Book Review: Muse of Nightmares

39851395Rating Five Star

Title: Muse of Nightmares

Author: Laini Taylor

Rating: 5/5 Stars

Series? Yes, 2 of 2

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Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book from Hachette Australia in exchange for an honest review.

The following review will contain spoilers for the first book, Strange the Dreamer (which I have reviewed here). There will be no spoilers for Muse of Nightmares.

Laini Taylor is a wordsmith and a weaver of dreams, she never ceases to amaze me. This duology will go down as my all-time favourite, sharing the throne with The Orphan’s Tales Duology and Six of Crows.

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As long-time blog readers might remember, Strange the Dreamer was one of my favourite reads of 2017. Within the first few pages, I was captivated by Lazlo’s dreams, Sarai’s musings, and the magic of Weep. If the first book in this duology was a languid and indescribably vivid dreamscape, then Muse of Nightmares was a triumphant awakening into a reality equally monstrous and fantastical. To me, Muse was pitch-perfect from beginning to end, marked by Laini Taylor’s inimitable lyrical prose and enviable imagination. Continue reading “Book Review: Muse of Nightmares”

Book Review: Spinning Silver

38606192Rating Five Star

Title: Spinning Silver

Author: Naomi Novik

Rating: 5/5 stars

Series? No

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Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book from Pan Macmillan Australia in exchange for an honest review.

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Naomi Novik is one of my favourite writers, and Spinning Silver is my favourite book she’s written to date. While Spinning Silver is a standalone novel, it complements Uprooted beautifully as a sister-novel. Both draw inspirations from folklore and fairy tales, with Spinning Silver being an empowering and poignant examination of Rumplestiltskin. The author mentioned that while Uprooted was a homage to her mother’s experiences, while Spinning Silver is an exploration of her father’s story and heritage as a Lithuanian Jew. Richly imagined, filled with strong female characters, and expertly told, this is a book I can see myself rereading time and again in years to come.

Spinning Silver was a technical marvel, beginning from Miryem’s narration and effortlessly adding in other viewpoints throughout the novel. Each of these points of views added another layer to the world building and increased the emotional complexity and stake. They were also beautifully distinctive, from Miryem’s practical and resolute voice, to Wanda’s honest and determined narration, to the brooding and skittish tsar. Although the ARC I read did not provide any chapter heading indicating when the point of view has been changed, I was never confused due to the power of the writing.

The character development over the course of this short novel was phenomenal, as was the way the relationships between various characters were built. My favourites were the main leading ladies, each unique and possessing different kinds of strength. Miryem with her talent for bargaining and sense of fairness. Wanda and the way she savours life and constantly persist, even when things are not going her way. Irina and her cunning mind, coupled with her complete refusal to indulge in the nonsense of brooding tsars and greedy demons. Their strength and their collaboration throughout the novel was a refreshing change from fairy tales of old, where the heroine is often bereft of help unless it’s provided by fairies or dashing princes.

Like Uprooted, Spinning Silver was richly imagined and atmospheric. I read this book just as we headed into winter in Melbourne, and it felt so perfect. The Staryk with their foreboding presence created a dark and palpable tension. Novik’s description of dark and chilly winter nights were so vivid it made me shiver. In spite of the dark atmosphere, the book also contained a lot of humour and hope – I found the tsar and Irina’s chapters especially hilarious. Reading this book was like experiencing your favourite storybook for the first time, with all of the misogynistic and racist undertones cut out.

Speaking of racism, I thought Spinning Silver did an excellent job in critiquing the anti-Semitic subtext in Rumplestiltskin through Miryem’s chapters. This is also the first time I read a fantasy where the heroine goes through length to honour Sabbath, even when she’s imprisoned by a legendary monster. I will link some #ownvoices reviews of the book from Jewish readers when I find them, if you’ve written one, please let me know!

Overall, Spinning Silver was a brilliant and immersive fairy tale reimaging! One you should not miss, especially if you, like me, have always found the tale of Rumplestiltskin wanting.

Book Review: The Poppy War

35068705Rating Five Star

Title: The Poppy War

Author: R. F. Kuang

Rating: 5/5 Stars

Series? Yes, 1 of 3

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The Poppy War is a searing and blood-soaked military fantasy that will carve itself into the reader with every word. Deftly blending historical events and Chinese mythology, the novel imagines a vivid new world and uses this alternate universe to process living generational trauma. Between the endless actions and warfare, among the figures of gods and monsters, readers will also find a human story about war and the lasting impact it has on the individuals and nations involved.

The-Poppy-War Continue reading “Book Review: The Poppy War”

Book Review: The Astonishing Colour of After

37758969Rating Five Star

Title: The Astonishing Colour of After

Author: Emily X. R. Pan

Rating: 4/5 Stars

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Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book from Hachette Australia in exchange for an honest review.

The Astonishing Colour of After is a marvel of a debut novel, beautifully crafted and infused with magic. The novel illustrates a moving portrait of mental illness, love, and loss. Reading the book is an experience that will break your heart, heal it, and leave it not quite the same afterwards.

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Leigh’s mother committed suicide, and since her death, an elusive bird began appearing in her place. Driven to find answers, Leigh finds her way to Taiwan, the birthplace of her mother and home to her estranged grandparents. What unfolds is an intricate and layered story about generational memories and how they shape us. The way the novel plays out is part mystery, part memoir. Incense smoke, stray feathers, unsent mail, and half-forgotten memories, intertwine to compose a page-turning tale about discovery and identity. Continue reading “Book Review: The Astonishing Colour of After”

Book Review: Iron Gold

33876216Rating Five Star

Title: Iron Gold

Author: Pierce Brown

Rating: 5/5 Stars

Series? Yes

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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 Gold itself! 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.

Iron Gold
Darrow Character Art by Magali Villeneuve

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!

Book Review and Author Interview: Jade City

34606064Rating Five Star

Title: Jade City

Author: Fonda Lee

Rating: 5/5 Stars

Series? Yes, 1 of 3

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Disclaimer: I received a review copy of this book from Hachette Australia in exchange for an honest review.

Jade City

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 Review

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”

Book Review: Girls Made of Snow and Glass

32768509Rating Five Star

Title: Girls Made of Snow and Glass

Author: Melissa Bashardoust

Rating: 5/5 Stars

Series? No

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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.

Girls Made of Snow and Glass

“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”

Book Review: Wild Beauty

33158561Rating Five Star

Title: Wild Beauty

Author: Anna-Marie Mclemore

Series? No

Rating: 5/5 Stars

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Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book from the publisher and Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Wild Beauty, like all of Anna-Marie’s Mclemore’s previous books, is filled to the brim with enchantment and beauty. The story contains all of the elements of a fairy tale: forbidden love, a family curse, an enchanted garden – mixed in with heartfelt exploration of sexuality, gender, and socioeconomic divide. Wild Beauty is a tale to be savoured, especially on warm spring days where fresh blooms are in sight and life is brimming with unexplored potential.

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The Nomeovildes women have inhabited La Pradera for more than a century, locked to the place by a dark legacy. With the Nomeovildes’s natural gift, La Pradera flourishes with lush vegetation and fragrant blooms – but should any of the women try to leave La Pradera, they succumb to an agonising end. Even more tragic is a powerful curse which erases any person the Nomeovildes women loves too deeply. They’re not only physically trapped by this otherworldly garden, it also emotionally separates them from the rest of the world. In Wild Beauty, we watch as the youngest generation of Nomeovildes women traverse their savage inheritance.

Wild Beauty is written in Anna-Marie Mclemore’s signature whimsical yet intimate style. I’m continually floored by how she manages to blend magic with heart-rending realism. Although magical realism is a subgenre I absolutely adore, at times I find it difficult to relate to the characters within these stories. This is never the case with Anna-Marie’s books, especially in Wild Beauty. All five of the Nomeovildes ladies have noteworthy characterisation, despite the relatively short length of the novel. Fel and Estrella’s narrative voices are distinctive, yet both manages to retain a lyrical cadence that I found arresting.

Aside from the visual wonders in Wild Beauty, the book is also rich in representation. All five of the Nomeovildes girls are initially in love with Bay, a genderqueer character. The novel portrays the fluidity of sexuality, and throughout the course of the book we witness many different kinds of love. Without giving too much away, Fel’s character arc was also an excellent commentary on race and class. Wild Beauty is brimming with hope and warmth, despite the dark and oppressive atmosphere of its setting.

Speaking of La Pradera, I don’t think any review of Wild Beauty could be complete without mentioning its haunting setting. To the Nomeovildes, La Pradera is a garden, a refuge, a home, but it is also a prison. The land thrives under their ministration and grow rich in beauty, but it also guards these women jealously –  crushing them down whenever they attempt to leave. Within the gardens, the reader will find blooms of every kind, moonlit spring nights, and dozens of mementos from generations of hopeful Nomeovildes girls. The complex relationship between the family and their land is one of the central focus of the novel, and I found the resolution absolutely satisfying.

As a lover of slow-burn romance, I was completely drawn in by the romantic entanglements in Wild Beauty. It felt forbidden yet inevitable, and I loved that it began as a tentative friendship and built upon a foundation of trust.

This is a book I can see myself revisiting time and again. I highly recommend this, along with Anna-Marie’s entire backlist, to everyone who wants to lose themselves in the magic of stories.

Book Review: The Language of Thorns

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Rating Five Star

Title: The Language of Thorns

Author: Leigh Bardugo

Rating: 5/5 Stars

Series? Spin-Off of the Grishaverse

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Disclaimer: I received this book from Hachette Australia in exchange for an honest review.

The Language of Thorns is an enchanting collection of folklores from Leigh Bardugo’s richly embellished Grishaverse. Aside from the pleasure of reading stories your favourite Grishaverse characters would have grown up hearing, the beguiling tales within this collection will captivate readers with their subversive narrative and beautiful composition. In these stories, you will find human truths hidden amongst dangerous beasts and courageous maidens – simply put, this is fairy tales at its finest.

Language of Thorns 01

We have all grown up reading or hearing fairy tales, we know their rhythm as intimately as our own heartbeat. The stories within The Language of Thorns retains that familiar rhythm of a well-loved and oft-told fairy tale, yet they also manage to invent delightful and transformative twists. While Leigh Bardugo never flinches from portraying the cruelty and savagery of the Grishaverse in these tales, she doesn’t shy from infusing the stories with courage and optimism either. The writing throughout this collection is consistently lyrical and gorgeous, it’s one of those book that begs to be savoured on repeat.

I feel each of the six stories within deserve their own mini-review, so here goes. Continue reading “Book Review: The Language of Thorns”

Book Review: The Wall of Storms

18952381

Rating Five Star

Title: The Wall of Storms

Author: Ken Liu

Rating: 5/5 Stars

Series? Yes, 2 of 3.

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Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book from Harper Voyager Australia in exchange for an honest review.

NOTE:  The following review will contain some spoilers for The Grace of Kings, the first novel within this series.

After reading The Grace of Kings, I knew that Ken Liu has changed the game for epic fantasy. With The Wall of Storms, he continues to push on the boundaries of expectations and raised the bar even higher.

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The Dandelion Dynasty was established within the first novel, with the text raising some tough questions about the philosophy of governance in times of war. In The Wall of Storms, the book take these ideas one step further by discussing economic and infrastructural development in the time of peace. While that may all sound like cumbersome and tedious reading, The Wall of Storms manages to be a page-turner despite its hefty length and ambitious themes. It’s no secret that I adore Ken Liu’s writing, and The Wall of Storms has become my favourite of his published books. Continue reading “Book Review: The Wall of Storms”