Book Review: Spin the Dawn by Elizabeth Lim

Spin the Dawn by Elizabeth Lim

Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy

Publishing Info: July 2019 by Alfred A. Knopf Books

Pages: 392

Star Rating: 3.5/5

Back Cover Summary:

Project Runway meets Mulan in this sweeping YA fantasy about a young girl who poses as a boy to compete for the role of imperial tailor and embarks on an impossible journey to sew three magic dresses, from the sun, the moon, and the stars.

Maia Tamarin dreams of becoming the greatest tailor in the land, but as a girl, the best she can hope for is to marry well. When a royal messenger summons her ailing father, once a tailor of renown, to court, Maia poses as a boy and takes his place. She knows her life is forfeit if her secret is discovered, but she’ll take that risk to achieve her dream and save her family from ruin. There’s just one catch: Maia is one of twelve tailors vying for the job.

Backstabbing and lies run rampant as the tailors compete in challenges to prove their artistry and skill. Maia’s task is further complicated when she draws the attention of the court magician, Edan, whose piercing eyes seem to see straight through her disguise.

And nothing could have prepared her for the final challenge: to sew three magic gowns for the emperor’s reluctant bride-to-be, from the laughter of the sun, the tears of the moon, and the blood of stars. With this impossible task before her, she embarks on a journey to the far reaches of the kingdom, seeking the sun, the moon, and the stars, and finding more than she ever could have imagined.

Spin the Dawn is a magical YA fantasy novel that had me thoroughly enchanted. There’s something mystical about this story and Lim’s writing that just drew me in right from the first chapter.

From the description, the contest sounds like a large part of the story, but I was aware from reading other reviews that it actually only takes up a relatively small part of the book. I knew to expect more of a travelling/adventure narrative so wasn’t disappointed that the contest was short. My attention did waver a little in the middle when Maia and Edan are travelling through the desert, but it quickly picks up again and I was hooked in the latter half in particular.

I really enjoyed seeing a YA novel told from a perspective I’ve not seen before – that of a tailor. Protagonists in YA are often princesses, queens, rebels, thieves, assassins etc. Maia’s skill, and her dreams, lie in tailoring. The descriptions of her creations are stunning and it was wonderful to see the world through the eyes of a tailor. I also liked that family is important to her and how that is woven into the story. The relationships she has with her brothers is shown really well.  

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Mini Book Reviews: The Guinevere Deception by Kiersten White and Gemina by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff

As I mentioned in my June Wrap Up, I’ve been suffering from back pain the last couple of weeks so haven’t been able to spend much time at my computer. I was going to miss doing reviews for these two books as I have lots of things to catch up on now that my back is a bit better. But I really wanted to share my thoughts on them so decided to just write some mini reviews.


The Guinevere Deception by Kiersten White

Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy

Publishing Info: November 2019 by Delacorte Press

Pages: 352

Star Rating: 3/5

Back Cover Summary:

Princess Guinevere has come to Camelot to wed a stranger: the charismatic King Arthur. With magic clawing at the kingdom’s borders, the great wizard Merlin conjured a solution–send in Guinevere to be Arthur’s wife . . . and his protector from those who want to see the young king’s idyllic city fail. The catch? Guinevere’s real name–and her true identity–is a secret. She is a changeling, a girl who has given up everything to protect Camelot. To keep Arthur safe, Guinevere must navigate a court in which the old–including Arthur’s own family–demand things continue as they have been, and the new–those drawn by the dream of Camelot–fight for a better way to live. And always, in the green hearts of forests and the black depths of lakes, magic lies in wait to reclaim the land. Arthur’s knights believe they are strong enough to face any threat, but Guinevere knows it will take more than swords to keep Camelot free.

Deadly jousts, duplicitous knights, and forbidden romances are nothing compared to the greatest threat of all: the girl with the long black hair, riding on horseback through the dark woods toward Arthur. Because when your whole existence is a lie, how can you trust even yourself?

I was super excited to read this book as it’s a retelling of King Arthur legends. The concept of Guinevere not being the real Guinevere was very intriguing. I liked the idea that Guinevere is there to protect Arthur and how the book puts her character in the spotlight.

While I enjoyed it, I could only give it 3 stars. The writing style was quite simplistic. I think it perhaps just wasn’t to my taste. Arthur seemed a bit one-dimensional to me. The depiction of his character was quite typical and seemed to rely on the concept of Arthur as a great person and king, without really showing that much of his personality.

I also found it frustrating that a lot of the mysteries introduced weren’t solved by the end of the book. It’s a series, so not every question will get an answer, but I’d have liked if we’d got more of a hint at who Guinevere really is by the end of this first book.

Despite this, I did really enjoy the book and will definitely be picking up the sequel, The Camelot Betrayal, which comes out later this year.


Gemina by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff

Genre: Young Adult, Science Fiction 

Publishing Info: October 2016 by Rock the Boat 

Pages: 659

Star Rating: 4/5

Back Cover Summary:

Hanna Donnelly is the station captain’s pampered daughter and Nik Malikov is the reluctant member of a notorious crime family. Together they struggle with the realities of life aboard the galaxy’s most boring space station, blissfully unaware that Kady Grant and the Hypatia are headed right toward Heimdall with news of the Kerenza invasion.

Picking up about five minutes after Illuminae ends, Gemina is the electrifying sequel to the hottest YA novel of 2015.

Illuminae was my first read of 2020 and I gave it 5 stars because it absolutely blew me away. It is absolutely one of my favourite books. The second book in The Illuminae Files series is just as thrilling and captivating. However, I only gave it 4 stars because it didn’t knock my socks off quite as much as the first.

The novel is once again told through instant messaging, CCTV camera footage, diary entries etc. which is such an interesting way to tell the story. The events follow on from Illuminae but from the perspectives of two new characters – Hanna and Nik. I can’t say much more without spoiling Illuminae.

Gemina is full of lots of twists and turns. Though the science did confuse me a bit in the latter section of the book. It’s a lot to get your head around but I think I understood it in the end.

The Illuminae Files has become one of my favourite series and I will absolutely be reading the final book in the trilogy, Obsidio.

This style won’t be to everyone’s tastes, but if you haven’t read these books yet, I really recommend them, even if you don’t think they are for you, as you might just be surprised by them.

Book Review: Fear by Michael Grant

Fear by Michael Grant

Genre: Young Adult, Dystopia

Publishing Info: May 2015 by Egmont Books (first published 2012)

Pages: 576

Star Rating: 3/5

Back Cover Summary:

Welcome back to the FAYZ! This is Book 5 in the series that Stephen King calls a “Driving, torrential narrative.” Night is falling in the FAYZ. Permanently. The gaiaphage has blotted out the sun and the barrier that surrounds the town of Perdido Beach is turning black. It’s Sam’s worst nightmare. With Astrid still missing and Edilio and Lana struggling to maintain order, Sam and his followers need all the courage they can get. As their world descends into darkness, only real heroes will survive. The GONE series is Lord of the Flies for the 21st century. In turns breathtaking, harrowing, and utterly terrifying. Its complex characters and moral dilemmas will delight fans of The Hunger Games, Divergent and The Maze Runner. This is dystopian fiction at its best.

Fear is the fifth book in Michael Grant’s Gone series. We re-join the kids and teenagers trapped inside the FAYZ as they try to survive inside the dome. Now they face a new obstacle – the dome is turning black and will eventually leave the FAYZ in total darkness. This is a suspenseful premise but unfortunately I didn’t enjoy this book as much as the previous ones in the series.

Just like it’s predecessors, Fear is a fast-paced and suspenseful read. I read it in hardly anytime at all. In this book we also get a few scenes from ‘Outside’ so we get to see how the world has reacted to the appearance of the dome which added an interesting perspective. However, I didn’t find it as gripping as previous instalments.

One thing I do love about this series is seeing how the characters grow and change. In the first book, there appears to be ‘good’ and ‘bad’ characters but as the series progresses and you get more insight into all of them, you see how the lines between good and bad are blurred. They are changed and shaped by their experiences in the FAYZ and boy have these kids been through a lot.

I think some of the reason I didn’t enjoy Fear as much is that I’m starting to feel a bit burnt out with the series. It’s starting to feel a little repetitive. Although each book the characters face different challenges and conflicts, some elements are just the same e.g. kids running around a confined area fighting each other with superpowers. It’s starting to feel like it’s being dragged out too long.

One of the characters, Penny, has the ability to make people see and feel hallucinations like they are real. This happens a lot in the book and it was just too much for me. Most of these scenes made me feel very uncomfortable. The things Penny makes people see are really horrible and it was just really unpleasant to read.

Although I didn’t enjoy this book as much as previous ones, I’m still invested in these characters and want to see how everything will end in the final book, Light.

Book Review: The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary

Publishing Info: November 2018 by Walker Books, Special Collector’s Edition (first published 2017)  

Pages: 480

Star Rating: 5/5

Back Cover Summary:

Sixteen-year-old Starr Carter moves between two worlds: the poor neighborhood where she lives and the fancy suburban prep school she attends. The uneasy balance between these worlds is shattered when Starr witnesses the fatal shooting of her childhood best friend Khalil at the hands of a police officer. Khalil was unarmed.

Soon afterward, his death is a national headline. Some are calling him a thug, maybe even a drug dealer and a gangbanger. Protesters are taking to the streets in Khalil’s name. Some cops and the local drug lord try to intimidate Starr and her family. What everyone wants to know is: what really went down that night? And the only person alive who can answer that is Starr.

But what Starr does or does not say could upend her community. It could also endanger her life.

The Hate U Give is an outstanding and powerful novel. I bought this book last year but I don’t read much contemporary. Fantasy and science fiction are much more my thing. So even though I’d heard so much about it, I still hadn’t read it months after buying it. Then, two weeks ago, George Floyd was murdered by a white police officer in the US, and Black Lives Matter protests started up all around America and in other countries too. This prompted me to finally pick up The Hate U Give, and I’m really glad I did. 

As a white person, I can’t possibly imagine what it is like to experience racism and live in fear of the police in the way that black people do. But in The Hate U Give, Angie Thomas put me right in Starr’s shoes. I felt her fear, her pain, her sadness, her frustrations. Reading articles and non-fiction is a great way to learn, but fiction can be so impactful. It can really place you in someone else’s shoes and show you what their experience is like. Not only does it show police violence and the injustices of the American justice system, but it also provides an insight into day-to-day racism and microaggressions that black people sadly have to live with.

Starr is a brilliant character and I loved reading her and Khalil’s story. This is a book about a young woman who has witnessed a terrible crime and who finds her voice to stand against racism. Starr grows so much over the course of the book. At first, she is afraid. She witnessed the death of her best friend and she goes through so much dealing with what she witnessed and she’s afraid of the repercussions of speaking up. But she’s also angry with the way Khalil is being talked about by people and portrayed by the media, and angry that Khalil’s murderer could escape justice. Alongside this are Starr’s relationships with her family, friends and boyfriend, which are masterfully woven through the novel. I loved every character and loved seeing her family interact. This book is full of so much emotion and heart.  

The Hate U Give is well-written, well-paced and has so many brilliant characters. While reading it I laughed, I cried, I screamed at the injustice. All the elements that make a great book just come together perfectly. I had no hesitation giving it 5 stars. This is one of those books that will stay with me forever. It’s important because of the subject matter it tackles so well, but also because it’s just such a good book. I really think this is a rare, flawless novel. Although it’s about police brutality, it’s also full of love and hope. The Hate U Give is a book that everyone should read.

Book Review: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes by Suzanne Collins

The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes by Suzanne Collins

Genre: Young Adult, Dystopia

Publishing Info: May 2020 by Scholastic

Pages: 517

Star Rating: 3.5/5

Back Cover Summary:

AMBITION WILL FUEL HIM.
COMPETITION WILL DRIVE HIM.
BUT POWER HAS ITS PRICE.

It is the morning of the reaping that will kick off the tenth annual Hunger Games. In the Capital, eighteen-year-old Coriolanus Snow is preparing for his one shot at glory as a mentor in the Games. The once-mighty house of Snow has fallen on hard times, its fate hanging on the slender chance that Coriolanus will be able to outcharm, outwit, and outmaneuver his fellow students to mentor the winning tribute.

The odds are against him. He’s been given the humiliating assignment of mentoring the female tribute from District 12, the lowest of the low. Their fates are now completely intertwined — every choice Coriolanus makes could lead to favor or failure, triumph or ruin. Inside the arena, it will be a fight to the death. Outside the arena, Coriolanus starts to feel for his doomed tribute… and must weigh his need to follow the rules against his desire to survive no matter what it takes.

It’s been days since I finished reading this book and I’m only just now sitting down to write this review because I just couldn’t decide how to rate and review it. The Hunger Games is one of my all-time favourite series so I was incredibly excited when it was announced there would be a prequel. I was a little bit less excited when they announced it would be about a young President Snow as his origin story didn’t particularly appeal to me. But even so I pre-ordered The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes and read it as soon as my copy arrived. The weird title does make more sense once you’ve read the book.

While The Hunger Games is set during the 74th games, The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes is set during the 10th games. So the events take place a long time before the trilogy. My favourite part of this book was the world and seeing what Panem was like 10 years after the war. The Capitol is a very different place. Coriolanus Snow was a child during the war and saw poverty, starvation and death. In the year of the 10th Hunger Games, the Capitol is still recovering from the war.

The Hunger Games themselves are very different from the games we know from the trilogy. At this point, hardly anyone watches them, in the Capitol or the districts, because who would want to watch kids murder each other, right? There are no stylists. This is the first year they’ve had mentors. The first year they do interviews. The arena is just an old sports stadium in the Capitol. I found discovering more about the years after the war and the beginnings of the Hunger Games absolutely fascinating.

I didn’t know what to expect from this book. It’s very different from the original trilogy, which is a good thing as it doesn’t just feel like a recycled The Hunger Games. The book is split into three parts. The first part was definitely my favourite. There were some shocking moments in the build up to the games and I was hooked. Then in part two, we see the games themselves. I liked this part, but not as much as the first part. It could have been more exciting and suspenseful. It was interesting seeing the games from the perspective of a mentor, rather than someone in the games like we see in The Hunger Games, but that did mean I felt a little removed from the action. The games would have been more exciting if this part of the novel had quicker pacing. Part Three goes off in a direction I was not expecting, which was good from the perspective that it wasn’t predictable, but I did find this part a bit slow until right at the end. The third part could have been cut down a bit to improve the pacing and increase the tension. I wasn’t as gripped while reading The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes as I was when I read the original books.

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Book Review: Bone Crier’s Moon by Kathryn Purdie

Bone Crier’s Moon by Kathryn Purdie

Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy

Publishing Info: March 2020 by Katherine Tegan Books (Fairyloot edition)  

Pages: 453

Star Rating: 3.5/5

Back Cover Summary:

Bone ​Criers have a sacred duty. They alone can keep the dead from preying on the living. But their power to ferry the spirits of the dead into goddess Elara’s Night Heavens or Tyrus’s Underworld comes from sacrifice. The gods demand a promise of dedication. And that promise comes at the cost of the Bone Criers’ one true love.

Ailesse has been prepared since birth to become the matriarch of the Bone Criers, a mysterious famille of women who use strengths drawn from animal bones to ferry dead souls. But first she must complete her rite of passage and kill the boy she’s also destined to love.

Bastien’s father was slain by a Bone Crier and he’s been seeking revenge ever since. Yet when he finally captures one, his vengeance will have to wait. Ailesse’s ritual has begun and now their fates are entwined—in life and in death.

Sabine has never had the stomach for the Bone Criers’ work. But when her best friend Ailesse is taken captive, Sabine will do whatever it takes to save her, even if it means defying their traditions—and their matriarch—to break the bond between Ailesse and Bastien. Before they all die.

Bone Crier’s Moon is an imaginative, fast-paced young adult fantasy. I was expecting romance to play a bigger part, but this book has a wider focus. The novel is told from three first person perspectives – Ailesse, Bastien and Sabine.

The magic system and world building in this book are creative and enchanting. The Leuress ferry the dead once a month, guiding them on to Tyrus’s underworld or to Elara’s paradise. They draw their magic from the grace bones of animals. A Leuress has to kill an animal and take one of its bones (warning: there are a few animal deaths in this book). When they wear this bone, they take on the graces of that animal, for example enhanced hearing or strength. In order to become a ferrier, the Leuress have to complete a rite of passage in which they kill their soul mate. The mythology of the bone crier’s is so vivid and it’s such an interesting idea. I loved discovering more about them and I hope we’ll gain even more insight into their magic and their role as ferriers of the dead in the next book.

Sabine was definitely my favourite character. She finds having to kill animals in order to get grace bones very conflicting. She isn’t even sure she wants to be a ferrier. I liked seeing her character grow over the course of the novel. I didn’t connect with Ailesse as much at the start, but she definitely grew on me. I also loved the strength of their friendship and how it drives them. Unfortunately, I felt we didn’t get to know Bastien well enough. I didn’t like or dislike his character; I just didn’t feel like I knew him as well as the two other POV characters. Odiva, Ailesse’s mother, was an interesting character. I knew there was something fishy about her from the start, but I couldn’t have guessed what the truth actually was!

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Book Review: A Court of Wings and Ruin

A Court of Wings and Ruin by Sarah J. Maas  

Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy

Publishing Info: May 2017 by Bloomsbury Childrens Books

Pages: 699

Star Rating: 4/5

Back Cover Summary:

Feyre has returned to the Spring Court, determined to gather information on Tamlin’s manoeuvrings and the invading king threatening to bring Prythian to its knees. But to do so she must play a deadly game of deceit – and one slip may spell doom not only for Feyre, but for her world as well.

As war bears down upon them all, Feyre must decide who to trust amongst the dazzling and lethal High Lords – and hunt for allies in unexpected places.

In this thrilling third book in the #1 New York Times bestselling series from Sarah J. Maas, the earth will be painted red as mighty armies grapple for power over the one thing that could destroy them all.

A Court of Wings and Ruin is the third book in this series and concludes the main original trilogy. And wow was it a good conclusion. While I didn’t enjoy A Court of Mist and Fury as much as the first book, I absolutely loved A Court of Wings and Ruin. People seem to rave over ACOMAF, but it was too slow in places for me and I felt that book was dragged out a bit too much (although I still liked it, just not as much as the others!). ACOWAR on the other hand kept the pace and suspense up all the way through. The stakes were high, I was invested in the characters and I was hooked from start to finish.  

This book has a huge cast and I loved most of them. I loved seeing Feyre as High Lady and adjusting to her new role (also it was really satisfying seeing other characters, especially High Lords, react to realising she’s High Lady). Then there’s the inner circle, Mor, Amren, Cassian and Azriel, and the addition of Nesta and Elain. I liked seeing Feyre’s sisters have a bigger role in this book as we got to see her interact with them more.

The amount of twists and turns in this book was unbelievable. It’s building up to the final climactic battle between Prythian and Hybern, but along the way there is plenty of suspense and twists. I devoured the last 100 or so pages, with my moods shifting from elation to tears and back again over and over. When I closed the book, I felt satisfied with the conclusion. ACOWAR is a great ending to this trilogy.

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Book Review: Caraval by Stephanie Garber

Caraval by Stephanie Garber

Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy  

Publishing Info: KindleEdition, January 2017 by Hodder and Stoughton

Pages: 416

Star Rating: 2/5

Back Cover Summary:

Scarlett Dragna has never left the tiny island where she and her sister, Tella, live with their powerful, and cruel, father. Now Scarlett’s father has arranged a marriage for her, and Scarlett thinks her dreams of seeing Caraval—the faraway, once-a-year performance where the audience participates in the show—are over.

But this year, Scarlett’s long-dreamt-of invitation finally arrives. With the help of a mysterious sailor, Tella whisks Scarlett away to the show. Only, as soon as they arrive, Tella is kidnapped by Caraval’s mastermind organizer, Legend. It turns out that this season’s Caraval revolves around Tella, and whoever finds her first is the winner.

Scarlett has been told that everything that happens during Caraval is only an elaborate performance. Nevertheless she becomes enmeshed in a game of love, heartbreak, and magic. And whether Caraval is real or not, Scarlett must find Tella before the five nights of the game are over or a dangerous domino effect of consequences will be set off, and her beloved sister will disappear forever.

I was very conflicted over how to rate and review this book. I’ve had Caraval on my Kindle for a little while and was excited to finally get round to reading it. So many people love this series and the concept sounded really intriguing. Unfortunately I didn’t love it from the start. I didn’t enjoy the first half all that much, but things picked up in the second half and I found myself a lot more absorbed.

I can’t quite place my finger on why, but for some reason I just wasn’t hooked from the opening few chapters. Even once Scarlett reached Caraval, I didn’t feel engaged. I was expected to be enchanted by this story, but in the first half I was actually a little bored. I found Scarlet to be an irritating protagonist at the start. Her thoughts were very repetitive and I just didn’t connect with her character. She didn’t want to be there. So I didn’t want to be there. I think if Scarlett had been more excited about the magic and wonder of Caraval, I would have been too.

Scarlett’s focus is on finding Tella and there is some jeopardy around that, but we don’t get to know Tella that well at the beginning of the book, so I wasn’t really invested in the goal of finding her. I liked that she isn’t the cliché sweet sister, but I didn’t find her particularly likeable from what little we see of her before she disappears, so I just wasn’t worried about her. Later we do get to see there is more to Tella, but for most of the book I didn’t like her character.

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Book Review: Aurora Rising by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff

Aurora Rising by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff

Genre: Young Adult, Science Fiction

Publishing Info: May 2019 by Rock the Boat

Pages: 470

Star Rating: 4.5/5

Back Cover Summary:

It’s 2380 and the graduating students of Aurora Academy are being assigned their first missions. Tyler Jones has been a star pupil who hopes to recruit the squad of his dreams but ends up with a mixed and volatile crew.

And Ty’s squad isn’t even his biggest problem – that’d be Aurora Jie-Lin O’Malley, the girl he’s just rescued from interdimensional space. Trapped in cryo-sleep for two centuries, Auri is a girl out of time and out of her depth. But she could be the catalyst that starts a war millions of years in the making, and Tyler’s squad of losers, discipline-cases and misfits might just be the last hope for the entire galaxy.

Vividly told in the seven voices of the team members, this is fast-paced, action-packed, wickedly humorous and fabulously entertaining.

Having absolutely loved Illuminae, it was a bit of a no-brainer for me to pick up the first in Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff’s new YA sci-fi series. Although it didn’t blow my socks off in quite the same way Illuminae did, Aurora Rising is a superb novel and a new favourite. I felt completely immersed in the futuristic world.  

Aurora Rising kicks off all guns blazing and hardly slows throughout the novel. I was gripped all the way through and didn’t want to put it down. The characters that make up Squad 312 and the dynamics between them are great. The group are thrown together at the beginning of the novel and forced to work together. I loved seeing their relationships develop slowly over the course of the story. The banter between them is hilarious. I found myself smiling through most of it which made it such a fun read. But then I also found myself with tears in my eyes at the end!

All the characters have interesting stories and the situations they’re thrown into are challenging for each of them in different ways. I loved how sassy and confident Scarlett is, yet also sensitive. Finian always has a comeback or witty quip, but there seems to be more to him under the surface. He’s also disabled and wears an exosuit, so I really appreciated the disability rep there as it was really well done. Cat is a bit hot-headed but also fiercely loyal to her best friend and leader, Tyler. Zila a quiet genius but there’s a lot we don’t know about her. Kal is a warrior fighting with his own nature. Auri is a girl out of time, unfamiliar with this big, new world and finds herself joining the squad. Tyler is their leader and a stickler for the rules, so when their mission goes off-course he has a good dose of conflict.

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Book Review: The Court of Miracles by Kester Grant (eARC)

The Court of Miracles by Kester Grant

Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy

Publishing Info: eARC from Harper Voyager

Pages: 464

Star Rating: 3/5

Back Cover Summary:

Les Misérables meets Six of Crows in this page-turning adventure as a young thief finds herself going head to head with leaders of Paris’s criminal underground in the wake of the French Revolution.

Liberty

1828 and the citizens of Paris still mourn in the wake of their failed revolution. Among them, in the dark alleys and crumbling cathedrals of the city, the most wretched have gathered into guilds of thieves, assassins – and worse. Together they are known as The Court of Miracles.

Family

Eponine has lost more than most. When her father, Thénardier, sells her sister to the Guild of Flesh she makes a promise to do anything she can to get her sister back, even if that means joining the Court of Miracles, the very people keeping her sister a slave.

Treachery

Eponine becomes perhaps the greatest thief the Court has ever known, finding a place among them and gaining another sister, Cosette. But she has never forgotten the promise she made, and if she’s to have any hope of saving one sister, she will have to betray the other.

This beautiful reimagining of Les Misérables tells the stories of your favourite characters and what might have happened if the French Revolution had not come to pass.

Thank you so much to Harper Voyager and NetGalley for the eARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.

This book was one of my most anticipated releases of the year so I was super excited to get my hands on an advanced copy. It’s been billed as a retelling of Les Misérables and The Jungle Book meets Six of Crows, which are certainly very attention-grabbing comparisons. This is a dark reimagining of 1800s France and that darkness and grittiness comes through really well. Unfortunately, this book wasn’t as good as I’d been hoping. I enjoyed reading it. I was engaged and absorbed throughout thanks to the great writing, but I didn’t connect with it.

This book didn’t meet my expectations for a retelling. In some ways the Jungle Book retelling element works better than the Les Mis element does. The villain of the book is known as the Tiger and (thanks to the actions of our protagonist) is after Ettie, which seems to be representing the tiger from The Jungle Book, Shere Khan, being after Mowgli. It includes most of the characters from Les Misérables and there is the element of the revolution and the barricades, but it doesn’t retell the book in any meaningful way. To be honest, I felt that this book might actually have been stronger if it had not been written as a retelling of Les Misérables. It just didn’t really feel like a retelling. For many of the characters, there’s too much reliance on readers’ knowledge of the original characters, rather than doing something different with them or developing them as individuals separate from the original work.

The book is set into separate sections with some quite big time jumps in between that make for a disjointed reading experience. The one that caused the most problems for me comes early on in the book. We rejoin Nina about to enact her plan to get her older sister, Azelma, back from the Tiger, but at the cost of her younger adoptive sister Ettie. After setting this in motion, Nina very quickly changes her mind and ends up needing to protect Ettie (who she put in danger in the first place) and then the rest of the book revolves around keeping Ettie safe from the Tiger. But we don’t know anything about Ettie or her relationship with Nina due to the time jump, so this shift comes a bit out of the blue. We don’t have any understanding of their relationship or why Nina would move heaven and earth to protect a character we only just met.

At the start, Nina is driven by her goal of helping Azelma. But then when her goal shifts to protecting Ettie it’s like she’s completely forgotten about setting Azelma free. Because of the time skip, this sudden shift in the protagonist’s goal is jarring. We’ve only just met Ettie and there isn’t anything at first to show that Nina cares about Ettie as a sister. Their relationship develops well and I enjoyed seeing the two characters interact later on. But at first, there’s nothing to show why Nina would suddenly change her mind and give up on her plan to save Azelma and instead focus on protecting Ettie, a character we know nothing about and don’t yet care for. One moment, Nina is willing to sacrifice Ettie to save Azelma, which she has been carefully planning, and the moment she puts that plan in motion she makes this sudden u-turn.

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