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Flame in the Mist by Renée Ahdieh

Flame in the Mist by Renée AhdiehFlame in the Mist by Renée Ahdieh
Series: Flame in the Mist #1
Published by Putnam Juvenile on May 16th, 2017
Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy
Pages: 416
Goodreads

From the #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Wrath and the Dawn, comes a sweeping, action-packed YA adventure set against the backdrop of Feudal Japan where Mulan meets Tamora Pierce.

The daughter of a prominent samurai, Mariko has long known her place—she may be an accomplished alchemist, whose cunning rivals that of her brother Kenshin, but because she is not a boy, her future has always been out of her hands. At just seventeen years old, Mariko is promised to Minamoto Raiden, the son of the emperor's favorite consort—a political marriage that will elevate her family's standing. But en route to the imperial city of Inako, Mariko narrowly escapes a bloody ambush by a dangerous gang of bandits known as the Black Clan, who she learns has been hired to kill her before she reaches the palace.
Dressed as a peasant boy, Mariko sets out to infiltrate the ranks of the Black Clan, determined to track down the person responsible for the target on her back. But she's quickly captured and taken to the Black Clan’s secret hideout, where she meets their leader, the rebel ronin Takeda Ranmaru, and his second-in-command, his best friend Okami. Still believing her to be a boy, Ranmaru and Okami eventually warm to Mariko, impressed by her intellect and ingenuity. As Mariko gets closer to the Black Clan, she uncovers a dark history of secrets, of betrayal and murder, which will force her to question everything she's ever known.

3 Stars

Perhaps the girl wasn’t water, as he’d first thought. Perhaps she was wind. Wind could whip a fire into a frenzy. Make a mighty oak bow. Lash water into the mist.

Having loved Ahdieh’s debut The Wrath and the Dawn, her new project had been thrown onto my TBR before it was even announced what its content was going to be. When I heard it was a story with a feudal Japanese-inspired setting, pitched as  a mash-up of 47 Ronin and my favourite Disney Mulan, I was beyond excited for Flame in the Mist. I don’t know who, for the love of God, pitched this as a Mulan retelling, because except for the girl disguised as a boy, this was nothing like Mulan.

While my knowledge of modern Japan is not too bad, I know very little about its history. So, if you want an informative review on the historical accuracy and rep of feudal Japan, head over to Eri (Airy Reads) to read her review!

Though this book had me well-entertained, Flame in the Mist did not reach the expectations I had built up for this anticipated release. The book’s strong suit was its character dynamics, its feminist touch, and its world-building. I’m also a tremendous fan of the girl-disguised-as-boy narrative. However, there’s potential for improvement for almost every element of the book, be it the depth of the characters, the substance of the plot, or the storytelling. The storyline was unoriginal and shared unmistakable similarities with Ahdieh’s previous work. I could have lived with that had the plot not been so painfully predictable sometimes.

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A Court of Wings and Ruin by Sarah J. Maas

A Court of Wings and Ruin by Sarah J. MaasA Court of Wings and Ruin by Sarah J. Maas
Series: A Court of Thorns and Roses #3
on May 3rd, 2017
Genres: Fantasy, New Adult
Pages: 705 pages
Goodreads

Looming war threatens all Feyre holds dear in the third volume of the #1 New York Times bestselling A Court of Thorns and Roses series.

Feyre has returned to the Spring Court, determined to gather information on Tamlin's maneuverings 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.

1.5 Stars

As always, people, this is a review of a book and its content, not the personality of its author. My criticism of the book is not meant as an offence to SJM’s person. If you cannot stomach criticism of your favourite author’s work, please just ignore this review, as I don’t care for fangirls shitting all over my opinion – thank you (I used the magic words, so be nice).

Beware: Minor spoilers.

So, after the two previous instalments had kept me reasonably interested in the story, A Court of Wings and Ruin fell utterly flat for me. A Court of Mist and Fury had been a guilty pleasure read whereas A Court of Wings and Ruin was just guilty pleasure. This was mainly due to a lack of a lot of things I had liked about the sequel. Gone were the grounds for new character development, gone were the exciting political twists, gone was the romantic tension between Feyre and Rhys. I think this instalment could have been a lot shorter, more compact, and more interesting. Though I am by no means a fan of SJM’s work, I expected more from this finale.

“You do not fear. You do not falter. You do not yield.
Remember that you are a wolf. And you cannot be caged.”

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A Crown of Wishes by Roshani Chokshi

A Crown of Wishes by Roshani ChokshiA Crown of Wishes by Roshani Chokshi
Series: The Star-Touched Queen #2
Published by St. Martin's Griffin on March 28th, 2017
Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy
Pages: 352
Goodreads

Gauri, the princess of Bharata, has been taken as a prisoner of war by her kingdom’s enemies. Faced with a future of exile and scorn, Gauri has nothing left to lose. Hope unexpectedly comes in the form of Vikram, the cunning prince of a neighboring land and her sworn enemy kingdom. Unsatisfied with becoming a mere puppet king, Vikram offers Gauri a chance to win back her kingdom in exchange for her battle prowess. Together, they’ll have to set aside their differences and team up to win the Tournament of Wishes—a competition held in a mythical city where the Lord of Wealth promises a wish to the victor.

Reaching the tournament is just the beginning. Once they arrive, danger takes on new shapes: poisonous courtesans and mischievous story birds, a feast of fears and twisted fairy revels.

Every which way they turn new trials will test their wit and strength. But what Gauri and Vikram will soon discover is that there’s nothing more dangerous than what they most desire.

4 Stars

I hadn’t read The Star-Touched Queen prior to picking up this companion novel, as the reviews had put me off and the writing in the chapter sampler had completely distracted me from the plot. I was, however, curious about Chokshi’s following work since debut authors tend to improve their skills with each book. Hence, I read this book as a standalone, and though it helps to have read the previous book or the chapter sampler, it is not a requirement. In my case, waiting for the companion novel was the right choice, because I think I enjoyed it a lot more than I would have its predecessor The Star-Touched Queen.

A Crown of Wishes dazzles with its feisty heroine, sizzling romance, intricate world-building, and lyrical writing. From what I’ve heard, the main plot was one of the weak points of her previous work. While this has not changed, the storyline was gripping enough to hook me a few chapters into the book. The romance, though it is borderline overpowering, added to the overall suspension and employed one of my favourite tropes (I am basically a sucker for enemies-to-lovers, I can’t help it).

“Some tales that never end start with something as simple as an act of impulse and end with something as evil as an act of love.”

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Golden Son by Pierce Brown

Golden Son by Pierce BrownGolden Son by Pierce Brown
Series: Red Rising #2
on January 6th, 2015
Genres: Science-Fiction, Fantasy
Pages: 430
Goodreads

With shades of The Hunger Games, Ender’s Game, and Game of Thrones, debut author Pierce Brown’s genre-defying epic Red Rising hit the ground running and wasted no time becoming a sensation.

Golden Son continues the stunning saga of Darrow, a rebel forged by tragedy, battling to lead his oppressed people to freedom from the overlords of a brutal elitist future built on lies. Now fully embedded among the Gold ruling class, Darrow continues his work to bring down Society from within.

A life-or-death tale of vengeance with an unforgettable hero at its heart, Golden Son guarantees Pierce Brown’s continuing status as one of fiction’s most exciting new voices.

4.5 Stars

Red Rising was a fascinating start to a sci-fi that could be described as The Hunger Games meets Rome, yet I remember struggling with the dense writing. The plot had me curious for its sequel Golden Son, though, and so I continued my journey with my favourite buddy reader Simona. And boy, we were in for a surprise.

Golden Son was absolutely golden, so to speak. Pierce Brown moves the plot away from a feisty children’s playground and turns the heat up a notch. Golden Son equals fireworks of character development, epic plot twists, and a gut-wrenching cliffhanger ending that will rip your heart out and leave it there to dry. It is a multi-layered cake with politics, scheming, rebellion, alliances, friendship, and a sprinkle of romance. The word ‘Second Book Syndrome’ does not seem to exist in Brown’s vocabulary. 

“I’ll be Odysseus. You be Achilles.”
“Achilles dies in the end.”
“Then learn from his mistakes.”

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A Conjuring of Light by V.E. Schwab

A Conjuring of Light by V.E. SchwabA Conjuring of Light by V.E. Schwab
Series: Darker Shade of Magic #3
Published by Tor Books on February 21st, 2017
Genres: Adult, Fantasy
Pages: 624
Goodreads

Witness the fate of beloved heroes - and enemies.

THE BALANCE OF POWER HAS FINALLY TIPPED...
The precarious equilibrium among four Londons has reached its breaking point. Once brimming with the red vivacity of magic, darkness casts a shadow over the Maresh Empire, leaving a space for another London to rise.

WHO WILL CRUMBLE?
Kell - once assumed to be the last surviving Antari - begins to waver under the pressure of competing loyalties. And in the wake of tragedy, can Arnes survive?

WHO WILL RISE?
Lila Bard, once a commonplace - but never common - thief, has survived and flourished through a series of magical trials. But now she must learn to control the magic, before it bleeds her dry. Meanwhile, the disgraced Captain Alucard Emery of the Night Spire collects his crew, attempting a race against time to acquire the impossible.

WHO WILL TAKE CONTROL?
And an ancient enemy returns to claim a crown while a fallen hero tries to save a world in decay.

5 Stars

Writing reviews for your favourite books is difficult, which is why I have a hard time accurately expressing my feelings for A Conjuring of Light. One one hand, A Conjuring of Light was a masterpiece of action, magic, and romance. On the other hand, I feel incredibly biased towards this book, because I justify my 5 stars largely due to 1) feels and 2) having liked A Conjuring of Light better than A Gathering of Shadows which I awared 4.5 stars. Do you see my problem? Technically, A Conjuring of Light would’ve been a 4.5-star read, but by giving it 5 stars, I’d like to acknowledge that the issues I had with A Gathering of Shadows have disappeared into thin air in the final instalment. So now, let me introduce you to my feels.

Magic ran between them like a current, a cord, and he wondered who she would have been if she’d stayed in Grey London. If she’d never picked his pocket, never held the contents ransom for adventure.
Maybe she would never have discovered magic.
Or maybe she would have simply changed her world instead of his.

Well, I can tell you something for sure: I’d have missed out on a unique, epic, and swoon-worthy adventure if I hadn’t picked up A Darker Shade of Magic a couple of years ago. And it all started with my fascination for Kell’s coat. I enjoyed the first book, but was missing some more character depth and background. I enjoyed the second book, which improved in character-building, but at the expense of the plot. I enjoyed the third book, which got both of those right.

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Naondel by Maria Turtschaninoff

Naondel by Maria TurtschaninoffNaondel by Maria Turtschaninoff
Series: The Red Abbey Chronicles #2
Published by Pushkin Press on April 6th, 2017
Genres: Adult, Fantasy
Pages: 480
Goodreads

In the opulent palace of Ohaddin, women have one purpose - to obey. Some were brought here as girls, captured and enslaved; some as servants; some as wives. All of them must do what the Master tells them, for he wields a deadly and secret power. But the women have powers too. One is a healer. One can control dreams. One is a warrior. One can see everything that is coming. In their golden prison, the women wait. They plan. They write down their stories. They dream of a refuge, a safe place where girls can be free. And, finally, when the moon glows red, they will have their revenge.

3.5 Stars

Naondel reads like a mesh-up of A Thousand Nights and Memoirs of a Geisha. Like the former, it is a feminist testimony to the outward weakness but inward strength of women. Like the latter, it is filled with hardship, and struggles, and pain, which – balanced by the beautiful setting and writing – made this a bittersweet kind of read, both beautiful and dreadful.

Whilst marketed in the Teens & YA section on NetGalley, the content is brutal and devastating in both a psychological and physical way, and therefore unfit for a teen audience, in my opinion. Furthermore, this is a founding story, but in my estimation, the predecessor does not need to be read in order to understand the plot in this book.

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King’s Cage by Victoria Aveyard

King’s Cage by Victoria AveyardKing's Cage by Victoria Aveyard
Series: Red Queen #3
Published by HarperTeen on February 7th, 2017
Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy
Pages: 528
Goodreads

In this breathless third installment to Victoria Aveyard’s bestselling Red Queen series, allegiances are tested on every side. And when the Lightning Girl's spark is gone, who will light the way for the rebellion?

Mare Barrow is a prisoner, powerless without her lightning, tormented by her lethal mistakes. She lives at the mercy of a boy she once loved, a boy made of lies and betrayal. Now a king, Maven Calore continues weaving his dead mother's web in an attempt to maintain control over his country—and his prisoner.

As Mare bears the weight of Silent Stone in the palace, her once-ragtag band of newbloods and Reds continue organizing, training, and expanding. They prepare for war, no longer able to linger in the shadows. And Cal, the exiled prince with his own claim on Mare's heart, will stop at nothing to bring her back.

When blood turns on blood, and ability on ability, there may be no one left to put out the fire—leaving Norta as Mare knows it to burn all the way down.

3 Stars

In comparison to Glass Sword, the third instalment King’s Cage is an improvement. The atmosphere of this book is darker, more twisted, and far more electrifying than that of the previous two instalments, which sat well with me. Though far from being an amazing read, credit shall be given where credit is due.

The infamous, hitherto insufferable Mare Barrow has somehow re-entered my life, even though I had sworn to myself that I had written this series off for the eternity of time. Well, damn.

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Caraval by Stephanie Garber

Caraval by Stephanie GarberCaraval by Stephanie Garber
Series: Caraval #1
Published by Flatiron Books on January 31st, 2017
Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy
Pages: 407
Goodreads

Welcome, welcome to Caraval―Stephanie Garber’s sweeping tale of two sisters who escape their ruthless father when they enter the dangerous intrigue of a legendary game.

Scarlett has never left the tiny island where she and her beloved 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 far-away, 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. But she nevertheless becomes enmeshed in a game of love, heartbreak, and magic with the other players in the game. And whether Caraval is real or not, she must find Tella before the five nights of the game are over, a dangerous domino effect of consequences is set off, and her sister disappears forever.

2.5 Stars

Caraval could’ve made for an outstanding read, for the general storyline creates tension and the setting is enchanting. But the characters are neither memorable nor fleshed out and therefore cannot pull their weight. Considering how Garber throws around with colours in her prose, the characters remain astonishingly colourless.

Whatever you’ve heard about Caraval, it doesn’t compare to the reality. It’s more than just a game or performance. It’s the closest you’ll ever find to magic in this world.

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Traitor to the Throne by Alwyn Hamilton

Traitor to the Throne by Alwyn HamiltonTraitor to the Throne by Alwyn Hamilton
Series: Rebel of the Sands #2
Published by Faber & Faber on February 2nd, 2017
Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy
Pages: 512
Goodreads

This is not about blood or love. This is about treason.

Nearly a year has passed since Amani and the rebels won their epic battle at Fahali. Amani has come into both her powers and her reputation as the Blue-Eyed Bandit, and the Rebel Prince's message has spread across the desert - and some might say out of control. But when a surprise encounter turns into a brutal kidnapping, Amani finds herself betrayed in the cruellest manner possible.

Stripped of her powers and her identity, and torn from the man she loves, Amani must return to her desert-girl's instinct for survival. For the Sultan's palace is a dangerous one, and the harem is a viper's nest of suspicion, fear and intrigue. Just the right place for a spy to thrive... But spying is a dangerous game, and when ghosts from Amani's past emerge to haunt her, she begins to wonder if she can trust her own treacherous heart.

3.5 Stars

Traitor to the Throne is the highly anticipated sequel in the Rebel of the Sands trilogy. I cannot in all honesty say that I enjoyed the sequel less than the first book, even though Traitor to the Throne received a slightly lower rating from me. I have, however, become more critical of the literature I read. Traitor to the Throne was gripping, action-packed, and spun an intriguing plot, which was somewhat overshadowed by a rocky start of info-dumps and issues I had with the characters and world-building.

Idealists make great leaders, but they never make good rulers.

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The Emperor’s Edge by Lindsay Buroker

The Emperor’s Edge by Lindsay BurokerThe Emperor's Edge by Lindsay Buroker
Series: The Emperor's Edge #1
on December 22nd, 2010
Genres: Adult, Fantasy
Pages: 324
Goodreads

Don't miss out on the best-selling Emperor's Edge series (2013 Goodreads Choice Awards Nominee).

The adventure starts here...

Imperial law enforcer Amaranthe Lokdon is good at her job: she can deter thieves and pacify thugs, if not with a blade, then by toppling an eight-foot pile of coffee canisters onto their heads. But when ravaged bodies show up on the waterfront, an arson covers up human sacrifices, and a powerful business coalition plots to kill the emperor, she feels a tad overwhelmed.

Worse, Sicarius, the empire's most notorious assassin, is in town. He's tied in with the chaos somehow, but Amaranthe would be a fool to cross his path. Unfortunately, her superiors order her to hunt him down. Either they have an unprecedented belief in her skills... or someone wants her dead.

3 Stars

The Emperor’s Edge had been on my Kindle for almost a year, patiently waiting to be read. I bought it on a whim and because it was cheap. Don’t judge me. It turned out to be a nice, quick read, but nothing more than that unfortunately.

With The Emperor’s Edge, Buroker has written an entertaining fantasy novel with an enjoyable squad of outlaws at its centre, weaving a solid plot of mystery and court intrigue with a feminist touch. It would have, however, needed a polish to stand out amongst other fantasy works. Its biggest flaw was its utter mediocrity. There was nothing special to distinguish Buroker’s work from your average fantasy. Nonetheless, I had a good time with this book, even if a forgettable one. 

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