Review: A Reaper at the Gates (#3) by Sabaa Tahir

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Beyond the Empire and within it, the threat of war looms ever larger.
The Blood Shrike, Helene Aquilla, is assailed on all sides. Emperor Marcus, haunted by his past, grows increasingly unstable, while the Commandant capitalizes on his madness to bolster her own power. As Helene searches for a way to hold back the approaching darkness, her sister’s life and the lives of all those in the Empire hang in the balance.
Far to the east, Laia of Serra knows the fate of the world lies not in the machinations of the Martial court, but in stopping the Nightbringer. But while hunting for a way to bring him down, Laia faces unexpected threats from those she hoped would aid her, and is drawn into a battle she never thought she’d have to fight.
And in the land between the living and the dead, Elias Veturius has given up his freedom to serve as Soul Catcher. But in doing so, he has vowed himself to an ancient power that will stop at nothing to ensure Elias’s devotion – even at the cost of his humanity.

I have so many mixed feelings about this book, and it’s going to be so hard to judge because most of them are it’s not you it’s me problems. To start with, I’ve been trying to read 3 fantasy books at once, and this week I think it finally caught up with me. I very much struggled to keep up with all of the characters in this book. Secondly, I somehow managed to skip over 60 pages of this book. Because me and Alex have been buddy reading these, I somehow just skipped an entire day and went onto the next day. I was confused going forward, but I honestly felt like I was reading this in a daze anyway and just put it down to my mood. I didn’t realise this until about 80 pages from the end, when I went back to read the section I’d missed, and things did to start to make more sense. I also read this in the week when I went back to work and uni classes started up again, meaning I had a lot on and that may have contributed to me feeling a little out of it!

My major problem with this book is there are a few different points of view, and all of the characters have different roles in the story and different parts they are playing. They intertwine less in this book than in the others, and are often flitting between a completely different cast of side characters too. I mainly just found them very hard to keep track of or remember all of the names and roles they played within the story.

Curse this world for what it does to the mothers, for what it does to the daughters. 

I do love how this book gave us a good amount of time with the characters and focused on them a little more. I definitely sympathised more with Helene in this story and my favourite parts were the few scenes we got with one or two characters at a time, finally having some kind of character development that made me feel a little more emotionally invested in the story. However, I did find it strange how little Darin was mentioned and felt very pushed to the side after the events of A Torch Against the Night.

Another aspect I did enjoy was the atmosphere, especially when it comes to Elias’s chapters and his new role as this story developed. I like this world a lot and I’m glad we got to see more of it. Although I could take slightly more description, it did feel well written for the most part and I enjoyed picturing the surroundings.

Curse it for making us strong through loss and pain, our hearts torn from our chests again and again. Curse it for forcing us to endure.

Honestly, it’s very hard to tell whether the problems I had with this book were with the book itself or with the weird way I ended up reading it, which is why I haven’t rated it any lower than this. I just definitely felt a little disappointed when I compare it to the two previous books, and I hope I feel better about the last one (and manage to actually read it in a linear fashion)!

★★★★
3.5 out of 5 stars

-Beth

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Review: The Near Witch by V.E. Schwab

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The Near Witch is only an old story told to frighten children.
If the wind calls at night, you must not listen. The wind is lonely, and always looking for company.
And there are no strangers in the town of Near.

These are the truths that Lexi has heard all her life. But when an actual stranger-a boy who seems to fade like smoke-appears outside her home on the moor at night, she knows that at least one of these sayings is no longer true.
The next night, the children of Near start disappearing from their beds, and the mysterious boy falls under suspicion. Still, he insists on helping Lexi search for them. Something tells her she can trust him.
As the hunt for the children intensifies, so does Lexi’s need to know-about the witch that just might be more than a bedtime story, about the wind that seems to speak through the walls at night, and about the history of this nameless boy
.

I’ve been putting off this book for a while as I was a little hesitant about how much I would enjoy it. With The Invisible Life of Addie Larue grabbing top spot and being my favourite book of 2020, I am now so worried about not loving her other works quite as much. But although this didn’t quite match up, I still absolutely loved it!

The Near Witch is part fairy-tale, part love story, part nightmare. It opens on a scene where the main character, Lexi, is telling her little sister a bedtime story, and the book never strays far from that tone. Reading this book has the feeling of going on a rambling journey and becoming enchanted by a creepy tale. This definitely ended up being darker than I expected but in a gentle way that wasn’t too intense or overwhelming, and I really liked it. It was creepy in the way fairy-tales can be, rather than a typical horror!

Maybe one day the words will pour out like so many others, easy and smooth and on their own.

One of my favourite things about V.E. Schwab is her incredible writing. The writing in this was mystical and beautiful and I adored it. She chooses every word purposefully and it shows, and I feel like that’s the reason it took me slightly longer to read than I expected, as I wanted to make sure I really absorbed every part of this book and every single word on the page.

The writing also showcased the amazing world this book is set in. Near is a village on moorland, surrounded by rolling countryside and forests. I loved the vibe this gave off with the creepy, foggy, vast moor and forests, with cottages few and far between. I could picture the world so clearly and it felt like the perfect setting for this story. I also really liked the main characters and that bubbled along in the background of this story. And I could really empathise with how Lexi was struggling with how those around her were acting throughout this story.

Right now they take pieces of me with them.

Overall, this was a beautiful and haunting tale that I really enjoyed reading. It also had such an incredible atmosphere which I loved.

★★★★
4 out of 5 stars

-Beth

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Review: A Torch Against the Night (#2) by Sabaa Tahir

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Elias and Laia are running for their lives. After the events of the Fourth Trial, Martial soldiers hunt the two fugitives as they flee the city of Serra and undertake a perilous journey through the heart of the Empire.
Laia is determined to break into Kauf—the Empire’s most secure and dangerous prison—to save her brother, who is the key to the Scholars’ survival. And Elias is determined to help Laia succeed, even if it means giving up his last chance at freedom.
But dark forces, human and otherworldly, work against Laia and Elias. The pair must fight every step of the way to outsmart their enemies: the bloodthirsty Emperor Marcus, the merciless Commandant, the sadistic Warden of Kauf, and, most heartbreaking of all, Helene—Elias’s former friend and the Empire’s newest Blood Shrike.
Bound to Marcus’s will, Helene faces a torturous mission of her own—one that might destroy her: find the traitor Elias Veturius and the Scholar slave who helped him escape…and kill them both. 

We pick this book up directly where An Ember in the Ashes leaves off, and are immediately thrown into the action. Again, Alex and I buddy read this book and will be continuing to buddy read the rest of the series, and we both really liked how the story continued seamlessly on. Although I’m not sure how that would feel if I had left any time between reading each book!

This book brings a new point of view in addition to those we are already familiar with of Laia and Elias. I really enjoyed the addition of Helene’s point of view, especially as she has an interesting relationship and dynamic with the other characters. I’m looking forward to seeing her grow as a character in the next few books, as she feels naive to the actions of the Empire and is only just opening her eyes to the impacts of the actions of those around her. I also appreciated having her view of the world from a different side of Elias or Laia, as she shows what is happening in Blackcliff Academy.

Your emotions make you human. Even the unpleasant ones have a purpose. 

I was a little worried this book may have second book syndrome, which I often find in the second book in a series that feels like a bridge to the next. However, I feel like Helene’s point of view was a brilliant way to keep A Torch Against the Night fresh. I also felt like the plot continued to be interesting and the pace was kept consistent throughout this book. The end of this book especially had so many twists and turns and part of it really made me gasp!

I loved the cast of characters so much, and there was some aspects of this book that made both me and Alex emotional. There are some new characters introduced in this book and I really loved Tas, a friend of Elias as the book goes on. The friendship between Elias and Tas, Laia and Izzi and many of the others really warmed my heart.

I also really enjoyed how this book in particular gave us a look at the wider world outside of Blackcliff Academy, and I can picture the world really well. I’m enjoying the world building and I’m looking forward to seeing more of the surroundings in the last two books in the series.

Don’t lock them away. If you ignore them, they just get louder and angrier.

Overall, this was an excellent sequel which I really enjoyed and I’m still loving the writing, which is emotional but really easy to read and compelling! I couldn’t put this book down and I always wanted to find out what would happen next.

★★★★
4 out of 5 stars

-Beth

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Review: An Ember in the Ashes (#1) by Sabaa Tahir

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Laia is a slave. Elias is a soldier. Neither is free.
Under the Martial Empire, defiance is met with death. Those who do not vow their blood and bodies to the Emperor risk the execution of their loved ones and the destruction of all they hold dear.
It is in this brutal world, inspired by ancient Rome, that Laia lives with her grandparents and older brother. The family ekes out an existence in the Empire’s impoverished backstreets. They do not challenge the Empire. They’ve seen what happens to those who do.
But when Laia’s brother is arrested for treason, Laia is forced to make a decision. In exchange for help from rebels who promise to rescue her brother, she will risk her life to spy for them from within the Empire’s greatest military academy. 
There, Laia meets Elias, the school’s finest soldier—and secretly, its most unwilling. Elias wants only to be free of the tyranny he’s being trained to enforce. He and Laia will soon realize that their destinies are intertwined—and that their choices will change the fate of the Empire itself.

I’ve been hearing so much about this series recently and after finding out how much my lovely friend Charlotte enjoyed it, I knew I wanted to read this series. I’ve been buddy-reading this series with Alex and I’m so glad we’re reading it together! This felt like YA fantasy with a slight twist, and I really enjoyed it. I also loved the two points of view, which I was hesitant about going into the story as I sometimes find multiple POV mean you want to skip one and go to the next. However, I enjoyed these two equally and for different reasons, and felt like they worked well together.

These two points of view include Laia, who ends up as a slave for the somewhat evil commandant of the Blackcliff Academy, who she is also spying on. The commandant also happens to be the mother of our second character, Elias, who is a soldier at the academy. Both of these characters are questioning authority for different reasons, and are brought together by the decisions they make along the way.

You are an ember in the ashes, Elias Veturius.

This story is definitely a more of a character and plot driven story than a location heavy one, which let me down slightly. I personally love setting heavy stories and a lot of world building, and I did struggle to vividly picture the world throughout the story. Some scenes were better than others, and I’m hoping as the series goes on we learn more about the world and surroundings. I also really liked the characters and felt a lot of sympathy for them – both me and Alex were getting emotional towards the end! I found myself thinking about these characters even when I wasn’t reading (or had picked up something else when I finished my pages for the day), which proves how much I was drawn to their stories.

The plot definitely drove the story which was perfect for reading it over a 4 day readathon. The writing was so easy to read and I didn’t want to put the book down, which bodes well for the rest of the series! But despite it being super compelling, Sabaa Tahir didn’t steer away from difficult topics. The beautiful writing occasionally gave way to brutality and violence, which neither me or Alex quite expected so much of. This is definitely not one for the fainthearted, and has a lot of mentions/scenes of killing, rape and torture.

You will spark and burn, ravage and destroy. You cannot change it. You cannot stop it.

I’m holding out my 5 stars for now as I feel like this has got more to give and I’m really looking forward to seeing where this series goes. However, this was a really enjoyable, fast-paced fantasy read with likable characters and an unpredictable plot that made me want to keep on reading!

CW: sexual assault, torture, violence, death, imprisonment

★★★★
4 out of 5 stars

-Beth

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Review: King’s Cage (#3) by Victoria Aveyard

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Mare Barrow is a prisoner, powerless without her lightning, tormented by her mistakes. She lives at the mercy of a boy she once loved, a boy made of lies and betrayal. Now a king, Maven continues weaving his web in an attempt to maintain control over his country – and his prisoner. As Mare remains trapped in the palace, the remnants of the Red Rebellion continue organizing and expanding. As they prepare for war, no longer able to linger in the shadows, Cal – the exiled prince with his own claim on Mare’s heart – will stop at nothing to bring her back. In this breathless new novel from the bestselling author of the RED QUEEN series, blood will turn on blood and allegiances will be tested on every side. If the Lightning Girl’s spark is gone, who will light the way for the rebellion?

I’m so happy to say that we have passed the 2nd book mark and this series has definitely picked up again. We join this book immediately after Glass Sword, where Mare is trapped back in the palace she knows well as Maven’s prisoner. I felt like this part could have been slow and boring, but I actually quite enjoyed it. It gave way to character development and I liked having the opportunity to get to know Mare and her pain felt tangible.

Where the previous two books felt like a build up, this one is the start of the game. And the game is a political chessboard of kings and queens. I love how political this book is getting with the houses and the royalty – but it still comes across as quite accessible for readers who might not be used to political fantasy (*cough* me *cough*).

Now I’m in a king’s cage. But so is he. 

I also really love these characters. All of the characters in this book have so many layers. I have been shocked so many times by their decisions. Nobody is good or evil, everyone has times where they are either one or the other, which I loved. It makes the characters feel so real and have a lot of depth, and also kept me on my toes as a reader. I could never predict how anybody would act, because everything could so easily go so many different ways, which I kind of love.

I was also shocked to find we have more points of view in this book, including Evangaline. We have Cameron’s chapters interspersed throughout, which gave much needed insight to what was happening with the Scarlet Guard while Mare was entrapped in Maven’s palace. Then, later in the book, there are a few chapters from Evangaline’s point of view. I was hesitant throughout about these chapters, but I feel like they did add a lot to the story and I actually found it easy to sympathise with the other characters shown in these POV.

My chains are Silent Stone. His is the crown.

Overall, I did enjoy this one more than Glass Sword and feel like the story has developed in pace and character. I love the banter between the friends in the Scarlet Guard and Mare’s family, who I like more which each book. I’m looking forward to diving into War Storm very soon!

★★★★
4 out of 5 stars

-Beth

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Review: A Court of Silver Flames (#4) by Sarah J Maas

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Nesta Archeron has always been prickly-proud, swift to anger, and slow to forgive. And ever since being forced into the Cauldron and becoming High Fae against her will, she’s struggled to find a place for herself within the strange, deadly world she inhabits. Worse, she can’t seem to move past the horrors of the war with Hybern and all she lost in it.
The one person who ignites her temper more than any other is Cassian, the battle-scarred warrior whose position in Rhysand and Feyre’s Night Court keeps him constantly in Nesta’s orbit. But her temper isn’t the only thing Cassian ignites. The fire between them is undeniable, and only burns hotter as they are forced into close quarters with each other.
Meanwhile, the treacherous human queens who returned to the Continent during the last war have forged a dangerous new alliance, threatening the fragile peace that has settled over the realms. And the key to halting them might very well rely on Cassian and Nesta facing their haunting pasts.
Against the sweeping backdrop of a world seared by war and plagued with uncertainty, Nesta and Cassian battle monsters from within and without as they search for acceptance-and healing-in each other’s arms.

This is a book I was simultaneously so excited and so hesitant to read, mainly because it’s been a while since I finished the A Court of Thorns and Roses series. I also wasn’t planning on reading it so soon, as I tend to read series together, but I gave into the hype eventually and I’m glad I did! Firstly, I don’t think you need to read this directly after the ACOTAR series due to this being from Nesta’s point of view (the sister of the narrator of ACOTAR). It’s been a good few years since I finished ACOTAR and I still fully understood everything that happened in this book and didn’t feel out of the loop.

This book was very much character driven, and focuses heavily on Nesta’s relationships with those around her. I loved seeing her slowly realise she did have the support of characters around her, and discover a found-family of her own. I also enjoyed reading about her relationship with Cassian which was highly entertaining on every level (if you know you know). And even though this book lacked action in some ways, I did fly through it and read it in around 2 days. I had forgotten how purely addictive and immersive Maas’ writing is, and I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book and found it very hard to put down!

It’s common knowledge that Nesta is a bit of a b*tch, and I admire Sarah J Maas so much for taking that stereotype and flipping it on it’s head. The way Nesta is written about throughout this story is so, so clever and I adored it. We see inside her head for the first time and begin to understand all of the darkness she tackles on a daily basis. I just loved the way her mental health is written about, especially as this is something we rarely see explored in fantasy. Although no specific terminology is used, the way Nesta is described includes symptoms of PTSD and depression, which are discussed openly and honestly throughout the book. This made Nesta such a relatable character that I sympathised with easily and quickly grew to like and root for.

Welcome back to the Night Court, Nesta Archeron.

I couldn’t help but compare this book to my opinion of the ACOTAR series, which is one of the reasons why this book didn’t quite reach the full 5 star rating, although it very easily could have done. The first reason is I sadly felt like I was missing out on seeing some of the city itself. I know this is probably due to Nesta’s situation, and I did love any other world-building, but I did miss reading more about Velaris. I also adored the nature of the house itself, which almost becomes one of the central characters in many ways. My other, very small complaint is it did sometimes feel like the relationship between Nesta and Cassian overtook most of the focus of the story. We know by now that Sarah J Maas is famous for her smut, and although I enjoyed it as much as the next person, I did feel like it took some of the focus off the action and plot, which should have been at the forefront in places.

Overall, this was a thoroughly enjoyable journey back to Velaris and I adored it. Nesta really grew on me as a character and the discussions of mental health felt crucial to this novel. I can’t wait to see where this series goes in the future!

★★★★★
4.5 out of 5 stars

-Beth

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Review: The Lives of Saints by Leigh Bardugo

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Dive into the epic world of international bestselling author Leigh Bardugo with this beautifully illustrated replica of The Lives of Saints, the Istorii Sankt’ya, featuring tales of saints drawn from the beloved novels and beyond. Out of the pages of the Shadow and Bone trilogy, from the hands of Alina Starkov to yours, the Istorii Sankt’ya is a magical keepsake from the Grishaverse.
These tales include miracles and martyrdoms from familiar saints like Sankta Lizabeta of the Roses and Sankt Ilya in Chains, to the strange and obscure stories of Sankta Ursula, Sankta Maradi, and the Starless Saint.
This beautiful collection includes stunning full-color illustrations of each story. 

As you can probably tell, I will happily buy and read anything Leigh Barudgo writes. She is such a talented writer, and I adore her stories. I was so hesitant about going into The Language of Thorns, yet I adored it. So when I realised this was going to be a similar style of short story collection, I knew I wanted to read it. I also happened to only pick up the Grisha trilogy last year, only a few months before this book was released. The Lives of Saints is referenced a lot in the Grisha trilogy, as a kind of bible, a book that is given to children as they grow up and learn about the saints they worship. In a way, this book reminded me a lot of Aesop’s fables, as they are only incredibly short and all have some kind of moral.

I feel like in a way, Bardugo really has a knack for short story/fairytale type writing. She has a beautiful, poetic way of writing that just fits and works so well with these kinds of books. I saw a review that mentioned these are similar to the kind of writings you get with tarot cards, and I can definitely see where they are coming from. These stories are super short, usually between half a page and no more than 5 pages. This book is already very short, only 120 pages, and with the stories themselves being short too, this went by very quickly and I read it within a couple of hours.

You can choose faith or you can choose fear. 

Most, if not all of these stories are quite sad and tragic, because of the nature of the saints having to die to become, well, saints. However, that doesn’t make all of them depressing or harrowing, and I found quite a lot of them poignant, yet uplifting. The illustrations alongside were absolutely beautiful, and this book as a whole is a gorgeous thing to own. I would like to point out that the ugly blue band on the photo is removable! There is gold foiling underneath and a red clothbound cover.

My main disappointment from this book was the fact I know I will forget these stories so quickly, purely because they are so short. It’s an easy, quick read and a great thing to pick up and read one or two from, but very forgettable. With stories this short, there is just no room for character development, and that was the main factor that made me compare this to The Language of Thorns, which has much longer and fewer fairytales, and I can vaguely remember them, even after a few years.

But only one will bring what you long for.

Overall, this was a sweet idea and I love the concept of it. It’s an absolutely beautiful book and the stories are lyrical and beautiful in their own right, but also a little disappointing as they are so short and I felt a bit disconnected from them.

★★★★
4 out of 5 stars

-Beth

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Review: Glass Sword (#2) by Victoria Aveyard

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If there’s one thing Mare Barrow knows, it’s that she’s different. Mare’s blood is red – the colour of common folk – but her Silver ability, the power to control lightning, has turned her into a weapon that the royal court wants to control.
Pursued by the vengeful Silver king, Mare sets out to find and recruit other Red-and-Silver fighters to join the rebellion. But Mare finds herself on a deadly path, at risk of becoming exactly the kind of monster she is trying to defeat.
Will she shatter under the weight of the lives that are the cost of rebellion? Or have treachery and betrayal hardened her forever?

I decided to carry on with this series straight away, and also read Glass Sword in audio format. As I’m not driving much at the moment, I’m only listening to audiobooks when I run, walk and occasionally do venture out in my car. However, I’m still challenging myself to read an audiobook per month, and I’m also trying to gradually make my way through this series! I just about managed to read the whole of Glass Sword in February, although these books keep getting longer, so I only hope I can do the same for King’s Cage in March.

The main thing I took away from this book was that it felt so slow. I’m not sure if it’s just the fact I read it over a longer period of time, but I just don’t feel like much happened. Red Queen was packed with action compared to this one, and Mare’s situation was constantly changing. However, with Glass Sword, I felt like most of the plot could be summarised very quickly and in very few sentences.

No one is born evil, just like no one is born alone. 

The slower plot did allow for more character development, however, which I enjoyed and felt was needed after Red Queen. Although I felt like I knew Mare quite well in the first book, I just didn’t know enough about the side characters to invest in them. But in Glass Sword, we definitely get to spend more time around everybody, which I really enjoyed. The only thing I have to point out is boy, does Mare get annoying in places. Especially towards the end, she is so full of self pity. I could always see where she was coming from and sympathised with her, but it did feel repetitive to read about in places.

Even though the plot was a little slow, we did have a few action packed scenes which were amazingly written, especially towards the end. Aveyard also knows how to write a harrowing scene, which left me feeling empty and hollow in places. The only slight disappointment I had was guessing the ending purely because of the name of the third book in the series…

It is worth pointing out that the plot of Glass Sword allows for a lot more exploration of the world, which I found myself really enjoying.

 They become that way, through choice and circumstance.

Overall, there was a lot to like about this book, but it had a little bit of sequel/second book syndrome for me. But hopefully that means King’s Cage is going to pick up once more and be more on par with Red Queen! I may also start reading these partly in physical format to see if that makes me feel any differently about the last two in the series.

★★★★
3.5 out of 5 stars

-Beth

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Review: Hero at the Fall (#3) by Alwyn Hamilton

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Once, in the desert country of Miraji, there was a Sultan without an heir.
The heir had been killed by his own brother, the treacherous Rebel Prince, who was consumed by jealousy and sought the throne for himself.
Or so it was said by some. There were others who said that the Rebel Prince was not a traitor but a hero…
In the final battle for the throne, Amani must fight for everything she believes in, but with the rebellion in pieces, and the Sultan’s armies advancing across the desert plains, who will lead, who will triumph, who will live and who will die?

My first thought after finishing this series is it is so underrated. I found them on a table in a bookshop years ago, and have heard little about them since, especially online. I enjoyed this more than some of the biggest YA fantasy/dystopian series and they should definitely have more hype! First of all, this series has been so unique and I loved the fact it was set in a desert. The worldbuilding in this series has been excellent and I could picture the desert and palace so clearly.

One of my favourite parts of this series was the friendship group, which had a real found family aspect to it. Although in this particular book I felt there was a little lack of character development and some of the side characters were a little interchangeable, the main few I really liked. Their banter and discussions felt natural and even made me chuckle in places. The end of the book was absolute roller-coaster and I had tears in my eyes in places. I really liked Amani and Jin’s relationship and the connection they had was beautifully written.

But even if the desert forgot a thousand and one of our stories, it was enough that they would tell of us at all. 

This last book was definitely the most action filled, which made it a very quick read. But unfortunately for me, I didn’t like it quite as much as the second, which I think was my favourite. I tend to prefer character focused books that I can feel a real connection to, rather than action packed books that leave me feeling a little disconnected from the characters. That’s how I felt about this book, just a little too disconnected from the characters to enjoy it as much as I hoped I would. The last part of this book almost made up for the parts I didn’t find quite so clear, but not quite. The ending reminded me of the end of Throne of Glass or A Court of Thorns and Roses when you just don’t know what is going to happen to the characters, or whether they will be okay.

Amani was an amazing, strong, brave female main character throughout this whole series, and she was one of my favourite things about it. She was such a great role model and I love how Jin complemented her but it was always clear she could be just fine on her own. It is subtle and in the background of the books until they are together and they burn so brightly, I loved seeing them together.

That long after our deaths, men and women sitting around a fire would hear that once, long ago, before we were all just stories, we lived.

Overall, I really liked this series. It was such a unique twist on YA fantasy and I haven’t read anything else quite like it. Also, it’s worth mentioning the covers are drop dead gorgeous!

★★★★
3.5 out of 5 stars

-Beth

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Review: Red Queen (#1) by Victoria Aveyard

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Goodreads | Waterstones

This is a world divided by blood – red or silver.
The poverty-stricken Reds are commoners, living in the shadow of the Silvers, elite warriors with god-like powers.
To Mare Barrow, a 17-year-old Red girl from the Stilts, it looks like nothing will ever change.
Then Mare finds herself working at the Silver palace, in the midst of those she hates the most. She quickly discovers that, despite her red blood, she possesses a deadly power of her own. One that threatens to destroy Silver control. 

I hardly ever re-read books, but this one I knew I needed to. I read this book the first time when only this one was out, and it’s taken me a while to gather copies of the rest of the series. Now I finally own all of them, I decided to re-read the first one almost five years later. I read this (mostly) on audiobook as a test of whether I could run and listen to an audiobook at the same time, and I really enjoyed re-reading it!

I interestingly feel similarly to how I did the first time I read this book, and I quickly found I couldn’t remember much about it at all. I’m glad I couldn’t, because it gave me such an element of surprise all over again. Plot twists come out of nowhere in this book and I was constantly being surprised by them. Red Queen is very intense and has an interesting premise of a world split between ‘Reds’ (the poorer people, who do not have powers) and ‘Silvers’ (the people who hold the power, rich, have special powers). Mare Barrow, our protagonist is, somehow, a Red with special powers.

I see a world on the edge of a blade. 

I really liked the concept of Red Queen. It is an elaborate game of power, of courts, of royalty. Of those with power and those forced to be a slave to them. It is a story of betrayal and family. It is intense without being daunting or overwhelming, a fantasy that is relatable and easy to read. The premise provides opportunities for some interesting and deep discussions of class divide, and I really liked how they were interwoven throughout this story. The writing was still beautiful the second time around, and I found myself able to picture the world clearly. The world-building was detailed, and allowed me to be drawn into the story and life in the palace.

As with the first time I read this book, the characters let it down for me. I find Mare makes for a good protagonist and I enjoyed reading her story and felt sympathetic towards her and her family. But again, I struggled to understand the love triangle, as the characters just felt kind of distant. I just didn’t feel close to either of the Prince’s, and I found myself rolling my eyes a little at the mention of Mare being attracted towards either of them.

Without balance, it will fall.

I’m looking forward to finally carrying on with this series and hopefully finding out more about the characters introduced to us in Red Queen. I can’t wait to see where this goes, and I feel like this story could just be the beginning…

★★★★
4 out of 5 stars

-Beth

May your shelves forever overflow with books! ☽

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