Mini Reviews · Reviews

April and May Mini Reviews

Hi friends!

I know in my last post, which was quite a while ago now, I said that I’d be moving back to my more traditional format of full-length reviews and book summaries. While I have been reading quite ravenously over the last two months, I haven’t actually read anything hugely intense that I felt like warranted a full-length review, and I also haven’t read anything that didn’t have a sequel already out, so I didn’t have to write a full summary for when the sequel does come out. Mostly I’ve been working through a lot of books on my TBR that I purchased back in 2020 or earlier. However, I do think I have some newer books that are coming up that will be getting more robust reviews and summaries, so if that’s the kind of content you like, stay tuned, and I appreciate you checking in.

However, for now, I present mini-reviews for all the books I’ve read in the last two months. As always, mini-reviews are spoiler-free!

1. Ashes of Gold by J. Elle

This is the second and final book in the duology that started with Wings of Ebony. I have to say that I enjoyed this one more than the first one by a pretty wide margin, because this book picks up right where the first one left off and abandons the odd non-linear storytelling style from the first one. Also a major turn-off for me from the first book was that it felt as though I was thrown into a sequel without having read the first one, and due to this book actually being a sequel where I HAD read the first one, I didn’t have that whiplash feeling either. I felt that this book wrapped up the series well, though there is a bit of a love triangle, which is not my favorite trope. And I also feel like something that I kinda liked about the first one was that it blended the story along the “real world” and the magic island that is Rue’s heritage well, whereas the sequel is pretty much all magic island all the time, so I was kind of bummed that the blend didn’t continue. Overall, an read I enjoyed. 4/5 stars.

2. Lobizona by Romina Garber

Alright, I had no idea what to expect from this book, but it was absolutely incredible. As an elevator pitch, it’s about a girl named Manu who has had to hide her whole life with her mother in Miami because they are undocumented. They fled from Argentina when Manu was a small child because her father’s family made it too dangerous to stay after he was killed. But when her mother is tracked down by ICE and Manu has to go on the run, she finds that there is more to her heritage than she has ever known, and trying to hunt down the truth leads her right into the world of Argentinian folklore. This book was a beautiful exploration into Argentinian culture and a cutting, real-world look into how fucked up immigration policies are in the US. Plus it has a very cool magic-school element, and works through themes of deep-rooted, cultural sexism. Overall, it’s a masterpiece, and I can’t wait to read the sequel and finish the duology. 5/5 stars.

3. Incendiary by Zoraida Cordova

This was another one I picked up on a whim at a long-ago B&N trip, so I had few expectations here as well. Do you ever get the feeling that a book was too long? Like I feel like almost everything that happened in this book could have happened quicker. I wasn’t bored reading it, per say, but I just felt like each step in Ren’s journey could have taken about half the time. It was a cool fantasy world with an interesting magic system, but Ren wasn’t particularly the most interesting protagonist, to me at least. I was engaged by the end and definitely want to know what happens in this duology, so I liked it well enough, just think that the pacing was not that great. Oh, and I think I’m going to be unhappy with how the love-triangle works out. 4/5 stars.

4. Attached by Amir Levine and Rachel Heller

This is a non-fiction book about relationships and attachment styles that was given to me to read by my therapist. This was the first such book I’ve ever read, and it was an interesting experience. While I thought the research to be interesting and definitely found that most people I know (myself included) fall into the three categories of attachment: secure, anxious, or avoidant, I feel that the book was a little dated and that everything was spelled out very black and white, as if psychology doesn’t have tons of grey area. I also found the stereotypes to be a bit over-the-top, and the example scenarios that they gave so cringy sometimes that they made me laugh out loud. Overall I feel like I learned something, but I’m sure there are much better books on the subject out there. 3/5 stars.

5. The Camelot Betrayal & 6. The Excaliber Curse by Kiersten White

These are the final two books in the Camelot Rising trilogy that I started quite some time ago. I think these books are just a blast! Kiersten White is one of those authors that I’ve enjoyed every book she’s ever written. This was a retelling of Arthurian legends, with a huge focus on the women of the tales: Guenivere, her lady’s maids, other ladies of Camelot, and White even gender-bends one of the knights, which was so cool and fun. I know pretty much nothing about King Arthur or any of the knights of the round table, so I didn’t have any idea what was coming next in terms of the story, which was a big part of the reason why I enjoyed them. Though I’d be interested to know the opinion of someone well-versed in Arthurian legend. Overall, great characters, lots of action and suspense. The only thing I’ll say is the romance didn’t wrap up quite the way I expected/wanted, but I wasn’t mad about it at all. All of these books are 5/5 stars.

7. Fable by Adrienne Young

This is a BookTok darling that I’d been so looking forward to reading, and I was very pleased we picked it for our May book club. Fable was just what I needed at the time: an easy, breezy, light-hearted fantasy with low stakes. The book was short, so it was nice and quick with the pacing, and our protagonist Fable is instantly someone you want to root for. The rest of the cast is a crew of lovable, somewhat morally-grey merchant (read pirate) youths. Is it predictable? Sure, it’s filled with classic YA tropes. Did I love every second of it? Absolutely! Just because a book is predictable, doesn’t mean it’s bad (unless it’s a suspense/thriller or something, then you probably want less predictability). Fable was a breath of fresh air from reading lots of heavy fantasy. 5/5 stars.

8. Queen of Volts by Amanda Foody

Queen of Volts is the conclusion to a trilogy that I started I’m not even sure how many years ago. I’m trying to be better about it, but I have the bad habit of shoving books I’m not as excited about further down on my TBR, meaning sometimes I have too-long gaps between books. This is unfortunate, because I have a bad memory and if more than a year goes by in-between reading two books in a series, I will forget almost everything. Which, unfortunately, is exactly what happened here. The books are sizable, so I in no way had the inclination to go back and re-read the rest of the series, I just wanted to get it done with. This series is full of beautiful, complex world-building and a huge cast, so it took me quite a while to get back into it. But Amandy Foody is a great writer, and I ended up feeling totally satisfied by the end of the series. Only rating it less than perfect because of my own knowledge gaps, but I do think I’ll probably rate it higher some day when I go back and read them all together, as I highly recommend the series as a whole. For now, 4/5 stars.

9. The Nemesis by S.J. Kincaid

This is another one that I believe I read the previous book in the trilogy at least 3-4 years ago. And I didn’t have much love at ALL for the previous two books, but the previous book did have a cliff-hanger as such that I couldn’t NOT finish the series. So I finally did. This is a YA sci-fi trilogy, which is typically not my genre at all, but I purchased the original book in a long-ago effort to branch out a bit. The first book had almost everything I hate about sci-fi (slow to start, info-dumpy with worldbuilding/technology, etc.), but was objectively well-written. And honestly, despite the long gap between when I’d read the last one, I liked this one the best of them all. It had a satisfying conclusion and was generally packed with more action/intrigue/betrayal than the other two combined. I don’t think I’ll necessarily read them ever again, but I would recommend them to someone who likes sci-fi, especially one with truly morally gray/”inhuman” protagonists. I’d give the series somewhere between a 3 and a 4, but the last one was definitely a 4/5 for me.

10. We Hunt the Flame by Hafsah Faizal

I’ve had multiple friends recommend this one to me, plus BookTok loves it, so I was very excited for this start to a fantasy duology based on stories from One Thousand and One Nights. Zafira the Huntress is everything you want in a YA protagonist: brave but vulnerable, bold but imperfect. Also I love a story with absolutely no real love triangles (my least favorite YA trope), and the romance that blossoms in this book is a slow burn but totally sweet. As much as I want to give this book full marks and as excited as I am to read the sequel, the book had quite the slow start, and though the stakes were high, they did a lot of sitting around and talking for a journey supposed to be fraught with peril. So while I think this book is absolutely incredible, the pacing in the first 1/3rd was a bit off for me. So 4/5 stars with full expectations that the sequel will be a 5.

11. Bring Me Their Hearts by Sara Wolf

This book was a Christmas gift from a dear friend, I’d never heard of it before (though neither had she). I’ll just straight up say, after the first chapter, I did not want to like this book. I almost DNF’d a few times, but it ended up getting me by the end and I will be finishing the trilogy. I just have to say that our protagonist Zera has absolutely the most obnoxious “Pick Me” girl energy I have ever witnessed. She comes out of the gate strong, and not in a good way. I was supremely irritated with her as a character, which I feel like gives the whole book an unfair advantage, because since I didn’t really like her I had a hard time (while I was reading it) seeing past that to the good qualities of the book, which I was able to see a bit later with some reflection. Besides Zera, I would say the overall vibe is “just fine” for the rest of the book. And she DOES get less annoying at the very end, so I have hope for the next two books in the series. I can’t say I recommend it, though I am forcing the friend who bought the book for me to read it as well, just to see if she’s of the same mind (because I can be wrong sometimes). Anything that I end up finishing is at least a 3/5, so that shall be its mark.

We Do by Stan Tatkin (DNF)

This was another non-fiction, relationship book given to me by my therapist. At about 80 pages in she asked for it back, since she needed it for something else. She promised I could have it back the following week, but I told her I wasn’t that interested. Even though I only read the first 80 pages out of about 200, I liked this one even less than the first one she gave me. This one felt really heavy on the science and inaccessible to me. Not as many example scenarios, which even if they were bad in the other book were at least interesting. The author touts this book as a necessary manual to read with your partner before marriage, but if I couldn’t even get through it, I have no doubt my non-bookish partner wouldn’t have stood a chance if asked to read it. Unless you’re interested in the science of psychology, I’d give this one a pass.

Thanks everyone! I will have a full-length review/summary coming out shortly, so stay tuned if that’s the kind of content you’re looking for, though I do enjoy the mini-review format and will likely be keeping that up as well.

Mini Reviews · Reviews

March Mini Reviews

Hi everyone!

I had a pretty exhausting few weeks in February and early March writing long and detailed summaries for the Black Witch Chronicles by Laurie Forest. All I wanted to do for the rest of the month is read without feeling the need to write long and and time-consuming blog posts, so I’ve decided to do a mini reviews of all the books I read in March (7), as well as the 3 books I read as part of me and my friend’s 24 hour Read-a-thon on April 2nd/3rd, for a grand total of 10 mini reviews (plus a bonus). Enjoy!

  1. The Demon Tide by Laurie Forest

What to say about this latest book in the Black Witch Chronicles that hasn’t already been said…in my top five favorite series of all time for absolutely certain, it’s perfection. The characters, the plot, the worldbuilding, the romances…all completely unmatched. If you are a fan of fantasy, YA or adult, you are missing out if you haven’t read this series. 5/5 stars.

2. Dead Heat by Patricia Briggs

This is part of a long-winded re-read I’m doing all of Patricia Briggs’ books that take place in the Mercy Thompson world. These are comfort books to me, and while I think the main Mercy Thompson series is my favorite over Alpha and Omega, Charles and Anna give me the same sort of comforting fuzziness as Mercy herself does. Though these books are definitely meant to be read in order, each book has a standalone storyline, and there are a million of them. If you like books that are quick, fun, adult urban fantasy books, I can’t recommend Patricia Briggs enough, she’s my favorite. Start with Moon Called if you haven’t read any of her books before. 5/5 stars.

3. Wings of Ebony by J. Elle

Wings of Ebony is a debut novel. I struggled right off the bat with J. Elle’s storytelling style, it’s very non-linear, which isn’t bad, it was just not my favorite. It felt to me like I was reading a sequel where I’d never read the first one. I almost DNF’d it, but even though I struggled with the style, I could tell there was talent and am glad I ended up finishing it because I did go out and buy the sequel. Her characters have a lot of heart, and it’s a very interesting genre blend of urban fantasy/contemporary/sci-fi, because it takes place largely in the “real world”, but also partially on a magical island hidden from the real world. It deals with a lot of social themes like racism, cultural appropriation, and poverty. Overall, a well-written book that wasn’t quite my style, but got me enough in the end. 3/5 stars.

4. A River of Royal Blood by Amanda Joy

Another debut novel, I thought it had a really cool concept and a beautiful world with African influence, but also the author’s own take on fae and “bloodletters” (read vampires). I liked the rival heirs theme (one sibling must kill the other for the crown), it reminded me of Kendare Blake’s Three Dark Crowns series, though not as dark. I liked the narrator and the supporting cast was great too. But it didn’t quite give me that *something*, as much as I enjoyed it, but I was certainly eager to go and get the sequel, which I was happy was already out. 4/5 stars.

5. Neon Gods by Katee Robert

I think this is the first romance novel I’ve rated on this blog. As a Greek mythology nerd, I was warned that this book takes some liberties and is more like going to a party where the theme is Greek mythology rather than reading an actual Greek myth retelling. The writing itself isn’t bad and the characters are fun, their relationship is cute. There are several plot holes though. But that isn’t the point. This book is all hot, steamy smut, and I absolutely devoured it. 4/5 stars for a great erotica novel.

6. Skin of the Sea by Natasha Brown

Yet another debut novel (I read a bunch this month). Skin of the Sea is a beautiful novel inspired by Hans Christian Andersen’s The Little Mermaid, but with real-world historical influence as well as a stunning African backdrop. While the story itself and the characters were on the simpler side (it’s a very short novel in true YA style), I felt absolutely transported to Simi’s Africa, and I was fully engrossed in the African mythology and history that this book taught me. Truly fantastic, but not quite long enough or complex enough to push me into giving it full points. 4/5 (though I did already pre-order the sequel).

7. A Queen of Gilded Horns by Amanda Joy

The sequel A River of Royal Blood and end of the duology. While I’m happy with the ending of the story, I found myself a bit disapointed in that I simply wanted MORE…I feel like the author chose to focus on only really one of the relationships with the narrator and another character, and that part was fine, except that the author built up the narrator’s relationships with two other characters in the first book, and I felt like their arcs weren’t quite given enough love. Honestly, I have no complaints about the content that was there, she’s a great writer, I just think that she did so much lead up but wrapped up the ENTIRE STORY in the last 50 pages, so it felt a bit rushed to me. I think this story would have been way better as a trilogy. But I still had a great time reading, so 4/5 stars.

8. A Deadly Education by Naomi Novik

This is my Book Club book for the month, and was the first book I read as part of my 24 hour Read-a-thon. I’ve seen this book all over BookTok, but I had no expectations for it. I think it’s going to be controversial among my Book Club gals but I LOVED it. Galadriel is one of my favorite narrators in a long time simply because this book is like reading her journal/magic manuel. There isn’t much plot to speak of, which normally would be a huge turnoff for me and did make the pacing pretty slow, BUT Galadriel is absolutely so hilarious that I found myself actually, physically laughing out loud and reading quotes to my reading partner. The book was so good and I’m ravenous for the sequel. 5/5 stars.

9. Night of the Dragon by Julie Kagawa

The finale to the Shadow of the Fox trilogy that I started forever ago and only just got around to finishing. I truly love Julie Kagawa’s writing and have for more than a decade now. I always compare this trilogy like reading the novel version of anime or manga (which are two mediums I don’t really partake in but I still know a lot about the tropes). This final book also reminded me of a video game where the characters are like “here we are, the final fight”, and then the bad guy goes down and they’re like “we did it!” but then an even BIGGER, BADDER GUY rises up and they have to keep fighting, and that just keeps happening? There was a lot of action and drama in this final book, which kept it moving at lightning speed. I won’t spoil the ending, but it’s pretty crazy. This book and the series overall is a 4/5 stars.

10. Mister Impossible by Maggie Stiefvater

One of my truly favorite authors of all time, Maggie Stiefvater’s novels feel like reading poetry. It’s all about imagery and vibes with her, plot is definitely secondary. This is the sequel to Call Down the Hawk and the second book in the The Dreamers trilogy. It had been a while since I’d read the first book, and unfortunately Maggie isn’t much of a recapper, but besides it taking me a little bit to get into the story, I loved it as usual. Her style is completely dreamy and her characters are deep and complex. But the pace is slow, as with almost all of her books, but somehow they’re still pretty impossible to put down. Can’t wait for the finale, 5/5 stars.

Belle Revolte by Linsey Miller (DNF)

I do not count books that I don’t finish toward my overall count for the year, but I wanted to give my review here because I rarely review books that I don’t like. This is my first DNF in at least 18 months and I am going to try and do it more with books that I’m not enjoying. I put this book down after reading 1/4 of it. The reasons were that I found the writing style clunky and confusing, the characters bland, and the plot VERY sluggish. I think she had a decent concept, but the book definitely needed editing and a better inciting event to keep the reader engaged.

I’m going to try to do a few more full reviews of my April books, but I do like this mini-review style, so I’m going to try and throw together a monthly recap of everything I read in this style that I don’t give a full review.

Let me know if you have read and liked any of these books, or if you disagree with anything I’ve said here, I’m always hungry for discourse. See ya next time!


Ace of Spades by Faridah Àbíké-Íyímídé

*The following blurb was taken from Amazon*

When two Niveus Private Academy students, Devon Richards and Chiamaka Adebayo, are selected to be part of the elite school’s senior class prefects, it looks like their year is off to an amazing start. After all, not only does it look great on college applications, but it officially puts each of them in the running for valedictorian, too.

Shortly after the announcement is made, though, someone who goes by Aces begins using anonymous text messages to reveal secrets about the two of them that turn their lives upside down and threaten every aspect of their carefully planned futures.

As Aces shows no sign of stopping, what seemed like a sick prank quickly turns into a dangerous game, with all the cards stacked against them. Can Devon and Chiamaka stop Aces before things become incredibly deadly?

I’ve seen this book pop up on all my social media for months now, so I was amped when my book club chose it as our bonus book this month. Because I’m allowed to buy new books when they’re for book club and it doesn’t break my resolution of trying to buy fewer books this year 😉

Alrighty, straight into my spoiler-free review. Even though this is not the type of book I’d normally gravitate towards as a contemporary YA novel, I absolutely love love LOVED this book. I am so impressed that it is a debut novel by a young writer who took on this project while she was still in school. Mind blown. One of the most enjoyable standalone novels I’ve read in quite some time.

Now, I’m not a Gossip Girl fan (never seen it), but this book DID bring me straight back into my high school adoration of the Private book series by Kate Brian. Chiamaka at the beginning of the book would have fit right in with the girls in that series. But I really liked reading a book from the perspective of the “queen bee mean girl”, and I was just really intrigued from the beginning about her motivations and her personality. Devon is pretty much the opposite: quiet, sensitive, content with being invisible and just getting through high school. The way that these two come together is very authentic and their reluctance to trust each other really makes the relationship they build by the end seem very earned. Overall, they were both well-rounded protagonists, and the side characters were all A+ as well.

In terms of pacing, I felt that this book was pretty fast-paced and engaging from the get-go. It took me about 40-60 pages to really get into, simply because it’s a bit of a genre departure from what I usually read these days, but I was invested into the mystery and the characters right away, and that’s certainly enough to get me through an initial genre-difference shock.

Overall I felt the themes of this story were really important. This is a story with POC and LGBTQIA+ topics, and as a cishet white woman I really cannot imagine what these characters go through, but I know that this kind of thing is real and out there and happening today, no matter how “progressive” we seem to be here in 2022. But ultimately this book is about black power and perseverance, and I cannot express how much I enjoyed it.

As much as I’d love to say more, I really don’t want to spoil anything because the payout is so high for the amazing mystery that debut author Faridah Àbíké-Íyímídé presents. All I can say is seriously, go read it.

# of Pages: 415

Time it took me to read: 4 Days

# of pages a day to finish in a week: 59

Rating: 5 out of 5

Normally I try to recommend similar books to the one I just read, but I really don’t think I have any other that qualify that I’ve read recently, so I’m just going to recommend some of my other recent favorite debut novels by POC authors, so if you liked Ace of Spades, try:

A Song of Wraiths and Ruin by Rosanne A. Brown

The Gilded Ones by Namina Forna

These Violent Delights by Chloe Gong

The Blood Heir by Amélie Wen Zhao


A Tale of 3 Books: Blood, Metal, Bone vs The Storm Crow Duology

Happy new year everyone! I know I’ve been absent for a few months now, but I had a crazy-busy end of the year. But when I have the time, I always want to keep up this blog because I so enjoy sharing the books I read out into the world. But sort of in a whirlwind, I read three books at the first half of this year, and I have two more to read for my book club, so I’m consolidating these first few reviews this year into a comparison, because I could not have felt more differently about the first book I read vs the duology I read back-to-back.

My first book of the year was Blood, Metal, Bone by Lindsay Cummings, and the next books I read were The Storm Crow and The Crow Rider by Kalyn Josephson. I’m going to compare the different aspects of both of these stories and then give a final score to each at the end. Let’s get into it.

First, pacing. Blood, Metal, Bone is a standalone novel, which in my opinion means that the story should waste no time in grabbing your attention. Setup is important for any novel, of course, but when you have less than 500 pages to tell your entire story from start to finish, the action needs to start early or the characters have to make you care early on. Neither of which happened for me with this story. I found the pacing to be almost agonizingly slow, which does not bode particularly well, especially in the YA genre, where I expect to be grabbed early on. The Storm Crow, on the other hand, had action and tragedy strike quick, so not only was I invested in the narrator and what was going to happen to her from the get-go, but the inciting action set my expectations within the first fifty pages. I was hooked.

Next, characters. Blood, Metal, Bone had a mid-size cast of characters, and two very different narrators. Normally, I don’t mind a split narrator situation, in fact I often write stories that way myself, two different perspectives can add a lot. However, in this case, I didn’t really care for either of the narrators, and I felt like one of them was the main narrator and the other one was sort of added in there as an afterthought, since I would say that probably 2/3 of the book was in one narrator’s perspective and 1/3 was in the other’s. It gave sort of an unbalenced feel. The Storm Crow duology was told entirely from a single perspective, and in this case I felt like it added to the attachment I felt to the narrator and kept me invested in the main storyline. The cast of the Storm Crow duology was also smaller, and while I do often enjoy a large cast story, I find with many small cast stories I care much more deeply about the outcomes of each one because the time is dedicated in the story to make me care about them.

Next, worldbuilding/genre. In Blood, Metal, Bone, I believe the author was going for a bit of a genre blend, but I don’t believe it was particularly successful and just left me feeling as though this book has a bit of a identity crisis. The prologue sort of tricks the reader into believing it’s a fantasy, but then all of the sudden in chapter one, the narrator changes and the book is suddenly set in space, turning it into a sci-fi somehow? And then we switch back to the original narrator and she’s this kind of desert outlaw, and the book then tries to read like a western? Too much, in my opinion. Pick one or two. I think if the author had made it more clearly a sci-fi from the first page, it would have been simply a space-western, and that could have been more successful. And since the genre was so confused, that left the world-building all over the place and I never had a clear connection with the setting at all. With Storm Crow, it was relatively simple yet fun fantasy world with giant, intelligent crows that have elemental magic. I think Josephson did a pretty good job with giving a history and backstory to the magic and mythology, and then having that become relevant in the second book.

Finally, overall story/endings. I’ll keep it spoiler free, but try to give as much detail as I can. For Blood, Metal, Bone, the prologue sets you up with this kind of mystery from the very beginning, which is honestly the whole reason I read this book to the very end. There is so much lead up to the discovery of this mystery, and the truth ends up being, in my opinion, a huge letdown. The ending also takes a bit of a wild turn, and not in a good way. I found myself to be pretty dissatisfied with the resolution of both the plot and the characters. For Storm Crow, I liked the story pretty much immediately, and am very happy with how it ended. My one gripe is that it did contain a love triangle, particularly in the first book, which is not my favorite trope, but it did end up resolving in a way that I was very happy with (both the love triangle and the story overall).

It should come as a surprise to nobody after reading this that the Storm Crow duology was a clear favorite. I gave the first book in the Storm Crow series a 4/5 and the second a 5/5, because I was hooked from beginning to end and absolutly devoured the series in about five days total. Blood, Metal, Bone, on the other hand, I almost DNF’d (did not finish), and only really kept going because I didn’t want to set a bad precident for my first book of the year, and also I was sort of invested in the resolution of that mystery, which ended up being a big letdown. I gave that one a 2/5, because I did indeed finish it.

So in the end, I can’t recommend Blood, Metal, Bone, but highly recommend the Storm Crow duologies for fans of YA fantasy that enjoy a quick, engaging read. I also felt as though the Storm Crow books gave a really realistic, thoughtful representation of grief, PTSD, and a character with depression.

P.S. I probably won’t do many of these comparison-style reviews and will return to my traditional formatting, but if you enjoyed this side-by-side review, please let me know and I’ll throw some more in there. As always, thanks for reading, and let me know if you agree or disagree with my assessments, I always love discourse.

If you enjoyed the Storm Crow duology, try:

Ash Princess by Laura Sebastian

Defy by Sara B. Larson

Spin the Dawn by Elizabeth Lim

The Glass Spare by Lauren Destephano


Sky Without Stars by Jessica Brody and Joanne Rendell (Book 1)

# of Pages: 579

Time it took me to read: 5 Days

# of pages a day to finish in a week: 83

Rating: 4 out of 5

Chatine Renard has been a crook all her life. In the Frets of the capital city on the planet Laterre, she must steal, lie, and con as a boy to survive. If anyone knew she was a girl, it would be off to the blood bordels for her, where she’d be forced to sell the nutrients in her blood for money. But she, like everyone else in the Third Estate, dreams of a better life. And she’s so close she can taste it, all she needs is one last, big con and she’ll have the money for passage off of Laterre.

Marcellus is desperate to fill the shoes he was born into. He is constantly in his grandfather’s shadow, the great General of Laterre, and next in line to be commander. That is, if he can show everyone that he is not a traitor like his father, a famous terrorist currently serving life in prison for treason and murder. But when rebellion starts to brew on Laterre, will Marcellus stick to the status quo, or find that he has more in common with rebels than the Regime he is sworn to uphold?

Alouette has lived underground as long as she can remember. Safe from the turmoil on the planet’s surface, Alouette and her father live a simple life with the sisters, an order sworn to a quiet life of protecting the precious books brought over from the old world, the only written history on Laterre. Alouette wants nothing more than to join this order and dedicate her life to the library that would certainly be destroyed if ever discovered by the Regime. But when Alouette braves the world above to help someone in need, she’ll find all is not what it seems. She’ll have to question everything she’s ever known if she’s to discover the truth: about who she is, and how she and her father came to live among the sisters.

The stories of Chatine, Marcellus, and Aloutte become inextricably woven as a rebellion works to rise again, despite the current Regime’s desperation to cling to the way things have always been: with the Third Estate poor, hungry, and submissive, while the First Estate plays and the Second Estate rules. In this imaginative retelling of the classic story Les Miserables, you’ll find that nothing is as it seems, until you’re sure that the only thing you know is that you know nothing at all.


Howdy friends! Normally here I’d do a brief review and then a summary, since this is Book 1, but the main reason I do summaries is so that I can review them before diving into the sequel, a little gift for my future self. However, I have learned that Book 2 in The System Divine series HAS A SUMMARY published in the front of the book, which is the most amazing thing I’ve ever heard. So I’m just gonna do a regular review for ya’ll.

I have to start by saying that I am a HUGE Les Miserables (Les Mis) fan. I’ve only seen the stage production once, but I’m obsessed with the 2012 move, obsessed with the music, etc. So I fully read this book knowing it was a Les Mis retelling, and looking for every detail that they threw in, every Easter egg. And boy were there plenty, so if you read this review and know nothing of Les Mis, sorry, you might not know why I’m so excited or who all I’m referencing as the characters. So I’ll just leave this here for anyone interested in reading this book, but is unfamiliar with the source material: You should read it anyway! It’s a great story, and it doesn’t require any Les Mis knowledge to enjoy.

Moving on to the main characters. For those Les Mis fans out there, I’ll make it real simple (this is not a spoiler, it’s literally clear from the first time you meet these characters): Chatine = Eponine, Marcellus = Marius, and Alouette = Cosette. They are the three protagonists in this story, as well as in part of Les Mis. And while other memorable character archetypes are present throughout (Marius’s grandfather, the Thenardiers, Javert, Gavroche, and of course Jean Valjean), they don’t all play the roles you’d expect, and their relationships to each other aren’t all the same either. There are some interesting original characters as well, so it’s not a mirror image to the source material.

I thoroughly enjoyed the stories of all three protagonists. I occasionally struggle with stories with casts that I call “in-betweeners”. In my experience, one to two narrators is normal, and indicative of a small to medium cast of characters. Then there is large cast, with the narration changing between 4+ characters, often giving more of an omnipresent narrator or “movie” vibe. I enjoy large cast books, if done well, but read mostly books that stick to one to two perspectives. With three protagonists and thus three primary narrators, this book is definitely stuck between small and large cast. But it totally worked for me, I found myself engaged in the storylines of all three protagonists, which is tough to accomplish.

I’m going to speak briefly about the plot, and how similar or dissimilar it is to the source material. I’ll be brief, because I don’t want to give any spoilers. But I thought these authors did a great job of blending original plot and ideas into this story, while still being true to the source materials. There are some areas that are totally original, for example Marcellus’s backstory (although, tbh, I’m basing that off of my movie/stage production knowledge of Les Mis, not Victor Hugo’s original novel, which I have never read). However, there are some parts that are as by-the-book (or by-the-movie, rather), as it gets. I’ll not reveal which parts, because that’s obviously a spoiler. And there are just some little details that gave me a thrill to read, such as the prisoner number 24601 being used (Jean Valjean’s prisoner number), and the fact that Alouette is a singer. There’s also an awesome little scene that gave me big “Lovely Ladies” vibes, which is one of my favorite songs, so that was *chef’s kiss*.

Alrighty, world-building. I was absolutely HERE for the concept of “Les Mis, but instead of 19th century France, make it a space dystopia that is super based in French culture”. I thought the authors did a great job of not doing a lot of info-dumping, even though they did include a lot of lingo and there was a lot of world building / history to be done. I also mostly thought the little bits of French that they threw in there were fun, even if some of the substitutions did make me giggle/roll my eyes a little bit. For example the sentence “I had never felt so stupide”, like why would you not just say “Stupid”? Anyway, that’s obviously nitpicky, I overall enjoyed the vibe very much.

And now, finally, the reason that I knocked off a star: pacing. This was a long book and I FELT it. I don’t really feel like much happened in the first half, at all, besides the minor event that triggered the story taking off. There is a lot of mystery and intrigue, which is great, but it’s the kind of stuff that you’re like “I’m not going to learn the answers to this until the very end, or even maybe not until the next book”, which makes it really hard to be eager to turn page after page when you’ve still got 300 pages until the end. I think it was probably slow-paced by necessity, there was a lot of backstory, but I do wish there had been more action sprinkled in to keep me going through all the backstory. I have a feeling the next book is going to be much quicker, so I’m stoked, but I had to take off a star because a book that is almost six hundred pages and super slow until almost the last quarter is kinda rough.

Overall, I loved it. I can really see the next book being a five out of five for me, and I’m very excited that the sequel is already out. I probably won’t get to it for a while, but I’m really looking forward to when I do get the chance to pick it up. Once again, I recommend checking out this book, even if you’re not a Les Mis fan, but ESPECIALLY if you are.

Now, I’m off to watch the 2012 Les Miserables movie for the millionth time, see ya’ll next time!

If you liked Sky Without Stars, try these other creative retellings of classic stories:

Troy by Adele Geras is a retelling of Homer’s Iliad with unique perspectives

Thorn by Intisar Khanani is a retelling of the classic Goose Girl fairytale

These Violent Delights by Chloe Gong is a dark, gangster spin on Romeo and Juliet

Dark Breaks the Dawn by Sara B. Larson is a fantastical retelling of the Swan Lake story


Red Rising by Pierce Brown (Book 1)

# of Pages: 382

Time it took me to read: 7 days

# of pages a day to finish in a week: 54

Rating: 3 out of 5

Darrow has the life he has always imagined for himself. He’s a Helldiver, the most dangerous job in the underground mines of Mars where his caste, the Reds, live. But the job comes with prestige and respect, and he’s married to the girl of his dreams, Eo, and lives surrounded by his family. But Eo has always dreamed of there being more in life than working the mines, watching their families, their people, die so very young due to the hard, dangerous nature of their work.

When Darrow and Eo get caught somewhere they shouldn’t be, Darrow never dreams that it will change his life forever. Because just as he thinks all is lost, someone finds him. A rebel sect that tells him everything he’s ever been told about his life and his purpose is a lie. Suddenly he is given an opportunity: make Eo’s dream a reality, and infiltrate the highest caste of their Society: the Golds, who are the perfect embodiment of human creation down to their very DNA. But if Darrow wants a chance at revenge and lifting his people from the underground mines of Mars, he must become a Gold both physically and mentally. Because then, they’ll never see him coming until it’s too late.

Review (Spoiler Free!):

Okay, I’ll say it. I really didn’t want to like this book. In fact, I was convinced I hated it until about half way through. But it’s a book for my book club so I had to finish it and now here we are. I gave this book a 3 out of 5, but really it was probably closer to a 3.5 or a 4, but since I don’t give half stars and I simply could not bring myself to give it a 4, I had to settle at 3.

I’ll start by telling you that this really isn’t my genre. Even though the protagonist, Darrow, is between 16 and 18 through the story, this is not YA. It was in the adult Sci-Fi section of the bookstore, and is certainly written in the adult style, not the YA style. And it’s Sci-Fi, of which I read very little, so I didn’t think I would like it in the first place. But I’m trying to diversify, and my book club voted on this book fair and square.

Let’s begin with pacing. This was one of the slower paced books I’ve ever read. 382 pages dragged, I had to read the book around 50 pages at a time all the way until the last hundred or so when I was finally able to push hard through it. The first 50 pages in particular does that thing, you know, that a lot of Sci-Fi (and some hard fantasy) books do where they spend the first 50-100 pages completely info-dumping you into the world. The second 50 pages is a bit better, but still a tough read. If I could rate the first 100 pages separately from the rest of the book, I’d give them a 1 out of 5 and the rest of the book a 4. I’m pretty convinced that this book is objectively slow-paced, but I’ll admit that my opinion that it was a complete sludge to get through is probably subjective. If you’re into this genre, it probably isn’t so bad.

So here I am, 100 pages in, and I’m convinced I’m going to hate this book from start to finish. Because up until now all that has happened is the catalyst to the rest of the story buried in very in-depth Sci-Fi explanations and lingo. But then, all of the sudden, this book stops reading like a Sci-Fi I can’t wrap my head around and starts reading like dystopia. It gets VERY Hunger Games-esque, very fast. And all of the sudden, pretty much against my will, I find myself on board. I would have bet money at 100 pages in that never in a million years would the plot hook me by the end, but I would have lost that money. Because not only did the plot hook me, but by the end of the book I found myself completely immersed in the story, staying up too late on a work night to finish it, almost like I’d do with a book I actually enjoyed. Go figure.

However, as much as I did end up enjoying the plot by the end, there were a few parts of this book that I have to rant about because I did not like at all. First off, the style. Ugh, the first 50-100 pages the writing was so stylized that I felt like I was rolling my eyes and gagging through most of it. Not only was the sci-fi lingo almost unintelligible from the very first page, but the way the dialogue was written was so incredibly strange, almost like someone put English through Google Translate into a completely different language, and then had Google Translate it back to English. But the even weirder part…like half way through the book they just…stop talking weird. Like, any kind of “dialect” that the author created just kind of…went away. Except for a few random moments that felt purposeful, the rest of the dialogue was normal. Super duper strange. Like, I feel like if you’re going to commit to the unique dialect, you have to go all in, or not do it at all. This half-and-half thing seemed wishy-washy.

Also, and this is definitely a personal opinion that I get is pretty snobby, but the author kind of tried to pull some Greco-Roman (mostly Roman) themes in there with each of the Gold houses being like “House Venus” and “House Jupiter”. But it kinda just felt like the author cracked open one book about the Roman gods, skimmed it, and then decided to try and make it a whole thing. I think he should have either made something up entirely his own, or just gone real big with it. But again…kinda wishy-washy.

And finally, probably one of my biggest pet peeves (particularly since I ended up being hooked by the plot in the end), is that I do not like Darrow. I think he is a boring, pretentious character who doesn’t go through any earned or engaging arc. I was far more engaged by some of the side characters, though many of them annoyed me too. Besides like one female character, I felt like all the female side characters were plot devices, which is honestly pretty typical of many male sci-fi and fantasy writers that I’ve read (at least in adult). I found Eo, Darrow’s young wife, way more interesting and wish she would have been more involved in the overall story. But like I said…plot device. I’m particularly peeved because it sucks for me as a reader to be engaged enough in the story that I’m going to pick up the sequel, because while I am rooting for Darrow’s cause and am engaged by the events that surround him, I am not rooting for Darrow and honestly, truly, would not care if he died in the end. It’s always mildly unpleasant/uncomfortable for me to read a book where I care about the plot but not the characters.

Regardless, I’ll pick up the sequel at some point (it’s a completed trilogy), and I’ll see if I enjoy the second book enough to finish the whole series.

I’d say, if you’re a fan of adult Sci-Fi or even a fan of Hunger Games style “fight to the death game” type stories, you could give this one a try. I think a lot of what I didn’t like about this book was subjective, I don’t think that Pierce Brown is a bad writer or anything, I just wouldn’t call myself a fan and probably wouldn’t have finished this book had it not been for my book club.

If you liked Red Rising, try:

Zenith by Sasha Alsberg & Lindsay Cummings

Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

The Diabolic by SJ Kincaid

Carve the Mark by Veronica Roth

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 ❤


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.


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!


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

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.


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