Book Review: Empire of Sand

39714124Rating Four Star

Title: Empire of Sand

Author: Tasha Suri

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Series: Yes

Goodreads

Booktopia  | Dymocks | Book Depository


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

Quick aside, I know it’s been almost two months since I updated this blog, but I had some important work assignments and minor life crises occur within the last several weeks. It really took away from my enjoyment from things like reading, blogging, and interacting with you guys on social media.

That chapter of my life is behind us now though, and I feel excited to resume talking about all that good stuff like fictional worlds and new favourite characters. Catch me up on what’s been happening with your life, reading-related or otherwise.

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Onto the book of the day, Empire of Sand by Tasha Suri. I listened to this on audiobook about a month ago and it was exactly the kind of comforting fantasy I needed: richly imagined world, a heroine with plenty of fortitude and courage, a slow-burn romance, and fraught with complicated ties between family members. The themes were reminiscent of titles I’ve loved before, such as The Poppy War and The Star-Touched Queen, while being wholly its own. The narrator of the audiobook was also particularly excellent, so I would recommend exploring the audio edition of you have the option.

Personally, I felt most hooked by the opening chapters of this story, as we explored Irinah through Mehr’s eyes and come face-to-face with the prejudices faced by the Amrithi people. There were signs of magic and mysticism from the beginning, seen through the various daiva and Mehr’s own Amrithi bloodline. However, the Ambhan rule has left people fearful to speak of the power that connects the gods to the Amrithi – consequently leaving Mehr uncertain about her potential and her lineage. Another thing I found interesting within the first few chapters was her tense relationship with her family, particularly with her stepmother, Maryam. 

Mehr leaves the walls Jah Irinah within the first quarter of the novel, whisked away by a group of the empire’s most influential mystics. She is betrothed to Amun, who readers quickly learn is also an Amrithi. I love the interactions between these two characters, from their slow burn romance to how they serve as perfect foils for one another. I also loved seeing Mehr’s resilience through these chapters – even in situations where little choices are offered to her, she fights and find a way to make every decision her own. She’s a heroine that empowers herself each step of the way, and while I don’t always agree with her actions, I constantly found myself rooting for her.

Many of the book’s characters are deeply spiritual and intensely connected to cultural practices of their ancestors, from which they derive strength both mental and literal. I loved seeing how the book explored the interplay between the capacity of the Amrithi people for power, along with how they were exploited for possessing that self-same blessing. The book showed us the different ways which the Amrithi people have learned to cope, from Mehr’s resolute resistance to Amun’s stoic resignation – offering no clear answers or judgement. A lot of this novel is deeply introspective, and while it affected the pacing of the book, I felt it added a lot of depth to these characters.

While the book works perfectly as a standalone read, there is a companion novel coming out which will follow Arwa, Mehr’s younger sister. I can’t wait to see how Tasha Suri will further expand this world and its characters.

Book Review: Spinning Silver

38606192Rating Five Star

Title: Spinning Silver

Author: Naomi Novik

Rating: 5/5 stars

Series? No

Goodreads

Book Depository  |  Dymocks  |  Booktopia

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

Spinning Silver.png

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.

Midnight Designs: Uprooted and Spinning Silver

Naomi Novik Wallpaper Preview.png

Uprooted and Spinning Silver are the perfect modern fairy tales: bewitching, evocative, with a strong streak of feminism. I am sharing my love for Naomi Novik today by bringing you two phone wallpapers featuring Agnieszka and Miryem

Important:

  • Characters and quotes belong to the brilliant Naomi Novik.
  • 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.

 

Uprooted Wallpaper

I was a glaring blot on perfection. But I didn’t care. I didn’t feel I owed him beauty.

Spinning Silver Wallpaper

Because that’s what the story is really about, getting out of paying your debts.

  • Find more of my free book-related designs here.
  • If you enjoyed these free graphics and want to support me, you can find me on Society 6.
  • Alternatively, you can commission me for your custom graphics by contacting me.
  • Finally, you can grab me a cuppa via Ko-fi here.

Reread at Midnight: The Poppy War Chapter 3

Reread TPW Chapter 3.png

Welcome back to The Poppy War Reread, this week we are diving into chapter3.

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.

REREAD INDEX

CHAPTER 3

Content Warnings for Chapter 3: allusion to drug use and drug addiction, allusion to genocide.

Rin and Nezha are the last to arrive to the main hall, thanks to their scuffle at the end of the last chapter. I love that the older students are being loud and brash on purpose to set the new recruits on edge, reminds me of my good old days in high school. Continue reading “Reread at Midnight: The Poppy War Chapter 3”

Book Review: The Queens of Innis Lear

37795682Rating Three Star

Title: The Queens of Innis Lear

Author: Tessa Gratton

Rating: 3/5 Stars

Series? No

Goodreads

Book DepositoryDymocks  |  Booktopia


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

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I still vividly remember studying King Lear for Year 11 English class, for me, it’s Shakespeare’s most memorable tragedy. I spent many hours that year writing about the folly of men in power and the toxicity of patriarchal societies, so I was immediately intrigued when I learned of this feminist retelling of King Lear. Continue reading “Book Review: The Queens of Innis Lear”

Book Review: Furyborn

34323570Rating Three Star

Title: Furyborn

Author: Claire Legrand

Rating: 3/5 Stars

Series? Yes, 1 of 3

Goodreads

Book Depository | Dymocks | Booktopia


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

Furyborn is an ambitious fantasy following a prophecy about preordained queens and mythic reckoning over the course of thousands of years. On the one hand, we have Rielle, who must conquer deadly trials to prove she is the predestined Sun Queen. On the other, we have Eliana, a cynical assassin who only knows Rielle as a bloody and half-forgotten legend.

Sadly to say, the execution fell a little bit flat for me, I was only invested in one half of the narrative voices. As the book has dual point of views that are separated by millenia, it can at time feel disjointed. I had high expectations for this novel, especially given the explosive prologue. However, the rest of the book never quite manages to regain the exhilaration of its first chapter.

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I did really enjoy Rielle’s point of view, and I felt connected to all of the characters around her. There is also the compelling dramatic irony running throughout, as we know from the first chapter that her story ends in tragedy. Learning the steps which led Rielle into becoming the reviled Blood Queen of prophecy is like putting together an intricate puzzle you don’t quite have the heart to complete.

Rielle’s character development throughout the novel was credible and engrossing, especially when the voice of Corien is thrown into the mix. The constant battle between her moral integrity and her darker impulses are even more exciting than her elemental trials.

Audric is also one of the sweetest love interest I’ve read about in YA, and remembering his eventual fate every time I see him on page causes me deep pain. One can easily see the groundwork for future disputes between him and Rielle, it almost feels inevitable – but you can’t help but wishing that maybe through reading, the ending may transform into something different.

The world building within this book is variable in quality. Once, there was a great battle between angels and saints, the saints who emerged victorious eventually went on to find all of the great nations within this world. Each saint commands a specific elements, and there are several humans who can do the same. However, the fated Blood Queen and Sun Queen of the legend, can control all the elements (*cue Avatar opening music*). Beyond the names of a few angels and saints, and seeing people handling the various elements, we don’t get an in-depth look at the fabric of this world – it seems to crumble upon further scrutiny.

I also had a hard time with Eliana’s chapters, I felt very detached from her – perhaps because she also kept an emotional distance between herself and other characters. The readers are constantly told about how she feels, rather than seeing it in action. The characters supporting her story were also less vivid than the ones in Rielle’s scenes. Overall, the only thoughts I ever had while reading her chapters were ones wishing they would end soon so that the limelight can be given back to Rielle.

While I had mixed feelings about Furyborn, I love Rielle and Audric more than enough to want the sequel. It’s going to be a long wait until next year!


Have you read Furyborn? Did you think it was worthy of the hype?

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

Goodreads

Book DepositoryDymocks  |  Booktopia


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”

Review & Designs: Tensorate Novellas

Tensorate Teasers

I’ve been wanting to feature the Tensorate novellas by JY Yang, The Black Tides of Heaven and The Red Thread of Fortune on my blog ever since their release. These books are stunning from cover to cover, whether it’s their exquisite cover art to the rich world that lies within.

Today, I’m sharing with you a brief review of the two novella, as well as some graphic fanart you can use as phone wallpapers.

R E V I E W

I am a huge fan of the Tor.com novella imprint, and the Tensorate novellas exemplifies all the reasons why. These books are vividly imagined and champion voices long ignored by SFF.

These twin novellas fittingly follow a pair of twins, Akeha and Mokoya, spanning the first few decades of their lives. They are significantly different in tone, tied together by this vastly imaginative world and the strength of the sibling’s bond. Akeha’s book is an introspective saga about family, destiny, and choice. Mokoya’s novella explore her emotions and its manifestation over few short but action-packed days.

The Tensorate series unfold in a world that is at once reminiscent of East Asia, yet filled with wonders such as the Slack elemental manipulation and advanced biotechnology. At every turn, there are delightful surprises within the layers of world building, from raptors to visually impressive feats of slackcraft. While the novellas are short, an immense amount of detail is packed within these pages, allowing the readers to fully appreciate the various factions with the Protectorate and the brewing tension between them.

I love the exploration of gender within these novellas, facilitated by a world where gender is not assigned at birth – but rather chosen by each person (and what a world that would be!). Upon this decision, the person can choose whether they want to take gender confirmation drugs. The novella’s examination of Akeha and Mokoya’s individual choices was especially well-executed.

At the moment, there are two more planned novella set in this world, with The Descent of Monsters set to release on July 31! I’m still secretly holding out for a novella on Sonami. In any case, I’m sure I’ll be back in due time with more graphics and reviews.

W A L L P A P E R S

  • Quotes and characters belong to the magnificent JY Yang, cover art drawn by the awe-inspiring Yuko Shimizu.
  • 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.

“The black tides of heaven direct the courses of human lives”. To which a wise teacher said, “But as with all the waters, one can swim against the tide.”

Black Tides of Heaven Wallpaper DROPBOX
Red Threads of Fortune Wallpaper DROPBOX


  • Find more of my free book-related designs here.
  • If you enjoyed these free graphics and want to support me, you can find me on Society 6.
  • Alternatively, you can commission me for your custom graphics by contacting me.
  • Finally, you can grab me a cuppa via Ko-fi here.

Book Review: Circe

32993458Rating Five Star

Title: Circe

Author: Madeline Miller

Rating: 4.5/5 Stars

Series? No.

Goodreads

Book Depository ||  Amazon  ||  Booktopia  ||  Dymocks


Since late 2016, I have heard whispers that Madeline Miller has an upcoming novel, so I feel like I’ve been waiting for Circe for a lifetime.Circe.png

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

Like many other readers, I came to love Miller’s writing through her debut novel, The Song of Achilles. It’s futile trying to compare the two titles as they’re vastly different in tone and themes. In Achilles, we experienced palpable battle between true love and everlasting glory. On the other hand, Circe is a tale of a goddess torn between her divinity and humanity. What they do have in common is Miller’s beautiful and transformative writing, which has the power to turn gods and monsters into relatable characters who capture the reader’s heart and imagination.

“Humbling women seems to me a chief pastime of poets. As if there can be no story unless we crawl and weep.”

Those familiar with the Odyssey will know Circe as the sorceress who turns men into swine and delayed the hero’s return to Ithaca. Although her appearance was brief, her name is still remembered today as one of a witch, a seductress, a villain. Circe the book seeks to subvert your expectations. It challenges readers to think about a woman’s role in an epic filled with men who are remembered as heroes, even when examination of their actions sometime reveal otherwise.

One of the aspects I love most about Circe is that aside from The Odyssey, Madeline Miller drew inspiration from a multitude of other Greek myths – particularly ones where the women involved were traditionally villainized or forgotten. From Medea to Ariadne, Miller infuses these roles with infinitely more humanity. Through her lens, not even the figures of legends were spared from the incisive criticism on gender inequality.

“The thought was this: that all my life had been murk and depths, but I was not a part of that dark water. I was a creature within it.”

As a book, Circe moves as a languid pace. Personally, it never felt slow thanks to Miller’s beautiful writing which kept me captivated. However, if you were after a plot driven book with more action, this is perhaps not a read you would enjoy. Circe is a book to be savoured, and where each enchanting passage should be highlighted and remember. I took extensive notes while reading this book, many of them quotes that I wanted to keep close and remember. It’s a book that holds immense emotional impact, and it’s one that will stay with you long after you read it. Once more, Miller has changed the way I view a legendary figure – one I thought I had already figured out during my high school Classical Studies class.

Circe was more than just a meditation on gender or the life of a single goddess, it also tackled the questions about divinity and mortality. While these are reminiscent of the conflict which Achilles faced, Miller provided explored it from an entirely different angle here. Circe is a goddess who will make you treasure your mortality.

To ardent fans of Achilles and Patroclus, they don’t make an appearance within this book – but there are references to them that will break your heart all over again.



I have missed you all dearly! How have you been? What have you been reading? What did you think of Circe if you’ve read it?

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

Goodreads

Book Depository // Dymocks // Booktopia


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”