versa. The deeper James’s feelings become, the weaker the bracelet gets, and then one night they end up kissing and the bracelet breaks, freeing James from the spell of Grace Blackthorn. But before they can discuss anything and James can confess his true love to Cordelia, Grace arrives. James confronts her and Grace admits to everything. But all Cordelia saw was their initial embrace and their first words, taken out of context. So Cordelia believes that he truly has chosen Grace over her, even though in her heart she started to believe just a little that James was starting to fall in love with her. Cordelia runs off to Matthew and they end up running to Paris together. James, after realizing what Cordelia saw and heard, flees after her, desperate to make things right. He has almost caught up to Cordelia, but his father intercepts him and says that they need to rescue Lucie, so James must let Cordelia go for now.

Cordelia and Matthew: Cordelia and Matthew become very close in this story. Matthew is often Cordelia’s escort when James cannot attend to her, which is perfectly acceptable because Matthew is James’s parabatai. Cordelia is the first and only person Matthew confesses his greatest secret to: that he bought what was supposed to be a truth potion from the Shadow Market as a boy. He fed it to his pregnant mother in order to know for sure that Henry was his true father. The potion ended up being a poison that nearly killed his mother, and did kill the baby she was carrying. Cordelia trusts Matthew to take her to try and find Waylon the Smith because she believes that there is something either wrong with Cortana or wrong with her. And Cordelia, after believing that James has chosen his loyalty to Grace over her, runs to Matthew. Matthew confesses his love for Cordelia, even though he knows she loves James. He proposes they run away to Paris together for a little while to try and do their healing and keep the whispers away from Cordelia should news of Grace and James get out. Cordelia, heartbroken over James, agrees.

Matthew and James: The relationship between these two loyal parabatai is pushed during this story. Though their love for each other never wavers, Matthew struggles with his secret love for Cordelia, because he both cannot stand to see Cordelia unhappy, as he knows she loves James, but he also cannot bear to watch them be together. James, on the other hand, watches Matthew drink more and more heavily and argue with his mother, Charlotte, about his health. It comes to a head when the two of them argue about Matthew’s drinking, the first time they’ve really ever talked about it. The story ends with James watching Cordelia and Matthew run off together to Paris (as friends, mostly, but still). Matthew thinks that James has fully betrayed Cordelia because of his “love” for Grace Blackthorn.

Cordelia and Lucie: Despite their upcoming parabatai ceremony, Lucie and Cordelia are more distanced than ever during this story. Lucie is keeping her knowledge about Jesse and her alliance with Grace under complete wraps from Cordelia and everyone else. Cordelia has never told Lucie she’s in love with James, and as that is a big secret that Cordelia is keeping, it is rare that the two of them are on the same page. In fact there is a scene where they train together and they are very out of sync. So much so in fact that when they practice their parabatai rites, something unexplained goes wrong.

Lucie and Jesse: Much of their history happens in the first book, but Lucie is totally in love with Jesse Blackthorn, the Shadowhunter boy who died at seventeen from receiving his first rune. In the previous book, he sacrificed his last breath to save James’s life, and now Lucie and Grace Blackthorn are doing everything they can to try and raise Jesse, as he is still trapped somewhere between the life and death. The two of them, after some arguing, finally confess their feelings for each other, and after that Lucie is more determined than ever that Jesse can come back so they can have their happy ending. At the end of the story, once the piece of Belial’s soul is removed from Jesse, Lucie uses her power of commanding the dead to apparently raise Jesse, though the story ends before we understand completely what happens.

Lucie and Grace: This slightly uneasy alliance was made at the end of the previous book, when the two agreed to work together to try and raise Jesse Blackthorn, Grace’s brother and the ghost boy that Lucie loves. The two decide to work with the warlock Malcolm Fade to try and raise the dead without having to perform unspeakable deeds to do it. Grace is a little too unfeeling and willing to push the boundaries, so Lucie always feels as though she has to reign her in, even though the two are equally desperate to bring him back for their own reasons.

Grace and Christopher: When Grace sneaks into the Fairchild home to get some ingredient for her quest to save Jesse, she comes across Christopher working in the lab. Christopher shows Grace around and they talk about science together before discovering the true nature of the false-stele that was found with Lilian Highsmith. The stele can take runes from one Shadowhunter and transfer them to another. This is only a quick scene, but I wanted to note it here. As much as I generally don’t like Grace Blackthorn (opinion), I think that if Grace somehow ends up redeeming herself and not dying, I like the thought of these two together, they had some adorable chemistry.

Thomas and Alistair: Most of the backstory is in the previous book, but Alistair and Thomas had a brief summer friendship a few years back in Paris, while Alistair was still in love with Charles Fairchild. But Thomas had a bit of a crush on Alistair that whole time. But here in London, where Alistair was often the bully of the Merry Thieves back in school, Thomas tries to convince himself that he hates Alistair as his friends do. But when Thomas is charged with the murder of Lilian Highsmith, Alistair comes forward and says he was following Thomas the whole time, and saw that Thomas tried to save Lilian, not kill her. While the two of them are being held together before their trial by the Mortal Sword, they get to talking and then the talking becomes kissing. After the big battle with Leviathan, Alistair says that there can never be anything between them because of what he’s done to Thomas and their friends.

Anna and Ariadne: From the beginning, Ariadne has her heart set on winning back the person she loves, Anna Lightwood. However, Anna makes it clear that while she is happy to dally around with her, there is no love and there can never be. The two of them engage in plenty of covert sexy-time, where Ariadne continues to try and win Anna over. But by the end, the two of them has a conversation that has Ariadne storming off because she finally realizes she’s not going to get what she wants. Anna breaks down over this, because though she’s had the cool exterior this whole time, inside she’s a cinnamon bun who loves Ariadne back.

Summary:

This section will be composed of short and sweet plot points. I will try and get them mostly in order, but if a few are out of order bear with me. I won’t be able to cover everything, but my hope is that anyone who is about to read Chain of Thorns (book three coming in 2022) can read this summary combined with the characters above and feel refreshed.

  • The night before his wedding, James falls into the shadow world, which he thinks shouldn’t happen again after wounding Belial in the previous book, but the shadow realm looks different, so he’s not sure that it belongs to Belial
  • Cordelia’s dad Elias comes back just in time for her wedding, giving her a beautiful sheath for Cortana as a gift
  • James and Cordelia get married in a ceremony that goes off without a hitch. The reception is nice, but Elias has a little too much to drink and has to be carried off by James and Alistair
  • Cordelia and James go to their new home, where they agree to have a this marriage be a partnership where they still talk every night, as friends. James has set up separate bedrooms with an adjoining bathroom for them. Cordelia loves him desperately, but James is still wearing the bracelet given to him by Grace that makes him “love” her
  • Lucie and Grace have been trying their own mix of magic and science to raise Jesse, but to no avail. Grace wants to dive right into necromancy, but Lucie will not do great evil to raise Jesse. They decide to try and seek the help of the warlock Malcolm Fade to see if he can help
  • A Shadowhunter, Amos Gladstone, is killed on patrol. There is no traces of demon ichor around, but they assume it must have washed away in the snow. The Merry Thieves think that it may not have been a demon, but a Downworlder or a Shadowhunter that killed him
  • Lucie and Grace ask Malcolm Fade for his help. At first he refuses, but Grace offers to get information on Annabel Blackthorn, Malcolm’s love, who has been an Iron Sister for nearly a century. He says he’ll see if he can help them after he gets this information
  • A second Shadowhunter is killed, Basil Pounceby, and James thinks he may have had a dream about it. He immediately suspects Belial, but Belial cannot inhabit the human world and should have been weakened for at least a century by the wound dealt to him by Cortana. He cannot ask Jem about it though, because he and Magnus Bane are on a mission in the Spiral Labyrinth and unreachable
  • Grace asks her mother about Annabel Blackthorn, because Tatiana is being kept as an Iron Sister by the Clave. Tatiana laughs and says that the old Blackthorns killed her for being in love with a warlock, she was never an Iron Sister at all. Grace and Lucie return to Malcolm, where Grace tells him in a pretty cruel manner. Malcolm refuses to help them
  • A young Shadowhunter girl, Filomena di Angelo from Rome, is murdered. This time James is sure that he sees it in a dream, and in the back of his mind thinks that he may be going out in his sleep and committing the murders himself
  • Lucie is told how to find Filomena’s ghost, so the Merry Thieves, along with Lucie, Cordelia, and Anna, go off to find her. They find Filomena’s ghost, but she simply tells Cordelia in Italian that as the bearer of Cortana she should have saved her. The group is then attacked by a demon, and when Cordelia attempts to draw Cortana, the blade burns her and she is unable to use it. She believes the blade no longer considers her worthy of it
  • Elias Carstairs comes to James and Cordelia’s home and demands that James loan him an exorbitant amount of money. James refuses, saying he cannot afford, and Elias leaves angry and drunk. The next morning they are told Elias has been murdered, and James becomes sure that he is somehow the culprit, that he’s being controlled by Belial somehow. Cordelia and her family must grieve the loss of her father
  • Cordelia gets Matthew to drive her out to find Waylon the Smith, forger of Cortana, to see if he can help her restore the sword. Cordelia meets with the Smith, who repairs the blade and asks Cordelia to be his paladin and serve him as his warrior. She agrees to do so because she wants to be able to help prevent future murders
  • Lucie goes to Malcolm and says that if he helps them with Jesse, she’ll help him find a way to raise Annabel. Malcolm tentatively agrees
  • James finally tells the Merry Theives about his theory that he’s the one doing the murders. They all agree to stay with him and watch him while he sleeps. Cordelia ties him mostly up, and they make out a little. Thomas goes out to patrol on his own, like he has been doing
  • James once again dreams of the murder, but Cordelia is able to confirm he never left the night before. Thomas, at dawn, hears a scream and finds Lilian Highsmith dying from wounds inflicted by the murderer. The Inquisitor finds Thomas covered in blood next to the body and they arrest him. When the Merry Thieves visit him in holding, Thomas gives to them what appears to be a stele, but isn’t really. Thomas will be tested by the Mortal Sword the next day to prove his innocence, and in the meantime Alistair comes forward as a witness to Thomas not being the murderer. Alistair and Thomas are held together in the Institute to await trial
  • The rest of the group goes to the Shadow Market to try to find out what the not-stele is. While they’re there they find Magnus Bane, warlock friend of their families, who was supposed to be away, but is in town for one night. They tell him about James’s dreams and Magnus says that he’ll come help James access the shadow realm again to see if it is indeed Belial who is to blame for the murders and the dreams. Cordelia will watch over with Cortana to make sure nothing goes wrong
  • Grace goes to the Fairchild house and runs into Christopher in the lab. After talking for a while, they come to realize that the not-stele is capable of transferring runes from one person to another, and that is how the killer is stealing runes from his victims
  • James and Magnus go into Edom, the realm that they believe has been taken away from Lilith by Belial. But when they arrive it is not in Edom. It is in a trap by Belial, who tries once again to get James to willingly let Belial possess him. James refuses, and Belial casts Magnus out and nearly overcomes James, but Cordelia is able to save him and pull him out of the trap. James and Cordelia kiss and the bracelet breaks
  • Lucie comes to the realization that Jesse’s body is the one being used to commit the murders. She goes to his coffin and finds the stolen runes all over his body. She’s about to destroy the body when Grace knocks her out. When she comes to Jesse’s body is gone and Lucie runs to try and stop it from committing another murder. Grace makes Lucie promise that she won’t let anything happen to Jesse’s body
  • Thomas is found innocent by the Mortal Sword, but as soon as that’s over, the Institute is under attack and everyone who is there, including Thomas, Alistair, Anna, Ariadne, Christopher, etc.
  • Magnus runs off after being ejected from the trap and Matthew comes over and they discover that the symbol that is being drawn by the murders is that of Leviathan, sea demon and brother of Belial. The three of them run to where the last murder would have to take place to find Charles, Matthew’s brother, clinging to life. Matthew works on healing him, because if he lives Leviathan won’t be able to fully enter the world and kill everyone.
  • Belial arrives in Jesse’s body, covered in the runes that he’s stolen from the murdered Shadowhunters. He is convinced that he has built a super warrior that will be able to defeat Cordelia and Cortana in battle. Belial says that he is giving James this last chance to join with him, or else Leviathan will kill everyone at the Institute and he’ll kill Cordelia for good measure. James refuses, and Cordelia locks into battle with Belial/Jesse, her powers as a Paladin giving her the edge she needs to keep up with Belial/Jesse.
  • At this point, a new player arrives. Lilith, mother of demons, reveals that she has tricked Cordelia into becoming HER paladin, who she controls. She had disguised herself as Waylon the Smith after putting the curse on Cortana herself to force Cordelia’s hand. She also disguised herself as Magnus to try and get back into Edom herself that way, but Belial had foiled her. She tells Belial that she will have Cordelia kill him unless he surrenders Edom back to her. Belial refuses
  • Lilith forces Cordelia and Belial back into battle, and just when Cordelia is about to strike a killing blow Lucie arrives and throws herself in front of Jesse/Belial. Cordelia must use all of her strength in order to avoid killing Lucie, even though Lilith is telling her to do so.
  • James ends up shooting and wounding Lilith with his special revolver, because it was blessed with the names of the three angels that are Lilith’s mortal enemies, so Lilith is temporarily out of the game, though Cordelia is still her paladin. Lucie is able to sort of force Belial out of Jesse’s body and Cordelia uses Cortana to deal a second mortal wound to Belial without harming Jesse. Belial disappears, leaving Jesse apparently completely lifeless on the ground.
  • Malcolm Fade arrives just as Matthew is able to save Charles and Leviathan is banished from the Institute. Everyone is caught up on the situation and they all head back to the Institute
  • End of Story: Lucie and Malcolm bring Jesse’s body back to the Institute to be looked over by the Silent Brothers so they can prove to the Clave that a demon possessing it was doing the murders. Malcolm and Lucy agree to go to Cornwall, Malcolm’s home, to work on Jesse and also look for where Annabel is buried. When everyone is gone, Lucie commands Jesse to wake, and he appears to do so, but the effort causes Lucie to pass out, and it seems that she’s being carried off by Malcolm and Jesse as she slips into unconsciousness
  • End of Story: Cordelia and James go home together. James is about to confess his love for Cordelia when there is a knock on the door. Grace arrives and embraces James, saying she’s going to leave Charles to be with him. James takes her into the other room and confronts her about the bracelet and the control she’s had over him. Grace admits to it all, her power to control men, everything. James says that he’s going to turn her into the Clave and she should stay here. Grace agrees, because she’s broken from under her mother’s influence and the only way to stay safe is for the Clave to know everything, despite how she will likely be punished. James goes to Cordelia to tell her about the development, when he finds out she saw Grace wrapped in his embrace and heard him say “Thank god” when she said she’d leave Charles, even though what he said right after was scathing. James runs after Cordelia, tracking her to Matthew’s, where he finds out the two of them are going to Paris. He runs to the train station to try and stop them, but Will catches up and says they need to go save Lucie, as she’s gone missing. James has to turn his back on Cordelia for now to get his sister back
  • End of Story: The epilogue shows Belial breaking Tatiana Blackthorn from the Adament Citadel. That defs won’t be problematic later.

Okay, yeah, I probably missed some stuff, but hopefully not anything super important.

!!!END of SPOILERS!!!

Anyway, just here trying not to freak out waiting for the final installment not coming until probably next summer. But for all of you that’s a good thing, because that gives you time to read both book 1 and 2 of The Last Hours.

If you liked Chain of Iron, try:

The Black Witch by Laurie Forest

Clockwork Angel by Cassandra Clare

And I Darken by Kristin White

Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo

Reviews

The Infinity Courts by Akemi Dawn Bowman (Book 1)

# of Pages: 465

Time it took me to read: 4 days

# of pages a day to finish in a week: 66

Rating: 3 out of 5

Nami is one night away from the rest of her life. She’s graduating high school, going off to college, and is finally going to get to have a real date with her best friend Finn, who she’s been in love with for years. But all of that gets cut short when she dies on the way to the graduation party.

She wakes up in Infinity, the land where all human consciousness goes after death. Immediately suspicious of the pill she is offered that will send her to paradise, she ends up escaping the facility she is being held in. With the help of the Colony, a small group of people who have also avoided taking “the pill”, she finds out that the afterlife has been hijacked by an AI named Ophelia. She and the other AI “Residents” coerce humans into taking a pill that traps them in their own mind and puts them entirely at the mercy of the Residents. Any humans that resist are captured and sent to torment in the courts of War, Famine, or worst of all Death.

Nami quickly finds that she has the unique ability to infiltrate the Resident society as a spy. But while all the humans in the Colony believe that the AI needs to be destroyed so that humans can have their afterlife, Nami doesn’t think it’s that simple. Will Nami be able to find a solution that protects the humans in the Colony that she has come to love without completely destroying the Residents and their way of life?

Note:

Alright, so I’m normally I’d do my full summary here, since this is the first book in a series that I intend on reading, but the summaries take me a long time to complete, and I truly did not enjoy the book enough to dedicate the time to a summary, so I’m just going to list the cast of characters below before starting my review. This whole bit should be spoiler free, so you can read on without fear.

Cast:

Nami – eighteen year old protagonist. Just graduating from high school, is excited to finally get the chance to date her best friend Finn, who she’s been in love with for years. Her dad is a graphic novelist who wrote a book called Tokyo Circus that is about a cyborg girl who bridges the gap between robots and humans to end a war.

Mei – ten year old sister of Nami. They have grown apart recently, but Nami loves Mei more than anything.

Finn – Best friend of Nami. They’ve been friends forever, but recently confessed their feelings for each other. The graduation party is going to be their first real date.

Gil – member of the Colony in the Court of Victory in Infinity. Doesn’t like Nami from the start, thinks she isn’t committed enough to the cause of destroying the Residents in Infinity and giving it back to humans.

Annika – leader of the Colony. Will do whatever it takes to protect her people, but generally kindhearted and wants to give Nami the chance to help the Colony in the fight against the Residents.

Ahmet – head Engineer of the Colony, his expertise is manipulating Infinity to create things, such as weapons for the Colony. Soft-spoken, passionate person. Encouraging to Nami.

Shura – a girl a little younger than Nami, befriends her right away. Her expertise is veiling, meaning she can hide people or places from the view of the Residents. Adopted daughter of Annika.

Theo – Helps rescue Nami from the Residents when she first arrives in Infinity. His skill is fighting the the Residents. Passionate about helping humans retake Infinity.

Caelan – the Prince of the Court of Victory. One of the AI “children” of Queen Ophelia. Nami’s goal is to spy on him and use the knowledge to help the Colony undermine the residents.

Ophelia – Queen of Infinity, the AI that took over Infinity. She was a virtual assistant widely used by humans like Nami during life.

Review:

Alright, I’m going to start by saying that my rating of 3 out of 5 stars is almost entirely subjective. We read this book for my book club, and I had the lowest rating of the bunch, so I think that I can say that this book is objectively closer to a four, but I really didn’t get much from it, so I kept my rating down at a 3.

As usual, I’m going to start out with what I did like about this book, which was almost exclusively the protagonist. Nami is somewhat unique in the world of YA protagonists because she never really becomes fully influenced in “the cause”. In most YA books that have the theme of “a small group of rebels fight against tyranny and oppression”, most protagonists are usually leading the fight from the start, or they become influenced into joining the cause through either direct pressure from other characters or a critical event.

Nami, from the very start, doesn’t particularly want to be involved in this fight against the Residents. She wants a good afterlife experience for her family, but she is also unable to look at the Residents or even Ophelia herself and see “evil” like the other members of the Colony do. Even when faced with continual, intense peer pressure by her companions, she continues to fight for and believe in an alternative to “one side wins, the other side dies”, and I think that this conviction makes her likable and unique.

The one other thing I will commend is the last twenty to thirty pages or so of the book. I think that she does a really good job of surprising you with the ending, but when you look back you realize the breadcrumbs were there all along, which is always the mark of a strong writer. And since I promised spoiler-free, this is all I’ll say about that.

Alright, now the parts that I didn’t like. I’ll begin with parts of the story I believe were objectively weak. The first being the pacing. I personally felt that I was pretty much snoozing through this book right up until the very end. While I believe a slow build is just fine, if you’re doing a lot of world-building / setup, I think that as a writer your reader isn’t likely to stick around if you keep them waiting for the action until right at the last fifty pages.

I also didn’t like the world-building as much as I wanted to. Definitely an interesting concept, a human afterlife taken over by robots, but besides one line somewhere that says “Ophelia hacked the afterlife”, there is literally NO explanation of HOW an AI (who is by definition a computer and thus code) “hacked” an afterlife that is organic and human? I wasn’t looking for a believable explanation, just some attempt at an explanation would have been nice. Because of this sort of lack of attempt to go into any sort of depth on the technical workings of this afterlife, I never got engaged in the world at all.

Okay, now moving onto the parts that I thought were weak, but that I believe are very much my subjective opinion. Starting off with the cast. This was a somewhat large-cast book, which I can totally be into. However, besides the protagonist, I did not care about a single other character in this entire story. There are a half-dozen members of the Colony that Nami is close with, and I truly didn’t care about a single one of them. Literally any of them could have “died” and I would not have cared. And I’m someone who gets really attached to side characters normally, so I found it really disappointing that I didn’t care for any of them. I mean, I thought they were all good people, but none of them pulled on my heartstrings at all, not even the love interest(s).

Next, I’m just going to say that I may have been pre-biased against this book from pretty much the very beginning because the concept bums. me. out. Like Nami is this nice, normal girl who has a nice family and a boy who is her best friend who she is going to kiss. Then she dies. And the whole book she’s just dead and she’s never going to get the life she deserved. And that just made me depressed from the start. So, conceptually, I was pre-disposed not to like it from the start.

And finally, as a followup to my last point, I think the biggest weakness in my personal, subjective opinion were the complete lack of stakes in this story. I think that, my definition, a book where the characters are already all dead means that the stakes cannot be much lower. Like, there is this general fear of like “oblivion” in the afterlife, but it’s not specific and, to me, didn’t seem that bad. What I LOVE so much about YA is how high the stakes always are. “Save a kingdom”, “Save my family”, “Fulfill my destiny as the chosen one”, etc are all common high-stakes tropes in YA, which are great. Because there is always the risk of capture, torture, or death, and that keeps things exciting and keeps me invested. However, while there’s technically fear of capture or torture, all of these characters are already dead, so why should I care?

After all that, you may ask, why am I going to read the sequel? Well, because particularly the last fifty pages hooked me, and I have to know how this is going to end. Like, the stakes are low, but I just can’t stand not knowing how the overall story is going to end?

I will end this review by saying that I do in fact recommend this book to anyone who is interested in the concept. I think that her writing does objectively get better as the book goes on, and pretty much everyone in my book club really liked it, I’m the odd one out. Most of my friends loved the concept and they also loved the love interest(s) that were at play. So even though this book wasn’t for me, it does have a pretty compelling protagonist and an interesting concept, so check it out if you want!

If you liked The Infinity Courts, try:

Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor

Ninth House by Leigh Bardugo

The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold

Afterworlds by Scott Westerfeld

Reviews

Winterkeep by Kristin Cashore (Book 4)

# of Pages: 511

Time it took me to read: 5 days

# of pages a day to finish in a week: 73

Rating: 4 out of 5

The world is getting bigger. Ever since Queen Bitterblue found out about the two lands, Pikkia and The Dells, over the mountains that form the eastern boundary of her kingdom of Monsea, things have only changed more and more. Across the eastern ocean from The Dells lies yet another continent, full of countries with democratic governments and advanced technology. In the five years since their discovery, all of the lands of Bitterblue’s continent as well as the countries on the continent of Torla have exchanged languages and cultures and lived peacefully.

But when two of Bitterblue’s agents in the country of Winterkeep on Torla end up dead, she finds that it might not have been the accident that it seems to be. Along with her half sister Hava and trusted friend Giddon, Bitterblue knows she has to journey to the land of Winterkeep to get to the bottom of the deaths of her envoys, as well as the possible wars brewing along at least one of her borders.

Things have always been the same for Lovisa Cavenda. First born child in the wealthy and powerful Cavenda family, she has always known what her place would be: study government, choose a political party when she graduates, and follow her family’s expectations.

But things are heating up between the two political parties of Winterkeep, which are the Scholars and the Industrialists. Lovisa’s mother is the president of Winterkeep, and a Scholar, while her father is a shipping magnate, and part of the Industrialist party. When Lovisa learns they will be hosting the queen of Monsea at her home when she visits Winterkeep, she begins to sense that something isn’t right. Winterkeep is full of secrets, and Lovisa can’t trust anyone else to get to the bottom of it.

Review:

!!!SPOILERS AHEAD!!! I’m so sorry everyone, normally I try to post spoiler-free reviews, but many of my feelings about this book involve spoilers, so if you think you may be interested in reading Winterkeep but haven’t yet, please click away!


I’m going to try to not let this review completely derail into a rant, but it likely will at some point so thanks to anyone who is able to stick with me.

I’ll start by saying, as I’ve covered in other reviews of Graceling books, that Kristin Cashore might be one of the most creative authors in all of YA. She’s created not one, not two, but three completely unique lands with unique magic and unique problems. This book, which takes place primarily in Winterkeep, is no exception. Winterkeep doesn’t have gracelings like the Seven Kingdoms or monsters like The Dells, but the magic of the land comes in the form of two kinds of telepathic creatures who can communicate with people: the blue foxes and the silbercows. The blue foxes are very intelligent and will often choose a human to bond with, when human and fox share a special and closed connection. Silbercows live in the sea and are very friendly with humans, often saving them from drowning in the dangerous ocean. Winterkeep also has a unique government with two political parties rather than a monarchy like the countries on the other continent. Cashore has really gone all out in creating an immersive new world in this story, so A+ on that.

Next, plot and storyline. Cashore really seems to have found her calling in political dramas / mysteries. Ever since Graceling, each book after has had less and less of an action element and more of a spy intrigue feel, which is not normally my cup of tea, but Cashore is such a talented writer that her books are a joy to read no matter what. Winterkeep, like Bitterblue, started out very slow for me, but as the threads became more tangled, the excitement built. I felt that Winterkeep was a bit more on the predictable side than Bitterblue, which didn’t particularly disappoint me, but is something that I wanted to mention. In Bitterblue, there wasn’t really a singular antagonist, and it felt as though any of the characters, even the ones you were supposed to trust, could be working against Bitterblue. But in Winterkeep, it felt pretty clear from the beginning who the antagonists were, though the goals of those antagonists weren’t as predictable. I know it sounds like a pretty boring political intrigue / mystery if it’s predictable, but again, these books are so well written and generally enjoyable to read, I personally don’t feel let down by being able to predict the endings.

And now, onto certainly the most important part of these most recent Graceling books, the characters. Winterkeep was unique because unlike the previous three books, instead of having one main protagonist, there were arguably four: Bitterblue, Lovisa, Giddon, and Ad. Bitterblue’s voice was probably my favorite, because she’s familiar and I recently read her titular book, so I enjoyed getting to be back in her head again. Though Giddon has never had a protagonist role before, he’s been a part of three of the four books, so he felt somewhat familiar as well. At first I wasn’t really a fan of this book trying to endear him to me, because he’s never been a favorite of mine, ever since he was such a big baby when Katsa rejected him in the very first book. But over time I felt myself rooting for Giddon, even if it was a little bit begrudgingly. The character Ad, short for Adventure Fox, is one of the telepathic foxes of Winterkeep, bonded to Lovisa’s mother. Ad is an interesting perspective, pretty human-seeming, which I found kind of odd for an animal. I mean, I think Ad would have not been a particularly successful protagonist had he been so animal-like that he was unrelatable, but I think it was an interesting choice of protagonist.

And finally, Lovisa. She was probably my least favorite protagonist, but that’s just an opinion of mine, not due to anything I think was wrong with the way she was written. She’s sixteen years old, and I find her immensely unlikable for most of the story. I think it’s clear that she’s “the good guy”, so it’s not like she’s morally questionable, in fact she has to deal with all of the hardest hitting moral dilemmas of the story. She’s well written, and clearly on the “right side” so you have to root for her, but I just never felt as engaged when reading her chapters as I did with the other protagonists. She’s objectively interesting and well-written, and I think is probably an accurate reflection of her life experiences, many of which are traumatic, but I just didn’t like her. I think that were Kristin Cashore to write another book more specifically focusing on her, I’d certainly read it and perhaps she’d eventually endear herself to me, but in this story I felt that her arc didn’t particularly matter very much to me.

Alright, I’ve held off long enough, this is going to be my rant section and then I’ll wrap this review up. And this is REALLY where the spoilers hit, so if you ignored my warning above and kept reading, but you actually don’t want spoilers, LAST CHANCE.

The romantic subplot in this book belongs to Bitterblue…and Giddon. Which I could tell was going to be the case like fifteen pages in, and initially I was like NO. Because here’s the deal. There is no evidence that Giddon and Bitterblue really met in Graceling, when Bitterblue was ten and Giddon was eighteen, so I think we can avoid any gross “I’ve had my eye on you since you were ten” vibes. But they became close in Bitterblue, when she was eighteen and he was twenty-six. Now, in this book, Bitterblue is twenty-four and Giddon has just turned thirty-two, which in modern times is a pretty big gap for this age group, but in fantasy isn’t as big of a gap as I’ve seen and been okay with. And Bitterblue is VERY mature for twenty-four, as she’s been a queen for nearly a decade and a half already. But I think where my main problem is is that in Bitterblue, I sensed NO romantic inklings, their relationship gave me more sibling vibes, so I feel as though in Winterkeep this type of connection was just drawn up out of thin air. And while yes, by the end of the book I was rooting for it, it was a bit begrudgingly because I don’t fully feel as though Giddon had earned it because once again, I’m still bitter that he was a big baby in book one. Whew. End rant.

!!!END SPOILERS!!!

Overall, I enjoyed this book very much, it was a worthy addition to the Graceling world. I only ended up taking a star off for personal reasons: it took me a while to get into, I found one or two of the protagonists to be kinda meh, and there wasn’t quite enough action to get me to yell five out of five stars. I certainly hope that Kristin Cashore will write another Graceling book, and that she won’t wait ten years this time.

If you liked Winterkeep, try:

Three Dark Crowns by Kendare Blake

The Brilliant Death by Amy Rose Capetta

Bloodleaf by Crystal Smith

Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor

P.S. I’ve had quite a busy few weeks in my personal life, but I’m hoping to get back to posting here regularly again, so thanks a bunch for your patience!

Reviews · Summaries

Wings of Fury by Emily R. King (Book 1)

# of Pages: 285

Time it took me to read: 2 days

# of pages a day to finish in a week: 41

Rating: 3 out of 5

Althea and her two older sisters have lived with the priestesses of Gaia since their mother died. The three sisters, along with everyone else, live in fear of their ruler, the Almighty Cronus, who’s soldiers terrify the population and collect honor maidens to satiate the desires of the undying God of Gods. But Althea has extra reason to fear, because she has been marked as the future bride to the despicable General Decimus, who will come to collect her any day now.

Althea knows it is time for her and her sisters to flee Thessaly to the southern islands, where the hold of Cronos is weaker and Decimus can never find her. But after visiting an oracle that tells her that her fate is inextricably woven with the Boy God who will defeat Cronus and take his throne, Althea must go on a journey unlike any other if she is to save her sisters and discover who she was always meant to be.

Review

Okay, I’m just going to say that I have two different ratings for this book. 3 out of 5 is my official rating, which is very diplomatic and objectively, this book is not bad and has the building blocks of a solid historical fantasy, and as someone who is also a writer who is working on a historical fantasy, I have to give the author at least a 3.

However, personally this book upset me and if I were giving it a purely subjective rating I would give it a 2 out of 5. And here is where this review will likely devolve mostly into ranting, so buckle in.

Fun fact about me is that I minored in the completely useless but incredibly fun program of Greco-Roman Classical studies when I was in school. So I am very familiar with ancient Greek literature, and thusly the mythology surrounding the culture. And while I love, love, LOVE a good reimagining of Greek myth, or a unique story set in the time period, I would largely call myself a “purist” in many ways. If you’re going to tell a story that is mostly well known characters from myth, I believe that it should be mostly true to the source material. That being said, there are many different versions of lots of the most popular myths, so there is often some wiggle room here, which makes it easier to be creative. 

It also doesn’t help that I *thought* this book was going to be something completely other than what it was. It’s marketed as a mortal woman taking on Cronus in the time before the Olympians, where there is not a whole lot of myth or storytelling, so I was pretty excited because due to the lack of a lot of well-known source material from this time of the Titans, I thought the author was really going to have the opportunity to spread her wings (no pun intended) and do something unlike a lot of the myth retellings out there.

I’m not going to put any spoilers in this part, but I’ll just say that the twist came at the end of the book, and in my opinion this twist really threw away everything that the author had worked on building, because what seemed to be a unique story about unknown mortals actually ended up being a version of a well-known myth, and that’s what really killed it for me. Because all of the setup that the author did, all of the various possibilities that were open to her, completely shrunk down to two options for the end of the sequel: a) have the myth remain true to the original source material, which would require a bunch of character building that was done in the early part of the book to all have to be thrown away OR b) be completely disingenuous to the original source material. Both of which I think are very crummy options.

I’ve talked a lot about the end of this book, but before I even had begun I suspected that I wouldn’t like this book because of a very specific pet-peeve I have about these types of stories. And that pet-peeve is when the Greek gods are the “good guys” in any way. Because, like I said, I’m a purist, and the Greek gods suck. In every single story, they suck. They exemplify all of the worst human traits without any human compassion. So I automatically have a bias against books where mortals team up with gods to defeat other gods because the gods do not care about mortals, at all. And just by reading the blurb I knew the protagonist was gonna be teaming up with Zeus, arguably one of the worst gods, so I knew that this book was gonna have to work real hard to win me over. And it really didn’t.

But I did give this book a 3 because I feel like the author did a good job of making this story feel accessible, because when they’re set in the ancient past like this one is, if you’re not careful it can lose the ancient vibe and feel too modern, but if you lean too hard into the ancient thing, it feels inaccessible and hard to fall into. I think this book walks a very good line, and I felt like I was into the ancient world she built. And I didn’t dislike the characters either. Althea was easy to root for because she had a tragic past and a noble cause, and I do like protagonists who are easy to root for.

Alright, end rant, now onto the summary. Because though the ending of this book made me upset, you can be damn sure I’m going to read the sequel to see how she ends up wrapping up the messy threads she’s left everywhere.

!!!SPOILERS AHEAD!!!

Cast

Althea – protagonist, youngest sister of Cleora and Bronte. An oracle tells her that her fate is to help Zeus defeat Cronus and take his throne. Althea is dedicated and loyal to her sisters. Interested romantically in Theo, but “tagged” by General Decimus as his future bride when she was eleven. Strong, stubborn, does not trust easily.

Bronte – middle Lambros sister, very good with plants. She’s kind, and she always wants to do what is best for her sisters and anyone around her. A lovely singer and a student of philosophy.

Cleora – oldest Lambros sister, happy at the temple of Gaia with the priestesses and wants to live as a virgin. Captured early on by Decimus and taken to Cronus.

Theo – Theo Angelos is a commander in Cronus’s army. But when his mother is in danger he deserts the army to join Althea in her quest to find the Boy God who will topple Cronus from his throne. Bastard son of the Titan Prometheus and the love interest of Althea.

Decimus – General in Cronus’s army, “tags” Althea for marriage when she is a young girl. A proud and cruel minion of Cronus, he is determined to have Althea as his one way or another.

Zeus – fifteen year old son of Cronus and Rhea, but hidden from Cronus at birth to keep him safe. He was hidden away living with nymphs and an all-female tribe of worshippers of Aphrodite on the island of Crete, far from his father’s far-seeing eye. Arrogant, but also afraid of his father and nervous that he won’t be able to take his father’s place. Cares a lot about Althea.

Cronus – The Almighty, God of Gods, king of the Titans. Rules over the land, and is known for his cruelty. Takes any young women he pleases as “honor maidens”, who make up his haram. When those girls and women become pregnant, they pretty much always die giving birth to a half-Titan. Known for eating his fully-Titan children to prevent them from overpowering him.

Stavra Lambros – human mother of Cleora, Bronte, and Althea. When she angers Cronus, she tries to hide her daughters with the priestesses of Gaia, but the army finds her and she becomes an honor maiden to Cronus until she dies giving birth to his daughter, a half-Titan girl who is immediately taken away. Her and her husband smuggled oppressed women off of the mainland to Crete to live with the cult of Aphrodite.

Summary

Act 1

In the prologue, Althea and her sisters have fled to the temple of Gaia at the bidding of their mother. Soldiers arrive at the temple, but before they can find the girls, their mother Stavra steps out and gives herself up to protect her daughters. Eleven year old Althea runs from her hiding spot and tries to defend her mother, but just calls attention to herself. General Decimus decides that he wants her for his future bride, so she is given a “tag”, which is a brand on the back of her neck declaring that she is spoken for. The soldiers take Stavra away to be an “honor maiden” of Cronus, which usually means eventual death.

Nine months later soldiers return Stavra to the temple, where she is in labor with Cronus’s child. She does not survive the birth, but the baby girl does, and Stavra tasks Althea with watching over her sisters. So she grabs the baby, but the soldiers return for it, as it is a child of Cronus. Althea tries to defend her infant half-sister, but the soldiers take the baby away.

Seven years pass and the three sisters are grown up. Althea knows the time to leave the temple is approaching fast, as Decimus could return to collect her as his bride any day. Althea is sent into town where she meets a kindhearted soldier who gives her the olives she’s looking for. Later that night, she sneaks back to town and goes to see an oracle, who tells her that if she wants to save her sisters, she has to follow her destiny, which is to go to Crete and work with the secret son of Cronus, who is the only one who will be able to dethrone his father. She is told to take as her guide a stranger who has a good heart.

Althea runs back to the temple, where the soldiers have arrived and are looking for the sisters. Althea finds Bronte and Cleora hiding from the soldiers, but they don’t have the pouch with all of their money. Cleora volunteers to go and get it, but she is captured by Decimus. The General says that he’ll exchange Cleora for Althea, but they know he is likely lying, and Bronte convinces Althea that the best way to free their sister is to get to Crete and help the Boy God dethrone Cronus. So Althea and Bronte flee the temple to a hidden cave nearby.

The next day, they are discovered at the cave by Theo Angelos, who was the soldier that gave the olives to Althea in the market, and he is one of the soldiers who accompanies Decimus. He says he wants to desert and come with them, because the oracle also told him that he needed to find her and help her in order to save his mother. They initially refuse his help, but they are ambushed by Decimus’s soldiers at the cave, and Theo bravely helps them fight off the soldiers, but not before Decimus lays a curse on Althea that she’ll belong to him and nobody else.

Theo, Bronte, and Althea manage to escape to the port, where the fishing boat Althea purchased the previous day is waiting for them. Theo is a sailor, and they’ve decided to accept his help as their guide. They take the boat and make it to Crete with no trouble a few days later.

They meet the cult of Aphrodite, composed only of women, who want to send the sisters away and kill Theo, but it turns out that their mother Stavra was once one of them, so out of respect the cult allows them to stay one night. They are joined by the two nymphs that live with the tribe, Adrasteia and Ida. Althea tells them that her and her companions were sent by Rhea with a message for her son, the Boy God. The nymphs are convinced to let Althea and Bronte go and visit the boy, who’s name is Zeus, and at fifteen he really is a boy god. They try to convince him to work with them to overthrow Cronus, but Zeus refuses out of fear and sends them away.

Act 2

The next morning the three set out from Crete. They stop briefly on an island, where they find evidence that Stavra and Tassos were the main smugglers of women away from the mainland to safety on Crete. They are also set upon by the Erinyes, the Furies who punish oath breakers and murderers. They manage to get rid of them, but are sure they’ll be back.

The three companions sail back to Crete, sneak onto the island, and Althea goes to Zeus and changes his mind about training to overthrow Cronus. Theo agrees to train Zeus for it.

Theo, Bronte, and Althea settle into life on the island. Theo trains Zeus, and Althea falls harder for Theo. Althea is attacked once again by the Erinyes, but Zeus saves her life. Althea goes to talk to Ida, who tries to convince Althea that if she allows Ida to ritually purify her by cutting her up, but Althea refuses.

There are calls for the warriors to come down to the beach, there is a sea dragon down there attacking the cult members. Althea and Theo are working to fight it off, but it’s not until Zeus arrives and summons the lightening storm that the dragon is chased off.

However, the use of his godly powers brings General Decimus to the shores of Crete. He has teamed up with slavers as well as the goddess Ida, who was tired of “wasting away” on Crete. Adrasteia tries to convince Ida to come to her senses, but Ida kills her instead. Decimus captures Bronte, and says that he’ll exchange her for Althea, tries to use the curse he placed on Althea to get her to come to him. But Theo manages to get her and Zeus to the boat and escape Crete, leaving Bronte behind. Althea falls unconscious.

Act 3

When she awakes, she finds that they are at the home of Helios, god of the sun. Althea has dinner with Helios, Selene, and Eos, as well as Zeus’s betrothed Metis, who gives Althea a draught to weaken Cronus so that Zeus can strike him down. They lay out their plan, and it is revealed that Theo is the son of Prometheus, so half Titan.

The next morning, the Decimus and the soldiers have found them again, and it seems as though Theo has betrayed them all, because he seems to be working with them again, he helped them capture Zeus. But Althea manages to free Zeus, and he escapes with Metis on a boat, but Althea is captured by Decimus, who says that the Almighty wants to speak to her.

So Althea is brought to Cronus’s palace, where she is reunited with Bronte. The two sisters are brought before Cronus, who has Cleora with him, but she appears to be happy and fine. Cronus reveals that the three sisters are actually his children with Rhea, full Titans, but that he took away their powers to “protect them”. Their mother Stavra was only their surrogate. The goddess of memory altered Stavra’s thoughts so that she believed she’d birthed the three girls, but Stavra had the Titan Oceanus reveal her memories and she remembered that the girls were Titans, and tried to tell them, which is why Cronus took her out. He reveals that Cleora is Hestia, Bronte is Demeter, and Althea is Hera.

Althea doesn’t want to believe it, can’t believe it, but then she finds that Bronte’s memories have been altered as well, and she is happy to be here with Cronus. When Mnemosyne, the goddess of memory, arrives to alter Althea’s thoughts, Althea uses half of the draught Metis made for her to drug Mnemosyne, and then pretends to be addled when she’s brought in front of Cronus. 

Althea realizes that her powers, as well as those of her sisters, are trapped within Cronus, and after drugging him she is able to use the adamant sycle to have their powers restored. There is a big battle where Zeus and Theo (who only pretended to betray them), help attack Cronus. 

Eventually, Cronus is temporarily defeated when Althea flings him into space (I think), but he’ll be back. This epic battle was all possible because the power reveal included that the sisters all actually had wings. Decimus is also defeated, as Althea demands that he remove his curse or she’ll kill him. He removes the curse, which ends up killing him anyway, which puts the Erinyes off of her tail.

The story ends with the sisters finding their little half sister, Delphine, where she was hidden with traveling nomads.

Cronus will return, and they will have to be prepared. Dun dun dun.

End Book 1

!!!END SPOILERS!!!

Well, as much as I overall disliked the book (especially the ending I thought was weak), I’m certainly interested enough in how everything is going to come together to pick up the sequel sometime soon.

If you liked Wings of Fury (or are looking for something better in the same genre), try:

Troy by Adele Geras

Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller

Circe by Madeline Miller

The Goddess Test by Aimee Carter

Mini Reviews · Reviews

Bitterblue by Kristin Cashore (Book 3)

# of Pages: 539

Time it took me to read: 5 days

# of pages a day to finish in a week: 77

Rating: 4 out of 5

A quick personal note:

Hi everyone! I apologize for disappearing without a trace! I’ve been trying to do a post every 7 to 10 days, but have failed spectacularly the last three weeks or so, and for that I’m sorry. My friend and I are currently doing Camp Nano, so we have a goal of each writing 30,000 words this month, which takes up most of my free time! Bitterblue is genuinely the only book I’ve read since my last post, and I’m glad to finally get to bring you the last of the mini reviews for the Graceling series.

Thanks for your patience, those who have stuck with me!

Ever since the death of her father when she was only ten years old, Bitterblue has been queen of Monsea. Now eighteen, she is doing her best to help her people escape from her father’s horrific thirty-five year reign. But how can she help the Monseans who live in her city if it feels as though her advisors keep her trapped in her office all day under a mountain of paperwork?

Bitterblue thinks she has a pretty good idea of what it was like to live in terror under the rule of her father, but when she starts sneaking out at night in disguise and meeting her citizens, she finds that she really has no idea. She finds that her citizens are still suffering, and someone with power is working to make sure that Monseans stay in the dark about the crimes of their former king. Bitterblue’s new friends think that the queen is behind it all, but how can she defend herself when no one knows who she truly is?

With the help of some familiar faces and new allies, Bitterblue works to get to the bottom of what is going wrong in Monsea. Because someone is working against all that she has tried to build in the eight years of her reign, and if Monsea is ever to recover from the memory of Leck’s cruel kingship, the truth must be revealed so everyone who ever knew him can heal.

Review:

This is the only Graceling book that I haven’t read more than once, which was when the book was released in 2012, so almost ten years ago. At the time I was seventeen, and I thought the book was a bit of a letdown. Almost no action, little romance, especially compared to Graceling and Fire I found this book a disappointment.

Well, I can’t tell you how happy I am to have given this a re-read as an adult. Because though this book is YA, there are a lot of adult themes throughout this story, and I feel like when I first read it I was too young to appreciate them. 

Honestly, I think I would personally rank this book above Fire and below Graceling and here’s why: though this book is even more of a political intrigue than Fire is, Bitterblue has a much more engaging plot that kept me turning the pages faster than I did for Fire. Fire had a little bit more action, but it was mostly a character study wrapped in a spy story, which I still enjoyed, but Bitterblue had a big mystery threaded throughout, and the consequences and fallout are devastating, Cashore does not shy away from some unhappy endings here, which is I think a large part of the problem I had with it when I was young.

Another thing that Bitterblue has that Fire doesn’t is pretty much all your favorite characters from the previous books, which is great if you, like me, did not get nearly enough Po and Katsa in Graceling alone. 

As far as pacing goes, I mentioned it above, but I thought this book was quite well paced, despite being the longest of the three books in the series so far. There are so many puzzles that Bitterblue is trying to solve all at once, so there is certainly enough to keep one engaged page after page.

One of my favorite things about Bitterblue that I think wasn’t quite as strong or memorable in the previous two stories were the rich, well developed side characters. This story has a large cast, but I feel as though a lot of time and effort is given to developing backstories and personalities of the many people who revolve in and out of Bitterblue’s world. She isn’t the most unique or “special” protagonist out there, but those who surround her make her very interesting to read about, if only due to her interactions with others.

I’ll only spend a line or two talking about world building, because you know if you’ve read these books, or if you’ve even read my last two reviews, that Kristin Cashore is a brilliant worldbuilder, and the rich uniqueness and diversity of her world and her kingdoms is evident, despite the entire story taking place in Bitterblue’s capital city.

One of the beautiful things about this group of books is that in each Kristin Cashore seems to push herself to do something different, to challenge herself, and even though all three take place in the same world, each story brings something new to the table. I really can’t wait to see what the latest installment, Winterkeep, has to offer.

I’m going to briefly return to my longer-form summary format for my book club book this month, so keep an eye out for that. After that I’ll be back with my thoughts on the final Graceling book Winterkeep.

If you liked Bitterblue, try:

Three Dark Crowns by Kendare Blake

The Brilliant Death by Amy Rose Capetta

Bloodleaf by Crystal Smith

Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor

Mini Reviews

Fire by Kristin Cashore (Book 2)

# of Pages: 461

Time it took me to read: 5 days

# of pages a day to finish in a week: 66

Rating: 4 out of 5

As the only human “monster” in the Dells, Fire is different from anyone else she’s ever known. Well, besides her father, who was cruel and revelled in his power to use his looks and his mind to control people. Fire, on the other hand, simply wishes to be left alone. She can’t help that slipping into an unguarded mind comes easily as breathing, or that her flame-like hair sends animal monsters and many humans alike into a frenzy. 

But that wish seems less and less likely as her kingdom slips closer and closer to all-out civil war. Though she knows only by word of mouth that the king is a better ruler than his father was, Fire knows he must be the lesser of three evils, as the lords to the north and south are driven to war only by greed.

After saving the lives of a group of the king’s soldiers, King Nash and his younger brother, Brigan, must put aside their distrust of the daughter of the man who controlled their father his whole life and ask for her help. For if Fire’s power is good for one thing, her control over minds makes her a wonderful spy. But if she agrees to become an agent of the king, and of his brother, is she any better than the powerful and cruel father who’s legacy she’s been fleeing from? Is helping save the kingdom worth truly embracing what she has always been: a monster.

Review:

This second book in the Graceling world takes you away from the seven kingdoms and their Gracelings to a different kingdom, the Dells, which is completely cut off by mountains on all sides. This land has no Gracelings, only monsters, creatures of unbelievable beauty, who have the ability to slip inside an unprotected mind and take control. For animal monsters, like leopards and raptors and wolves, this means luring in humans and other creatures as prey. For Fire, the only human monster left in the Dells, her vibrant flame-like hair and stunning beauty means she must protect herself from those who wish to possess her, as well as those who would rather kill her because of their mistrust of monsters – a mistrust that is earned, for her father exploited his power over minds in every way he could.

As much as I like Fire, I can’t really put it on the same level as Graceling, which is why I only grant it a 4 out of 5. This novel is much more of a political intrigue, much less action than Graceling, and I think a good adventure book is much more up my alley.

But despite the fact that there is less action, Fire is a wonderful addition to the series. It definitely has that fantasy element, but it really is a character study for Fire, since she is constantly in a battle with herself, trying not to be the person everyone expects her to be – which is cruel, controlling, and dangerous. Those who can protect their minds are distrustful of her, and those who can’t protect their mind completely lose control at the sight of her – they either want to kill her, assault her, or take her prisoner for the power she possesses.

I feel as though she is a very realistic character, if you take away the whole “able to control minds” bit. She really just wants to be more than her father’s legacy, and in the beginning the way she does that is to completely hide herself away, avoid using her powers at pretty much any cost, except for self-defense.

But as she opens herself up to making more friends, and finding that if she gets to know people, they’ll get to know her and trust her in return. And as she opens herself up to forging new relationships with people, she finds that using her power to help people, to help her kingdom, doesn’t make her like her father, who only used his power for his own gain.

Due to the fact that this book has less action, I feel that it doesn’t quite have the snappy, engaging pace that Graceling does. However, for the type of book that it is, I think that it’s well balanced and evenly paced throughout. And it does have a really sweet love story, and even though it’s not explicitly stated Fire is the kind of character who expects to never have anyone that she can fully trust to love her for who she is, that’s sort of implied. So I think the fact that it took almost the whole book for the love story to come to fruition was well done and another point toward the character driven story that this is.

I don’t feel as though I had all that much to say about Fire, it’s great, if you like Graceling you’ll like Fire, there is a callback to one of the main characters in Graceling in Fire, though technically Fire is a prequel, you can read them in either order.

If you like Fire, try:

These Rebel Waves by Sara Raasch

And I Darken by Kiersten White

King of Scars by Leigh Bardugo

Ash Princess by Laura Sebastian

Mini Reviews

Graceling by Kristin Cashore (Book 1)

# of Pages: 471

Time it took me to read: 2 days

# of pages a day to finish in a week: 67

Rating: 5 out of 5

In the seven kingdoms, if you meet someone with one eye one color and the other eye a different color, you’ve met someone Graced. No two people have exactly the same Grace. You may meet someone Graced with swimming, or sewing, or counting. You may meet two people Graced with fighting, but they won’t ever be exactly the same.

Katsa has always known her Grace is killing. Ever since she killed a man at eight years old, even though it was an accident, she has felt that her hands can deal death without even thinking. It has taken her every day since then to hone her skills as a fighter so that she will never kill anyone she doesn’t mean to ever again. Though her uncle, King Randa, uses her indiscriminately as his blade, she fights him in whatever small ways she can.

It isn’t until she meets Prince Po of Lienid that she finds that she is more than just her Grace. So when Po asks her to leave her life behind to help him find the man who had his grandfather kidnapped, Katsa sees her chance to escape her life of doing King Randa’s bidding.

But what they do find is that the man behind it has a Grace more dangerous than even hers, and that Katsa is vulnerable for the first time in her life. But when she has only herself to rely on, she may find out that her Grace is more than she ever thought it could be. It could be enough to save herself, and those she comes to love the most.

Review:

This is the first in a series of mini reviews that I’m going to start doing this year, so I want to take a brief moment to explain. Mini reviews are going to cover books that I’ve read before, and they’re pretty much all going to be five stars. These are books I’m re-reading for whatever purpose, usually to prep myself for a new book coming out. Normally I try to read a new book for ever re-read I do, so I don’t always review books I’ve already read, but I’ve got quite a few re-reads coming up, and I want to hold myself accountable for posting, so here we go.

This is somewhere between the third and the fifth time I’ve read Graceling over the last ten years or so, and it truly never gets old. It’s one of those rare, timeless YA classics from the early 2000s. I imagine if I were to go back and re-read everything I read in 2009 (if I had kept track of my reading at that time), I wouldn’t get nearly as much satisfaction from most of those books, so Graceling is truly special.

Katsa is a strong, angry female protagonist, from a time where I don’t recall reading a lot of books where the female protagonists were particularly angry as a character trait. She holds true to her morals of never wanting to marry, even after finding a man she’s willing to open her heart to, which is something I don’t think I’ve seen even to this day, which is awesome. You can still be committed to someone you love without marrying, and without being with them every day for the rest of her life. Katsa has her own goals and from the first page asserts that she is her own woman, and that never changes even as she goes through a lovely cycle of character development, and a lot of it for a “standalone” novel.

This book is extremely well paced, engaging from the very beginning, and though the “magic” of this world, the Graces, is completely unique and fascinating, I never feel as though I’m getting info-dumped. Something that I feel is unique about this story as well is the amount of time Cashore spends on certain aspects of it. For example, there is a lot of travel in this story, across the seven kingdoms, and Cashore spends a lot of time documenting it. And there is nearly one hundred pages after the “climax” detailing the aftermath, which is typically relegated to an epilogue in most stories. And the climax itself is only one chapter, ten pages maximum. While in other stories I may feel that the buildup wasn’t worth the payoff, I wouldn’t say that was true at all. Because despite the face-paced, engaging plot, this story really is about character development, and I think that shows in the short climax and long aftermath.

I think the only complaint I can really register is that when Katsa has sex for the first time, though her partner is supportive, it is described as a sharp pain that “women always feel”. Which isn’t something that I think should be spread to young girls. Sex doesn’t have to be painful, in fact it shouldn’t be if you’re properly prepared for it. But this book was written in 2008, and the fact that there is a pretty obvious scene in which Katsa and her partner have sex is pretty unique to YA in that era.

I’m moving through the whole Graceling series as I make my way toward Kristin Cashore’s new book, Winterkeep. I think it goes without saying that I strongly recommend Graceling as a wonderfully well written novel that has held up exceptionally well since its release in 2008.

If you liked Graceling, try:

Furyborn by Claire Legrand

The Diabolic by SJ Kincaid

Renegades by Marissa Meyer

These Rebel Waves by Sara Raasch

Reviews

Cemetery Boys by Aiden Thomas

# of Pages: 342

Time it took me to read: 2 days

# of pages a day to finish in a week: 49

Rating: 5 out of 5

All Yadriel has ever wanted was to be a proper brujo, like his father and older brother, and like all the other men in his family. Brujo and bruja are able to wield the magic of the dead to see and hear spirits. It is the responsibility of brujo to send spirits that are tethered to earth to their peace, while bruja can use their magic to heal the living. But though Yadriel’s family seems to be trying to accept him for who he is and use his proper pronouns, still his family holds him back from the official ceremony that will mark him as a brujo, all because he is trans. But though his head tells him it won’t do to push his traditional Latinx family even further outside their comfort zone, in his heart he knows he’s ready and that his patron, Lady Death, will accept him for who he is. It helps that he has the unconditional support of his cousin Maritza, another of the family black sheep.

But right when Yadriel and Maritza have snuck off to perform the ritual, something goes wrong. Yadriel’s cousin Miguel has gone missing, and everyone felt his pain as though he died, though no one can find him. Yadriel becomes determined to summon Miguel’s spirit in order to prove himself, but instead summons the spirit of Julian, a boy from Yadriel’s school. Julian doesn’t know how he died either, but agrees to let Yadriel release him in front of his family…after helping him tie off some loose ends.

The threads that tie Julian to earth get even more tangled as Yadriel learns more about his life, and tries to find out what happened to him, as he can’t shake the feeling that if he can find out what happened to Julian, he’ll find out what happened to Miguel as well. But as Dia de Muertos looms, Yadriel finds himself running out of time, both for Miguel and Julian. And when the time does come, Yadriel realizes he might be hesitant to let Julian go after all.

Review:

I know what you’re thinking: how can this possibly be my third 5 star book in a row? What can I say, I’m on a hot streak. But there was no way I was giving this book any less than 5 stars.

I could go on forever and ever about why I loved this book, but I’ll try and keep from rambling on too much. I’ll start with the concept/world-building. This story was a wonderful blend of fantasy (with origins from cultures all over Latin America) and a contemporary YA romance. And before anyone says it, yes, I’m aware that’s called “urban fantasy”, but I’m hesitant to use that phrase here. Specifically because typically though urban fantasy takes place in a version of our world where magic/monsters exist, it still feels very other. You’re usually so deep into the fantasy aspect of it, that it no longer feels like a contemporary fiction novel. Cemetery Boys, however, gives you that ooey-gooey contemporary romance feel, but with a healthy dose of magic and adventure to keep things interesting. I just thought that the two styles were blended together so well, and I don’t see that many fantasies based in Latinx culture in YA these days, so it feels really fresh.

Next, the subplot/culture. I believe this is my first story with a trans protagonist, and honestly? There should be more of them (if you’ve got a suggestion for one, hit me up in the comments). The struggles that Yadriel faces are both probably somewhat universal to all trans youth (being nervous/unable to use the bathroom that matches your pronouns, being worried that you don’t “pass”, etc), while also bringing in the unique cultural aspects of being LGBTQA+ in a traditional Latinx family. From the beginning, it is very clear that Yadriel’s family loves him, but that they struggle to accept all of him, as he is. The whole brujo/bruja magic thing being gendered as well was a simply brilliant way of adding a very natural-feeling layer onto the complexity of being trans. One of my other favorite parts is that Yadriel isn’t the only trans character in this story, or the only gay one, and which I think brings up a great point: LGBTQA+ folks are everywhere, and throwing in one trans boy or one lesbian is tokenism, and it just won’t fly in 2021. Another thing to mention here is that the experiences seem very genuine, and after a quick google search I see that Aiden Thomas is also a trans Latinx person, which makes sense because every single word of this story oozes authenticity and lived experience. This leads me into my next segment:

Character. Every single character in this book was so wonderfully lovable, and even the antagonist is someone who’s perspective isn’t entirely alien (that’s all I’ll say, no spoilers). Yadriel is someone who I rooted for from page one, his personality is just so real, like I’m sure we’ve all known someone like Yadriel – someone who is proud of who they are, but they don’t necessarily fit in, though it’s clear that they very much want to, whether it’s with family or friends or their community at large. And so even though I’m sure there are some folks out there who might skip this book over because they like characters they can relate to, and they don’t think they can relate to a Latinx trans boy, I promise that you’re wrong, and any and all of us can find some way to relate to Yadriel. And this coming from a cis white woman in her mid-twenties. Julian, also, is just such a beautiful contrast on the surface to Yadriel, but at the same time they are both trying to find their voices in unique ways. Also the fact that neither are any sort of stereotype, which is always important.

Despite this being a story that deals with “heavy” topics like trans matters, gay matters, death, and culture/community, this book is fun, and the characters all have a natural humor that allows you to float through the story. Don’t get me wrong, it’ll make you think as well as have all the feels, but this is ultimately a joyful story about being true to yourself no matter what, and that those people who truly love you will be behind you all the way. A quick mention to easily one of my favorite side characters of the year so far, Maritza. She is a curvy, proud Latina and I am here for it. As a vegan, she is held back from accessing her full powers as a bruja as well, as most of her rituals require animal blood, which she refuses to use. But she’s not one of the “stereotypical” vegans who shames others for eating meat (or in this case, using animal blood for rituals). She stands by her beliefs and forges her own path, which I love for her. In a story about boys, I wasn’t expecting a female character to love so much, but I was so pleasantly surprised by Maritza.

And finally, briefly, style/pacing. I thought the pacing of this book was excellent. It didn’t feel rushed, but the pace felt fast enough that had I not kept myself busy all weekend, I could have read it in 24 hours (instead of 48). It didn’t have the problem that some standalone novels do of having taking too much time to build everything up and having the ending fall flat. And, of course, I thought the writing style was beautiful, as I mentioned a bit at the beginning. Thomas’s voice is natural and consistent, and the authenticity rings through from cover to cover. I thought Thomas did an incredible job of telling me so much about Latin American culture, so many different cultures as well, from Haiti to El Salvador to Cuba. The culture was expertly woven throughout, there were very few (if any) noticeable “info dumps” (which is something that I as a writer struggle with), so I’m always impressed when the background and cultural parts of the story (whether it’s real world culture or made-up fantasy culture) are so well threaded throughout a story, like here.

Long story short, if you like YA (regardless of whether you normally read high fantasy or contemporary romance), read Cemetery Boys. You won’t regret it.

If you liked Cemetery Boys, try:

Fangirl by Rainbow Rowel

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz

All the Crooked Saints by Maggie Stiefvater

Afterworlds by Scott Westerfeld