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.
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 Golditself! 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.
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!
NOTE: Post will contain mild SPOILERS for the first Red Rising trilogy! There are no spoilers for Iron Gold, beyond a few quotes you might have seen in other promotional materials.
Two graphics posts within a week is unprecedented, but I’ve been very lucky with my 2018 reads and have loved them enough to create edits. Iron Gold is the first of a new trilogy in the Red Rising series, and it’s a game-changer. I usually get series-fatigue with expanded trilogies, but Pierce Brown keeps me coming back for more with his addictive pacing and morally complex characters. I could go on for pages, but I’ll save it for my review, published next week!
Quotes belong to Howler alpha Pierce Brown, official character artwork by artist Magali Villeneuve.
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.
“War eats the victors last.”
Darrow of Lykos is a living legend, after all, he is the man who led the Rising against the Republic. Ten years later, Darrow serves as an ArchImperator in the Republic he helped built – but victory did not guarantee him a happy ending. His journey in Iron Gold is an entanglement of internal conflicts and treacherous external pressures. The Reaper has never felt more human and fallible, and it makes for a damn good story.
Although Octavia au Lune is long dead, the powerful ghost of the old Society remains – whether it’s from the war against the Ash Lord, or in The Rim where the pyramid of Society stands unchallenged. Lysander’s narrative is one that I found simultaneously infuriating and utterly compelling, I’ll be back for more.
“They planted us in stones, watered us with pain, and now marvel we have thorns.’
Lyria of Lagalos presented us with my favourite quote from Iron Gold. Liberated with the rest of the Reds through the efforts of The Rising, Lyria and her kin found themselves shackled by bonds of a different sort: poverty, prejudice, and marginalisation by society. Her chapters are filled with rage, but they’re some of my favourites in the book.
Ephraim ti Horn is disenchanted by society and its promises, made cynical by the tragedies he’s seen unfold. His voice vastly differ from the other characters, and his actions unpredictable – he’s a wild card and I can’t wait for you all to meet him.
If it was not immediately obvious before, The Cruel Prince has now cemented Holly Black’s position as the Queen of Faeries. The Fair Folks in her books are glittering and magnetic, yet dangerous and deceitful. Even more compelling are her human characters, especially the ambitious and utterly flawed Jude. The Cruel Prince has glamoured me completely, so I did the predictable thing and selected some of my favourite quotes to present as phone wallpapers for you all!
Quotes belong to the brilliant Holly Black.
The phone wallpapers are free for your personal use only.
Please do not edit, repost, redistribute the images, or claim them as your own.
They are made for iPhone 6, but should fit most smartphones.
“If I cannot be better than them, I will become so much worse.”
This quote gave me legit chills. Jude is a true Slytherin queen, filled with ambitions and cunning — and she’s not afraid to seize life by the throat and take what she wants. We need more main characters like her in our bookshelves, please and thank you.
I love books that remind us fairy tales are filled with treachery and bloodshed, and The Cruel Prince exemplifies this in every sense of the world. It reminds us that princesses get their crowns by being survivors, whether it’s living through poisoned apples or enchanted sleep.
“If I can’t find a good enough story, I make one.”
Out of all the wicked and delightful lines spoken by Prince Cardan, this one is my favourite. I thought it was also served as a wonderful encouragement to all my writer friends out there – own the story you wish to see in the world, I can’t wait to read your works one day!
“Instead of being afraid, I could become something to fear.”
Jude, I can’t tell half the time whether she’s the heroine or the villain, and I love every moment of it. Where is the next book, I’m willing to make a bargain with the next fae prince I come across for it.
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.
“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”→
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.
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.
Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book from Bloomsbury Australia in exchange for an honest review.
I’ve been very curious about this anthology ever since it was announced last year. Generally, the authors in the young adult community have a very strong social media presence, allowing them to interact with readers and bloggers on a daily basis. This collaboration between YA authors and some influential booktubers takes this relationship to a whole new level, and I was excited to see how this partnership would unfold. As with anthologies in general, I found this one a bit of a mixed bag – but it’s centred on villains, and I love to LOVE them. You can find short reviews of each individual story below.
The Blood of Imuriv by Renee Ahdieh, prompt by Christine Riccio
First Line: Everywhere Rhone walked, the nightmares followed.
I’m a fan of Renee Ahdieh’s descriptive writing style, but I felt this story lacked tension and was heavy on info-dump. The short story format does not lend itself well to adequate world-building, and although the story was set in space – the location and period could have changed and I would not have noticed any difference. I also found the story unfolded in a very clunky manner, with the villain’s internal monologue and motivation ringing false, perhaps this due to how restrictive and specific the prompt was. Continue reading “Book Review: Because You Love to Hate Me”→
Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
Daughter of the Burning City is an intoxicating murder mystery unfolding in the middle of a dark and mysterious magical circus. At the centre of this novel is Sorina, a girl with no eyes, yet graced with the ability to weave complex and realistic illusions – some of whom serve as her closest companions. Personally, I loved the evocative writing and discovering the dark corners of Gomorrah’s festival. However, the characterisation and plot were a little thin, and I found the book ultimately predictable.
Amanda Foody’s writing is immersive and incredibly visual, it’s hard to believe that this is her debut novel. From the very first scene, she captures the reader’s every sense with descriptions of the sights and sounds of the Gomorrah Festival’s Freak Show. The setting and characters were easy to visualise, and like Sorina’s audience, I was captivated. I also appreciated the attention to detail that went into the realisation of Gomorrah, even the taste of kettlecorn are described in a memorable manner. Continue reading “Book Review: Daughter of the Burning City”→
I’m sure anyone with a passing knowledge of the online YA community would be familiar with the brilliant and hilarious @broodingYAhero! Broody is my favourite parody account on twitter, walking that perfect line between sass and social commentary. Seeing a tweet by Broody on my timeline never fails to cheer up my day.
2017 has been a decent reading year so far, but I felt that while I read a lot of good books – I haven’t read as many exceptional books this year. All of the books that ended up on this list are very special and memorable to me.
The list also came a bit later than usual because my reading life skyrocketed with a couple of excellent reads in June – so I had to wait until I finished them to complete the post. It’s still missing a couple of books I started in June, but completed in July – but you’ll find out all about them at the end of this year 😉
Hurricane Heels by Isabel Yap: I read this novella at the turning of the new year, and it touched me on such a personal level. Magical Girls is one of the tropes I grew up consuming and loving, and in Hurricane Heels it gets such a visceral and modern treatment. The book is filled with complicated friendships between girls trying to juggle their momentous destiny with daily life. Continue reading “Best of 2017 So Far”→