Posted in discussion, Uncategorized

A Cover Is Not The Book

Recently, I went to see Mary Poppins Returns in the cinema and I absolutely loved every single second of it. But among all the familiarity, the contrast of colours and the pure magic weaved into its story, one song in particular stuck out to me.

The song is called “A Cover Is Not The Book” and tackles the topic of how really you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover because then you’ll be surprised and find that your preconceptions were actually quite wrong. It got me thinking about some books I’ve come across where I wasn’t that enamored with the cover but, whether through knowledge of the author or hearing many good things, I decided to continue on and see what happens.

So here’s a list, in no particular order, of books where I hated the covers, but really loved the story:

The Great Gatsby by F.Scott Fitzgerald

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Did you really think this would be the year where I didn’t mention The Great Gatsby at any given opportunity? One of my favourite books of all time but has a truly appalling original cover. Of course, like with many classics, there are many different editions out there but I chose to stick with the original as this was the cover of the copy I read. It was purely because of the 2013 adaption that I picked this book up so that I could experience the story for myself. Little did I know that the glitz and glamour of 1920’s parties, luscious prose and complex, intoxicating characters would have me coming back for many a reread.

City of Bones by Cassandra Clare 

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I promise that this list isn’t going to include all my favourite books! Another book that I picked up because of an upcoming film adaptation, City of Bones was a game changer for me.  After devouring this book and its subsequent partners, I took a shift in my reading life to YA fantasy and also realised it was the kind of stuff that I wanted to write more of. A tale packed full of half angel- half human individuals battling demons in a world of warlocks, vampires and werewolves. There sure is something for everyone.

A Very Large Expanse Of Sea by Tahereh Mafi 

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A Very Large Expanse of Sea made it onto my list of favourite books for last year. It follows a Muslim teenager called Shirin as she tackles school and wider society a year on from the events of 9/11. She is an incredible well-rounded character with so many layers to her than what those see around her, and I actually really liked the romance in it. The cover itself, however, I just found a bit bland. I get the effect of showing the reflection in water but I feel that it’s just too simplistic.

City of Ghosts by Victoria Schwab 

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Victoria Schwab is an auto-buy author for me so most of the time I pick up her books not really knowing that much about them. City of Ghosts is a prime example of the US cover being infinitely better than the UK cover. I just really don’t like the way the red and black blend together and it makes it actually hurt my eyes to look at. The story, however, is fantastic. It’s about a girl who can see ghosts and sometimes step into the veil to the other side. It will appeal greatly to fans of Coraline by Neil Gaiman.

Wonder by R. J. Palacio

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Again, another one where I feel that the cover is a bit too simple. But the story is outstanding, and turned into an equally amazing film adaptation. It’s about a boy called August with a facial disfigurement who starts his first year in public school after being home schooled. It’s multiple perspective which works really well to see into the minds of other characters and how they view August. It’s a tearjerker, so make sure you have tissues handy.

So that’s my list! What are some books that you loved but didn’t like the cover?

Alternatively, what are some of your favourite book covers?

 

 

Posted in fantasy, review, young adult

Queen Of Air And Darkness – Cassandra Clare

“We are dust and shadows,” Emma said. “I guess we’re all ashes too.”

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Blurb: “Innocent blood has been spilled on the steps of the Council Hall, the sacred stronghold of the Shadowhunters. In the wake of the tragic death of Livia Blackthorn, the Clave teeters on the brink of civil war. One fragment of the Blackthorn family flees to Los Angeles, seeking to discover the source of the blight that is destroying the race of warlocks. Meanwhile, Julian and Emma take desperate measures to put their forbidden love aside and undertake a perilous mission to Faerie to retrieve the Black Volume of the Dead. What they find in the Courts is a secret that may tear the Shadow World asunder and open a dark path into a future they could never have imagined.”

It’s no secret that Cassandra Clare is one of my favourite authors and, like many, I have been sat impatiently waiting for the final instalment of The Dark Artifices series. This new aspect of the Shadowhunter world has not been plain sailing for me: I didn’t like the previous book and even in my reread in preparation of this release, I still didn’t rate it much. To me, it’s a series that peaked at the first book.

The first thing that really strikes me about this world is just how detailed it is. Cassandra Clare has stated in talks before that she’s a full on planner and it really shows in her writing. The Dark Artifices features her biggest cast of characters to date and she manages to ride that perfect balance of allowing each group the appropriate amount of readership time. It’s so intricate and carefully handled that I can’t help but marvel at it.

The blackthorns are reeling from a family tragedy and the many ways grief is explored throughout the book is painful to read but absolutely necessary. There’s a distinct shift in how Dru and Ty deal with the loss compared to Julian and the older siblings and all of it was so beautifully done. Consistently, Mark Blackthorn has been my favourite character and his overall growth throughout the series has been an absolute treat and, dare I say it, he may be up there with Alec Lightwood as my favourite Shadowhunter character. He’s come such a long way from the sugar incident in Lady Midnight to protecting his siblings with his life and I just adore everything about him. In fact, love triangles are one of my least favourite tropes but my favourite segments to read were any scenes with Kieran, Christina and Mark. The growth and development there was, again, beautiful to read. I also loved seeing a bisexual character exploring relationships with both men and women.

The Clave are a government body that have always absolutely terrified me and this book was no different. If anything, they really ramped up the fear factor. As lot of their decisions feel all too familiar from our world with talks of walls to keep certain species out, creating registries and handing out numbers to identify Downworlders. I love seeing politics in other world and it was fascinating to have the character of Diana through which to see these Clave events play out.

However, at 800 pages, Queen Of Air and Darkness really feels its length. I had periods where it just felt like a slog to get through and I really didn’t enjoy the majority of Part Two and find myself getting distracted by other things. I’m not really a big fan of “alternate reality” stuff within an author’s work and, minus one particular factor, it just didn’t feel like the reader gained much apart from an long drawn out “what could have been” segment. And frankly, if I wanted to see that I would turn to fan fiction. Also I read this via ebook and there were a lot of typo errors.

It’s sad to say goodbye to another area of this world, but with the news of The Last Hours due to be released next year, I won’t have long to wait before I delve back in!

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Posted in fantasy, Rereads, review, young adult

Reread | City Of Bones

“All the stories are true.”

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Blurb: “When fifteen-year-old Clary Fray heads out to the Pandemonium Club in New York City, she hardly expects to witness a murder― much less a murder committed by three teenagers covered with strange tattoos and brandishing bizarre weapons. Then the body disappears into thin air. It’s hard to call the police when the murderers are invisible to everyone else and when there is nothing―not even a smear of blood―to show that a boy has died.”

I’ve rather loudly proclaimed that The Mortal Instruments series is one of my favourites and the release of the 10 year anniversary edition gave me the perfect excuse to pick it up again.

Fifteen-year-old Clary Fray is expectantly thrown into a world of vampires, werewolves and warlocks when she discovers that she can see Shadowhunters – a group of half-human/half-angels who kill demons for a living. Cassandra Clare’s world-building blows my mind as every single detail feels like it has been carefully chosen to make the world seem more substantial. City Of Bones works perfectly as an introduction to this extensive world without leading to the reader being thrown from location to location before having a chance to find their feet.

The writing is not the best; in fact there’s quite a lot of work that needs to be made but it just goes to show how far Cassandra Clare has come in terms of writing style when exploring her latest books. She really is a writer who continues to get better and better with every single book she produces.

I have never been a fan of the protagonist, Clary, and this time was no different. She comes across so whiny and seems to adjust to easily to her life being turned upside down, plus she’s quite horrible to Simon who is supposedly her best friend. This is one of those books where the ensemble of characters are considerably better than the main one such as Jace who is the snarky shadowhunter destined to win reader’s hearts.

What makes me really love this story the concept of a whole other world existing right in front of you, but not knowing it’s there until forced to look at things from a different angle. Clary isn’t whisked off to a magical world like in many other fantasy novels; this underbelly of angels and demons exists right on her doorstep.

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Posted in discussion

Should Good Things End?

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It’s natural to not want books to end; to wish we could get endless information about our favourite characters, to know they’re alright after the story ends.

A few year ago, John Green addressed questions about The Fault In Our Stars by saying he had no right to dictate what happened after the end of the book because, after all, the characters’ lives end when the story does; something that he actually explored in the author character of the very same book.

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An obvious one to consider is Harry Potter. With a new movie franchise breathing life into this magical universe again, along came new illustrated versions of the books (published on a yearly basis, an exhibit at the British Library, cover redesigns for the minor spin-off books and, more recently, the announcement of 20th anniversary house editions for Chamber of Secrets. My love for this world is no secret, but sometimes it can feel overwhelming and it leads me to wonder: when does you run out of things to produce? When does it all stop?

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Another example is the Miss Peregrine trilogy, written by Ransom Riggs. To me, this series was the perfect length and the ending left me with a heart set to burst; it was the right goodbye for these characters and their world. But with the movie adaptation bringing along the Tales of The Peculiar companion and the announcement of a brand new trilogy… following the same characters.

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Someone I cannot help but mention is Cassandra Clare, who is very much known for creating series after series set within the Shadowhunters universe. The Bane Chronicles started off as a bi-monthly Ebook series but became so popular that it was produced in a physical form with an added story. Now some of the stories have started coming out in small, compact, beautiful editions.

I want to make it clear that this is not an attack on anniversary editions: I don’t mind new books to mark the milestone, to give us an excuse to revisit a well loved story.

But maybe there’s a beauty to the fact that things do end. It makes us appreciate them a lot more when there’s nothing else to be said, to know that we may never get answers to some of those lingering questions over the year.

Or maybe it’s just me.
Let me know what you think.

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Posted in discussion, lgbt

My Sexuality In Fiction

While it may be hard for many to believe, I didn’t hear the term “bisexual” until I was fifteen. Up to that point I was very aware of my attraction to men and women so I didn’t fit into the gay or lesbian categories. It was the introduction of a character in the TV show One Tree Hill who later announced their bisexuality that helped me realise a big part of my identity. That label has stuck with me ever since and after facing several years of feeling like it’s a part of myself that was “not relevant to discuss” I’ve started to become more open about it.

After seeing the film trailer for The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones I decided to buy the book as I always like reading the source material prior to watching an adaptation. This was the first time that I saw a bisexual character in fiction. Of course there are probably hundreds of books featuring bisexual characters that were released prior to City of Bones but this just happened to be the first book I came across. It had a monumental impact on me. In the pages of this vast urban fantasy world, there was a character openly declaring their bisexuality and that was that. It wasn’t made a big deal of and it was through following Magnus Bane in this world Cassandra Clare has created that I started to think that maybe my own sexuality didn’t need to be a big deal either.

I had the opportunity to meet Cassandra Clare on the UK book tour for The Iron Trial in 2014 and thank her but I completely bottled it and got into such a starstruck state that I asked her about something else instead and completely forgot to even say hello to Holly Black. Thankfully, another opportunity came around last year when Cassandra Clare did a UK book tour for Lady Midnight; Another book featuring a bisexual character.

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The picture above shows the exact moment when I started to share part of my story with an author who has made me feel validated. Looking back on this snapshot of time and seeing how happy Cassandra looks just made it matter even more to me. She went on to explain why she felt it was so important to include bisexual characters in her books and listed all of the ones she’s included. While they are all male characters, I was so overwhelmed at what she’d said and just how many are included in the Shadowhunter world that it was only until later that I started to question why most of the bisexual characters I had come across, in other media forms including books, seemed to mainly be men.

While the LGBT genre in Young Adult boasts about the diversity it holds, there isn’t much outside of the discovering-your-identity gay and lesbian stories. (Note: I want to make the point that I am no way discrediting or saying there should be less of one type of representation to make way for another.) Earlier this year I picked up the new release from Becky Albertalli called The Upside of Unrequited and it was brilliant as expected but came with quite a shock.

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The protagonist has two mothers in the book but it is late revealed that one of them is bisexual. I broke down crying. This wasn’t just a character close to my age mentioning her bisexuality. This a grown married woman with children stating the fact. It showed that, despite what people try to tell me, my sexual identity is not a phase and it is possible to be wife and a mother as well as being bisexual. I will champion this book for the rest of my days.

Another book I experienced this year was a debut called Noah Can’t Even by Simon James Green. While a book about a boy discovering he’s gay, it encouraged me to make a video over on my booktube channel talking about coming out and how important the treatment of bisexuality is to me. Simon actually watched this video too.
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Naturally, this response made me cry too but also has been a big motivator for me. I never really thought that what I was starting to do constitutes as “brave.” As I mentioned, I’ve become more vocal about my sexuality and the representation of it on books and not been afraid to call out bad representation when I come across it, regardless of how popular the book and author are. It’s also encouraged me to “write the change I want to see” and I have plans for a bisexuality driven YA book which I hope makes it out into the world one day.

I can only hope that slowly there is more of an inclusion of bisexuality in books.

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Posted in fantasy, review, shadowhunters, young adult

Lady Midnight – Cassandra Clare

“Cristina handed Emma’s stele back to her. ‘I’ve always wanted a parabatai.’ She said a little wistfully. ‘Someone who is sworn to protect you and watch your back. A best friend forever, for your whole life.”

 

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Blurb: “In a secret world where half-angel warriors are sworn to fight demons, parabatai is a sacred word. A parabatai is your partner in battle. A parabatai is your best friend. Parabatai can be everything to each other – but they can never fall in love.
Emma Carstairs is a warrior, a Shadowhunter. She lives for battle. Alongside her parabatai, Julian Blackthorn, she patrols Los Angeles. Where vampires party on the sunset strip and faeries – the most powerful of supernatural creatures – teeter on the edge of war with the Shadowhunters. When the bodies of humans and faeries are found murdered in the same way Emma’s parents were when she was a child, an uneasy alliance is formed. This is Emma’s chance for revenge and Julian’s chance to get back his brother Mark, who is being held by the faerie courts. All they have to do is solve the murders within two weeks… and before the murderer targets them.
Their search takes Emma from sea caves full of sorcery to a dark lottery where death is dispensed. And each clue she unravels uncovers more secrets. What has Julian been hiding from her all these years? Why does Shadowhunter Law forbid parabatai to fall in love? Who really killed her parents – and can she bear to know the truth?”

 It has been a long two year wait but Cassandra Clare is finally back in our book-loving hearts with a brand new Shadowhunter series called The Dark Artifices. Following Emma Carstairs and Julian Blackthorn, readers are thrown back into the Shadowhunter world, but this time in a new location. The characters reside in the Los Angeles Institute meaning that those who know Cassandra’s works well are completely out of their comfort zones, minus the snippets of information about runes and parabatai that – if you have read her other series – is all too familiar. If you’re new to Cassandra’s work, or looking to get into it, this is a fantastic place to start because it lives up to the hype that has been mounting up in the final months to release.

The brilliant thing about Cassandra Clare’s writing is that you know it will make sense. Everything is planned to such an extent that there aren’t any plot holes sneaking through. Just when you think you’ve worked out what’s going to happen, she throws another curve ball at you, leaving you stumped. I’ve seen many people trying to guess the ending to Lady Midnight but no one could possibly predict the actual ending. Personally, I never saw it coming.

I will admit that I struggled to get into this book at first. While The Dark Artifices is an entirely new series, there is a massive amount of information dump for the first 100 pages. Details are given about how the Shadowhunter world works and its inhabitants but as Lady Midnight is set five years after the events in City of Heavenly Fire a lot of the information being thrown at me were things I already knew so I had to take into account that someone should be able to pick up this book not having read any of the other Shadowhunter books. I do have to say that if you haven’t read The Mortal Instruments series yet and plan to, read that first and then come back to Lady Midnight.

Emma Carstairs is being crippled by her need for the revenge of her parent’s murders. The Clave tells her the deaths were the work of Sebastian Morgenstern but Emma knows that isn’t true. When she discovers another body drowned and covered in the same unnerving markings that her parents were, her suspicions are confirmed. Julian Blackthorn is her parabatai which carries a lot of weight in the Shadowhunter world and he is one of the only people who believes Emma. Together they start to uncover the true darkness hiding behind these murders while struggling to keep their parabatai bond intact.

The idea of parabatai is something I’ve always found fascinating in this world and it was interesting to see the negative side of that play out in the sense of not being sure if you want a parabatai anymore and feeling any pain they feel, after all it’s a life-long commitment.

I didn’t reckon much to Emma Carstairs in City of Heavenly Fire and when I found out that she was going to lead this new series, I was slightly worried. I have never been so wrong. Emma is a fantastic character. She’s sassy, determined, and her narrative is so strong that she feels like a real person. Emma lives at the Los Angeles Institute with Diana Wrayburn and the blackthorn family which is quite big. As a result, Emma’s storyline is very frequently overshadowed by what is happening with the Blackthorns which really put me off the book at times. While the Blackthorn storyline was important, it just seemed to push Emma out of the picture to the point where she became more of a side character to Julian. This is what led me to giving Lady Midnight a four star rating instead of five stars.

Another character addition I enjoyed was Cristina who is staying at the institute for a year. She fit in so well to the group and provided a good branch of support for Emma whenever it was needed. She was insightful, funny and just the kind of person you’d want to have your back.

Along with the information dumps and blackthorn storyline taking over, there are so many references and even appearances from Jace and Clary that (although they had connections to Emma) it just felt like Cassie was pandering to fans of The Mortal Instruments and although I adore that series with all of my heart, I wanted this to be more about the new.

This may be an unpopular opinion but I adore the faeries and the seelie court. They’re just so difficult to believe because while they can’t lie, they can evade the truth and so you never really know what to expect from them. It keeps you on your toes while reading any chapters with them in.

Overall, Lady Midnight lives up the hype and is a fantastic adventure but isn’t without its flaws.
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Posted in book tag, young adult

Unpopular Opinion Tag

I stumbled across this tag on AddictedtoYA ‘s blog so I thought I’d do it as it seemed really interesting.
So let’s get to it!
A Popular Book Or Series That You Didn’t Like

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For this I just had to pick Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins. I started this series after I saw all the hype about the fact the series was going to be made into films and I enjoyed the first two books however, this one was such a let down. I just think the ending is such a cop-out and ruins the series for me. I lost all the enjoyment I had for this after the reading the pitiful ending. Also, that character death *sniff sniff* But pretty much this book just let the series down.
A Popular Book Or Series That Everyone Hates But You Love

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I’m sure that all us readers of Young Adult went through a paranormal phase at one point right? Right? Everyone I know hates Twilight and makes jokes about it and while I do too, I thoroughly enjoyed this series several years ago. I still like it now and find aspects of the writing relatable. It’s just a shame that such terrible movie adaptations exist.
A Popular Genre You Hardly Reach For

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Romance. When searching for a new book I automatically drift between the Sci-Fi/Fantasy and Young Adult sections, even though Romance tends to take up most of the fiction section. I just never get the urge to read plain old romance. However, over the past two years I’ve started reading Giovanna Fletcher and Cecelia Ahern.

A Popular Or Beloved Character That You Didn’t Like 

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I absolutely adore The Mortal Instruments series. It not only changed my reading experience but gave me a direction to take with my writing. However, despite my love for these books the one character I never really cared for: Isabelle Lightwood. I just find her to be a bland and boring character and there was never any point when I felt emotionally attached to her. Sorry Sizzy shippers!
A Popular Author That You  Can’t Seem To Get Into

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As someone who studied English Literature at University I have been subjected to Jane Austen many many times. And every single time her books have gotten more and more grating on me. I just don’t see the appeal in her work at all. Also… Mr Darcy? That slimy pompous man can stay far away from me!
A Popular Book Trope That You’re Tired Of Seeing 

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I am so sick of unnecessary relationships in YA Fantasy/Dystopian. A prime example is the Four/Tris relationship in the Divergent series by Veronica Roth. The whole plot line for the series would have worked just as well if their partnership was purely platonic. It happens in so many books of these genres where pointless pairings are brought in to add another layer to the story.
A Popular Series You Have No Interest In Reading

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I hear so many book bloggers and booktubers talking about the Percy Jackson series. I read the first book shortly after the film came out but I just never had any interest in continuing with the series. Sorry Camp Half Blood people!
Show/ Movie That You Liked Better Than The Book

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I started watching The Vampire Diaries TV show and when I discovered it was based on a YA book series of the same name, I decided to give them a read. But I didn’t enjoy them anywhere near as much as the TV show.

Who I Tag
I tag my wonderful writer friend Jenny

Posted in review, shadowhunters, young adult

Welcome To Shadowhunter Academy – Cassandra Clare & Sarah Rees Brennan

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*spoiler warning: Don’t read this book or this review until you’ve finished City of Heavenly Fire*

Blurb: “After living as a mundane and a vampire, Simon never thought he would become a shadowhunter, but today he begins his training at Shadowhunter Academy.”

To my fellow Cassandra Clare/ The Mortal Instruments fans, I must raise my hands and ask your forgiveness. This is only the first in this new ebook series and I have only just gotten round to reading it (and there’s already more out, I’m so behind *sniff*). But, as I mentally promised myself, my review is finally here!

So a bit of backtracking  is in order. Simon had quite the adventure in City of Heavenly Fire. There were ups and downs with Isabelle, a big ass demon war, over the course of the series he went from mundane to rat to mundane to vampire to a mundane with memory loss. Then he was recruited to the shadowhunter academy. So brace yourselves for this one – if you asked who my least favourite character in the shadowhunter universe is, I would say Simon. However, in spite of that, he came out the other end of Heavenly Fire as one of my favourites. His character development was just beautiful.

I always wanted to know how the shadowhunters are trained and now, thanks to this series, I will finally get to know all the gory details! So there are two training groups: one for “the elite” and one for “the dregs” (elite= born shadowhunters, dregs= mundanes) since the academy is actually open to mundanes. We see Simon battling with the fact that he is known as a hero, but doesn’t remember anything he did (kind of like Harry Potter) so naturally, he feels like he doesn’t belong and that he’s in the wrong training group. That’s not the only memory related issue Simon faces in this book – obviously there’s Isabelle. When the will they/won’t they because a firm “they will” I was like FINALLY! But now he has no memories of Isabelle, that attraction just isn’t there from him. Sizzy fans, brace yourselves, there is a lot of feels in this one.

Another great thing about this book is getting to see Cassandra Clare and Sarah Rees Brennan working together again.

Dates for the rest of the series

The Last Herondale – OUT NOW
The Whitechapel Fiend – OUT NOW
Nothing but Shadows – 19th May
The Evil We Love – 16th June
Pale Kings and Princes – 21st July
Bitter of Tongue – 18th August
The Fiery Trail – 15th September
Born To Endless Night – 20th October
Angels Twice Descending – 17th November

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