Into the Riverlands by Nghi Vo

Wandering cleric Chih of the Singing Hills travels to the riverlands to record tales of the notorious near-immortal martial artists who haunt the region. On the road to Betony Docks, they fall in with a pair of young women far from home, and an older couple who are more than they seem. As Chih runs headlong into an ancient feud, they find themselves far more entangled in the history of the riverlands than they ever expected to be.

Accompanied by Almost Brilliant, a talking bird with an indelible memory, Chih confronts old legends and new dangers alike as they learn that every story—beautiful, ugly, kind, or cruel—bears more than one face.

*****

I received a copy of this book from the publisher, Tordotcom. All thoughts are my own.

Review:

Nghi Vo is on my auto-read list and as always, her latest novella Into the Riverlands is spectacular as always. Almost Brilliant is back as Chih ventures into the riverlands, a lawless place ruled by whoever is the current strongest martial artist, or so the stories say. This might be my favorite addition to this Singing Hills cycle yet because of the strong traditional wuxia element present throughout the entire story. The riverlands, or the jianghu, the various martial artists fighting for money and acclaim but also the element of bonds formed through shared combat. I found Into the Riverlands to be the coziest novella in the series thus far, despite any dead bodies that show up, and I enjoyed the greater insight into Chih and Almost Brilliant’s backstories. This series centers around the idea of the details in stories, and how a folktale relates to real life and naturally this book is no different. It definitely took me some time to “get” the twist, but I felt very rewarded for it. Overall, I rate this book a 5/5.

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Blog Tour: Direwood by Catherine Yu

In this velvet-clad 1990s gothic horror, Aja encounters a charming vampire who wants to lure her into the woods—just like her missing sister.

No one ever pays attention to sixteen-year-old Aja until her perfect older sister Fiona goes missing. In the days leading up to Fiona’s disappearance, Aja notices some extraordinary things: a strange fog rolling through their idyllic suburban town, a brief moment when the sky seems to rain blood, and a host of parasitic caterpillars burrowing their way through the trees. Aja’s father, the neighbors, and even her ex-friend Mary all play down this strange string of occurrences, claiming there must be some natural explanation. It seems everyone is willing to keep living in denial until other teens start to go missing too.

Aja is horrified when she meets Padraic, the vampire responsible for all the strange occurrences. His hypnotic voice lures her to the window and tells her everything she’s longed to hear—she’s beautiful and special, and he wants nothing more than for Aja to come with him. Aja knows she shouldn’t trust him, but she’s barely able to resist his enthrallment. And following him into the woods may be the only way to find Fiona, so she agrees on one condition: He must let her leave alive if she is not wooed after one week. Though Aja plans to kill him before the week is out, Padraic has his own secrets as well.

In the misty woods, Aja finds that Padraic has made his nest with another vampire in a dilapidated church infested by blood-sucking butterflies. Within its walls, the vampires are waited on and entertained by other children they’ve enthralled, but there is no sign of Fiona. Before her bargain is up, Aja must find a way to turn her classmates against their captors, find her sister, and save them all—or be forced to join the very monsters she wants to destroy.

Content Warning: body and bug horror, death, on-page violence, and racial microaggressions

*****

I received a copy of this book from the publisher Page Street Kids as part of the Direwood book blog tour through TBR and Beyond.

Review:

Direwood is one of the most well-written vampire novels I’ve read in some time. “Velvet-clad 1990s gothic horror’ is such an apt descriptor of the moody atmosphere, the subtle yet growing sense of dread, as well as the sensuality of the vampires.

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Leech by Hiron Ennes

In an isolated chateau, as far north as north goes, the baron’s doctor has died. The doctor’s replacement has a mystery to solve: discovering how the Institute lost track of one of its many bodies.

For hundreds of years the Interprovincial Medical Institute has grown by taking root in young minds and shaping them into doctors, replacing every human practitioner of medicine. The Institute is here to help humanity, to cure and to cut, to cradle and protect the species from the apocalyptic horrors their ancestors unleashed.

In the frozen north, the Institute’s body will discover a competitor for its rung at the top of the evolutionary ladder. A parasite is spreading through the baron’s castle, already a dark pit of secrets, lies, violence, and fear. The two will make war on the battlefield of the body. Whichever wins, humanity will lose again.

*****

I received a copy of this book from NetGalley. All thoughts are my own.

Review:

Every year tordotcom publishes something weird, spooky, and probably at least a little fucked up that takes me completely by surprise by how damn good it is and this year that book is Leech. A body-collecting parasite, a weird 18th-century creepy gothic house but in a post-post-apocalyptic setting, and creepy in-universe folk tales that slowly come to life. It’s really not a combination that should work but damn it does.

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The Genesis of Misery by Neon Yang

This is the story of Misery Nomaki (she/they) – a nobody from a nowhere mining planet who possesses the rare stone-working powers of a saint. Unfortunately, these saint-like abilities also manifest in those succumbing to voidmadness, like that which killed Misery’s mother. Knowing they aren’t a saint but praying they aren’t voidmad, Misery keeps quiet about their power for years, while dreaming and scheming up ways off their Forge-forsaken planet.

But when the voice of an angel, or a very convincing delusion, leads Misery to the center of the Empire, they find themself trapped between two powerful and dangerous factions, each hoping to use Misery to win a terrible war.

Still waiting to be convinced of their own divinity and secretly training with a crew of outlaws and outcasts, Misery grows close to a rebel royal, Lady Alodia Lightning, who may know something of saints and prophecy herself. The voice that guides Misery grows bolder by the day, and it seems the madness is catching…

*****

I received a copy of this book from NetGalley. All thoughts are my own.

Review:

I had zero knowledge of this book going in, other than my love for Yang’s writing, and man what a weird fucking book this was. Personally, I loved it. There’s a lot of aspects that really shouldn’t work, the intense religious fervor being top of that list, but somehow Yang has managed to craft a brilliant story.

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The Sunbearer Trials by Aiden Thomas

“Only the most powerful and honorable semidioses get chosen. I’m just a Jade. I’m not a real hero.”

As each new decade begins, the Sun’s power must be replenished so that Sol can keep traveling along the sky and keep the evil Obsidian gods at bay. Ten semidioses between the ages of thirteen and eighteen are selected by Sol himself as the most worthy to compete in The Sunbearer Trials. The winner carries light and life to all the temples of Reino del Sol, but the loser has the greatest honor of all―they will be sacrificed to Sol, their body used to fuel the Sun Stones that will protect the people of Reino del Sol for the next ten years.

Teo, a 17-year-old Jade semidiós and the trans son of Quetzal, goddess of birds, has never worried about the Trials…or rather, he’s only worried for others. His best friend Niya―daughter of Tierra, the god of earth―is one of the strongest heroes of their generation and is much too likely to be chosen this year. He also can’t help but worry (reluctantly, and under protest) for Aurelio, a powerful Gold semidiós and Teo’s friend-turned-rival who is a shoo-in for the Trials. Teo wouldn’t mind taking Aurelio down a notch or two, but a one-in-ten chance of death is a bit too close for Teo’s taste.

But then, for the first time in over a century, Sol chooses a semidiós who isn’t a Gold. In fact, he chooses two: Xio, the 13-year-old child of Mala Suerte, god of bad luck, and…Teo. Now they must compete in five mysterious trials, against opponents who are both more powerful and better trained, for fame, glory, and their own survival.

*****

I received a copy of this book from NetGalley. All thoughts are my own.

Review:

I’ve never read Aiden Thomas’s Cemetary Boys but I’ve heard lots of good things, so I jumped at the chance at reading an ARC of The Sunbearer Trials. Despite its more Middle Grade-like tone, I was pleasantly surprised by how much I found myself enjoying the competitions and the characters.

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Ruination by Anthony Reynolds

Camavor is a brutal land with a bloody legacy. Where the empire’s knights go, slaughter follows.

Kalista seeks to change that. When her young and narcissistic uncle, Viego, becomes king, she vows to temper his destructive instincts, as his loyal confidant, advisor, and military general. But her plans are thwarted when an assassin’s poisoned blade strikes Viego’s wife, Isolde, afflicting her with a malady for which there is no cure.

As Isolde’s condition worsens, Viego descends into madness and grief, threatening to drag Camavor down with him. Kalista makes a desperate gambit to save the kingdom: she searches for the long lost Blessed Isles, rumored to hold the queen’s salvation, if only Kalista can find them.

But corruption grows in the Blessed Isles’ capital, where a vengeful warden seeks to ensnare Kalista in his cruel machinations. She will be forced to choose between her loyalty to Viego and doing what she knows is right–for even in the face of utter darkness, one noble act can shine a light that saves the world.

*****

I recieved a copy of this book from the publisher, Orbit. All thoughts are my own.

Review:

Riot has finally written a League of Legends novel!! I started playing LoL 10 years ago (holy shit) and my biggest wish with this game is for deeper lore dives. The world of Runeterra has such promise and there are so many interesting characters and stories that they deserve more than the single paragraph bios they’re given. Arcane was an amazing first step (and also a phenomanl TV series) but there’s something intrinsic with lore than only a book can deliver and We. Finally. Have One. Even better. the book is damn good!

This review is aimed towards readers with little to no familiarity with the League of Legends franchise. Maybe you’ve seen Arcane, maybe you’ve never even heard of League. This review is for you. For those familiar with League, check out the review I posted on Reddit instead.

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Blog Tour: A Venom Dark and Sweet

The enthralling conclusion to Judy I. Lin’s Book of Tea duology—A Magic Steeped in Poison and A Venom Dark and Sweet—is sure to enchant fans of Adrienne Young and Leigh Bardugo.

A great evil has come to the kingdom of Dàxi. The Banished Prince has returned to seize power, his rise to the dragon throne aided by the mass poisonings that have kept the people bound in fear and distrust.

Ning, a young but powerful shénnóng-shi—a wielder of magic using the ancient and delicate art of tea-making—has escorted Princess Zhen into exile. Joining them is the princess’ loyal bodyguard, Ruyi, and Ning’s newly healed sister, Shu. Together the four young women travel throughout the kingdom in search of allies to help oust the invaders and take back Zhen’s rightful throne.

But the golden serpent still haunts Ning’s nightmares with visions of war and bloodshed. An evil far more ancient than the petty conflicts of men has awoken, and all the magic in the land may not be enough to stop it from consuming the world…

Content Warning: violence, fight scenes, witnessed torture, death, disturbing events (mutilation,body horror, forced suicide, possession, and fire)

****

I received a copy of this book from the publisher Feiwel and Friends as part of the A Venom Dark and Sweet book blog tour through TBR and Beyond.

This review will contain spoilers for book one, A Magic Steeped in Poison.

Review:

Lin returns to this world of tea magic in a world inspired by the Song dynasty era of Chinese history and what a delight it is. Lin’s lush descriptions of settings, food (omg the food), architecture, and more return just as strongly.

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Prep School for Serial Killers by Tara Platt

In a war-ravaged future, a boarding school cloisters and trains sociopathic children.

When top student, sixteen-year-old Anathema Blight, finds a graduate’s hidden journal, she wonders if they’re simply students, or pawns in a much more dangerous game…and the final exam will be MURDER

***

I received a copy of this book from NetGalley. All thoughts are my own.

Review:

I’m a sucker for morally gray murder-y characters so the title alone had me intrigued. We follow Anathema Blight, current student at a boarding school that, as the title suggests, trains its students for murder. In the backdrop, multiple Great Wars have ravaged the earth and in attempts to heal their people the government has put various chemicals in the water, which has the unfortunate side effect of turning the children into psychopaths. As expected, I really enjoyed the school aspects. It was fun to see Anathema attend various classes and be taught the different arts of killing. Platt got quite creative with this aspect and it was very fun to read. What lost me, however, was the larger plotline with the headmaster Hunting and government secrets. I felt like the epiphanies Anathema experienced throughout the stories and the choices she eventually made felt undeserved, that there wasn’t enough depth to her character and decision to really sell me on the character. Overall, I rate this book a 3/5. The murder-y bits were fun and interesting but the overarching plot felt rushed and underdeveloped.

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A Taste of Gold and Iron by Alexandra Rowland

Kadou, the shy prince of Arasht, finds himself at odds with one of the most powerful ambassadors at court—the body-father of the queen’s new child—in an altercation which results in his humiliation.

To prove his loyalty to the queen, his sister, Kadou takes responsibility for the investigation of a break-in at one of their guilds, with the help of his newly appointed bodyguard, the coldly handsome Evemer, who seems to tolerate him at best. In Arasht, where princes can touch-taste precious metals with their fingers and myth runs side by side with history, counterfeiting is heresy, and the conspiracy they discover could cripple the kingdom’s financial standing and bring about its ruin.

**

I received a copy of this book from NetGalley. All thoughts are my own.

Review:

DNF @ 35%

I try not to let my opinions of one book cloud my thoughts going into another, but after having suffered my way through Foz Meadow’s A Strang and Stubborn Endurance, the parallels were too strong to not be apprehensive. Both novels are m/m fantasy romance novels written by non-m/m writers, published by Tor imprints, with political intrigue, timid/cowardly nobility, and published within a month of each other. The comparisons are bound to happen. Frankly, if I’d read this one before Strange and Stubborn, its likely this one I would have masochistically forced my way through and the other been given the DNF. Because the same issues of romance in favor of any semblance of well-thought-through plot and low-effort worldbuilding are clearly showing.

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The Oleander Sword by Tasha Suri

The prophecy of the nameless god—the words that declared Malini the rightful empress of Parijatdvipa—has proven a blessing and curse. She is determined to claim the throne that fate offered her. But even with the strength of the rage in her heart and the army of loyal men by her side, deposing her brother is going to be a brutal and bloody fight.

The power of the deathless waters flows through Priya’s blood. Thrice born priestess, Elder of Ahiranya, Priya’s dream is to see her country rid of the rot that plagues it: both Parijatdvipa’s poisonous rule, and the blooming sickness that is slowly spreading through all living things. But she doesn’t yet understand the truth of the magic she carries.

Their chosen paths once pulled them apart. But Malini and Priya’s souls remain as entwined as their destinies. And they soon realize that coming together is the only way to save their kingdom from those who would rather see it burn—even if it will cost them

*****

I received a copy of this book from NetGalley. All thoughts are my own.

This review will contain spoilers for book one, The Jasmine Throne. Read my 4* review here.

Review:

Holy hell Suri delivers with book two of this series. The Oleander Sword is a chonker and I just inhaled it. Something about the prose and the character work made this so smooth to read and the setup for book three promises amazing things to come

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