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Invictus by Ryan Graudin

Invictus by Ryan GraudinInvictus by Ryan Graudin
Published by Orion Children's Books on Sept 21st, 2017
Genres: Young Adult, Sci-fi
Pages: 464
Goodreads

Time flies when you're plundering history.

Farway Gaius McCarthy was born outside of time. The son of a time-traveling Recorder from 2354 AD and a gladiator living in Rome in 95 AD, Far's birth defies the laws of nature. Exploring history himself is all he's ever wanted, and after failing his final time-traveling exam, Far takes a position commanding a ship with a crew of his friends as part of a black market operation to steal valuables from the past.

But during a heist on the sinking Titanic, Far meets a mysterious girl who always seems to be one step ahead of him. Armed with knowledge that will bring Far's very existence into question, she will lead Far and his team on a race through time to discover a frightening truth: History is not as steady as it seems.

In this heart-stopping adventure, Ryan Graudin has created a fast-paced world that defies time and space.

3 Stars

I’ve only read one other book by Ryan Graudin so far, and I experienced similar issues with Invictus as I did with The Walled City. I haven’t yet read Wolf by Wolf, which is supposed to be amazing, but so far, Ryan Graudin has not made into onto my auto-buy list. I was cautious going into this, as time travel is difficult to impress me with. There’s always a flaw in the logic but this was not what fell flat for me in this book.

Invictus is based on an interesting concept and Graudin knows how to infuse her stories with scraps of knowledge, like ancient treasures long forgotten and slivers of foreign languages. Her characters, albeit not generic, have little life to them, and this makes it very hard to connect with the story on an emotional level. It is this, far more than the sci-fi element I had difficulty wrapping my head around, that makes Invictus forgettable for me.

“Did you know there’s a German curse that literally translates as ‘heaven thunder weather’? Himmeldonnerwetter?”
“Germans have the best words.”

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Wonder Woman by Leigh Bardugo

Wonder Woman by Leigh BardugoWonder Woman by Leigh Bardugo
Series: DC Icons #1
Published by Random House on August 29th, 2017
Genres: Young Adult, Urban Fantasy, Sci-fi
Pages: 384
Goodreads

She will become one of the world’s greatest heroes: WONDER WOMAN. But first she is Diana, Princess of the Amazons. And her fight is just beginning. . . .

Diana longs to prove herself to her legendary warrior sisters. But when the opportunity finally comes, she throws away her chance at glory and breaks Amazon law—risking exile—to save a mere mortal. Even worse, Alia Keralis is no ordinary girl and with this single brave act, Diana may have doomed the world.

Alia just wanted to escape her overprotective brother with a semester at sea. She doesn’t know she is being hunted. When a bomb detonates aboard her ship, Alia is rescued by a mysterious girl of extraordinary strength and forced to confront a horrible truth: Alia is a Warbringer—a direct descendant of the infamous Helen of Troy, fated to bring about an age of bloodshed and misery.

Together, Diana and Alia will face an army of enemies—mortal and divine—determined to either destroy or possess the Warbringer. If they have any hope of saving both their worlds, they will have to stand side by side against the tide of war.

4 Stars

‘‘Sister in battle, I am shield and blade to you. As I breathe, your enemies will know no sanctuary. While I live, your cause is mine.’’

Going into Wonder Woman, I was both excited and apprehensive. Leigh Bardugo is one of my all-time favourite authors but I had hitherto only read fantasy novels written by her, never an urban fantasy/sci-fi and a superheroine origin story, at that.

Though Wonder Woman doesn’t read like Shadow and Bone or Six of Crows, I’m now convinced this woman can write any genre. Her magic for writing multi-layered characters, sassy dialogue, and electrifying plot twists will never cease to amaze me! Leigh Bardugo can do no wrong. 

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The Library of Fates by Aditi Khorana

The Library of Fates by Aditi KhoranaThe Library of Fates by Aditi Khorana
Published by Razorbill on July 18th, 2017
Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy
Pages: 354
Goodreads

A romantic coming-of-age fantasy tale steeped in Indian folklore, perfect for fans of The Star-Touched Queen and The Wrath and the Dawn.

No one is entirely certain what brings the Emperor Sikander to Shalingar. Until now, the idyllic kingdom has been immune to his many violent conquests. To keep the visit friendly, Princess Amrita has offered herself as his bride, sacrificing everything—family, her childhood love, and her freedom—to save her people. But her offer isn't enough.

The unthinkable happens, and Amrita finds herself a fugitive, utterly alone but for an oracle named Thala, who was kept by Sikander as a slave and managed to escape amid the chaos of a palace under siege. With nothing and no one else to turn to, Amrita and Thala are forced to rely on each other. But while Amrita feels responsible for her kingdom and sets out to warn her people, the newly free Thala has no such ties. She encourages Amrita to go on a quest to find the fabled Library of All Things, where it is possible for each of them to reverse their fates. To go back to before Sikander took everything from them.

Stripped of all that she loves, caught between her rosy past and an unknown future, will Amrita be able to restore what was lost, or does another life—and another love—await?

2 Stars

I read an excerpt on NetGalley and it captivated me immediately, so I decided to read the book. I am a puddle of disappointment, to say the least. I was unbelievably bored and the opposite of invested in the characters’ fates and the world. With the tale of the trees being chopped down at the start, Khorana also clearly advocates for climate change and nature awareness, which sounds amazing, doesn’t it? Unfortunately, this book was a balloon of hot air – there is no other way to describe it.

The Library of Fates plays with an intriguing concept, namely the mash-up of a fantasy kingdom with the historical world, and entails a lot of elements from Indian mythology. The intriguing storyline I discovered within the first five chapters, however, turned into a wild goose chase with little substance. Instead of a captivating story, I got me some insta-love, underwhelming plot twists, and a rushed climax. I wish I could say I liked this more, as I was so excited for this coming-of-age fantasy with Indian falklore, but The Library of Fates was not for me, at all.

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The Last Namsara by Kristen Ciccarelli

The Last Namsara by Kristen CiccarelliThe Last Namsara by Kristen Ciccarelli
Series: Iskari #1
Published by Gollancz on October 5th, 2017
Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy
Pages: 304
Goodreads

A gripping YA crossover series from a spectacular new voice in the genre.

Once there was a girl who was drawn to wicked things.

Asha is a dragon-slayer. Reviled by the very people she's sworn to protect, she kills to atone for the wicked deed she committed as a child - one that almost destroyed her city, and left her with a terrible scar.

But protecting her father's kingdom is a lonely destiny: no matter how many dragons she kills, her people still think she's wicked.

Even worse, to unite the fractured kingdom she must marry Jarek, the cruel commandant. As the wedding day approaches, Asha longs for freedom.

Just when it seems her fate is sealed, the king offers her a way out: her freedom in exchange for the head of the most powerful dragon in Firgaard.

And the only person standing in her way is a defiant slave boy . . .

THE LAST NAMSARA is an extraordinary story about courage, loyalty and star-crossed love, set in a kingdom that trembles on the edge of war.

4 Stars

I decided not to re-read the premise prior to picking up The Last Namsara but go in completely blind, and it was the best decision I could’ve made. This debut took me by surprise in the way it drew me into its world of dragons, gods, and magic stories. I WAS SO DOWN FOR THE DRAGONS. I definitely got some How To Train Your Dragons vibes from this, guys. Move aside Eragon, The Last Namsara has come to claim your place.

At first glance, The Last Namsara seems like your generic Young Adult fantasy, and I thought I’d grown tired of those. However, something about this book pulled me in. I was intrigued by the feisty but troubled main character, the character dynamics, the forbidden romance, and the gripping plot. Objectively, I could give a slightly lower rating due to the issues I had, but The Last Namsara had me so invested, racing through it within a couple of hours, that I cannot but give it 4 stars.

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The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

The Hate U Give by Angie ThomasThe Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
Published by Balzer + Bray on February 28th, 2017
Genres: Young Adult, Contemporary
Pages: 444
Goodreads

Sixteen-year-old Starr Carter moves between two worlds: the poor neighborhood where she lives and the fancy suburban prep school she attends. The uneasy balance between these worlds is shattered when Starr witnesses the fatal shooting of her childhood best friend Khalil at the hands of a police officer. Khalil was unarmed.

Soon afterward, his death is a national headline. Some are calling him a thug, maybe even a drug dealer and a gangbanger. Protesters are taking to the streets in Khalil's name. Some cops and the local drug lord try to intimidate Starr and her family. What everyone wants to know is: what really went down that night? And the only person alive who can answer that is Starr.

But what Starr does or does not say could upend her community. It could also endanger her life.

5 Stars

The Hate U Give instantly made the list of my favourite reads of 2017. You won’t find a lot of 5 stars among my ratings but this one was a no-brainer. I’d been expecting great things of Angie Thomas when this release was first announced, as it tackles an emotionally-charged topic in the US, and it did not disappoint.

When I was twelve, my parents had two talks with me. One was the usual birds and the bees. The other talk was about what to do if a cop stopped me.

This refreshing, daunting new voice deserves all the hype it’s getting. A lot of authors address and confront hard and controversial topics in their works, but Angie Thomas had her finger on the pulse of time with her debut. With its raw, realistic, and authentic narration, The Hate U Give tackles racism and the police violence related to it, but it digs far deeper than that – it uncovers a flaw rooted in our society. It takes a great deal of courage to make us and the world we live in look into a mirror, and Angie Thomas accomplished just that. No wonder so many readers said this book changed their lives.

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Daughter of the Burning City by Amanda Foody

Daughter of the Burning City by Amanda FoodyDaughter of the Burning City by Amanda Foody
Published by Harlequin on September 7th, 2017
Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy
Pages: 416
Goodreads

A darkly irresistible new fantasy set in the infamous Gomorrah Festival, a traveling carnival of debauchery that caters to the strangest of dreams and desires.

Sixteen-year-old Sorina has spent most of her life within the smoldering borders of the Gomorrah Festival. Yet even among the many unusual members of the traveling circus-city, Sorina stands apart as the only illusion-worker born in hundreds of years. This rare talent allows her to create illusions that others can see, feel and touch, with personalities all their own. Her creations are her family, and together they make up the cast of the Festival’s Freak Show.

But no matter how lifelike they may seem, her illusions are still just that—illusions, and not truly real. Or so she always believed…until one of them is murdered.

Desperate to protect her family, Sorina must track down the culprit and determine how they killed a person who doesn’t actually exist. Her search for answers leads her to the self-proclaimed gossip-worker Luca, and their investigation sends them through a haze of political turmoil and forbidden romance, and into the most sinister corners of the Festival. But as the killer continues murdering Sorina’s illusions one by one, she must unravel the horrifying truth before all of her loved ones disappear.

2.5 Stars

“But you’re an illusion,” I say. “I created you.”
“That doesn’t mean I’m not real.”

I’d been head over heels for this book ever since reading the premise – a notorious festival, charms and jynxes, illusions that can be killed – and I was beyond excited when our blog was accepted for an electronic ARC of this debut. Well, let’s say my heels broke and I fell face-first into the dirt.

Daughter of the Burning City had so much potential, so many brilliant ideas and magical elements which sparked my curiosity, but the execution failed to make those ideas shine. Foody’s imagination is enchanting but she didn’t turn her interesting ideas into a captivating story.

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A Jigsaw of Fire and Stars by Yaba Badoe

A Jigsaw of Fire and Stars by Yaba BadoeA Jigsaw of Fire and Stars Published by Zephyr on September 7th, 2017
Genres: Young Adult, Contemporary, Magical Realism
Pages: 278
Goodreads

A powerful, haunting, contemporary debut that steps seamlessly from the horrors of people-trafficking to the magic of African folklore, by an award-winning Ghanaian-British filmmaker.

Sante was a baby when she was washed ashore in a sea-chest laden with treasure. It seems she is the sole survivor of the tragic sinking of a ship carrying migrants and refugees. Her people.

Fourteen years on she's a member of Mama Rose's unique and dazzling circus. But, from their watery grave, the unquiet dead are calling Sante to avenge them:

A bamboo flute. A golden bangle. A ripening mango which must not fall... if Sante is to tell their story and her own.

Rich in the rhythms and colours of Africa and glittering circus days. Unflinching in its dark revelations about life. Yaba Badoe's novel is beautiful and cruel and will linger long in the memory.

3.5 Stars

I had heard little to nothing about A Jigsaw of Fire and Stars prior to requesting it on NetGalley. I’ve been trying to expand my reading of literature by authors of cultures foreign to my own and the book’s premise spoke to me, so I was more than delighted than we’d been accepted for this novel.

A Jigsaw of Fire and Stars is pitched as a contemporary but I believe magical or animist realism describes it best. The story combines contemporary themes such as people-trafficking, the flow of refugees from Africa to Europe, and the search for identity and belonging with magical elements of African folklore.

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When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon

When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya MenonWhen Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon
on May 30th, 2017
Genres: Young Adult, Contemporary
Pages: 384
Goodreads

The arranged marriage YA romcom you didn't know you wanted or needed...

Meet Dimple.

Her main aim in life is to escape her traditional parents, get to university and begin her plan for tech world domination.

Meet Rishi.

He's rich, good-looking and a hopeless romantic. His parents think Dimple is the perfect match for him, but she's got other plans...

Dimple and Rishi may think they have each other figured out. But when opposites clash, love works even harder to prove itself in the most unexpected ways.

As joyfully refreshing as Rainbow Rowell, Jenny Han and Nicola Yoon, When Dimple Met Rishi is a frothy, funny contemporary romance told from the dual perspectives of two Indian American protagonists. While Dimple is fighting her family traditions, Rishi couldn't be happier to follow in the footsteps of his parents - could sparks fly between this odd couple, or is this matchmaking attempt doomed to fail?

4 Stars

That moment you realize you’ve been reading a lot of fantasy because you tried to create a section “world-building” for a contemporary (I realized that, unless I was going to judge how well the university campus was described, I wasn’t going to get very far). In the premise on GR, it says, The arranged marriage YA romcom you didn’t know you wanted or needed… Well, I sure knew I wanted it but I didn’t know I needed it. Apparently, I did. This was the perfect read for my exam phase at uni – light but hooking.

When Dimple Met Rishi was one of my most anticipated releases in the contemporary genre, partly because it sounded cute, but mostly because I expected get a great #OwnVoices view on Indian culture. This debut did not disappoint. It may have had some rough edges, since this is Menon’s first novel, but it was every bit the cute and diverse read I expected it to be. 

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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 meet my expectations for this anticipated release. The book’s strong suit was its character dynamics, its feminist touch, and its setting. I’m also a big fan of the girl-disguised-as-boy narrative. However, there’s a lot potential for improvement, be it the depth of the characterisations, 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 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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