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Now I Rise by Kiersten White

Now I Rise by Kiersten WhiteNow I Rise by Kiersten White
Published by Delacorte Press on June 27th, 2017
Genres: Young Adult, Historical Fiction, Retelling
Pages: 471
Goodreads

She has no allies. No throne. All she has is what she’s always had: herself.

After failing to secure the Wallachian throne, Lada Dracul is out to punish anyone who dares to cross her blood-strewn path. Filled with a white-hot rage, she storms the countryside with her men, accompanied by her childhood friend Bogdan, terrorizing the land. But brute force isn’t getting Lada what she wants. And thinking of Mehmed brings little comfort to her thorny heart. There’s no time to wonder whether he still thinks about her, even loves her. She left him before he could leave her.

What Lada needs is her younger brother Radu’s subtlety and skill. But Mehmed has sent him to Constantinople—and it’s no diplomatic mission. Mehmed wants control of the city, and Radu has earned an unwanted place as a double-crossing spy behind enemy lines. Radu longs for his sister’s fierce confidence—but for the first time in his life, he rejects her unexpected plea for help. Torn between loyalties to faith, to the Ottomans, and to Mehmed, he knows he owes Lada nothing. If she dies, he could never forgive himself—but if he fails in Constantinople, will Mehmed ever forgive him?

As nations fall around them, the Dracul siblings must decide: what will they sacrifice to fulfill their destinies? Empires will topple, thrones will be won…and souls will be lost.

5 Stars

“Do not lose that hunger. You will always have to fight for everything. Even when you already have it, you will have to keep fighting to maintain it. You will have to be more ruthless, more brutal, more everything. Any weakness will undo everything you have accomplished. They will see any crack as evidence that they were right that a woman cannot do what you do.”

If you’re looking for a Young Adult novel that combines a Vlad the Impaler reimagining with a rich historical setting and a glorious feminist storyline, then The Conqueror’s Saga is your address. This series excites with multi-layered characters and fascinating character dynamics, intriguing political/war schemes and engaging personal endeavours. And I Darken was a slow build-up but I was really intrigued, especially by the sibling leads. The book’s ending gave me a hint that I was going to like where Kiersten White was headed with this story, and I was right.

Though Now I Rise is split into Lada’s and Radu’s separate storylines, it does not feel like a filler book. Compared to And I Darken, the sequel is grittier and bloodier. The stakes are raised, as each sibling yearns and fights to be something their harsh world will not permit them to be.

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Prince of Shadows by Rachel Caine

Prince of Shadows by Rachel CainePrince of Shadows by Rachel Caine
Published by NAL on February 4th, 2014
Genres: Young Adult, Historical Fiction
Pages: 368
Goodreads

In the Houses of Montague and Capulet, there is only one goal: power. The boys are born to fight and die for honor and—if they survive—marry for influence and money, not love. The girls are assets, to be spent wisely. Their wishes are of no import. Their fates are written on the day they are born.

Benvolio Montague, cousin to Romeo, knows all this. He expects to die for his cousin, for his house, but a spark of rebellion still lives inside him. At night, he is the Prince of Shadows, the greatest thief in Verona—and he risks all as he steals from House Capulet. In doing so, he sets eyes on convent-bound Rosaline, and a terrible curse begins that will claim the lives of many in Verona…

… And will rewrite all their fates, forever.

4.5 Stars

I’ve only read one other novel by Rachel Caine, and Ink and Bone sorely disappointed me. So when I picked up Prince of Shadows, realizing only halfway through the book by whom it had been written, I was pleasantly surprised. Because this book was amazing. Now, let me tell you about my feels because I have many.

Let it be known that I love retellings, especially those that expand an original beyond its horizon. This Romeo and Juliet retelling was enriched by the point of view of Benvolio Montague, Romeo’s (much more reasonable) cousin. Prince of Shadows combines an engaging narrator (yes, Benvolio Montague is my dreamboat), a dark atmosphere set in the streets of Verona (yes, Verona is a gem of Italy) and poetic prose that makes the historical setting come to life.

First of all, how can I not fall in love with a Romeo and Juliet retelling that commences with trespassing and thoughts of murder? How, I ask you? Simply impossible.

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The Forbidden Wish by Jessica Khoury

The Forbidden Wish by Jessica KhouryThe Forbidden Wish by Jessica Khoury
Series: The Forbidden Wish #1
Published by Razorbill on February 23rd 2016
Genres: Fantasy, Retelling, Young Adult
Goodreads

She is the most powerful Jinni of all. He is a boy from the streets. Their love will shake the world...

When Aladdin discovers Zahra's jinni lamp, Zahra is thrust back into a world she hasn't seen in hundreds of years—a world where magic is forbidden and Zahra's very existence is illegal. She must disguise herself to stay alive, using ancient shape-shifting magic, until her new master has selected his three wishes.

But when the King of the Jinn offers Zahra a chance to be free of her lamp forever, she seizes the opportunity—only to discover she is falling in love with Aladdin. When saving herself means betraying him, Zahra must decide once and for all: is winning her freedom worth losing her heart?

As time unravels and her enemies close in, Zahra finds herself suspended between danger and desire in this dazzling retelling of Aladdin from acclaimed author Jessica Khoury

3 Stars

The Forbidden Wish is a cute, romantic Aladdin retelling wherein the Jinni is a girl and she and her lamp-holder fall in love. It was entertaining and well-written but didn’t strike me as particularly intriguing or overly exciting. Still, I generally enjoyed the fresh take on an old story even if I was left a bit underwhelmed after all the raving reviews.

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Wintersong by S. Jae-Jones

Wintersong by S. Jae-JonesWintersong by S. Jae-Jones
Published by Thomas Dunne on February 7th 2016
Genres: Young Adult, Urban Fantasy, Retelling
Pages: 448
Goodreads

Beware the goblin men and the wares they sell.

All her life, nineteen-year-old Liesl has heard tales of the beautiful, mysterious Goblin King. He is the Lord of Mischief, the Ruler Underground, and the muse around which her music is composed. Yet, as Liesl helps shoulder the burden of running her family’s inn, her dreams of composition and childish fancies about the Goblin King must be set aside in favor of more practical concerns.

But when her sister Käthe is taken by the goblins, Liesl journeys to their realm to rescue her sister and return her to the world above. The Goblin King agrees to let Käthe go—for a price. The life of a maiden must be given to the land, in accordance with the old laws. A life for a life, he says. Without sacrifice, nothing good can grow. Without death, there can be no rebirth. In exchange for her sister’s freedom, Liesl offers her hand in marriage to the Goblin King. He accepts.

Down in the Underground, Liesl discovers that the Goblin King still inspires her—musically, physically, emotionally. Yet even as her talent blossoms, Liesl’s life is slowly fading away, the price she paid for becoming the Goblin King’s bride. As the two of them grow closer, they must learn just what it is they are each willing to sacrifice: her life, her music, or the end of the world.

3 Stars

Wintersong is like a dark, haunting, yet sweet melody, inspired by Goethe’s German ballad Der Erlkönig. Though the characterisation entails common tropes and the romance is problematic for me, this debut excites with flawed and wicked characters, a gloomy atmosphere, and magnificent writing.

She turned around. My sister’s lips glistened — red, sticky, and sweet — her pout swollen as though she had just been thoroughly kissed.
In her hands was a half-eaten peach, its flesh dripping down her fingers like rivulets of blood.

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My Lady Jane by Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton and Jodi Meadows

My Lady Jane by Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton and Jodi MeadowsMy Lady Jane by Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, Jodi Meadows
Published by HarperTeen on June 7th 2016
Genres: Historical Fiction, Fantasy, Retelling, Young Adult
Pages: 494
Goodreads

Edward (long live the king) is the King of England. He’s also dying, which is inconvenient, as he’s only sixteen and he’d much rather be planning for his first kiss than considering who will inherit his crown…

Jane (reads too many books) is Edward’s cousin, and far more interested in books than romance. Unfortunately for Jane, Edward has arranged to marry her off to secure the line of succession. And there’s something a little odd about her intended…

Gifford (call him G) is a horse. That is, he’s an Eðian (eth-y-un, for the uninitiated). Every day at dawn he becomes a noble chestnut steed—but then he wakes at dusk with a mouthful of hay. It’s all very undignified.

The plot thickens as Edward, Jane, and G are drawn into a dangerous conspiracy. With the fate of the kingdom at stake, our heroes will have to engage in some conspiring of their own. But can they pull off their plan before it’s off with their heads?

2.5 Stars

When I read the synopsis for My Lady Jane, I mentally immediately filed it under “not my thing”. I don’t really enjoy historical fiction set in the Tudor era and books about royalty are usually a miss as well. Also, all the reviewers described this book as extremely funny; again, not really what I’m normally interested in.

But then more reviews started rolling in and some of my GR friends personally recommended it to me. I got interested and decided I would pick it up whenever I needed something that would put me in a good mood.

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Tiger Lily by Jodi Lynn Anderson

Tiger Lily by Jodi Lynn AndersonTiger Lily by Jodi Lynn Anderson
Published by HarperTeen on July 3rd 2012
Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy, Retelling
Pages: 292
Goodreads

In this stunning re-imagining of J. M. Barrie's beloved classic Peter Pan, New York Times bestselling author Jodi Lynn Anderson expertly weaves a gripping tale of love, loss, and adventure.

Before Peter Pan belonged to Wendy, he belonged to the girl with the crow feather in her hair… Tiger Lily. When fifteen-year-old Tiger Lily meets the alluring teenage Peter Pan deep in the forbidden woods of Neverland, the two form a bond that's impossible to break, but also impossible to hold on to. As the leader of the Lost Boys, the most fearsome of Neverland's inhabitants, Peter is an unthinkable match for Tiger Lily. However, when Wendy Darling, a girl who is everything Tiger Lily is not, arrives on the island, Tiger Lily discovers how far she is willing to go to keep Peter with her, and in Neverland.

Told from the perspective of tiny, fairy-sized Tinkerbell, Tiger Lily is the breathtaking story of budding romance, letting go and the pains of growing up.

4.5 Stars

Tiger Lily is a brilliantly imagined alternative twist to the Peter Pan tale. The novel takes you on a dazzling journey of friendship, captivating first love, and to the pits of writhing jealousy and hollowing loneliness.

This is a love story, but not like any you’ve ever heard. The boy and the girl are far from innocent. Dear lives are lost. And good doesn’t win.

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The Rose & the Dagger by Renée Ahdieh

The Rose & the Dagger by Renée AhdiehThe Rose & the Dagger by Renée Ahdieh
Series: The Wrath & the Dawn #2
Published by G.P. Putnam's Sons Books for Young Readers on April 26th 2016
Genres: Fantasy, Retelling, Young Adult
Pages: 416
Goodreads

The darker the sky, the brighter the stars.

In a land on the brink of war, Shahrzad is forced from the arms of her beloved husband, the Caliph of Khorasan. She once thought Khalid a monster—a merciless killer of wives, responsible for immeasurable heartache and pain—but as she unraveled his secrets, she found instead an extraordinary man and a love she could not deny. Still, a curse threatens to keep Shazi and Khalid apart forever.

Now she’s reunited with her family, who have found refuge in the desert, where a deadly force is gathering against Khalid—a force set on destroying his empire and commanded by Shazi’s spurned childhood sweetheart. Trapped between loyalties to those she loves, the only thing Shazi can do is act. Using the burgeoning magic within her as a guide, she strikes out on her own to end both this terrible curse and the brewing war once and for all. But to do it, she must evade enemies of her own to stay alive.

The saga that began with The Wrath and the Dawn takes its final turn as Shahrzad risks everything to find her way back to her one true love again.

3.5 Stars

It was because they were two parts of a whole. He did not belong to her. And she did not belong to him. It was never about belonging to someone. It was about belonging together.

This book was so difficult for me to rate and review for a couple of reasons:
1. I loved The Wrath & the Dawn and it was one of my favourite books of 2015 so I was extremely pumped for The Rose & the Dagger and had really high expectations.
2. I was in a reading slump when I read this and I never know how much that impacts the way I perceive a book.
3. This book took me forever to read. More than a month if I remember correctly which is very unusual for me, especially when I didn’t have university during that time.

Having said that, I did really enjoy The Rose & the Dagger and I wouldn’t call it a disappointment but it did leave me feeling…underwhelmed. In hindsight I now wonder, if perhaps I remember TWatD as being better than it actually was or if this book was in fact not as good as the first one. I don’t know, but as it stands, I enjoyed The Rose & the Dagger and consider it a worthy follow-up, but I didn’t love it.

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The Child Thief by Brom

The Child Thief by BromThe Child Thief by Brom
Published by Harper Voyager on August 25th 2009
Genres: Fantasy, Retelling
Pages: 476
Goodreads

Peter is quick, daring, and full of mischief—and like all boys, he loves to play, though his games often end in blood. His eyes are sparkling gold, and when he graces you with his smile you are his friend for life, but his promised land is not Neverland.
Fourteen-year-old Nick would have been murdered by the drug dealers preying on his family had Peter not saved him. Now the irresistibly charismatic wild boy wants Nick to follow him to a secret place of great adventure, where magic is alive and you never grow old. Even though he is wary of Peter's crazy talk of faeries and monsters, Nick agrees. After all, New York City is no longer safe for him, and what more could he possibly lose?

There is always more to lose.

Accompanying Peter to a gray and ravished island that was once a lush, enchanted paradise, Nick finds himself unwittingly recruited for a war that has raged for centuries—one where he must learn to fight or die among the "Devils," Peter's savage tribe of lost and stolen children.

There, Peter's dark past is revealed: left to wolves as an infant, despised and hunted, Peter moves restlessly between the worlds of faerie and man. The Child Thief is a leader of bloodthirsty children, a brave friend, and a creature driven to do whatever he must to stop the "Flesh-eaters" and save the last, wild magic in this dying land.

5 Stars

“The darkness is calling. A little danger, a little risk. Feel your heart race. Listen to it. That’s the sound of being alive. It’s your time, Nick. Your one chance to have fun before it’s all stolen by them, the adults, with their cruelty and endless rules, their can’t-do-this, and can’t-do-that’s, their have-tos, and better-dos, their little boxes and cages all designed to break your spirit, to kill your magic”.

I loved it. I loved it. I loved it. I seriously struggled writing this review because every time I think of this book I become a gushing, ineloquent mess. This book reminded me of what it means to be a total fangirl.

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Bone Gap by Laura Ruby

Bone Gap by Laura RubyBone Gap by Laura Ruby
Published by Balzer + Bray on March 3rd 2015
Genres: Magical Realism, Retelling, Young Adult
Pages: 373
Goodreads

Everyone knows Bone Gap is full of gaps—gaps to trip you up, gaps to slide through so you can disappear forever. So when young, beautiful Roza went missing, the people of Bone Gap weren’t surprised. After all, it wasn’t the first time that someone had slipped away and left Finn and Sean O’Sullivan on their own. Just a few years before, their mother had high-tailed it to Oregon for a brand new guy, a brand new life. That’s just how things go, the people said. Who are you going to blame?

Finn knows that’s not what happened with Roza. He knows she was kidnapped, ripped from the cornfields by a dangerous man whose face he cannot remember. But the searches turned up nothing, and no one believes him anymore. Not even Sean, who has more reason to find Roza than anyone, and every reason to blame Finn for letting her go.

As we follow the stories of Finn, Roza, and the people of Bone Gap—their melancholy pasts, their terrifying presents, their uncertain futures—acclaimed author Laura Ruby weaves a heartbreaking tale of love and loss, magic and mystery, regret and forgiveness—a story about how the face the world sees is never the sum of who we are.

5 Stars

“People look, they don’t see.”

Just thinking about this incredible book I finished a few days ago brings back all the emotions I felt while reading. Bone Gap is honestly a masterpiece and I don’t say that lightly. It is however, also a very difficult book to review.

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Of Metal and Wishes by Sarah Fine

Of Metal and Wishes by Sarah FineOf Metal and Wishes by Sarah Fine
Series: Of Metal and Wishes #1
Published by Margaret K. McElderry Books on August 5th 2014
Genres: Fantasy, Young Adult, Retelling
Pages: 321
Goodreads

There are whispers of a ghost in the slaughterhouse where sixteen-year-old Wen assists her father in his medical clinic—a ghost who grants wishes to those who need them most. When one of the Noor, men hired as cheap factory labor, humiliates Wen, she makes an impulsive wish of her own, and the Ghost grants it. Brutally.

Guilt-ridden, Wen befriends the Noor, including their outspoken leader, a young man named Melik. At the same time, she is lured by the mystery of the Ghost and learns he has been watching her... for a very long time.

As deadly accidents fuel tensions within the factory, Wen must confront her growing feelings for Melik, who is enraged at the sadistic factory bosses and the prejudice faced by his people at the hand of Wen’s, and her need to appease the Ghost, who is determined to protect her against any threat—real or imagined. She must decide whom she can trust, because as her heart is torn, the factory is exploding around her... and she might go down with it.

2 Stars

Do you ever read and a book and think that technically you’re supposed to love everything about it, but you just somehow find yourself completely detached from everything and everyone? That’s what happened to me while reading Of Metal and Wishes. The premise sounded like something I would really enjoy (a Phantom of the Opera retelling? Count me in!) and the story contained intriguing elements (Chinese influence, a slaughterhouse setting) but I didn’t care what would happen to any of the characters and was bored throughout.

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