Midnight Designs: Descendant of the Crane

Descendant of the Crane teaser

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.

DOTC 1

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“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.

 

DOTC 2

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Carve your path path, little bird.

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.DOTC 3

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But in trying time, truth is the first thing we betray.

Speaking of betrayals, this book has taught me to never trust again. Godspeed, friends, as you make your way through all of the intrigue and reveals of this novel.

  • 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.

Descendant of the Crane is set to release on April 9, you still have time to submit your preorder receipts for character art cards! Fly, friends!

Book Review: Descendant of the Crane

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Rating Four Star

Title: Descendant of the Crane

Author: Joan He

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Series? Yes

Goodreads

Book Depository | Dymocks | Booktopia


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.

Descendant of the Crane Review.png Continue reading “Book Review: Descendant of the Crane”

Book Rant: Kingdom of Ash

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Note: This post will contain spoilers for the entire series, including the ending of Kingdom of Ash! Turn back if you don’t want to be spoiled.

If you’ve been following this blog for some time, you would know that I’ve had my ups and downs with the Throne of Glass series. I read the prequel novellas before the first book was released, and was intrigued by the world and its characters. Throne of Glass itself didn’t impress me, but I followed on because if there’s one thing I can be trusted to do, it’s to follow the hype train. I enjoyed Crown of Midnight, Heir of Fire, and Queen of Shadows, and have made countless blogging friends through this series, and because of that, reading these books will never seem a waste.

However, I started becoming disillusioned with SJM’s writing with A Court of Wings and Ruin (yes, it took me that long), and haven’t bothered reviewing any of her books since. Kingdom of Ash is the perfect example of why I can’t enjoy SJM’s writing as I once did, so I’m going to do a book rant and get it all out of my system once and for all. As mentioned above, lots of spoilers below! Continue reading “Book Rant: Kingdom of Ash”

Book Review: Girls of Paper and Fire

34433755Rating Four Star

Title: Girls of Paper and Fire

Author: Natasha Ngan

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Series? Yes

Goodreads

Book DepositoryBooktopia  | Dymocks


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

Trigger Warning for sexual assault.

Girls of Paper and Fire is an antidote to the poison that is on the daily news. It’s a testament to the resilience of survivors, filled with fire and fury and hope. If you are in the mood for a read that will set the patriarchy alight, this is definitely one to grab.

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There is a lot to unpack about this stunner of a debut novel. The experience of reading Girls is intensely personal, as the book draws intimately from the Natasha Ngan’s experiences. From the cultural flourishes to the Paper Girls’ shared trauma, every detail within the book is carefully considered to create an emotionally immersive experience. I confess this novel left me in a daze after I finished it, so do approach with caution considering the heavy content within.

The world building in Girls is rich and expansive, helped by Natasha Ngan’s beautiful descriptive writing. Characters within this world are divided into three groups – with the powerless humans of the Paper caste oppressed by the demons in the Steel and Moon castes. There is mythology and founding legend deeply rooted in the fabric of this world, re-purposed by the ruling class to reinforce their reign at the top. I loved the political tension between the different caste and the various provinces of the Demon King’s vast empire. As the world is based in Malaysia, it’s as rich in cultural diversity as its real-life counterpart.

Lei is a Paper Girl, one among a group of nine selected to be concubine to the Demon King. Born to a world where women are routinely robbed of their agency, Lei emerges from the page simmering in anger yet plagued by insecurities and self-doubt. Her character arc is an exploration of self-empowerment and reclaiming of identity in a deeply flawed and misogynistic system. I appreciated that the book presented a multitude of ways in which these women coped, and does not pass judgement on any methods.

The romantic love story within this book is the slow burn F/F fantasy romance readers everywhere have been waiting for. It’s satisfying watching two women learn of each other’s flaws and strengths, empowering one another, and falling in love along the way. It’s so easy to root for these ladies and cheer on their battle against the world.

If you only pick one debut novel to read in 2018, make it this one.

Audiobook Review: Sadie

34810320Rating Four Star

Title: Sadie

Author: Courtney Summers

Series? No

Rating: 4.5/5 Stars

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I could not resist picking up this title as soon as it popped up on my Audible recommendations: a full cast of 30+ voice actors take on a revenge story, framed as a true crime podcast? Yes, please. As if that impressive blurb wasn’t enough, Sadie went on to trump every single one of my expectations. It delivers a powerful and unapologetic tale about a girl who’s hellbent on regaining control and exacting justice.

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The audio production of Sadie was incredible and a perfect medium for this story, if you can access it, I highly recommend listening rather than reading to this book. Half of the book features a fictional crime podcast, The Girls, as presenter Wes McCrae follows the trail of the missing Sadie Hunter – who disappeared after the murder of her younger sister, Mattie. The other half of the book, told in alternate chapters, follows Sadie as she tracks down a man she knew as Keith. The voice actors are incredible, especially Sadie’s narrator, who did an excellent job conveying her intensity and emotion. Sadie also has a stutter, and this was portrayed very well on the audiobook. Continue reading “Audiobook Review: Sadie”

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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Book Depository ||  Booktopia  ||  Dymocks


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: Furyborn

34323570Rating Three Star

Title: Furyborn

Author: Claire Legrand

Rating: 3/5 Stars

Series? Yes, 1 of 3

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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 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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Book Depository | Amazon | Booktopia | Dymocks


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: The Cruel Prince

26032825Rating Five Star

Title: The Cruel Prince

Author: Holly Black

Rating: 4.5/5 Stars

Series? Yes

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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.

The Cruel Prince

“If I cannot be better than them, I will become so much worse.” Continue reading “Book Review: The Cruel Prince”

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!