Once upon a time, there was a girl who wished for unfettered freedom, a life completely her own, untethered to time and space and people. While many books may explore the journey to achieve such a wish, THE INVISIBLE LIFE OF ADDIE LARUE instead examines the consequences and the prices paid. Addie’s memorable journey is a clear defiance to her curse to a fault. In its single-minded pursuit to capture the life of Addie Larue, this book neglected to acknowledge the existence of marginalised communities who were erased not through Faustian bargains, but by colonialism, classism, and white supremacy. Addie’s story is fixated on her own legacy, yet her narrative is one that conveniently forgets the people history would rather leave unremembered.Continue reading “Audiobook Review: The Invisible Life of Addie Larue”
I have been a fan of Rebecca Roanhorse since I read Trail of Lightning. With Black Sun, she cements herself as one of the most exciting voices in contemporary SFF. I have both a book review and some graphics for everyone today, ahead of the excitement for Black Sun’s release next week!
Disclaimer: I received this audiobook through the Libro.fm ALC program. I love Libro.fm with my entire heart, but this is an honest review.
To be frank, I am not sure if I can quite verbalise how much I love Black Sun with mere words. I have spent most of this week in a complete daze as I left my few remaining brain cells with The Meridian, its expansive world, and its multifaceted cast of characters. From the very first chapter, where a boy is ritualistically transformed into a god – under the vivid visuals of a sun being devoured by a crow – this book has gripped me by the throat and absolutely refuses to let go.Continue reading “Midnight Designs and Audiobook Review: Black Sun”
Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book from Penguin Australia in exchange for an honest review. I also purchased a copy of the audiobook for my own personal use.
I have consistently loved Naomi Novik’s novels since reading Temeraire during high school. Uprooted remain one of my favourite stand-alone fantasy to this day, and Novik has proven time and again that she is a master at crafting a palpable atmosphere with every book. So when I heard that Novik was releasing a new series that mixed academia and dark magic, A Deadly Education easily became one of my most anticipated releases of 2020. It’s been a few days since I finished the book, and while my feelings on it are decidedly mixed, I still catch myself thinking about this world. The Scholomance is a haunting setting that leaves its spectre on both the magical world within the novel, and on my subconscious. If you’re looking for an otherworldly and evocative read for the spooky season, you should have this book on your radar. Although I think there are a few issues with the pacing and the worldbuilding which I will explore below.Continue reading “Book Review: A Deadly Education”
Disclaimer: I received a review copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. I also purchased my own copy of the audiobook for the purpose of this review.
There is a lot going on with The Bone Shard Daughter: part fantasy, part political thriller, part mystery, part sea-adventure, part sapphic romance. If all of that sounds good to you, you’ll be even more please to know that the book emerges more than just a sum of these parts, delivering a page-turning debut that is brimming with potential. I just finished the novel a few hours ago, and I already long to dive back into the world of the Endless Sea, its twisty magic systems, and its numerous characters.Continue reading “Audiobook Review: The Bone Shard Daughter”
Title: Empire of Gold
Author: S. A. Chakraborty
Series? Yes, 3 of 3
Rating: 4/5 Stars
Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book from Harper Voyager and Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.
NOTE: This review will contain spoilers for the first two books, City of Brass and Kingdom of Copper. There will be no spoilers for Empire of Gold.
Empire of Gold is the pitch perfect conclusion to the expansive fantasy trilogy that has captured my heart and mind over the past few years. Reading the ending of this book got me doing something I have not done in an age: staying up past 2AM alternating between crying my eyes out and smiling with glee. It was tough saying goodbye to the characters I’ve come to know and love, but I can think of no better farewell than this satisfying finale.
The ending of Kingdom of Copper was ingeniously cruel, leaving the fandom reeling and begging for answers for over a year. The conclusion of this trilogy starts off where it all begins, in an unnamed Egyptian village by the Nile. This setting invited an examination of Nahri’s personal evolution since book one, the ways in which her newfound powers and her found-family have both changed her and helped strengthened her existing identity. Nahri has played several roles in her life: Cairo street thief, companion of Darayavahoush, revered Nahid, wife of an emir, a healer, a survivor. Some of these identities were choices, others were a necessity for survival. With each, Nahri has reclaimed a position in a world that often sought to exclude her. In Empire of Gold, that personal journey delves ever deeper as Nahri navigated all of her past alliances to find a place where she belongs.
I have been blessed with an ARC of THE BURNING GOD, thank you to Rebecca and publishing royalty Natasha Bardon! But before I dived in I wanted to relive the pains and tribulation of The Dragon Republic. I have read The Poppy War at least 5 times so it’s imprinted into my memory, but The Dragon Republic came out at a busy time in my life and I’ve only read it once.
I know I haven’t been able to complete my The Poppy War reread with you all, but while I read The Dragon Republic I wanted to get my thoughts down.
This post will cover up to chapter 7, including the Prologue, it will contain spoilers for all of The Dragon Republic and The Poppy War so please read those two books first before joining me!
CONTENT WARNINGS: The following chapters contain death of a child, death of a sibling, PTSD, addiction, self-harm, racism, allusion to genocide.Continue reading “The Dragon Republic Reread – Part 1”
Book Title: The Ten Thousand Doors of January
Author: Alix E. Harrow
Ratings: 5/5 Stars
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).
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.
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.
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.
Title: Empire of Sand
Author: Tasha Suri
Rating: 4/5 Stars
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.
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.
Title: Girls of Paper and Fire
Author: Natasha Ngan
Rating: 4/5 Stars
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.
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.