The City of Brass by S.A. Chakraborty

Publisher: Harper Voyager (Harper Collins)
Publication Date: 8th March 2018
Rating: ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ .5
Goodreads

Nahri has never believed in magic. Certainly, she has power; on the streets of 18th century Cairo, she’s a con woman of unsurpassed talent. But she knows better than anyone that the trade she uses to get by—palm readings, zars, healings—are all tricks, sleights of hand, learned skills; a means to the delightful end of swindling Ottoman nobles. 

But when Nahri accidentally summons an equally sly, darkly mysterious djinn warrior to her side during one of her cons, she’s forced to accept that the magical world she thought only existed in childhood stories is real. For the warrior tells her a new tale: across hot, windswept sands teeming with creatures of fire, and rivers where the mythical marid sleep; past ruins of once-magnificent human metropolises, and mountains where the circling hawks are not what they seem, lies Daevabad, the legendary city of brass?a city to which Nahri is irrevocably bound. 

In that city, behind gilded brass walls laced with enchantments, behind the six gates of the six djinn tribes, old resentments are simmering. And when Nahri decides to enter this world, she learns that true power is fierce and brutal. That magic cannot shield her from the dangerous web of court politics. That even the cleverest of schemes can have deadly consequences. 

I have a lot to say about this book, but it’s really hard to not just pack it all in with a ‘fantastic!’ and then move on.

I’ve been reading this book for a long time, or at least picking it up and putting it down again. If you haven’t heard the story which I go on about constantly about how I got my hands on an early copy of The City of Brass, then I talk about it in detail in on my post about 2017’s YALC which you can read here (don’t forget to come back to this review!) but I’ll just say this. While I didn’t technically get handed this or sent this by someone from Harper Collins, I want to thank them no less for this glorious advanced copy that I will be telling everyone to read when it comes out!

The City of Brass was a hard one to rate just because it’s largest pitfall was the characters. Our main characters, Alizayd and Nahri, I absolutely adore. They’re sweet, smart, passionate, and they both go through so much development from their humble beginnings as a religious soldier and a conwoman and hustler, respectively. What I can’t wrap my head around are the rest of the characters.

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The story, for the majority of the time, takes place in the city of Daevabad, once a beacon of industry, diversity and development, has had it’s history of tribes and people overthrown to what it is now; a mixture of different people who live separate from each other and can’t stand one another. For a lot of the book, I was confused as to who was who and ultimately, who are the ‘good’ guys and the ‘bad’ guys. I assumed this is supposed to be the case and to show that no ‘tribe’ (the term they use for each community of people) is better than the other in our eyes. The city is mainly divided into three quarters (I think?), the Djinn, the Daeva, and the Shafit. The Daeva and the Djinn are pretty much the same people, except that many years ago a group of Daeva began calling themselves Djinn because the Daeva were too religious, puritanical, and hated humans. Djinn began calling themselves Djinn because it’s what humans called them, and they actually like humans, often ‘interfering’ with their lives and reproducing with them, creating a new form of Djinn, called the Shafit who are hated by everyone and have no rights.

This is how I see it: Daeva – Upper middle class, Djinn – Lower middle to working class, Shafit – The underclass. However, the ruling class (the monarchy), are a mixture of Daeva and Djinn, and the family that wear the crowns are Djinn but from a different country. They hold their history and prejudice against the Daeva, yet still accomodate them to the point where they neglect their own people and ruin the lives of Shafit…all for the Daeva. However, the Djinn are also horrible to Daeva, who are often outnumbered by the Djinn and Shafit who make their lives Hell. It’s…a lot to take in.

So when I say that different characters belong to different tribes, I found it difficult to find who I should root for and who I should want to see fall. This was especially the case with Dara, a Daeva Ashfin (soldier) who I consider a main character despite not having a POV. He is with Nahri for the whole book, being the only lifeline she has most of the time, and yet his views on the Shafit and the Djinn are so horrible I would reel my head back from looking at the book and just wish he would fuck off. And it was made worse when our hero, Nahri, one of two characters I actually liked, liked him and believed the things that he said. But, as the story progressed, I began to see that Nahri felt the way I felt, and it made me realise that Chakraborty purposefully wrote these characters this way to show that humans (or in this case, Djinn and Daeva) are morally grey, and yet that gret morality can affect others in devastating ways (the Shafit).

While this dominated my reading time and was a true mind-fuck (brought upon by myself), I genuinely loved this book. Any historical fantasy set in the middle east is going to catch my eye anyway, but The City of Brass is the cream of the crop. It’s political (as you can see from my word vomit above), beautiful in it’s setting and description of the culture, the food, fashion, and grand temples you can see from the horizon. At times it made feel warm and cozy, and other times I felt cold and my skin was riddled with goosebumps. A book that can make your body react like that is powerful. And that’s exactly what this book is.

The City of Brass comes out in the UK 8th March 2018, but is already out in the U.S. It doesn’t have enough buzz in my mind, and so I will be thoroughly raving about it this March.

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Strange The Dreamer by Laini Taylor

Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton
Release Date: March 2017
Rating: ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ .5
Goodreads

The dream chooses the dreamer, not the other way around—and Lazlo Strange, war orphan and junior librarian, has always feared that his dream chose poorly. Since he was five years old he’s been obsessed with the mythic lost city of Weep, but it would take someone bolder than he to cross half the world in search of it. Then a stunning opportunity presents itself, in the person of a hero called the Godslayer and a band of legendary warriors, and he has to seize his chance or lose his dream forever.

What happened in Weep two hundred years ago to cut it off from the rest of the world? What exactly did the Godslayer slay that went by the name of god? And what is the mysterious problem he now seeks help in solving?

The answers await in Weep, but so do more mysteries—including the blue-skinned goddess who appears in Lazlo’s dreams. How did he dream her before he knew she existed? And if all the gods are dead, why does she seem so real?

1509457980918Welcome to Weep. 

I honestly loved this so much.

About a librarian who devours stories of adventure, Lazlo Strange is the puppy protagonist you always want to read about. He’s a humble hero, with dreams far beyond his life inside the library, carrying the dreams of others on his back. Instead, Lazlo dreams of the lost city of Weep, shrouded in mystery where no one remembers it’s name or it’s face.

I have Laini Taylor’s other trilogy, The Daughter of Smoke and Bone trilogy, in hardback, maybe in not so pristine condition, and they just do not read as well as Strange the Dreamer does. I had trouble with the writing, and I could never remember what I had just read, or picture what was happening. But here I got the whole thing; I could easily imagine myself dropped right into the centre of Weep and see before me white buildings and blue tiles, with blue people living above me in a citadel that shielded the sun.

So, maybe not so picturesque, but still magical.

This feels a lot like a fantasy mixed with fairy tales and historical fiction, which I’m getting a kick out of at the moment. The magic was beautiful and delicate and particular, and I loved how Sarai struggled to deal with a gruesome past that her parents’ left her with while trying to deal with the people who hate her and her friends for it. It was definitely reminiscent of how people pass the burden onto younger generations in order to find a place to put their prejudice.

Beautiful, dreamy and a whole lotta strange.

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Everless by Sara Holland

Publisher: Harper Collins
Release Date: 2nd January 2018
Rating: ☆ ☆ .5
Goodreads

The novel, pitched as Red Queen meets Downtown Abbey, is set in a kingdom where time is a commodity that flows through the blood and is hoarded by the rich, and centers on a 17-year-old girl who becomes the next handmaiden at the Everless Estate only to find herself at the heart of a centuries-old rivalry over the secret to immortal life.

1507201345324So this was kind of…blah. And I hate saying that, because ‘blah’ isn’t a good review is it? But how can you describe a book that makes you feel nothing?

Everless is pretty much a textbook YA court fantasy story. I knew what would happen, and it felt horrible that I didn’t care. My mind began to automatically skip over sentences that weren’t dialogue until at one point I didn’t even know what was going on and had to force myself to go back over it. It still didn’t make sense.

There seems to be a half formed plot about Jules’ past that makes her obviously ‘special’, but what it is is half-assed and doesn’t make for much of a shocker moment. Yeah, of course she’s special, yeah of course she’s the only one who can save the kingdom. The rest of the characters? Kinda boring, a bit 2D. I only gave it 2.5 stars because the beginning didn’t at least drag and I kind of enjoyed the magical ‘blood-iron’ system that allowed people to pay in time.

Something very refreshing in this story however was the inclusion of LGBTQ characters within the world. While it was unfortunate that they were side characters, or extras just passing through, it really showed the kind of worlds that Holland will be writing in the future. Inclusive, diverse, and different. It’s so hard to find historical-esque fantasy that will include dragons but find non-straight people ‘unrealistic’, and so I am pleased that we’re finally building the blocks to a more well rounded genre.

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Godsgrave (The Nevernight Chronicles #2) by Jay Kristoff

Publisher: Harper Voyager
Release Date: 7th September 2017
Rating: ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆
Goodreads

Mia Corvere, destroyer of empires, has found her place among the Blades of Our Lady of Blessed Murder, but many in the Red Church ministry do not believe she has earned it.

Her position is precarious, and she’s still no closer to exacting revenge for the brutal death of her family. But after a deadly confrontation with an old enemy, Mia begins to suspect the motives of the Red Church itself.

When it is announced that Consul Scaeva and Cardinal Duomo will be making a rare public appearance at the conclusion of the grand games in Godsgrave, Mia defies the Church and sells herself into slavery for a chance to fulfill the promise she made on the day she lost everything.

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Upon the sands of the arena, Mia finds new allies, bitter rivals, and more questions about her strange affinity for the shadows. But as conspiracies unfold, secrets are revealed and the body count rises within the collegium walls, Mia will be forced to choose between her loyalties and her revenge.

WELL SHIT HAS CERTAINLY HIT THE FAN HASN’T IT LADS?

Falling in love with Nevernight was such a surprise for me. I hadn’t heard of it, was given an ARC, and fell head over heels with the language, concept, the setting, and just everything about it. I still can’t decide whether to call it YA or not, and whether it would be insulting to assume that this is not for adults just because of the violence, swearing and sexual scenes (like come on, young adults watch Game of Thrones, it’s not like they’re new to it), but at the same time, I can never find these books in the YA sections of bookstores, so the marketing is different, who knows.

But I’ve always shied away from adult fantasy because of some of the content; primarily male writers who can’t or won’t write female characters, with plots that are all just Lord of the Rings or Game of Thrones regurgitated en masse. And while Nevernight and it’s sequel, Godsgrave, don’t have the most unique plot you’ve ever heard of, I am still enthralled by the twists and turns that this series has, and what it will do to keep you on your toes.

It’s getting better and better too, I cannot wait to stick this on lists of fantasy reads you SHOULD be reading this year and talking about it lots all over my social medias. If you love foul mouthed, bloody thirsty anti-heroines who possess the magic of shadows and will stop at nothing for revenge against the death of her family, including competing in one of the deadliest fighting matches in the country, then look no further than Mia Corvere.

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Wintersong by S. Jae Jones

Publisher: Titan Books
Release Date: February 2017
Rating: ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆
Goodreads

Beware the goblin men and the wares they sell.

All her life, nineteen-year-old Liesl has heard tales of the beautiful, mysterious Goblin King. He is the Lord of Mischief, the Ruler Underground, and the muse around which her music is composed. Yet, as Liesl helps shoulder the burden of running her family’s inn, her dreams of composition and childish fancies about the Goblin King must be set aside in favor of more practical concerns.

But when her sister Käthe is taken by the goblins, Liesl journeys to their realm to rescue her sister and return her to the world above. The Goblin King agrees to let Käthe go—for a price. The life of a maiden must be given to the land, in accordance with the old laws. A life for a life, he says. Without sacrifice, nothing good can grow. Without death, there can be no rebirth. In exchange for her sister’s freedom, Liesl offers her hand in marriage to the Goblin King. He accepts.

Down in the Underground, Liesl discovers that the Goblin King still inspires her—musically, physically, emotionally. Yet even as her talent blossoms, Liesl’s life is slowly fading away, the price she paid for becoming the Goblin King’s bride. As the two of them grow closer, they must learn just what it is they are each willing to sacrifice: her life, her music, or the end of the world. 

I think I bought this book because I knew exactly what to expect.

IMG_20170716_174959_683I had imagined, when reading the blurb and reading a few reviews, that it would be very similar to that age old tale of a maiden being tricked into being captured by a scary but handsome, supernatural being. You know, Sarah J. Maas-esque. I had previously read and enjoyed A Court of Mist and Fury, but after deciding not continue with the third installment, there was a hole missing in my TBR.

Another book I absolutely adored was Uprooted by Naomi Novik, and reading Wintersong gave me so many Uprooted vibes that I quickly nabbed it from Waterstones, cutting short my pathetically executed book buying ban.

Wintersong is, first and foremost, gorgeous.

A large part of the story is about music, and how it has raised, supported, and empowered main character Liesl. It’s described so beautifully that you can almost hear it. Along with the setting, it’s one of the best things about the book, and even though I had to google what ‘klavier’ was (it’s German for ‘piano’), I pictured Liesl and her brother making beautiful music together and working hard towards Liesl’s brother’s musical career.

The setting is also stunning, but maybe I’m biased because I love Bavaria. I’ve been to Southern Germany twice now, and every time I’m there, I can think about romantic stories set in the quiet, quintessentially German villages that populate in between mountains and gathered around castles. So reading Wintersong was a right treat for my mind when it’s on holiday.

The only downside was the ending, which took far too long to execute and became a little confusing. The set up and middle sections, where we’re introduced to life in Liesl’s village and the folklore that’s been a part of it, gripped me to read on. The introduction of The Goblin King and Liesl’s time Underground also made sense and set us up for something great and maybe even action packed, but beyond that, there were a lot of sleeping scenes, Liesl being stuck in her room, and then a few conversations with The Goblin King. The ending became a little convoluted and confusing that I am still thinking about what happened and not being too sure. The was not even a sizzle, never mind a bang.

A fun tale weaved from magic and music but still missing the fourth and final leg.

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Our Dark Duet By Victoria Schwab

Publisher: Titan Books
Release Date: 13th June 2017
Rating: ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆
Goodreads

Kate Harker is a girl who isn’t afraid of the dark. She’s a girl who hunts monsters. And she’s good at it. August Flynn is a monster who can never be human, no matter how much he once yearned for it. He’s a monster with a part to play. And he will play it, no matter the cost.

Nearly six months after Kate and August were first thrown together, the war between the monsters and the humans is terrifying reality. In Verity, August has become the leader he never wished to be, and in Prosperity, Kate has become the ruthless hunter she knew she could be. When a new monster emerges from the shadows—one who feeds on chaos and brings out its victim’s inner demons—it lures Kate home, where she finds more than she bargained for. She’ll face a monster she thought she killed, a boy she thought she knew, and a demon all her own. 

So now I’m sad that another V.E. Schwab series is over.

In the space of 3 months, two endings to two very popular series were released, and while I devoured them both in a matter of hours, I had forgotten that once I’d finished them, THAT WAS IT.

Our Dark Duet is the sequel to This Savage Song, about a monster boy who dreams of being human, and a human girl with the fate of becoming monstrous. While the feel of the setting and themes may seem familiar to very genre-specific stories, this series is dripping with that Schwab passion that makes it so much more special than just an apocalyptic monster-book.

I love Schwab’s female characters, and Kate Harker is no exception. I read somewhere that Schwab likes to make her female characters Slytherin’s and my gosh, as a Slytherin, does that make my heart sing. Kate is fearless but also afraid, 100% done but also 100% willing to fight for what is right (or at least her version of right), an icy character with soft gooey centre…somewhere in there.

I love August too. Schwab has a knack for writing what I like to call ‘Hufflepuff Boys’; they’re loving, will do anything for their family, and they ARE the soft gooey centre! While the warring parts of the cities have closed in however, August has changed; he’s closed off, with-holding, and jumps at the chance to fight. I liked his character development – war changes a person, but obviously I love him for who he is which is a soft monster with a knack for playing the violin.

A thrilling end to another V.E. Schwab starred series!

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A Conjuring of Light by V.E. Schwab

Publisher: Titan Books
Release Date: 28th February 2017
Rating: ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆
Goodreads

The precarious equilibrium among four Londons has reached its breaking point. Once brimming with the red vivacity of magic, darkness casts a shadow over the Maresh Empire, leaving a space for another London to rise. Kell – once assumed to be the last surviving Antari – begins to waver under the pressure of competing loyalties. And in the wake of tragedy, can Arnes survive? Lila Bard, once a commonplace – but never common – thief, has survived and flourished through a series of magical trials. But now she must learn to control the magic, before it bleeds her dry. Meanwhile, the disgraced Captain Alucard Emery of the Night Spire collects his crew, attempting a race against time to acquire the impossible. And an ancient enemy returns to claim a crown while a fallen hero tries to save a world in decay.

I always find it a lot harder to review books I adored as opposed to books I hated.

It’s harder because what do I say that doesn’t sound like I’m being a mushy, soppy loved up reader? With negative reviews I can be cold and professional, almost academic sounding with my shade, but when it comes to love, how can you turn it into a review?

Let’s talk about the series as a whole rather than this book itself, to avoid spoilers.

tumblr_omlwvhTmhw1u04fedo1_540I’ve fallen in love with the Shades of Magic series. I fall in love often but maybe not this hard, and especially not with a high fantasy series. High fantasy can often come across as samey and stereotypical, often missing great opportunities to do something different as this is a genre where the possibilities are endless. You are literally creating a world with the power of your brain and language, and yet so many books are filled with cliches and things you’ve seen before. Things that, though may seem relatable and familiar to our world, still aren’t what makes a story in high fantasy so imaginative and immersing.

But Shades of Magic has always been about spreading your imagination far and wide; different Londons, folded over one another like the pages of a book, in universes that are similar but also not, hiding secrets and magic and evil. Already, you’re handed that and you know already that this series is not like the others.

But then you get the characters who aren’t stock, aren’t just what would expect in a high fantasy novel. They’re all lovable, even the villains, even the side characters who still have enough agency and personality to be someone you can actually picture rather than just an extra. But obviously, the main characters; Kell and Lila Bard are funny, witty and you can feel comfortable going on this cut throat journey with them as they make it through multiple Londons, learning different languages, and becoming accustomed to different cultures.

And of course, A Conjuring of Light was the bittersweet ending that I wanted but also didn’t want, because it meant never waiting to see what happens next. This series has all my praise, and I guarantee you will love it too.

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