Book Review: A Dark and Hollow Star by Ashley Shuttleworth (eARC)

A Dark and Hollow Star by Ashley Shuttleworth   

Genre: Young Adult, Urban Fantasy

Publishing Info: eARC from Hodder & Stoughton

Pages: 512

Star Rating: 4/5

Back Cover Summary:

The Cruel Prince meets City of Bones in this thrilling urban fantasy set in the magical underworld of Toronto that follows a queer cast of characters racing to stop a serial killer whose crimes could expose the hidden world of faeries to humans.

Choose your player.

The “ironborn” half-fae outcast of her royal fae family.

A tempestuous Fury, exiled to earth from the Immortal Realm and hellbent on revenge.

A dutiful fae prince, determined to earn his place on the throne.

The prince’s brooding guardian, burdened with a terrible secret.

For centuries, the Eight Courts of Folk have lived among us, concealed by magic and bound by law to do no harm to humans. This arrangement has long kept peace in the Courts—until a series of gruesome and ritualistic murders rocks the city of Toronto and threatens to expose faeries to the human world.

Four queer teens, each who hold a key piece of the truth behind these murders, must form a tenuous alliance in their effort to track down the mysterious killer behind these crimes. If they fail, they risk the destruction of the faerie and human worlds alike. If that’s not bad enough, there’s a war brewing between the Mortal and Immortal Realms, and one of these teens is destined to tip the scales. The only question is: which way?

Wish them luck. They’re going to need it.

Thank you so much to Hodder & Stoughton and NetGalley for the eARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.

A Dark and Hollow Star is a fun urban fantasy novel with stunning world building and brilliant characters. I had high expectations for this book since the blurb sounded amazing. Although I found it slow to start, by the end I realised I really loved it.

The world building in A Dark and Hollow Star is very well done. The level of detail is incredible. It’s clear the author spent a considerable amount of time working on the world building and it pays off. I felt completely immersed in a world which is familiar yet unfamiliar – our world but with faeries roaming the streets. The different types of faerie, the Courts, and immortals, the way it’s all hidden alongside our world, was depicted so vividly. I loved the mix of fantasy and modern-day technology and pop culture references.

However, as much as I loved learning about the world, it felt very overwhelming. There is so much information crammed into the first few chapters that my brain felt like it was going to explode from trying to absorb everything. The focus on world building also meant I felt more distanced from the characters at the start, who were well-written, but felt side-lined by the world building at times in the first half. It also meant the book had a slow pace in the early parts.  

The way the world building interrupted conversations for several paragraphs made it feel disjointed and I found it hard to get into many of the early scenes as they didn’t flow. The world building is so very good, but needed to be better woven into the narrative. However, I enjoyed the second half a lot more. It wasn’t as bogged down by long descriptions and explanations, and I was able to really get into the story and enjoy the ride.

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Book Review: Aurora Burning by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff

Aurora Burning by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff

Genre: Young Adult, Science Fiction

Publishing Info: May 2020 by Rock the Boat

Pages: 497

Star Rating: 4/5

Back Cover Summary:

Our heroes are back… kind of. From the bestselling co-authors of the Illuminae Files comes the second book in the epic series about a squad of misfits, losers, and discipline cases who just might be the galaxy’s best hope for survival.

First, the bad news: an ancient evil—you know, your standard consume-all-life-in-the-galaxy deal—is about to be unleashed. The good news? Squad 312 is standing by to save the day. They’ve just got to take care of a few small distractions first.

Like the clan of gremps who’d like to rearrange their favorite faces.

And the cadre of illegit GIA agents with creepy flowers where their eyes used to be, who’ll stop at nothing to get their hands on Auri.

Then there’s Kal’s long-lost sister, who’s not exactly happy to see her baby brother, and has a Syldrathi army at her back. With half the known galaxy on their tails, Squad 312 has never felt so wanted.

When they learn the Hadfield has been found, it’s time to come out of hiding. Two centuries ago, the colony ship vanished, leaving Auri as its sole survivor. Now, its black box might be what saves them. But time is short, and if Auri can’t learn to master her powers as a Trigger, the squad and all their admirers are going to be deader than the Great Ultrasaur of Abraaxis IV.

Shocking revelations, bank heists, mysterious gifts, inappropriately tight bodysuits, and an epic firefight will determine the fate of the Aurora Legion’s most unforgettable heroes—and maybe the rest of the galaxy as well.

Aurora Burning is the second book in the Aurora Cycle series. Aurora Rising is one of the best books I have read this year, so I had high expectations for its sequel. While I did love Aurora Burning, it didn’t quite hit the same high note as Aurora Rising for me.  

We’re thrown right into the action with a superb opening which really reminded me why I loved Aurora Rising so much. The first third or so of the book is action-packed and full of the humorous exchanges that make this series such a fun read. Unfortunately, the pacing slowed and started to drag a little in the middle and the beginning of the second half. I just wasn’t as gripped and didn’t feel such a connection with the story. There is a bit more of a serious tone in the second half, which makes sense since the stakes are really high for the characters, but that meant it lacked the fun spark that the first half of the book and Aurora Rising had. Having said that, I still didn’t want to put it down. There are some seriously big reveals and twists in this book that I didn’t see coming!

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Book Review: Lord of Shadows by Cassandra Clare

Lord of Shadows by Cassandra Clare

Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy, Paranormal, Romance  

Publishing Info: May 2018 by Simon and Schuster Children’s UK (first published 2017)

Pages: 699

Star Rating: 4/5

Back Cover Summary:

Emma Carstairs has finally avenged her parents. She thought she’d be at peace. But she is anything but calm. Torn between her desire for her parabatai Julian and her desire to protect him from the brutal consequences of parabatai relationships, she has begun dating his brother, Mark. But Mark has spent the past five years trapped in Faerie; can he ever truly be a Shadowhunter again?

And the faerie courts are not silent. The Unseelie King is tired of the Cold Peace, and will no longer concede to the Shadowhunters’ demands. Caught between the demands of faerie and the laws of the Clave, Emma, Julian, and Mark must find a way to come together to defend everything they hold dear—before it’s too late.

Lord of Shadows is the second book in the Dark Artifices trilogy. The first in the series, Lady Midnight, instantly became one of my favourite Shadowhunters books when I read it earlier this year. Unfortunately, while I enjoyed Lord of Shadows, I didn’t get quite the same feeling from it as the first book.

Lord of Shadows is very long and felt too drawn out to me. Too much time seems to be spent on the relationship drama, and the main plot falls to the wayside too often. Relationships are always a big part of Cassandra Clare’s books, but the plot was very strong in Lady Midnight with a clear arc and goal for the characters. While the characters did have a goal in Lord of Shadows, that didn’t become clear until a fair chunk into the book, and then the main conflict seemed secondary to character drama for too much of the remaining pages. The final, shocking chapter felt too rushed and ended very suddenly.

The Blackthorn family and their dynamics is part of what I loved about Lady Midnight, and is also one of the best aspects of Lord of Shadows. While I did feel the relationships dominated too much at times, I did appreciate the character development in this book. We got to see a lot more of some of the characters, such as Kit, Ty and Diana. I wasn’t keen on Kit at first but he grew on me and I liked seeing how he came to terms with his new position (can’t say more without spoiling Lady Midnight!).  

The Blackthorns end up in the London Institute for a time, and readers of The Infernal Devices will enjoy some references to that series. I haven’t read Chain of Gold yet, but there also seemed to be some references to the characters from the Last Hours series, which was published after the Dark Artifices series. It always astonishes me how far in advance Cassandra Clare seems to plan this stuff out!

I gave Lady Midnight 5 stars because I just fell in love with the story and the characters. Sadly, Lord of Shadows didn’t hit the same note for me. I’m still excited to see how the trilogy concludes in Queen of Air and Darkness though, especially after that final chapter took the story in a direction I hadn’t anticipated. I’m glad I don’t have to wait for it to be released. However, the final book in the series is an absolute monster at 870 pages so I’m really hoping the angst doesn’t take over too much…     

Book Review: The Space Between Worlds by Micaiah Johnson

The Space Between Worlds by Micaiah Johnson

Genre: Adult, Science Fiction

Publishing Info: August 2020 by Hodder & Stoughton (Illumicrate edition)    

Pages: 336

Star Rating: 4/5

Back Cover Summary:

CARA IS DEAD ON THREE HUNDRED AND SEVENTY-FOUR WORLDS.

The multiverse business is booming, but there’s just one catch: no one can visit a world where their counterpart is still alive.

Enter Cara, whose parallel selves happen to be exceptionally good at dying–from diseases, from turf wars, from vendettas they couldn’t outrun.

But on this earth, Cara’s survived. And she’s reaping the benefits, thanks to the well-heeled Wiley City scientists who ID’d her as an outlier and plucked her from the dirt. Now she’s got a new job collecting offworld data, a path to citizenship, and a near-perfect Wiley City accent. Now she can pretend she’s always lived in the city she grew up staring at from the outside, even if she feels like a fraud on either side of its walls.

But when one of her eight remaining doppelgangers dies under mysterious circumstances, Cara is plunged into a new world with an old secret. What she discovers will connect her past and future in ways she never could have imagined–and reveal her own role in a plot that endangers not just her world, but the entire multiverse.

The Space Between Worlds is an impressive debut. The idea of multiverses and doppelgangers drew me to this book. I wasn’t quite sure what to expect, but this twisty novel took me on a journey I wasn’t expecting. It strikes an excellent balance between being thought-provoking and entertaining.

The novel explores privilege and power in a world divided between those who live in the city and those who live outside it. Cara is from Ashtown but lives and works in Wiley City, so we get an interesting perspective on the lives of people in both locations and their attitudes and prejudices. The worldbuilding is really interesting and provokes reflection on the divides in our own society.   

At first, I didn’t gel with the protagonist, Cara, but she grew on me during the course of the book. She’s flawed but also likeable. She’s been through a lot and has endured both physical and emotional abuse. Alongside the main plotline, we also see Cara go through a healing process as she explores her past and re-evaluates what she knows about herself through her knowledge of her lives on other worlds.

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Book Review: The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue by V. E. Schwab (eARC)

The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue by V. E. Schwab

Genre: Adult, Fantasy, Historical Fiction  

Publishing Info: eARC from Titan Books   

Pages: 560

Star Rating: 4/5

Back Cover Summary:

France, 1714: in a moment of desperation, a young woman makes a Faustian bargain to live forever-and is cursed to be forgotten by everyone she meets.

Thus begins the extraordinary life of Addie LaRue, and a dazzling adventure that will play out across centuries and continents, across history and art, as a young woman learns how far she will go to leave her mark on the world.

But everything changes when, after nearly 300 years, Addie stumbles across a young man in a hidden bookstore, and he remembers her name.

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

The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue is fantasy author V. E. Schwab’s latest book and is one of the most anticipated releases for 2020. Having not read any of Schwab’s work before, I didn’t go into reading this with any preconception of what to expect from her style. I was excited to read it because it has a very intriguing and mysterious premise, but I tried not to let all the hype around this book give me too high expectations for it. 

What struck me from the beginning was the beautiful writing. I was drawn into Addie’s story right from the first page. Something about the writing just captured me and didn’t let go. The book is written in third person present tense, which I don’t usually like as it can be really awkward to read. However, Schwab writes so beautifully in this book, I sunk into the writing from the first page and didn’t find the third person present tense awkward at all, in fact it read really naturally for this story.

The narrative goes back and forth between the present and the past. In the present, Addie is living in New York and it’s been nearly 300 years since she made her deal. Through the flashback chapters we see what led her to make that decision and how the mysterious, shadowy person she made the deal with tries to persuade her to give in and hand him her soul. My favourite chapters were the ones set in the past. It was really interesting seeing how Addie learned to cope with life with the boundaries of her deal. If everyone forgets you as soon as there’s a door between you, how can you do even simple things like rent a room? If you can’t have a job because everyone forgets you, how do you get money to pay for food? I also loved seeing Addie move through the different periods in history.

I don’t want to say too much more about the plot, as I really enjoyed the experience of reading when I wasn’t sure what to expect. The book’s description doesn’t give much away, and I liked getting to discover the story without too many preconceptions of what it would be about.

The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue explores themes of time, memory, identity, and what it means to be human, as well as the connections we make with other people. This is a thoughtful and imaginative novel which went right to my heart. It’s a book I will definitely want to read again.

Book Review: Forest of Souls by Lori M. Lee

Forest of Souls by Lori M. Lee

Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy    

Publishing Info: June 2020 by Page Street Kids (Fairyloot edition)

Pages: 385

Star Rating: 4/5

Back Cover Summary:

Sirscha Ashwyn comes from nothing, but she’s intent on becoming something. After years of training, she plans on challenging her rival for the position of the queen’s next royal spy, but she’s forced to abandon her plan when shamans attack and kill her best friend Saengo.

And then Sirscha, somehow, restores Saengo to life.

With her mysterious ability uncovered, Sirscha is summoned to the domain of the Spider King—the only person powerful enough to control the haunted Dead Wood that separates the kingdoms and, ultimately, enforces peace. But the Spider King’s hold of the Dead Wood is weakening, and he needs Sirscha to use her newly awakened powers to obliterate the bloodthirsty forest. As war looms on the horizon, it’s up to Sirscha to learn what she can do and who she can trust before time runs out.

Forest of Souls is a fast-paced fantasy novel with an Asian-inspired setting and I absolutely loved it. I’ve read a lot of character-driven YA fantasy recently so I enjoyed reading something that was more plot-driven and a bit faster paced. The Dead Wood is so spooky! Some of the scenes were really atmospheric and creepy! The way the trees partly come to life and grab at the characters as they’re trying to get through the forest was really gripping. The world is painted really vividly and I loved learning about the various peoples, their cultures, history and magic, as I read.

There was no romance in this book and I have to say I was really happy about that. Every YA book seems to be either romance-heavy or at least have a main romantic subplot. So it was refreshing to read a fantasy novel that didn’t focus on romance or try and shoehorn a romance in.

Theyen was hands down the best character. He’s so full of sass and has some amazing lines. He really brought the scenes he was in to life. However, most of the supporting characters just didn’t seem very complex. By the end of the book we know hardly anything about them as the focus is so much on Sirscha. While I appreciated the book focused on her personal journey, I would have liked to have known the other characters more. Even though this book is clearly plot-driven, it would have benefited from the supporting characters having more depth. Having said that, I did love all the characters and can’t wait to see them again in the sequel.

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Book Review: The Once and Future Witches by Alix E. Harrow (eARC)

The Once and Future Witches by Alix E. Harrow

Genre: Historical Fiction, Fantasy    

Publishing Info: eARC from Orbit

Pages: 528

Star Rating: 4/5

Back Cover Summary:

In 1893, there’s no such thing as witches. There used to be, in the wild, dark days before the burnings began, but now witching is nothing but tidy charms and nursery rhymes. If the modern woman wants any measure of power, she must find it at the ballot box.

But when the Eastwood sisters–James Juniper, Agnes Amaranth, and Beatrice Belladonna–join the suffragists of New Salem, they begin to pursue the forgotten words and ways that might turn the women’s movement into the witch’s movement. Stalked by shadows and sickness, hunted by forces who will not suffer a witch to vote-and perhaps not even to live-the sisters will need to delve into the oldest magics, draw new alliances, and heal the bond between them if they want to survive.

There’s no such thing as witches. But there will be.

Thank you so much to Orbit and NetGallery for the eARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.

The Once and Future Witches is a well-written and expertly crafted exploration of magic and feminism. Alix E. Harrow’s debut novel, The Ten Thousand Doors of January, made a big splash, so there have been big expectations for her follow up. I haven’t yet read The Ten Thousand Doors of January, so The Once and Future Witches is my first time reading her work. I have to say I was impressed by the quality of the writing. It’s lyrical and captivating, perhaps like a magic spell, which is why it suits this story so well.

The historical setting, the women’s movement and witches are woven together so well. It really works. I loved how magic is done through words from rhymes and stories passed down from mother to daughter through the generations. There are also some subtle and clever changes to history and literature, such as the Sisters Grimm instead of the Brothers Grimm. The rights of witches and the rights of women are tightly connected in this book and shows the struggles women faced in the 1890s. It isn’t just a story of witches and magic, it’s also deeply thought-provoking.

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Book Review: Burn by Patrick Ness

Burn by Patrick Ness

Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy

Publishing Info: June 2020 by Walker Books  

Pages: 384

Star Rating: 4/5

Back Cover Summary:

In 1956 Sarah Dewhurst’s father shocks her by hiring a dragon to work the farm. The dragon is a smaller blue rather than the traditional larger reds, though even the reds are now scarce. When the blue dragon, Kazimir, unexpectedly saves Sarah and her friend Jason Inagawa from the attentions of the racist police deputy, Kelby, everything changes. Sarah is part of a prophecy and she must escape the clutches of Malcolm, an assassin from a Believer Cell, the dragon-worshiping cult. When Sarah, Malcolm, and Kazimir eventually converge, they are thrown into another universe, where dragons seem never to have existed. Can they save this world and the one they left?

Patrick Ness’s latest book, Burn, took me on a journey I was not expecting. This is my second Patrick Ness book and I can’t quite put my finger on how to describe his work. He has a unique style and his books always seem unpredictable. Although they do sometimes use tropes (e.g. a prophecy in this book) they seem different to most YA books. This time, he’s taken dragons and put them in 1950s America. That concept alone had me desperate to read it.

Burn imagines a world where dragons are real and are a normal part of life. There has been a truce of sorts between humans and dragons, meaning dragons mostly stick to their own areas. There is a lot going on in this book. We have dragons, the Cold War, FBI agents, a cult and a prophecy. And it works. Patrick Ness has created a world where dragons wandering round rural America seemed totally normal. I don’t want to say too much more about the plot as I think this is one of those books where it’s best going into it not knowing much. At the midpoint it went in a direction I wasn’t expecting and kept me on my toes. There were so many twists and I loved that I never knew what was going to happen next.                                                                                   

There were a lot of characters packed into a short book, so we don’t get to know them in that much depth. But I felt I knew enough about them to be invested in their stories. Kazimir was my absolute favourite character. Patrick Ness does such an amazing job of showing his personality through his body language and facial expressions. Plus, he has some of the best lines. Although this is mostly a serious save the world kind of book, there are also some lines that had me chuckling.

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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: 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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