The Wolf of Oren-Yaro by KS Villoso

“I murdered a man and made my husband leave the night before they crowned me.”46207682

Born under the crumbling towers of Oren-yaro, Queen Talyien was the shining jewel and legacy of the bloody War of the Wolves that nearly tore her nation apart. Her upcoming marriage to the son of her father’s rival heralds peaceful days to come.

But his sudden departure before their reign begins fractures the kingdom beyond repair.

Years later, Talyien receives a message, urging her to attend a meeting across the sea. It’s meant to be an effort at reconciliation, but an assassination attempt leaves the queen stranded and desperate to survive in a dangerous land. With no idea who she can trust, she’s on her own as she struggles to fight her way home.

****

I received a copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review.

Review:

The Wolf of Oren-Yaro is a book I have seen passed around many a ‘Top XXX self-published books you should read’ list. Having gotten the chance to meet the author through various blogging circles, I was delighted to hear that Orbit picked this book up. I’m glad to say that my support for this book was not unfounded. The Wolf of Oren-Yaro finds its life in its main character Talyien, and while Talyien is brash and at times unlikeable character, her force-of-nature personality makes it hard to pull away.

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The Art of Taxidermy by Sharon Kernot

38581969Publication Date: 13 August 2019
Publisher: Text Publishing
Format: eBookc, ARC
Pages: ~24,000
Word Count: ~21,000
ISBN: 1925603741

Summary:

Lottie collects dead creatures and lovingly cares for them, hoping to preserve them, to save them from disintegration. Her father understands—Lottie has a scientific mind, he thinks. Her aunt wants it to stop, and she goes to cruel lengths to make sure it does.

And her mother? Lottie’s mother died long ago. And Lottie is searching for a way to be close to her.

The Art of Taxidermy is a heartbreaking verse novel exploring love and death, grief and beauty, and the ways we try to make sense of it all.

****

I received a copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Review:

This is one of the few non-SFF novels that will appear on this blog, but like the main character, I have a fascination with death and so when a title like The Art of Taxidermy appeared on NetGalley, I knew I just had to read it. What I did not expect was that this novel is actually a collection of poetry that together make-up one complete story: a story about a girl who experiences death too early in her life and finds herself inexplicably drawn to dead animals at a young age, much to the chagrin of her aunt. The book itself is a quick read, but it packs quite an emotional punch that I was not expecting to hit on a flight at 2AM. The cast of characters around Charlotte, our young taxidermist-to-be, become quite well fleshed-out and very realistic. Primarily, this book deals with grief, and how different people handle it, and how they let it change their behavior. I won’t spoil anything, but this ending is happily ever after. Overall, I rate this book a 4/5.

We Rule the Night by Claire Eliza Bartlett

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Publication Date: 2 April 2019
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Format: Hardcover
Pages: 400
Word Count: ~100,000
ISBN: 0316417270

Summary:

Seventeen-year-old Revna is a factory worker, manufacturing war machines for the Union of the North. When she’s caught using illegal magic, she fears being branded a traitor and imprisoned. Meanwhile, on the front lines, Linné defied her father, a Union general, and disguised herself as a boy to join the army. They’re both offered a reprieve from punishment if they use their magic in a special women’s military flight unit and undertake terrifying, deadly missions under cover of darkness. Revna and Linné can hardly stand to be in the same cockpit, but if they can’t fly together, and if they can’t find a way to fly well, the enemy’s superior firepower will destroy them–if they don’t destroy each other first.

We Rule the Night is a powerful story about sacrifice, complicated friendships, and survival despite impossible odds.

****

Review:

Book three of my finals-what-finals reading binge, We Rule the Night was a solid YA novel about military sexism, overcoming disabilities, and female friendships. It features two of the most realistic female YA characters I’ve read in a while, as well as some fantasic character development when said two characters are forced to put their differences aside to prove their positions in the military. The book pulls clears inspiration from the Russian Night Witches, an extremely successful squadron of all female squadron of bomber pilots from WWII, which just made me love it all the more.

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Crown of Feathers by Nicki Pau Preto

35715518Publication Date: 12 February 2019
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Format: eBook, ARC
Pages: 496
Word Count: ~155,000
ISBN: 1534424628

Summary: I had a sister, once…

In a world ruled by fierce warrior queens, a grand empire was built upon the backs of Phoenix Riders—legendary heroes who soared through the sky on wings of fire—until a war between two sisters ripped it all apart.

I promised her the throne would not come between us.

Sixteen years later, Veronyka is a war orphan who dreams of becoming a Phoenix Rider from the stories of old. After a shocking betrayal from her controlling sister, Veronyka strikes out alone to find the Riders—even if that means disguising herself as a boy to join their ranks.

But it is a fact of life that one must kill or be killed. Rule or be ruled.

Just as Veronyka finally feels like she belongs, her sister turns up and reveals a tangled web of lies between them that will change everything. And meanwhile, the new empire has learned of the Riders’ return and intends to destroy them once and for all.

Sometimes the title of queen is given. Sometimes it must be taken.

****

I received a copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Review:

Move over dragons, phoenixes are the new cool in ridable fantasy creatures. Crown of Feathers first piqued my interested when I saw the (absolutely beautiful) cover at BookCon last year and I’m so thankful I was able to get an early copy to read through NetGalley. Aside from a couple of small details, I thoroughly enjoyed reading this debut novel and it ranks among my top 5 favorite YA novels.
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The Red Scrolls of Magic by Cassandra Clare and Wesley Chu

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Publication Date: 9 April 2019
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Children’s UK
Format: Hardcover
Pages: 350
Word Count: ~98,000
ISBN: 1471162141

Summary: All Magnus Bane wanted was a vacation—a lavish trip across Europe with Alec Lightwood, the Shadowhunter who against all odds is finally his boyfriend. But as soon as the pair settles in Paris, an old friend arrives with news about a demon-worshipping cult called the Crimson Hand that is bent on causing chaos around the world. A cult that was apparently founded by Magnus himself. Years ago. As a joke.

Now Magnus and Alec must race across Europe to track down the Crimson Hand and its elusive new leader before the cult can cause any more damage. As if it wasn’t bad enough that their romantic getaway has been sidetracked, demons are now dogging their every step, and it is becoming harder to tell friend from foe. As their quest for answers becomes increasingly dire, Magnus and Alec will have to trust each other more than ever—even if it means revealing the secrets they’ve both been keeping.

****

Review:

I never thought I’d read another Shadowhunters novel, but after reading the excerpt on NetGalley, I just knew I had to read the full thing. Magnus Bane was easily my favorite character of the original trilogy and that position has only been solidified after reading this book. The Red Scrolls of Magic is a solid romp starring a fantastic couple.

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The Bird King by G Willow Wilson

40642333Publication Date: 12 March 2018
Publisher: Grove Press
Format: eBook, ARC
Pages: 440
Word Count: ~111,000
ISBN: 080212903X

Summary:

Set in 1491 during the reign of the last sultanate in the Iberian peninsula, The Bird King is the story of Fatima, the only remaining Circassian concubine to the sultan, and her dearest friend Hassan, the palace mapmaker.

Hassan has a secret–he can draw maps of places he’s never seen and bend the shape of reality. When representatives of the newly formed Spanish monarchy arrive to negotiate the sultan’s surrender, Fatima befriends one of the women, not realizing that she will see Hassan’s gift as sorcery and a threat to Christian Spanish rule. With their freedoms at stake, what will Fatima risk to save Hassan and escape the palace walls?

As Fatima and Hassan traverse Spain with the help of a clever jinn to find safety, The Bird King asks us to consider what love is and the price of freedom at a time when the West and the Muslim world were not yet separate.

****

I received a copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Review:

Firstly, I want to warn readers that the pacing for this book is incredibly slow. Despite this book following Fatima and Hassan’s escape from the sultan’s Palace and the Spanish Inquisition, this book felt more character driven than plot driven. It takes a little while for the plot to pick up and I was tempted early on to put this book down but I’m certainly glad I held through. To make up for the pacing, G. Willow Wilson’s prose is a delight to read. From Fatima’s sun-filled days as the Sultan’s only concubine to the visceral experience of eating a rabbit raw, Wilson’s writing style and language helps truly helps bring this book alive.

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The Ice Princess’s Fair Illusion by Lynn E. O’Connacht

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Publication Date: 6 November 2018
Publisher: The Kraken Collective
Format: eBook
Pages: 294
ASIN: B07HR2X344

Summary:

All Marian wants is for society to accept that she’s just not interested in… whatever society thinks she ought to be interested in. A princess with a reputation for insults and snide remarks, she’s afraid to show anyone who she would be if people would let her. In a fit of temper at her refusal to marry, her father creates her worst nightmare: she is to be wed to the first beggar who arrives at the gates.

Edel was visiting purely for diplomatic reasons, aiming to ensure her daughter inherits a strong and peaceful kingdom. She sees something in Marian that is achingly familiar and when Edel hears the king’s proclamation, only one thing is on her mind: to protect Marian from the fate that had befallen Edel herself.

Their lives threaded together by magic, Edel and Marian will have to find their way in the world in this queerplatonic, sapphic verse novel retelling of King Thrushbeard.

****

I received a copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review.

Review:

Did I request this book for the aro/ace rep? Yes. Did this book deliver? Absolutely. This book tells the story of Edel and Marian, their lives, their first encounter, and their experience with their sexualities. Edel, Queen-regent, is asexual aromantic, who’s been married and had children out of necessity. Marian, princess of a neighboring country, is sex-repulsed asexual homoromantic. What I love about this book is how open the characters are about the discussion of labels like asexual and aromantic. Both characters have their own experiences that shape how they view those words and how they view their sexuality in general. Marian in particular, wasn’t aware of the term asexual until she was 17, and there’s a lot of discussion of her confusion when she first discovered her feelings were different and how she thought herself different or strange.

Aromantic, we call it
You know that, my sweet
Aromantic and asexual, in fact
Why do those words bother you so?

They don’t bother me!
I just… This isn’t the right place for them.
It’s my story and I’m telling it, now hush.

No, dear. If you’re going to tell it,
Tell it loud. Tell it proud.
That’s why I agreed to do this.
I want to hear no more.
Of people like yourself
Who needed words they lever learned
Because no one believed they were needed.

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Skyward by Brandon Sanderson

39348113Publication Date: 6 November 2018
Publisher: Delcorte Press
Format: eBook, ARC
Pages: 528
ISBN: 0399555773

Summary:

Spensa’s world has been under attack for hundreds of years. An alien race called the Krell leads onslaught after onslaught from the sky in a never-ending campaign to destroy humankind. Humanity’s only defense is to take to their ships and combat the Krell. Pilots are the heroes of what’s left of the human race.

Becoming a pilot has always been Spensa’s dream. Since she was a little girl, she has imagined soaring above the earth and proving her bravery. But her fate is intertwined with that of her father–a pilot himself who was killed years ago when he abruptly deserted his team, leaving Spensa’s chances of attending Flight School at slim to none.

No one will let Spensa forget what her father did, but she is determined to fly. And the Krell just made that a possibility. They’ve doubled their fleet, which will make Spensa’s world twice as deadly . . . but just might take her skyward.

****

I recieved a copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Review:

Like many, I was curious how Sanderson’s foray into science fiction would result in. As far as I know, he hasn’t written any full-length science-fiction novels and I wanted to know how he would translate his famous magic systems into something more tech-based. Well, after reading Skyward, I’m pleased to say that my expectations have been more than met.
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City of Ghosts by Victoria Schwab | Release Day Review

354030581Publication Date: 28 August 2018
Publisher: Scholastic
Format: Paperback, ARC
Pages: 272
ISBN: 1338111035

Summary: Cassidy Blake’s parents are The Inspectres, a (somewhat inept) ghost-hunting team. But Cass herself can REALLY see ghosts. In fact, her best friend, Jacob, just happens to be one.

When The Inspectres head to ultra-haunted Edinburgh, Scotland, for their new TV show, Cass—and Jacob—come along. In Scotland, Cass is surrounded by ghosts, not all of them friendly. Then she meets Lara, a girl who can also see the dead. But Lara tells Cassidy that as an In-betweener, their job is to send ghosts permanently beyond the Veil. Cass isn’t sure about her new mission, but she does know the sinister Red Raven haunting the city doesn’t belong in her world. Cassidy’s powers will draw her into an epic fight that stretches through the worlds of the living and the dead, in order to save herself.

****

Review:

I’m not a big ghosts stories person, but in my mind, Victoria Schwab can do no wrong. This book certainly support that claim. The plot is pretty straightforward and very reminiscent of the books I used to read in middle school. The strengths of this book lies in the characters. If I’d read this back in middle school, I think I would have found Cassidy very relatable. She’s kind of awkward, not perfect but doesn’t over-emphasize her flaws either. Her passion for photography would have definitely spurred me into tring photography too, though for how long I don’t know. I really liked Jacob, her ghosty friend, and I liked how the two of them were close friends but I don’t think I ever picked up a feeling of romance between them. Finally, though we didn’t see much of her, I loved how mysterious Lara was and I’m almost certain this won’t be the last time we see her. I may or may not have thought she was a ghost when she was first introduced.

As always, Schwab comes up with fascinating magic systems and supernatural aspects. The idea of a Veil or an in-between is a oft-tread path, but the addition of Life Threads in each person and ghost make for fun additions. In some ways, City of Ghosts is about ghost hunting, but the ghosts aren’t as black and white evil. Often times, they’re really sympathetic and simply lost. I hope in future books we’ll learn more about how the Veil works and also more into Jacob’s backstory.

Overall, I rate this book a 4/5. City of Ghosts is a solid middle-grade ghost story and I can see a whole series of these books in the future.

/r/Fantasy Bingo Squares

  • Book published in 2018

 

 

A Metal Box Floating Between Stars and Other Stories by Jamie Lackey

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Publication Date: 27 March 2018
Publisher: Air and Nothingness Press
Format: eBook
Pages: 166
ISBN: 9780999195307

Summary:

“Jamie Lackey’s new collection of speculative fiction stories will make you think, wonder, and hope. Journey within and away to find love across time, friendly and fearsome aliens, alternate realities, fungal zombies, and more.”

‘A Metal Box Floating Between Stars and Other Stories’ contains 19 stories. This book is a companion volume to ‘The Blood of Four Gods and Other Stories’ previously published by the Air and Nothingness Press.

****

I received a copy of this book from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Review:

A Metal Box Floating Between Stars and Other Stories is a fantastic collection of SF/F short stories that feature everything from assassins turned Instagram foodies to creepy parasitic foot worms. Also bug aliens. Lots and lots of bug aliens. What really ties these stories together though is the focus on human connection and emotion.  While most of these stories are set in second worlds, the driving conflict is rarely the SFF elements but how the humans in the story interact. Lackey’s writing style brings out very thought-provoking and evocative pieces, that leaves the reader thinking, ‘would I have made the same choice?’.
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