fantasy · review · young adult

Coral And Bone – Tiffany Daune

“Every day is filled with impossibility, until you have chosen to see the possible. Once you make the shift to see, life is a less frightening journey.”

 

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Blurb: “Halen knows the sparks igniting under her fingertips are dangerous. She has spent her entire life trying to quell the tingly feelings that make her destroy things, but now that she is back in Rockaway Beach, where she watched her father drown, the flames have become impossible to tame. Halen is trying to hold on, but when she is thrust into a mysterious new world, the underwater realm of Elosia, she unravels the secrets of her past and can’t help but ignite.”

*This book was sent to me by the publisher in exchange for an honest review*

Coral and Bone follows a girl called Halen who moved back to Rockaway Beach a few years after the death of her father. Halen’s mother hopes returning will bring them solace and the strength to move on with their lives, but Halen has started hearing things that no one else can and the ability to produce sparks from her fingers. When a stranger rescues Halen from a swarm of mermaids, she learns more about her life than she never knew possible.

There are many books I read where the characters outweigh the plot and this is one of them. While the plot is fascinating and unravelled in ways I never could’ve predicted, Halen is very much the driving force of this novel. At the start of the books there is an illustration of her which just made the character feel more real in my mind. The actions and choices she made throughout the story felt like ones a real person would make and I found it so incredibly easy to latch onto her along this adventure.

The world and backstories were delivered through dialogue which stopped the book from falling into info-dump territory which happens all too easily in fantasy/folklore based novels. Also I am a complete sucker for the “training trope” so when there were scenes where Halen was learning to control and harness her powers I was practically jumping up and down with excitement.

The only downside is that frankly the mermaids weren’t around often enough. I would have loved to see more of them.

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fantasy · review · young adult

Traitor To The Throne – Alwyn Hamilton

“This was what the desert did to us. It made us dreamers with weapons.”

 

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Blurb: “Mere months ago, gunslinger Amani al’Hiza fled her dead-end hometown on the back of a mythical horse with the mysterious foreigner Jin, seeking only her own freedom. Now she’s fighting to liberate the entire desert nation of Miraji from a bloodthirsty sultan who slew his own father to capture the throne. 
When Amani finds herself thrust into the epicenter of the regime—the Sultan’s palace—she’s determined to bring the tyrant down. Desperate to uncover the Sultan’s secrets by spying on his court, she tries to forget that Jin disappeared just as she was getting closest to him, and that she’s a prisoner of the enemy. But the longer she remains, the more she questions whether the Sultan is really the villain she’s been told he is, and who’s the real traitor to her sun-bleached, magic-filled homeland.”

 

*This book was sent to me by the publisher in exchange for an honest review*


Rebel of the Sands
was the book that regained my faith in Young Adult fiction when I was considering moving on from it completely. There was just something so magical and truly wonderful about the characters and the world that Alwyn Hamilton had woven together, and now she’s back with the highly anticipated sequel Traitor To The Throne.

It’s hard to give a summary for this book without spoiling the previous one so all I will say is this: the rebellion at this point lies solely on the Sultan not knowing exactly how small the rebellion actually is, and also not discovering that Amani is in fact the Blue Eyed-Bandit.

As I often find with sequels, it’s easy to forget the story so far without re-reading which I struggle to do a lot of the time but thankfully Hamilton includes a glossary as the start of the book detailing each character and their roles, and the first chapter is quite simply a recap of the story so far. I found it incredibly helpful to have a guide within the book to go back to without having to pause and do an internet search to remind myself of certain information.

Alwyn Hamilton has this real talent for introducing new parts of the world she’s created without throwing the reader into them, hoping they find their own way. Instead she eases the reader in gently which I’m finding so rare lately.

It’s really interesting to see what was happening on the Sultan’s side of the rebellion and get a glimpse into why these people are rallying against him. It provided moments of action and excitement and I loved seeing the character development of Amani. However this book just seemed to fall short of its brilliant counterpart. Unfortunately it seems to suffer from “second book syndrome” where the lull periods go on for too long but that, at the same time, can’t be helped because of the nature of the plot. It just seemed to lack that something that made me love the first one so much.

It has its moments of greatness but overall  it feels like a pebble compared to the rock that was Rebel Of The Sands.

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fantasy · review · young adult

Empire Of Storms – Sarah J. Maas

“Hand in hand, they stared towards the darkness coating the mountains, the dread-lord’s bone drums pounding like hammers on iron. Too soon, those drums would be drowned out by the screams of dying soldiers. Too soon, the valley fields would be carved with streams of blood.”

 

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Blurb: “The long path to the throne has only just begun for Aelin Galathynius. Loyalities have been broken and bought, friends have been lost and gained, and those who possess magic find themselves at odds with those who don’t. At the kingdom of Erilea fracture around her, enemies must become allies if Aelin is to keep those she loves from falling to the dark forces poised to claim her world. With war looming on all horizons, the only chance for salvation lies in a desperate quest that may mark the end of everything Aelin holds dear.”

This is the fifth book in the best-selling Throne Of Glass series and everything is certainly out to play for. Aelin Galathynius is finally back in her long-lost kingdom Terrasen though is having to stay hidden until she has built up enough allies to help her re-claim the throne. The witches are preparing for war and Dorian is reeling from the events of the previous book.

I found the reading experience of Empire of Storms very mixed. The main problem I had was that current storylines at the forefront were brought in during Heir of Fire so when I considered re-reading the previous two books in order to refresh my memory, I was left with the conundrum of “am I willing to re-read two 600+ page books before Empire of Storms?” I didn’t and so I found this novel a struggle because of how deep the roots of certain character arcs are now extending. I frequently had to access character wikis to remind myself of who certain people were and access full recaps of previous books to understand where the characters were. This is no fault really of Sarah J Maas but me and my laziness. However, what I did enjoy  is that seemingly separate characters are now starting to cross paths and form the bigger picture as this series is now nearing the end.

The character who formed the centre of my affections was Manon Blackbeak ( a character who previously I detested having to read).No matter what your thoughts are on her, it is impossible to deny how fantastically well she’s written. Throughout this book in particular I loved seeing how she grew when she finally decided to stand up for herself and I was rooting for her through every single appearance she made. Another was the seemingly irrelevant Elide Loche who becomes one of the vital characters in this part of the story. I wasn’t sure what to make of her but she is yet again another testament to brilliantly written characters and her story may be tragic enough to match Aelin’s. Elide was another character I rooted for every step of the way.

This book felt very slow, especially in the middle and I feel that a lot of the action that happened was moreso intended to keep the reader interested as it’s a long quest that takes the centre of the story.

Although, in true Sarah J.Maas manner, she left it on such a note that I can do nothing but impatiently wait until the next book.

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fantasy · review

Short Stories from Hogwarts of Power, Politics And Pesky Poltergeists – J.K.Rowling

“Slughorn’s genuine remorse for the damage he had done in telling Riddle what he wanted to know is conclusive proof that he is not, and never was, Death Eater material.”

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Blurb: “These stories of power, politics and pesky poltergeists give you a glimpse into the darker side of the wizarding world, revealing the ruthless roots of Professor Umbridge, the lowdown on the Ministers for Magic and the history of the wizarding prison Azkaban. You will also delve deeper into Horace Slughorn’s early years as Potions master at Hogwarts – and his acquaintance with one Tom Marvolo Riddle.”

This is the third and final ebook I read in the new Harry Potter collection and it was a very satisfying way to end.

Power, Politics and Pesky Poltergeists focuses on a host of topics such as the backstory of arguably the most hated character from the Harry Potter series: Dolores Umbridge, a chapter dedicated to our favourite poltergeist Peeves, and an analysis of the fatal mistake Horace Slughorn made with Tom Riddle and how he coped with the aftermath, along with his role in the battle of Hogwarts.

What I found the most interesting in this collection were the chapters addressing the history of the Ministry of Magic and how it came to be along with the history behind the famous Azkaban prison.

It was another insightful read and just adds to how vast and how much of this world J.K.Rowling thought about when she was working on the Harry Potter books.

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fantasy · review

Hogwarts: An Unreliable Guide – J.k.Rowling

“The sorting hat spent nearly four minutes trying to decide whether it should place Hermione in Ravenclaw or Gryffindor. In Neville’s case, the Hat was determined to place him in Gryffindor: Neville, intimidated by that house’s reputation for bravery, requested a placing in Hufflepuff.”

 

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Blurb: “Hogwarts: And Incomplete and Unreliable Guide takes you on a journey to Hogwarts school of Witchcraft and Wizardry. You’ll venture into the Hogwarts grounds, become better acquainted with the more permanent residents, learn more about lessons and discover secrets of the castle.”

This is the second of the new Harry Potter ebooks that I decided to pick up because they’re quick and easy reads.

Hogwarts: An Incomplete and Unreliable Guide is a wonderful collection that pays attention to the relevance of Kings Cross Station to the both J.K.Rowling and the world of Harry Potter, an insight into the life of the maurauder’s and how the famous map came to be. The reader can expect to learn about the Hogwarts ghosts and their original names along with those that never made it into the books.

Secrets about the Mirror of Erised are revealed and there’s a quite funny chapter dedicated to the painting of Sir Cadogan which book fan may remember from Harry Potter and The Prisoner of Azkaban. Plus my personal favourite, a chapter about the Hufflepuff common room (I wear my badger with pride!)

As I’ve said before, these are pottermore essays so if you frequent the site a lot (especially in its original format) then it’s likely you’ve already seen these but this was certainly my favourite as it focused a lot more of aspects of the school itself such as what classes students study in year one and what options they get to choose later on.

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fantasy · review

Short Stories from Hogwarts of Heroism, Hardship and Dangerous Hobbies – J.K.Rowling

“Minerva McGonagall was one of only a handful of people who knew, or suspected, how dreadful a moment it was for Albus Dumbledore when, in 1945, he made the decision to confront and defeat the dark wizard Gellert Grindelwald.”

 

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Blurb: “These stories of heroism, hardship and dangerous hobbies profile two of the Harry Potter stories’ most courageous and iconic characters: Minerva McGonagall and Remus Lupin. J.K.Rowling also gives us a peak behind the closed curtain of Sybill Trelwaney’s life, and you’ll encounter the reckless, magical-beast-loving Silvanus Kettleburn along the way.”

When I first heard about even more Harry Potter material being launched into the world, I was both excited and sceptical. I will be reviewing each book over the course of this week so if you’re interested, keep an eye out.

This collection is basically the short stories that can be found on Pottermore, which as a free site makes the release of these ebooks feel very much like another chance to cash in on the new hype around the series. However, if you’re someone who’s a sucker for backstories then you’ll really enjoy Heroism, Hardship and Dangerous Hobbies.

It’s split into four sections, focusing on different heroic characters from the Harry Potter series. Those are: Minerva McGonagall, Remus Lupin, Sybill Trelawny and Silvanus Kettleburn. The reader is given an insight into the lives of each of these characters along with learning more about the history of aspects they are linked to such as the “prejudice of werewolves” for Lupin and “history of the animagus” for McGonagall.

It’s a fun, quick little read and sure to give heart-warming feelings to any Harry Potter fans.

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fantasy · review · young adult

This Savage Song- V.E.Schwab

“It wasn’t the act of killing that bothered her – monsters and men both did that – and it wasn’t even the chilling serenity on the Sunai’s face. It was the fact that he killed them with a sound. Those men were dead the minute he started playing.”

 

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Blurb: “Kate Harker and August Flynn are the heirs to a divided city, a grisly metropolis where the violence has begun to create real and deadly monsters. All Kate wants is to be as ruthless as her father, who lets the monsters roam free and makes the inhabitants pay for his protection. August just wants to be human, as good-hearted as his father – but his curse is to be what humans fear. The thin truce that keeps the Harker and Flynn families at peace is crumbling, and an assassination attempt forces Kate and August into a tenuous alliance. But how long will they survive in a city where no one Is safe and monsters are real?”

This is the first in a new duology by V.E.Schwab who gained number one New York Times Bestselling status with this book.

It has been twelve years since violence started manifesting as actual monsters, six years since a truce divided the city of Verity into two and four years since August was found at a crime scene, surrounded by bodies. August lives in the South side of the city where the Flynn family storm out every night to keep the monsters at bay. Through a transfer to Colton Academy he meets Kate Harker who is from the north side of the city, where protection from monsters can be given for a high price. There are three types of monsters: Corsai (the result of non-lethal acts of violence), Malchai (the result of murders) and the Sunai (the result of bombing, shootings or massacres). August is one of those monsters; a sunai.

Anyone who follows me on any kind of social media will know that over the past year I have become a big fan of V.E.Schwab and her work. The concept of this was so interesting because it’s something I’ve never heard of and on top of that it’s a young adult paranormal novel with NO ROMANCE.

However, there were several times when I considered giving up on this book all together. I restarted about four times, convinced I’d missed something, and came to the realisation that there is nowhere near the amount of information dumping that’s needed. Normally I’m so against having lots of knowledge thrown at me so easy on in a book but there’s no map to accompany the story so at times I found it hard to place where the characters were in the city and to top it off, it’s not until 190 pages into the book that you actually learn the difference between the three monsters despite them being referred to constantly throughout the book.

I found the first two chapters really disorientating and they read as a kind of prologue that isn’t related to the story in a way. The transition from those to “verse one” was very jarring. But I persevered and grew to really enjoy the story. The characters were well written and I found myself really caring for August and it was a lot more brutal than I expected it to be.

It kept me intrigued enough to want to find out what happens next however it works well as a stand alone.
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fantasy · review

Oak And Mistletoe -J.Z.N McCauley

“I think you’re a special girl, of course, but I think you have that tinge of magic some seek. Aligned in your stars.”

 

Blurb: “Catherine Green, along with her twin sister and older brother, travel to Ireland on a college graduate trip. Her vacation takes a permanent turn when she lands her dream job at an art and history museum on her beloved Emerald Isle. She meets a handsome stranger named Bowen, an expert of sorts, on local ancient studies. Through their first meetings are turbulent at best, Catherine finds herself drawn to him. Unaware that she is the key to breaking a hidden curse, Catherine unleashes the evil madman Conall and his druid followers, imprisoned since ancient times. Tragedy and loss ensue, sprouting within Catherine the deep seeds of rage that thrust her onto the damaging path of vengeance.”

*This book was sent to me by the author in exchange for an honest review*

Catherine, Kathleen and Danny go on a graduation trip to Ireland and end up staying there permanently, making a home for themselves. When Catherine receives a warning from a stranger, the everyday begins to take a dark turn.

What I loved about this book is the beautiful cover for a start, it echoes the theme of the book perfectly, and also the druid aspect. I didn’t really know much about the druids prior to reading this and it encouraged me to look into that part of history more.  I felt the protagonist – Catherine – was strong.

However, I had a lot of issues with this book. The point of view changed quite a lot without it really being clear when it had changed and for this type of story I felt discovering the secrets through Catherine’s eyes would have worked better. It seemed like I was reading the bones of a story where all the major plot points were planned and written out but then nothing was added to fill the gaps. Everything moved a bit too fast and the characters didn’t seem to react how real people would to certain situations so it was hard to believe anything they did. Everything just felt a bit forced.

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children's fiction · fantasy · review

Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (Illustrated) – J.k.Rowling & Jim Kay

“There will be books written about Harry – every child in our world will know his name.”

 

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Blurb: “Harry Potter’s life changes forever on his eleventh birthday, when beetle-eyed giant Rubeus Hagrid delivers a letter and some astonishing news. Harry Potter is no ordinary boy: he’s a wizard. And an extraordinary adventure is about to begin. The first ever Illustrated edition of J.K.Rowling’s magical classic is packed with glorious colour illustrations by Jim Kay, winner of the Kate Greenaway Medal. An utterly enchanting feast of a book, perfect for devoted fans and new readers alike.”

It’s no secret that I love Harry Potter. When Bloomsbury announced there would be new illustrated editions coming out each year I was beyond excited: an opportunity to experience my love for this story in a new format.

I finally sat down with my massive, very heavy copy and started reading. I was instantly sucked back into this world: reading about characters and a magical world I’d grown up being a part of. Through my re-read I decided to bump up my rating of this book to the full five stars. What is truly wonderful about this book is that, with the combination of the words and the illustrations, it felt like I was reading it again for the first time. There is the element of surprise as you don’t know what scenes are going to come to life in glorious colour. It made the whole reading experience even more exciting.

Through reading the first book again I was reminded of how fantastic and magical this story is and decided to bump up my rating to five stars.

The thrill I get from this new edition is knowing that a whole new generation will be able to experience the story with the pictures to go along with it.

I honestly cannot justify how beautiful this book is and while it’s  quite pricey, it is worth it if you can afford it.

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fantasy · review · young adult

Carry On – Rainbow Rowell

“I walk up to the tall iron gate – THE WATFORD SCHOOL – is spelled out on the top – and rest my hand on the bars to let them feel my magic. That used to be all it took. The gates would swing open for anyone who was a magician.”

 

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Blurb: “Simon Snow is the worst chosen one who’s ever been chosen. That’s what his roommate, Baz says. And Baz might be evil and a vampire and a complete git, but he’s probably right. Half the time Simon can’t even makes his wand work, and the other half, he sets something on fire. His mentor’s avoiding him, his girlfriend broke-up with him, and there’s a magic-eating monster running around wearing Simon’s face. Baz would be having a field day with all this, if he were here – it’s their last year at the Watford school of Magiks, and Simon’s infuriating nemesis didn’t bother to show up.”

Carry On is a companion novel to Rainbow’s full length book Fangirl. This book is the fanfiction referred to in Fangirl that Cath write throughout the book. Having said that, there is no need to read that book before reading this one. This is Rainbow’s first fantasy novel and is told through multiple perspectives.

It’s hard to give a synopsis for this book since the blurb has pretty much done the job for me and giving anything outside of that would be spoilers. But I digress. The story is centred around Simon Snow who is in his last year of magic school, battling with being the chosen one, having a villain running around looking like an exact copy of him and having to deal with all the typical teenage drama.

The best description I’ve seen of Carry On is that it’s “fantasy that reads like contemporary” and I completely agree with this statement. Rainbow gives you this amazing world with a whole host of fantasy elements but it doesn’t have that heavyweight feeling that fantasies normally do. You can just tell by reading it that the writing style is the product of Rainbow Rowell. However, when reading it I experienced something unexpected: a connection to Cath. While absorbing the words it felt like I was reading what Cath had written – this fantastic story she works tirelessly on in Fangirl. I just felt so close to her while reading it which was an unusual but incredible feeling.

Penelope was by far by favourite character as she was just that kind of person you’d want to have on your side. She was a pleasure to share this adventure with.

There’s a lot of expectation in place when a writer decides to produce something in a different genre and I will admit that I was anxious about how good this would be. Rainbow did not let me down and proves just how much of an outstanding writer she is. Rowell is just an auto buy writer for me now.

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