Book Review: Malice by Heather Walter (eARC)

Malice by Heather Walter

Genre: Fantasy

Publishing Info: eARC from Del Ray  

Pages: 400

Star Rating: 4/5

Back Cover Summary:

A princess isn’t supposed to fall for an evil sorceress. But in this darkly magical retelling of “Sleeping Beauty,” true love is more than a simple fairy tale.

Once upon a time, there was a wicked fairy who, in an act of vengeance, cursed a line of princesses to die. A curse that could only be broken by true love’s kiss.

You’ve heard this before, haven’t you? The handsome prince. The happily-ever-after.

Utter nonsense.

Let me tell you, no one in Briar actually cares about what happens to its princesses. Not the way they care about their jewels and elaborate parties and charm-granting elixirs. I thought I didn’t care, either.

Until I met her.

Princess Aurora. The last heir to Briar’s throne. Kind. Gracious. The future queen her realm needs. One who isn’t bothered that I am Alyce, the Dark Grace, abhorred and feared for the mysterious dark magic that runs in my veins. Humiliated and shamed by the same nobles who pay me to bottle hexes and then brand me a monster. Aurora says I should be proud of my gifts. That she . . . cares for me. Even though it was a power like mine that was responsible for her curse.

But with less than a year until that curse will kill her, any future I might see with Aurora is swiftly disintegrating—and she can’t stand to kiss yet another insipid prince. I want to help her. If my power began her curse, perhaps it’s what can lift it. Perhaps, together, we could forge a new world.

Nonsense again.

Because we all know how this story ends, don’t we? Aurora is the beautiful princess. And I—

I am the villain.

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

The word ‘retelling’ is sure to get me interested in a book, and when I saw Malice was a Sapphic reimagining of Sleeping Beauty from the perspective of the villain, I just knew I had to read it. Malice includes many key elements of Sleeping Beauty (as well as a dash of other fairy tales, like Cinderalla), but weaves these into a new world and story in a refreshing way.

From the start, I really enjoyed the world building, and how the society of Briar is depicted. The upper classes are selfish and vain, obsessed with beauty and luxury, and how they can use the Graces to obtain those things. In return for their services, Graces receive payment and invitations to parties, but then when their magic Fades, they also fade out of the spotlight. Graces have little control over their lives due to the Grace Laws, and although their lives seem glamorous on the outside, there is an insidious undercurrent to the way this society functions. Good and evil isn’t so simple here, as almost every character falls somewhere in between.

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Fairyloot January 2021 Unboxing

After the August box I decided to unsubscribe, but trust Fairyloot to pull me back in. The January theme was just perfect for me so I couldn’t pass on it. Although I decided I didn’t like getting a box every month, I will still get the occasional one when the theme and book is right up my street.

Fairyloot is a UK-based YA fantasy subscription box. If you subscribe, you get a box a month which includes a hardback book and 5-6 exclusive goodies around a theme.

The theme for January was ‘Greek Mythology’! Let’s see what was inside…

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Top 10 Tuesday: Books On My Spring 2021 TBR

This was actually last week’s topic but I missed it so decided to post it this week instead!

Top 10 Tuesday was originally created by The Broke and the Bookish, but has now moved to That Artsy Reader Girl. If you’re interested in taking part click here.

Legendborn by Tracey Deonn

Goddess in the Machine by Lora Beth Johnson

Malice by Heather Walter

The Unbroken by C. L. Clark

Crownchasers by Rebecca Coffindaffer

A Vow So Bold and Deadly by Brigid Kemmerer

The Deck of Omens by Christine Lynn Herman

Bone Crier’s Dawn by Kathryn Purdie

Unravel the Dusk by Elizabeth Lim

Muse of Nightmares by Laini Taylor

Considering how I am notoriously bad at sticking to a TBR, we’ll see how many of these books I actually get round to reading! I’m currently reading The Priory of the Orange Tree and I am loving it, but it’s taking me so long to read it.

What books are you excited to read this spring? Chat with me in the comments!

Book Review: The Prison Healer by Lynette Noni (eARC)

The Prison Healer by Lynette Noni

Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy

Publishing Info: eARC from Hodder & Stoughton

Pages: 416

Star Rating: 2/5

Back Cover Summary:

Seventeen-year-old Kiva Meridan is a survivor. For ten years, she has worked as the healer in the notorious death prison, Zalindov, making herself indispensable. Kept afloat by messages of hope from her family, Kiva has one goal and one goal only: stay alive.

Then one day the infamous Rebel Queen arrives at the prison on death’s door and Kiva receives a new message: Don’t let her die. We are coming.

The queen is sentenced to the Trial by Ordeal: a series of elemental challenges against the torments of air, fire, water, and earth, assigned to only the most dangerous of criminals. Aware the sickly queen has little chance of making it through the Trials alive, Kiva volunteers to take her place. If she succeeds, both she and the queen will be granted their freedom.

But no one has ever survived.

And with an incurable plague sweeping Zalindov, a mysterious new inmate fighting for Kiva’s heart, and a prison rebellion brewing, Kiva can’t escape the terrible feeling that her trials have only just begun.

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

The Prison Healer is the first book by Lynette Noni I’ve read and I was excited to dive into this intriguing sounding novel. The description and concept of a story set entirely in a prison caught my attention, so I was very happy to be approved for an eARC and get the opportunity to read The Prison Healer early. Unfortunately, the opening chapters didn’t capture my attention and I almost DNFed quite early on. I kept on reading and the last quarter or so of the book had me much more riveted, so I was glad I didn’t give up on it. Until that twist on the final page, which left me feeling incredibly exasperated. More on that later.

The beginning of this review will be spoiler-free, with a section at the end containing major spoilers so I can properly explain why this twist ending was so frustrating. I’ll clearly signpost when the spoilers start so you can avoid them if you wish to.

The idea of a book set entirely in a deadly prison is very intriguing. Setting is really important in books located in entirely one location like this, the setting has to be considered as another character. Unfortunately, the setting didn’t have any personality. I wanted to be completely immersed in this dark and dangerous place, but I didn’t feel anything. There was no atmosphere or tension. We’re told people hardly ever leave this prison alive, that Kiva is unique for having managed to survive ten years. Almost everything we know about the prison we’re told, not shown. Because there was no atmosphere, it felt flat. In the latter half we did get to see the darker side to the prison, but for most of the book I didn’t feel afraid for the main character, I didn’t feel the tension that should come from a deadly prison setting.

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Book Review: Queen of Shadows by Sarah J. Maas

Book cover of Queen of Shadows

Queen of Shadows by Sarah J. Mass  

Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy    

Publishing Info: September 2015 by Bloomsbury

Pages: 648

Star Rating: 5/5

Back Cover Summary:

Celaena Sardothien is cloaked in her assassin’s hood once more. She is back in Rifthold, but this time she is no one’s slave. She must delve into her most painful memories and fight for her survival, while resisting a smouldering passion that might very well consume her heart. And she will face her former master, the King of Assassins, again – to wreak revenge for a decade of pain…

*This review will be spoiler-free for Queen of Shadows but may include spoilers for the previous books in the series*  

Queen of Shadows is the fourth book in the Throne of Glass series and the best instalment I’ve read so far. It brought together all the threads that Maas has been weaving for the previous three books and, well, it was pretty epic.

In Heir of Fire, Celaena was away in Wenlyn learning to use her magic. While I enjoyed the training sequences, I so loved seeing her in Rifthold in Queen of Shadows, back where everything started. This book brings the story full circle, as she finally confronts her past with Arobynn. Our protagonist grew a lot in Heir of Fire, and now she finally seems to have transformed into Aelin. Her character hasn’t changed completely, but I could see she was a different person to the Celaena we saw in Throne of Glass, and we get to see her become the queen she is.

Manon was introduced as a new character in Heir of Fire. I loved her story in the third book, but her storyline didn’t intersect with any of the other characters’ stories, so I was wondering where Maas was going with this one. In Queen of Shadows, however, we get to see more clearly how her storyline relates to the wider plot. This is another character who we see slowly shift over the course of the series. I really appreciate how Maas slowly develops her characters.

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Book Review: The Midnight Star by Marie Lu

The Midnight Star by Marie Lu

Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy

Publishing Info: October 2016, Penguin

Pages: 319

Star Rating: 5/5

Back Cover Summary:

Adelina Amouteru is done suffering. She’s turned her back on those who have betrayed her and achieved the ultimate revenge: victory. Her reign as the White Wolf has been a triumphant one, but the darkness within her has begun to spiral out of control, threatening to destroy everything.

When a new danger appears, Adelina must join the Daggers on a perilous quest in order to save herself and preserve her empire. But this uneasy alliance may prove to be the real danger . . .

The Midnight Star absolutely destroyed me. The first two books in the Young Elites trilogy were dark and suspenseful, so the concluding chapter had a lot to live up to. And it was even better than its predecessors.

What I love about this series is how we see the darker side of our protagonist – Adelina. We see through the eyes of a character who has suffered a lot, been shunned by society, and who wants to make things better for people like her. Seeing her darkness grow over the course of the series was a refreshing change from the typical hero arc. Many of the other characters are also complex. There aren’t many straightforward heroes here, and I loved that. Despite their flaws, Marie Lu made me really care about these characters, and I didn’t realise quite how much until this final instalment of the series.

The last few chapters were so beautifully and heartbreakingly painted by Marie Lu. I can’t say too much without giving any spoilers, but the setting of the conclusion was so ethereal and I could visualise it so clearly. I very rarely cry at books, but the final chapters of The Midnight Star had me properly crying. How could I not give a book that made me feel so many emotions five stars?

This is a brief review because I don’t want to give away spoilers for the first two books, and I don’t really have any criticisms for The Midnight Star because it was just so good. The only thing I could say is that it was very short, and I kind of wished it had been longer, but I am also glad it wasn’t overly dragged out.

The Midnight Star is a superb conclusion to a brilliant trilogy. It follows a character down a path of darkness, a character who isn’t a typical hero, and I found that so refreshing. I cannot recommend this series enough.

Top 10 Tuesday: Books Written Before I Was Born

Today’s top 10 is all about the older books we’ve read, rather than recent releases! This list will have five classics and five sci-fi and fantasy books. So here are some of my favourite books written before I was born, which was in the 90s!

Top 10 Tuesday was originally created by The Broke and the Bookish, but has now moved to That Artsy Reader Girl. If you’re interested in taking part click here.

Emma by Jane Austen

Little Women by Louisa May Alcott

Frankenstein by Mary Shelley

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë

Tess of the D’Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy

Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes

Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? By Philip K. Dick

Dragons of Autumn Twilight by Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman

The Cygnet duology by Patricia A. McKillip

The Lord of the Rings by J. R. R. Tolkien 

What are some of your favourite books from before you were born? Chat with me in the comments!

Top 10 Tuesday: New-To-Me Authors I Read in 2020

Today’s Top 10 Tuesday is all about new authors I discovered in 2020! While I read quite a few books by favourite authors last year, I also found some new authors that I want to read more from!

Top 10 Tuesday was originally created by The Broke and the Bookish, but has now moved to That Artsy Reader Girl. If you’re interested in taking part click here.

Elizabeth Acevedo – I got into novels in verse a few years ago and The Poet X was really good so I want to read more of Elizabeth Acevedo’s books.

Tricia LevensellerThe Shadows Between Us was an unexpected favourite from me last year. I haven’t read any of the authors other books but will definitely be looking out for them now.

Kiersten White – I absolutely love Arthurian legend so I was really excited when Kiersten White’s retelling came out. The Guinevere Deception was my first time reading her work but she’s had a lot of other books published that I haven’t checked out yet.

Elizabeth Lim – The gorgeous cover of Spin the Dawn is what drew me to Elizabeth Lim’s first book and I absolutely loved her writing style so can’t wait to read more.

Shelby Mahurin – After all the hype around Serpent & Dove, I caved and read it and I’m so glad that I did!

Brigid KemmererA Curse So Dark and Lonely is another book that I read because of all the hype and ended up loving. Brigid Kemmerer has previously written contemporary books but I haven’t read any of them.

Lori M. Lee – I wasn’t sure if I would like Forest of Souls but I ended up loving it and am so excited for the sequel!

V. E. Schwab – One of the biggest fantasy authors around at the moment, and I hadn’t read any of her books until last year. The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue was such a phenomenal book, I’ll definitely be checking out more of her work.

Zoraida Córdova – I was lucky enough to get an eARC of Incendiary which was my first time reading one of Zoraida Córdova’s books.

Amie Kaufman & Jay Kristoff – I really can’t believe I hadn’t heard of Illuminae before last year. It instantly became one of my favourite books and I’ve loved every book I’ve read by this duo so far.

What new authors did you read in 2020? Are there any you’re excited to read for the first time in 2021? Chat with me in the comments!

Book Review: Blood & Honey by Shelby Mahurin

Blood & Honey by Shelby Mahurin

Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy, Romance  

Publishing Info: September 2020, Harper Teen

Pages: 528

Star Rating: 4/5

Back Cover Summary:

After narrowly escaping death at the hands of the Dames Blanches, Lou, Reid, Coco, and Ansel are on the run from coven, kingdom, and church—fugitives with nowhere to hide.

To elude the scores of witches and throngs of chasseurs at their heels, Lou and Reid need allies. Strong ones. But protection comes at a price, and the group is forced to embark on separate quests to build their forces. As Lou and Reid try to close the widening rift between them, the dastardly Morgane baits them in a lethal game of cat and mouse that threatens to destroy something worth more than any coven.

Serpent & Dove was a surprise read for me last year. There was so much hype around it that I was curious to read it and ended up loving it more than I expected. The sequel, Blood & Honey, has not been received quite so well, so I was a little cautious going into reading it as I didn’t want to set my expectations too high and be disappointed. 

It took me a while to orientate myself at the beginning of the book, and I had to search for a recap online in the end because there were some important points from the end of Serpent & Dove which I just couldn’t remember. So I would definitely recommend rereading Serpent & Dove or looking for a recap if it’s been a while since you read the first book.

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Book Review: The Frozen Crown by Greta Kelly (eARC)

The Frozen Crown by Greta Kelly

Genre: Fantasy  

Publishing Info: eARC from Harper Voyager

Pages: 384

Star Rating: 3/5

Back Cover Summary:

A princess with a powerful and dangerous secret must find a way to save her country from ruthless invaders in this exciting debut fantasy, the first novel in a thrilling duology packed with heroism, treachery, magic, and war.

Askia became heir to the Frozen Crown of Seravesh because of her devotion to her people. But her realm is facing a threat she cannot defeat by sheer will alone. The mad emperor of the Roven Empire has unleashed a horde of invading soldiers to enslave her lands. For months, her warriors have waged a valiant, stealth battle, yet they cannot stop the enemy’s advancement. Running out of time, she sets sail for sun-drenched Vishir, the neighboring land to the south, to seek help from its ruler, Emperor Armaan.

A young woman raised in army camps, Askia is ill-equipped to navigate Vishir’s labyrinthine political games. Her every move sinks her deeper into court intrigues which bewilder and repel her, leaving her vulnerable not only to enemies gathering at Vishir’s gates, but to those behind the palace walls.

And in this glittering court, where secrets are worth more than gold, Askia fears that one false step will expose her true nature. For Askia is a witch gifted with magical abilities—knowledge that could destroy not only her life but her people. As her adversaries draw closer, Askia is forced to make an impossible choice—and no matter what she decides, it may not be enough to prevent Seravesh’s fall.

Thank you so much to Harper360YA for providing an eARC of this book via Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review.

The Frozen Crown is an intriguing political fantasy revolving around a princess desperate to save her kingdom from the empire that has invaded her lands. Although I was a little unsure about this book at the start, it did grow on me after the first few chapters, and I found myself invested in Askia’s quest to find an army to help take back her kingdom.

Although The Frozen Crown is an Adult fantasy novel, the writing style, with first person narration and quick-to-read prose, was more reminiscent of YA. While the simple style made it an easy read, my preference would have been for more description and vivid prose to make the settings and scenes really come to life in my mind.   

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