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 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: City of Brass

36475759Rating Five Star

Title: City of Brass

Author: S. A. Chakraborty

Series? Yes, 1 of 3.

Rating: 5/5 Stars

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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!

City of Brass Continue reading “Book Review: City of Brass”

Book Review: The Wall of Storms

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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”

Audiobook Review: The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue

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Rating Five Star

Title: The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue

Author: Mackenzi Lee

Narrator: Christian Coulson

Rating: 5/5 Stars

Series? Yes, companion novel on the way!

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The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue (hereby referred to as GGTVV) is a swashbuckling adventure exploring love and loss. The book exuberates an energy that will leave its readers breathless and delighted, as well as itching for a road-trip through 17th Europe of their own. While GGTVV is filled with hilarious escapades and heart-warming romance, it never shies away from critically examining the bigotry inherent within the book’s setting. The internet is hyping this one up to be one of 2017’s Required Readings, and I am in 100% agreement.

Gentlemans Guide

From page one, I was completely arrested with the voices of the characters within GGTVV, especially its protagonist – Monty. Monty is a complete rascal, but one that I could not help but love. He’s privileged and self-centred, with Felicity and Percy acting as his voices of reason and challenging him at every turn. What makes Monty endearing rather than infuriating is his capacity for growth and compassion, despites his numerous character flaws. It also helps that he has razor-sharp wit and one of the most entertaining narrative voices I’ve had the pleasure of reading. This is one of those rare books that literally makes me laugh-out-loud, even if it ends up putting my heart through the wringer with the very next scene. Continue reading “Audiobook Review: The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue”

Book Review: The Grace of Kings

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4-star

Title: The Grace of Kings

Author: Ken Liu

Series? Yes, 1 of 3

Rating: 4/5 Stars

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In a genre inundated with tall-tales of reluctant white heroes fulfilling their Destiny, Ken Liu’s voice unabashedly stands apart. He is a constant innovator, whether it’s with his short fiction, full length novel, or translated work. At the same time, he also showcase the roots of his identity via the incorporation of Chinese history and mythology in all his writing. The Grace of Kings embodies Ken Liu’s style completely, fusing his unique voice with an ambitious saga about war, governance, and people who defy destiny.

The Grace Of Kings

The Grace of Kings is told via a series of interconnected chapters, each giving the reader an insight to the many characters that populate this vast world. The character featured may only fleet in and out of the narrative, or reappear numerous times to emerge as a central figure to the tale – but each of their story felt crucial to the overarching epic.Ken Liu’s mastery over short fiction is evident by his previous works such as The Paper Menagerie, and I loved seeing these skills applied on a grander scale to create the rich tapestry of The Dandelion Dynasty. Although each chapters felt episodic, there was a constant sense of momentum and urgency throughout the text, making this a constantly engaging read despite its hefty length. Continue reading “Book Review: The Grace of Kings”

Book Review: When Dimple Met Rishi

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Book Review: When Dimple Met Rishi

Title: When Dimple Met Rishi

Author: Sandhya Menon

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Series? No

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Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book from Date A Book/Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

NOTE: I read this book as part of #AsianLitBingo, you can find my full TBR here.

When Dimple Met Rishi is like a sip of iced-coffee on a stifling summer day: refreshing, energising, and never fails to put a smile on my face. This endearing romantic comedy explores the whole spectrum of the young adulthood experience with sincerity and humour. Within these pages you will find an honest examination of culture and identity, as well as a thoughtful study on dreams and ambitions.

When Dimple Met Rishi Continue reading “Book Review: When Dimple Met Rishi”

Book Review: Flame in the Mist

233080873star

Title: Flame in the Mist

Author: Renee Ahdieh

Rating: 3/5 Stars

Series? Yes.

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Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this book from Hachette Australia/Date A Book in exchange for an honest review.

I read this book as part of the #AsianLitBingo challenge, you can check out my TBR for it here.

While Flame in the Mist was an enjoyable read overall, I felt somewhat let-down because of its immense potential to be remarkable. The premise promised greatness: a fantasy set in an alternate feudal Japan, featuring a cross-dressing noble lady skilled at invention and her time amongst lordless samurai warriors. I expected Flame in the Mist to sweep me off my feet. However, issues with inconsistent character development and pacing meant the book missed the mark for me.

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Flame in the Mist follows Mariko Hattori, daughter of a prominent daimyou, as she attempts to exact her revenge on The Black Clan. She believes this notorious mountain-based samurai gang is responsible for the death of her servants and foot soldiers, as part of an effort to assassinate her. Mariko infiltrates The Black Clan by disguising as a young male traveler. Before she knows it, Mariko is embroiled in a net of intrigue involving a lost shogun and a struggle for nationwide dominance.

First of all, I just wanted to say that Flame in the Mist is not retelling of Mulan – because it’s something I keep hearing on Twitter. Both stories have a cross-dressing heroine, and that’s where the similarities end. Japan and China are separate countries, and Mulan is not a folklore they share.

One of the things I was glad to see in Flame in the Mist is how different Mariko is from Renee Ahdieh’s previous protagonist, Shazi. Mariko is more of an observer and a thinker, someone who weighs up all of her options before acting. Due to this, at times her narration can seem repetitive and sedate. Despite the her tendency to lapse into long internal monologues, I appreciated that Mariko was the main driver of her story. It’s her actions that continually propelled the plot forwards, in spite of the machinations around her.

I must admit that I found many of the secondary characters to be lacking in dimension. Aside from Okami and Ranmaru, who had development thanks to their many interactions with Mariko – the rest of the cast suffered. I never felt that Mariko formed am authentic or lasting bond with The Black Clan. Similarly, the side story featuring Mariko’s twin brother, Kenshin, and his love interest fell a little flat. The book did try to address the sexism inherent within Mariko’s society, and I commend it for featuring several key female characters. Towards the end, there are hints that more of these characters will take centre-stage in the sequel – so I look forward to seeing the gender roles explored further.

My main issue with Flame in the Mist came from most of the book’s characterisation being told rather than shown. The book kept telling me about the brilliance of Mariko’s mind, how mysterious Okami is, how Ranmaru’s presence exudes power and command – but I was never convinced as they did little to back these claims up. The primary romance in the novel also suffered due to similar lack of development. One moment, our protagonists were eyeing one another with disinterest and hostility, the next they were utterly consumed by lust. I did like the interactions between them once the romance begun, but I am still perplexed on how it happened.

As for the world building, I admit I was a little disappointed by Flame in the Mist’s vision of Japan. Having read The Wrath and the Dawn, I know the author is capable of ensnaring all of our senses when it comes to setting. The Japan in Flame in the Mist seems a bit like a theme park. Samurai? Check. Emperors? Check. Maiko and geisha? Check. Teahouses? Check. Ninja? Check (you can’t tell me that Mariko’s inventions aren’t directly copied off ninja devices!) Youkai? Check. Lengthy description of kimono? Check. I also found the use of the Japanese vocabulary inconsistent and confusing, as it seems the author could not decide whether she wanted to use the English or the Japanese equivalent of certain words, and constantly fluctuated between them. Mercifully, this was limited to the first few chapters of the novel.

Overall, I am still invested enough in the story to check out the sequel. I would recommend it if you’re looking for a non-Western YA fantasy – especially as it seems I am amongst the minority when it comes to this book.


Have you read Flame in the Mist? What are some of your favourite books set in Japan?