Book Review: The Ten Thousand Doors of January

Book Title: The Ten Thousand Doors of January

Author: Alix E. Harrow

Ratings: 5/5 Stars

Series? No

Goodreads


Hi all, it’s been almost an entire year since I have updated this blog. 2019 was a whirlwind for me, I became a business owner, a first home owner, and moved into the suburbs for the first time in a decade. 2020 has been catastrophic for reasons you can all relate to, but there’s been some joy mixed in as well: I got engaged, we got our first pets – two adorable kitties named Magnus and Coco who I have plastered all over social media. All in all, I have not had the time to consistently read, let alone write reviews or make graphics. Slowly but surely, I am finding my feet again, and would like to reclaim this corner of the internet — especially as I have already paid for the domain name for the coming year.

The book that I wanted to write about today is one that lifted me out of my year-long reading rut and plummeted me straight back into the rabbit hole. The Ten Thousand Doors of January is filled with a yearning for other worlds, brimming with the power of written words and the enduring magic of stories. If there’s anything a life-long fantasy reader can relate to, it’s the ache for more and this book clearly resonated. As January uncovered long forgotten Doors, I rediscovered the joy of sinking myself into the pages of a book.

For me, this book ticked all of the boxes in terms of the tropes I love: stories as literal magic, doorways into other worlds, found families in every sense of the words, and a dash of two romances filled with longing. As a self-professed sucker for beautiful writing, this book had me hook, line, and sinker. The story alternated between January Scaller’s retelling of her encounters with Doors, and the narration from a mysterious book that altered the course of her life. As the book progressed, the two stories danced inexorably closer together, weaving a cohesive narrative that spans two lifetimes and countless adventures.

Aside from the magic aspects, the book also shone a direct light on the uglier parts of society – one that stubbornly held onto tradition, white aristocracy, and polite veneer. The exploration of January’s relationship with her foster father, Mr Locke, is an extension of this discussion. While the book treated the subject with nuance, it never shied from exposing the intrinsic harm and invisible violence of Mr Locke’s archaic world views.

The other relationships within this book were written with equal expertise, from January’s heartbreaking distance from her own father, to the mutual bond of trust she shares with her canine companion Bad, to her unlikely friendship with Jane. Harrow also writes about love and romance with the same magic that she pens adventures, whether it’s the destiny defying tale of Adelaide and her otherworldly boy – or the quiet flame that burns between January and a certain grocer’s son. Thanks to the impact of all these relationships, the book felt immersive despite its shorter page length.

If you’re looking for a fresh approach to portal fantasy that delivers timeless transportive magic, look no further than The Ten Thousand Doors of January! Have you read this book? Which other portal fantasy do you recommend (my other favourite is, of course, the Wayward Children series by Seanan Macguire).

Blog Tour: Spin the Dawn Graphics and Thoughts

Spin the Dawn Preview

Disclaimer: I received an eARC of Spin the Dawn from the publisher via Caffeine Blog Tour.

2019 has been a wonderful year for East Asian fantasy releases, from The Girl King, to Descendant of the Cranes, to Wicked Fox, and now Spin the Dawn – we’ve seen an exploration of a diverse array of Asian culture and history through YA fiction.

Mini Review

Spin the Dawn had two distinct story arcs, each breathing fresh air into the tropes of high-stake tournaments and impossible quests. As a daughter of a tailor, I felt a kinship to Maia, her plight and her utter devotion to her craft. Here is a heroine that did not sought to change the world with physical might or sharp wit – she altered the fabric of the universe with a decisive cut of her scissors – and I found that imagery beautiful.

I prefer my fantasy to be character driven, and this is exactly what Spin the Dawn delivered with its introspective heroine. The relationships that Maia developed over the course of this novel, especially her slow-burn friendship turned romance, was satisfying to behold.

My favourite thing about Spin the Dawn was the way the tale took familiar notes of East Asian folklore and weaved it into the fabric of its lore and legend. The resplendent robes Maia was tasked with completing called to mind the myths of Weaver girl. More than that, the story reclaimed the narrative of unfortunate girls being transformed by beautiful dresses – and placed the power back into the hands of a girl who created them.

Graphics

Spin the Dawn was rich in beautiful imageries expressed through both Maia’s embroidered creations and Elizabeth Lim’s lyrical proses. I could see no better way to celebrate than through a collection of wallpapers, to pay homage to both the book and its beautiful cover.

  • Characters and quotes belong to Elizabeth Lim.
  • 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.

Spin the Dawn 01

DROPBOX LINK Continue reading “Blog Tour: Spin the Dawn Graphics and Thoughts”

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.

Empire of Sand.png

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: 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.

Girls-of-Paper-and-Fire

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.

Book Review: Muse of Nightmares

39851395Rating Five Star

Title: Muse of Nightmares

Author: Laini Taylor

Rating: 5/5 Stars

Series? Yes, 2 of 2

Goodreads

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: 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 4

The Poppy War Reread Chapter 4.png

It’s that time of the week again! Today we take a deep dive into Chapter 4 of The Poppy War, where the infamous Altan Trengsin makes his first appearance.

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 4

We quickly learn that Sinegard Academy is pretty much a glorified bootcamp, where students are literally left to either sink or swim. Continue reading “Reread at Midnight: The Poppy War Chapter 4”

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.

The Queens of Innis Lear Tessa Gratton.png

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”