I have been blessed with an ARC of THE BURNING GOD, thank you to Rebecca and publishing royalty Natasha Bardon! But before I dived in I wanted to relive the pains and tribulation of The Dragon Republic. I have read The Poppy War at least 5 times so it’s imprinted into my memory, but The Dragon Republic came out at a busy time in my life and I’ve only read it once.
I know I haven’t been able to complete my The Poppy War reread with you all, but while I read The Dragon Republic I wanted to get my thoughts down.
This post will cover up to chapter 7, including the Prologue, it will contain spoilers for all of The Dragon Republic and The Poppy War so please read those two books first before joining me!
CONTENT WARNINGS: The following chapters contain death of a child, death of a sibling, PTSD, addiction, self-harm, racism, allusion to genocide.
I was instantly drawn to A Song of Wraiths and Ruin (henceforth referred to as ASOWAR) the moment I saw its majestic cover. Karina and her billowing green dress, coupled with the powerful typography, is hard to pass. For a debut novel, ASOWAR is accomplished in the complexity of its world building, and the multifaceted characterisation of its two protagonists.
From the start, ASOWAR draws its readers into a detailed and carefully constructed world filled with gods and monsters inspired by West African mythology. Although sorting people into arbitrary groups is an oft-time tired staple of SFF, I enjoyed the alignment system in ASOWAR, and how it was applied to the Champion and other key elements in the book. The history of Ziran and beyond was also intrinsically linked to the plot itself, making its exposition feel natural, although at times overwhelming.
ASOWAR is a fine example of a great YA Fantasy, where the focus is as much on the individual character’s internal journey as it is on grander physical stakes. The two protagonists in ASOWAR, Malik and Karina, had vastly distinctive voices that complemented each other. Karina is fiery yet cynical, Malik is earnest and hopeful, and when they finally meet the two serves as foil for one another. I particularly enjoyed Karina’s chapters, as she was a clear agent driving the forces in her story, owning every flaw and mistake. Malik was also a rare YA hero, sensitive and deeply considerate. His chapters also deal with his anxiety issues particularly well, and I am glad to see a neuroatypical protagonist in a fantasy.
Initially pitched as “What if Jasmine and Aladdin tried to kill each other?”, the romance in this book strive to hit all the expectations that the pitch promises: natural enemies to lovers, pauper and princess, pining and betrayal, the collisions of two vastly different worlds. However, though I enjoyed the characters individually, I found their chemistry lacking when they finally meet. Personally, I am particular about my enemies to lovers, I want there to be as much angst and pain as there is love. Karina and Malik did not have enough history between them to make their conflict believable, and the book had me wondering about their commitments to their respective mother and sister rather than rooting for their romance.
Although I was not wholly invested in the romance, I rooted for all the non-romantic relationships. The book had a way in making you care for the familial relationships, whether it’s the blood bond between Malik and his siblings, or Karina with the servants she grew up with as children. As Malik and Karina’s journey began with their goal to rescue their family members from the clutches of death, the strength of these bonds kept me turning the pages.
ASOWAR also kept me turning the pages with its excellent pacing and synchrony between the two POV chapters. The final 100 pages of the book left me on the edge of my seat and upturned several expectations I had for the book. Needless to say, I eagerly anticipate the sequel.
Overall, this is a YA Fantasy with great worldbuilding and characters, although I did not love the romance. What have you been reading?
Hi all, it’s been almost an entire year since I have updated this blog. 2019 was a whirlwind for me, I became a business owner, a first home owner, and moved into the suburbs for the first time in a decade. 2020 has been catastrophic for reasons you can all relate to, but there’s been some joy mixed in as well: I got engaged, we got our first pets – two adorable kitties named Magnus and Coco who I have plastered all over social media. All in all, I have not had the time to consistently read, let alone write reviews or make graphics. Slowly but surely, I am finding my feet again, and would like to reclaim this corner of the internet — especially as I have already paid for the domain name for the coming year.
The book that I wanted to write about today is one that lifted me out of my year-long reading rut and plummeted me straight back into the rabbit hole. The Ten Thousand Doors of January is filled with a yearning for other worlds, brimming with the power of written words and the enduring magic of stories. If there’s anything a life-long fantasy reader can relate to, it’s the ache for more and this book clearly resonated. As January uncovered long forgotten Doors, I rediscovered the joy of sinking myself into the pages of a book.
For me, this book ticked all of the boxes in terms of the tropes I love: stories as literal magic, doorways into other worlds, found families in every sense of the words, and a dash of two romances filled with longing. As a self-professed sucker for beautiful writing, this book had me hook, line, and sinker. The story alternated between January Scaller’s retelling of her encounters with Doors, and the narration from a mysterious book that altered the course of her life. As the book progressed, the two stories danced inexorably closer together, weaving a cohesive narrative that spans two lifetimes and countless adventures.
Aside from the magic aspects, the book also shone a direct light on the uglier parts of society – one that stubbornly held onto tradition, white aristocracy, and polite veneer. The exploration of January’s relationship with her foster father, Mr Locke, is an extension of this discussion. While the book treated the subject with nuance, it never shied from exposing the intrinsic harm and invisible violence of Mr Locke’s archaic world views.
The other relationships within this book were written with equal expertise, from January’s heartbreaking distance from her own father, to the mutual bond of trust she shares with her canine companion Bad, to her unlikely friendship with Jane. Harrow also writes about love and romance with the same magic that she pens adventures, whether it’s the destiny defying tale of Adelaide and her otherworldly boy – or the quiet flame that burns between January and a certain grocer’s son. Thanks to the impact of all these relationships, the book felt immersive despite its shorter page length.
If you’re looking for a fresh approach to portal fantasy that delivers timeless transportive magic, look no further than The Ten Thousand Doors of January! Have you read this book? Which other portal fantasy do you recommend (my other favourite is, of course, the Wayward Children series by Seanan Macguire).
Bear with me, I have a full review as well as three graphics wallpaper to share with you today. After all, words are not enough for me to describe how much I love the Green Bone Saga and the Kauls.
Note: The review will have spoilers for the first book, Jade City. It will not contain spoilers of Jade War.
Jade City is one of my favourite books of all time, it encapsulated and elevated everything I loved about fantasy, Hong Kong gangster films, and family drama. I knew I would love Jade War, but I could not anticipate how this sequel would take everything I loved about Jade City and amplified it tenfold. If I was a No Peak loyalist by the end of the first novel, this second one made me a Lantern Man for life. The clan is my blood and the Pillar, the one and only Fonda Lee, is its master. I am here to love and support whatever she releases next, even if it’s sure to destroy me. Continue reading “Blog Tour: Jade War Review and Graphics”→
Disclaimer: I received an eARC of Spin the Dawn from the publisher via Caffeine Blog Tour.
2019 has been a wonderful year for East Asian fantasy releases, from The Girl King, to Descendant of the Cranes, to Wicked Fox, and now Spin the Dawn – we’ve seen an exploration of a diverse array of Asian culture and history through YA fiction.
Spin the Dawn had two distinct story arcs, each breathing fresh air into the tropes of high-stake tournaments and impossible quests. As a daughter of a tailor, I felt a kinship to Maia, her plight and her utter devotion to her craft. Here is a heroine that did not sought to change the world with physical might or sharp wit – she altered the fabric of the universe with a decisive cut of her scissors – and I found that imagery beautiful.
I prefer my fantasy to be character driven, and this is exactly what Spin the Dawn delivered with its introspective heroine. The relationships that Maia developed over the course of this novel, especially her slow-burn friendship turned romance, was satisfying to behold.
My favourite thing about Spin the Dawn was the way the tale took familiar notes of East Asian folklore and weaved it into the fabric of its lore and legend. The resplendent robes Maia was tasked with completing called to mind the myths of Weaver girl. More than that, the story reclaimed the narrative of unfortunate girls being transformed by beautiful dresses – and placed the power back into the hands of a girl who created them.
Spin the Dawn was rich in beautiful imageries expressed through both Maia’s embroidered creations and Elizabeth Lim’s lyrical proses. I could see no better way to celebrate than through a collection of wallpapers, to pay homage to both the book and its beautiful cover.
It’s been a while since my last update since most of April and May left me with very little time for blogging. I just wanted to do a quick catch up on what I’ve been reading and what I plan to read in the coming month.
What I’ve Read
Almost 100% of the reading I’ve done in the past two months have been done via audiobook. Bless them for enabling me to finish all these novels while I completed my chores or during my morning commute, I would have fell into a book slump without them. I know at the beginning of the year I said I would cancel my Scribd account, but since I read so much via audio now, the set up is working great for me.
These aren’t even in chronological reading order because I am a Mess.
Daisy Jones and The Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid ★★★★☆
This novel is best enjoyed via audiobook, sorry I don’t make the rules. TJR has a way of making her characters feel so raw and real, if I didn’t know any better I would have been searching for the discography of Daisy Jones & The Six after completing this novel. Epistolary novels don’t always work for me (see: Illuminae), because I sometimes find it hard to connect to the story. 100% not the case here, and I loved how utterly flawed everyone was allowed to be. To tell the truth, I didn’t like most of them, but they sure captured my imagination.
The Dragon Republic by R. F. Kuang ★★★★★
HELLO IS ANYONE SURPRISED I AM COMPLETE TRASH FOR THIS BOOK. NO? OK.
Ahem. With complete objectivity, this book was a stunning follow-up to The Poppy War. It’s more introspective, it deals with PTSD, it brings in all of the threads that complicates and muddies the war Rin is waging on Nikara and with herself. The ending left me literally reeling and screaming in random DMs for weeks. I still have not completely stopped and I fear I will never be coherent again. Give me book three or give me death.
Magic for Liars by Sarah Gailey ★★★★☆
I finished this book about two hours ago and edited the post to include it. Although it contained the familiar tropes like a magical school, a jaded private detective, a dark prophecy, a hidden world of mages, a murder mystery – Magic for Liars combined them in a way that kept the plot fresh and engaging. Imagine if Aunt Petunia never married Vernon Dursley but instead became a private investigator – who’s then called back to Hogwarts to unravel a murder, with Lily as one of the professors on tenure. Except better, because the character work in this book is freaking top notch. Just go read it OK, this is the gay and messy magical school we all deserve.
I knew that I would make a graphics post for this book as soon as I saw the cover. Feifei Ruan’s artwork is actual magic. The book is endlessly quotable and so vivid in imageries. Bring those two things together and I simply can’t help myself.
I have a new phone now, so these are larger than the ones I’ve always made ❤
Characters and quotes belong to the brilliant Joan He.
The phone wallpapers are free for your personal use only.
Please do not edit, repost, redistribute the images.
They are made for iPhone XS, but should fit most smartphones.
“Tyrants cut out hearts. Rulers sacrifice their own.”
A++ leadership advice, would follow to the ends of the earth. I grew up watching c-drama featuring court intrigues and warring concubines, so seeing Descendant of the Crane play with and subvert these tropes was an absolute delight.
While the coming-of-age meets weight-of-destiny is a common narrative structure in fantasy, I loved how it was written in this book – especially because so much of it was focused on family and its complicated ties. Although Hesina’s father was never physically present in the novel, his decisions and his mentorship guided the novel through twists and turns.
Disclaimer: I received a digital copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review.
I was captivated by Descendant of the Crane the moment I saw its enchanting cover (illustrated by Feifei Ruan). It promises intrigue and magic in a world deeply inspired by China’s rich and varied history. The reading experience was one that left me reeling from the many clever twists and turns within the story. While my lack of attachment to any of the main characters meant that I could not wholly love the book, I am impressed with the breadth of the world-building and complexity of the plot. If this is what Joan He is capable of at the beginning of her career, I await eagerly to see what she will bring out next.
It’s time to revive my reread of The Poppy War, I just recently received an eARC of The Dragon Republic and wanted this reread series written and published before my mind gets the two novels mixed up and inadvertently spoil you!
Reminder that these posts will contain spoilers for the ENTIRE book.If you haven’t finished reading The Poppy War yet, feel free to check back when you are done.