Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book from the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.
Many YA reimaginations of Faerie conjures up an impossibly beautiful wonderland, populated by beautiful lords ready to romance our mortal protagonist. Enter Holly Black: exacting in her portrayal of Faerie as a beautiful nightmare, inhabited by cruel and capricious creatures. This dark tale is a story with teeth, where ambition and vengeance drive the plot forward. For Jude, romance is less than an afterthought, especially if she wants to survive in a world hell-bent on diminishing her worth. The Cruel Prince is a story about a girl wrestling for control of her own narrative, and discovering that to fight monsters, she might have to become one.
Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book from Hachette Australia, all opinions are mine.
Note: This review will contain spoilers for the first Red Rising trilogy (including spoilers of the last book, Morning Star). I promise it will be absolutely spoiler-free for Iron Golditself! If you haven’t read the previous trilogy, what are you waiting for?! Go binge it immediately, it will be one of the best decisions you’ll make this year.
I can say with absolute certainty that the Red Rising trilogy is one of the best series I’ve ever read, and it’s one I regularly recommend to avid bookworms and reluctant readers alike. Aside from its gripping action and high-octane emotional drama, the series is populated by some of my fictional favourites. While I found Morning Star a wholly satisfying conclusion, I was pumped to discover Pierce Brown wanted to expand on the series. We’ve seen numerous fictional tyrannical empire fall before visionary young leaders, yet we rarely witness the aftermath of these upheavals. Iron Gold explores the conflict and unrest which continues to plague the newfound Republic a decade after its establishment.
“War eats the victors last.”
If the first trilogy is an examination of revolutions and wars, this sequel trilogy scrutinizes the slippery slope of governance and politics. In classic Red Rising manner, Iron Gold never deals in moral absolutes. The readers are shown numerous sides of every political debate, and I can appreciate the hefty weight that Mustang carries on her shoulders as the Sovereign of the new Republic. Similarly, Darrow faces a multitude of challenges as he’s simultaneously the ArchImperator of the Republic, and a living symbol of The Rising. Our heroes’s exploits during the The Rising have been made into legend in the decade that followed the fall of society, but we will soon find out that being living gods is a tough act when the fate of the Solar System hinges on your every decision.
Alongside with the challenges of governance, we also see Darrow grapple with being a father and a husband. One of Darrow’s most enduring trait throughout the series is his inability to choose, whether it’s he’s torn between his identity as someone who’s both Red and Gold – or picking between his duties to the Republic and his responsibilities to Mustang and his son, Pax. We also see several other characters struggle with the fine balancing act that comes with a family, most delightful of all being the Barca – Sevro and Victra both retains the essence of their character, honed all the sharper in their roles as parents.
On the flipside to the Republic, the book also follows Lysander and Cassius as they travel to the Rim of the system. The Rim is somewhere I’ve always wanted the first trilogy to explore in more details, so I felt gratified to see it in sharp focus during Lysander’s chapters. The culture of the Rim is derivative of Japanese traditions, in particular the honour codes of the samurai. I have to admit, I was a bit nervous to see the world building head towards this direction –thankfully the influences avoided cultural misappropriation by featuring more than stereotypes and aesthetics. Numerous new personalities emerge from the Rim, with my favourites being the two mother-daughter duo of Dido and Seraphina.
Another reason why I found Lysander’s chapter engaging was the philosophy by which he lived, as they are drastically different from my own. Although I don’t agree with his point of view, at times they infuriated me, I could always understand where he was coming from. I can’t wait to see where future books will take his character and his choices. A mirror to his own story arc, Lysander’s relationship with Cassius is fraught with contradiction and tension. Their brotherhood is tainted by mistrust and Cassius’s betrayal of the Golds ten years ago, yet strengthened by the time they spent in exile together. This series has such a knack for layered friendships and this one quickly became one of my favourites.
Two new voices are added in this series, and they both add another dimension of depth to the world of Red Rising. The first is Lyria of Lagalos, a Red been liberated from the mines – but finds herself shackled by poverty and prejudice that still plagues this new world. Her narration is filled with resentment towards Darrow and Mustang, along with the unfulfilled promises of the Republic. I loved her chapters, especially for the way Iron Gold incisively criticises the ongoing social injustices of the real world through it. The other point of view is Ephraim ti Horn, a Gray who once served in The Rising, but walked away once bloodshed and tragedies turned him cynical. Through his eyes, we see the underbelly of society, where gangsters and thieves are caught in an interplanetary web of crime and deceits. Ephraim is also the first main character in Red Rising to openly identify as gay, and I’m glad to see a step towards more inclusivity in this series.
The world building is expanded immensely in this book, yet it never gets in the way of the constant thrum of action. There are machinations from all sides, open-war and heart-stopping combat, betrayals and triumph, and underlying all of that – a deeply personal narrative about how difficult it is to remain a hero in a broken world. But they bloodydamn try, and I love them all for it.
As I said to CJ on twitter earlier on today, it’s not a Red Rising book unless you feel your very existence is being threatened while reading it. Iron Gold certainly fits that bill, so Howlers: brace yourselves and pray for your faves.
Please tell me whether you’ve read this series, and let me know your thoughts. However: No spoilers for Iron Gold in the comments please, or The Reaper himself will come for you with his slingBlade.
I also posted some phone wallpapers based on the book earlier on this week, check them out here!
NOTE: Post will contain mild SPOILERS for the first Red Rising trilogy! There are no spoilers for Iron Gold, beyond a few quotes you might have seen in other promotional materials.
Two graphics posts within a week is unprecedented, but I’ve been very lucky with my 2018 reads and have loved them enough to create edits. Iron Gold is the first of a new trilogy in the Red Rising series, and it’s a game-changer. I usually get series-fatigue with expanded trilogies, but Pierce Brown keeps me coming back for more with his addictive pacing and morally complex characters. I could go on for pages, but I’ll save it for my review, published next week!
Quotes belong to Howler alpha Pierce Brown, official character artwork by artist Magali Villeneuve.
The phone wallpapers are free for your personal use only.
Please do not edit, repost, redistribute the images.
They are made for iPhone 6, but should fit most smartphones.
“War eats the victors last.”
Darrow of Lykos is a living legend, after all, he is the man who led the Rising against the Republic. Ten years later, Darrow serves as an ArchImperator in the Republic he helped built – but victory did not guarantee him a happy ending. His journey in Iron Gold is an entanglement of internal conflicts and treacherous external pressures. The Reaper has never felt more human and fallible, and it makes for a damn good story.
Although Octavia au Lune is long dead, the powerful ghost of the old Society remains – whether it’s from the war against the Ash Lord, or in The Rim where the pyramid of Society stands unchallenged. Lysander’s narrative is one that I found simultaneously infuriating and utterly compelling, I’ll be back for more.
“They planted us in stones, watered us with pain, and now marvel we have thorns.’
Lyria of Lagalos presented us with my favourite quote from Iron Gold. Liberated with the rest of the Reds through the efforts of The Rising, Lyria and her kin found themselves shackled by bonds of a different sort: poverty, prejudice, and marginalisation by society. Her chapters are filled with rage, but they’re some of my favourites in the book.
Ephraim ti Horn is disenchanted by society and its promises, made cynical by the tragedies he’s seen unfold. His voice vastly differ from the other characters, and his actions unpredictable – he’s a wild card and I can’t wait for you all to meet him.
If it was not immediately obvious before, The Cruel Prince has now cemented Holly Black’s position as the Queen of Faeries. The Fair Folks in her books are glittering and magnetic, yet dangerous and deceitful. Even more compelling are her human characters, especially the ambitious and utterly flawed Jude. The Cruel Prince has glamoured me completely, so I did the predictable thing and selected some of my favourite quotes to present as phone wallpapers for you all!
Quotes belong to the brilliant Holly Black.
The phone wallpapers are free for your personal use only.
Please do not edit, repost, redistribute the images, or claim them as your own.
They are made for iPhone 6, but should fit most smartphones.
“If I cannot be better than them, I will become so much worse.”
This quote gave me legit chills. Jude is a true Slytherin queen, filled with ambitions and cunning — and she’s not afraid to seize life by the throat and take what she wants. We need more main characters like her in our bookshelves, please and thank you.
I love books that remind us fairy tales are filled with treachery and bloodshed, and The Cruel Prince exemplifies this in every sense of the world. It reminds us that princesses get their crowns by being survivors, whether it’s living through poisoned apples or enchanted sleep.
“If I can’t find a good enough story, I make one.”
Out of all the wicked and delightful lines spoken by Prince Cardan, this one is my favourite. I thought it was also served as a wonderful encouragement to all my writer friends out there – own the story you wish to see in the world, I can’t wait to read your works one day!
“Instead of being afraid, I could become something to fear.”
Jude, I can’t tell half the time whether she’s the heroine or the villain, and I love every moment of it. Where is the next book, I’m willing to make a bargain with the next fae prince I come across for it.
I’ve been in a little bit of a reading slump and blogging slump during the month of December. There’s been the usual end of year family visits and festivities – as well as the mad rush at the mall where I work, so I have not had as much time to read. However, making Best Of lists is one of my favourite blogging activities, so I knew I had to get this up despite the time constraints. I’ve read many brilliant books this year, and below are some of my favourites.
City of Brass by S. A. Chakraborty:This stunning and expansive debut novel is one of my absolute favourite fantasy reads of this year (sharing the crown with the equally impressive Jade City). An #ownvoices at its best, the book uses historical and cultural cues from the real world to invent a rich world where djinns and devas roam a mythic city – steeped in courtly intrigues and surreal wonders. I cannot wait to read Kingdom of Copper!
Jade City by Fonda Lee:I knew I needed this book in my life the moment I read the blurb hinting at clan wars and supernatural wuxia action. I got even more than I bargained for, along with the page-turning action and complex political treacheries – it was also populated with a cast of compelling characters. Also one of the most dimensional portrayal of sibling rivalries I have read.
Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor:One of the first books I read in 2017 and it remains one of the best. The writing in this book is achingly beautiful, weaving myth about a fabled city and a boy who grew up amongst books. Filled with monsters and magic, along with romance and tragedy – it has all of the signature elements that made me love Laini Taylor in the Daughter of Smoke and Bone series. Get this though, Strange the Dreamer is even BETTER than DOSAB.
Wild Beauty by Anna-Marie Mclemore:I tend to love all magical realism, so it’s little surprise that Anna-Marie is quickly becoming my favourite YA author. Wild Beauty is 100% my aesthetics: a quintet of cousins with the power over flowers, a boy without memories, a dark family curse dooming lovers to disappear. Beautifully written, filled with exquisite imageries, and best paired with a reading of Secrets of a Heart Note by Stacey Lee – another book about flowers and forbidden love that I enjoyed immensely.
Language of Thorns by Leigh Bardugo:I love a good fairy tale retelling, and this collection comes with several feminist reinvention of familiar tropes, made all the more delightful by the fact that the stories hail from the Grishaverse. While you can find a couple of these stories in previous publication, my favourite was Ayama and the Thorns, a new addition to this collection – hands down one of the best Beauty and the Beast retellings of all time. The book is also beautifully and thoughtfully illustrated, pick up the physical copy!
Girls Made of Snow and Glass by Melissa Bashadourst:A brilliant Snow White retelling that turns a story about a stepmother’s envy into a tale about the strength of women, especially when they are working together. I loved both the narrative voices, but I particularly relished in Mina’s chapters as she turned from girl to queen. Definitely one to pick up on a chilly winter night, especially if you enjoy immersive fairy tales.
Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtues by Mackenzi Lee:This book was just pure delight and absolute fun! Monty’s is simultaneously charming and utterly insufferable, I adored him! I also loved Percy and Felicity, the cast of characters possessed an enviable chemistry – I could read about the trio and their adventures for days. I especially recommend the audiobook – the narration by Christian Coulson (teenaged Tom Riddle in the second HP movie!) is utter perfection.
The Epic Crush of Genie Lo by F. C. Yee: This was just so much fun! The clever adaptation of a popular Chinese epic for the modern age, with characters that leaps off the page with their distinctive and larger-than-life personality. Genie is a protagonist you’ll absolutely one to root for, whether she’s trying to pass exam or save the world from hungry demons.
Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng:After reading this book, Celeste Ng has moved immediately into my small list of autobuy authors. I especially love the way she manages to imbue mundane tasks with so much beauty and emotional weight. This book documents the way middle-class suburbia systemically exclude everyone they consider to be an outsider, absolutely heartbreaking and powerful.
The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo:One of the best audiobooks I picked up this year. The book follows a fictional actress as she recounts her life story to a fledging journalist. It shows 1950-1970s Hollywood in all of its glamourous glory, as well as interrogate its inherent racism, sexism, and anti-homosexual attitude. I was captivated from the very first page, and Evelyn is one of the most intriguing protagonist of 2017.
Let me know if you’ve read any of them, or which you’re thinking of picking up! I wish you all a safe and happy new year 😀
Disclaimer: Nintendo owns Animal Crossing, this is a non-profit reading challenge organised by me.
The holiday season is almost upon us, and around here that means another reading challenge! In keeping with tradition, this one is themed around my latest obsession: Animal Crossing Pocket Camp. You’ll be reading books, completing tasks, making friends, and be surrounded by adorable animals – just like the game itself.
The camp will begin run between Sunday 10/December to Sunday 31/December, in whatever timezone you’re in. Sign up will be open for the entire period of the reading challenge, as I want to keep #ReadersCrossing as casual and free as the game it is based on. Continue reading “#ReadersCrossing Sign Up Post”→
Disclaimer: I received a review copy of this book from Hachette Australia in exchange for an honest review.
I read Jade City after a brief reading slump (thanks, Animal Crossing Pocket Camp!) and it was everything I needed to reignite my love for reading and losing myself in another world. Today I have both a book review and an author interview with Fonda Lee to share with you! You’ll find the interview at the end of the post, please check it out and give Fonda’s books some love!
Jade City is a boldly ambitious and culturally distinctive urban fantasy, merging gangster drama with wuxia flair to create a complex story about family, honour, and national pride. The book sets the bar sky-high on numerous fronts, whether it’s attentive character development, sensory stimulating fight scenes, or cut-throat political trade wars. However, what I loved most about Jade City is its carefully considered and provoking theme which ties jade to birthright, to power, to duty, and to family. I found the book’s exploration of identity in a nation ruled by jade and blood immensely moving and powerful. Continue reading “Book Review and Author Interview: Jade City”→
Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book from Hachette Australia in exchange for an honest review.
As a self-professed lover of fairy tales, their origins, and their reinvention, I was primed to love the whimsical and beautifully written collection of stories. Within these short stories readers will find tales imbued with the ghost of familiar fairy tales, intertwined in with historical facts that are stranger than fiction. The stories within this collection are driven by voices of the outcast, weaving the border between reality and fantasy, yet it remains consistently enchanting due to the beautiful imageries the writing conjures. The Beginning of the World in the Middle of the Night is a testament to the enduring power of fairy tales and their ability to withstand the test of time.
I’ll be reviewing some of my favourite stories within the collection below:
First Lines: “These days, you can find anything you need at the click of a button.
That’s why I bought her heart online.”
The collection is off to a powerful and haunting start with Animals, a story set in a world where fickle and impermanent human hearts can be exchanged for hearts of a different kind – ones made of glass, or hearts which once beat in the chest of another animal. Fixated on finding the perfect heart for his girlfriend, the narrator of this story orders the heart of a swan. What follows is a tale that examines love and possession, intermingled with passages about hearts and animals from both myth and history. It’s fairy tale retelling meets Frankenstein: raw and visceral, dark yet beautiful, filled with human thirst – in short, it’s the perfect way to begin this collection. Continue reading “Book Review: The Beginning of the World in the Middle of the Night”→
Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book from Pan Macmillan Australia in exchange for an honest review.
Girls Made of Snow and Glass is an exquisite retelling of Snow White, reinventing a tale about jealous queens and helpless maidens into a story of female empowerment. The familiar tale is dissected with precision and carefully imbued with new layers of complexities. The final result is a gorgeously rendered story about a glass queen and a snow princess, both working to defy the roles the men in their lives have forced upon them.
“If they love you for anything, it will be for your beauty.”
Mina first heard the phrase above when she was sixteen, in the same moment she learned she has a heart of glass – incapable of beating, and purportedly also unable to comprehend human love. Her father, Gregory, the power-obsessed magician who created the glass heart, is utterly convinced Mina is devoid of the potential for love. Instead, he persuades Mina that only her beauty can pave her way to any semblance of happiness. His words haunt Mina’s steps for several years, even as she becomes queen of the northern territories of Whitespring. As Mina ages, she can feel her youth and beauty slip from her. She becomes keenly aware of her precarious position in court as her stepdaughter, Lynet, blossom into the very image of her long-dead mother – the beloved queen Amelia. Continue reading “Book Review: Girls Made of Snow and Glass”→
Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book from Harper Voyager Australia in exchange for an honest review.
For me, City of Brass takes the title of Fantasy Debut of the Year. It contains an impressive and expansive world, populated by a cast of diverse and morally-complex characters. This is fantasy at its finest, imaginative and mesmerising, while also offering cutting commentary on the real world. There’s engaging action, compelling palace intrigues, slow burn romance, and everything else I could possibly love in fantasy – get this book into your hands!